GALO: You mentioned the editing process — Liz, you followed Jo-Anne around the globe for one year to get the footage for the film and obviously had a mountain of raw footage to sift through. How did you decide what to keep in the final cut?

Marshall: There’ve been films I’ve made where it was really painful to make cuts, and I’m just not like that anymore. If something has to go, it has to go, even if it’s the most beautiful shot or scene. In a way, you’re kind of like an architect because you have these foundational pieces and are constantly in motion and trying to figure out what’s best for the movie, and even what the movie is. You’re always asking questions. The film starts to tell you what it is, and you have to listen and respect it and go with that. It starts to take on a life of its own, and in that way I think there’s a certain alchemy that happens.

That might sound funny but I have found that with every film, I think with this one more than the others because it was in some ways the most complicated story to tell. The reason for that is twofold: First, many of the central subjects in the movie are animals and they don’t speak our language, so how do I give them agency? Making sure the animals were central was a major preoccupation all the time. The other part is there’s so much stigma attached to the animal rights mission, and I wanted the film to try to break down some of those barriers so we could attract a broader audience. So, it was hard.

GALO: Why do you think there are those stigmas around the animal rights movement?

McArthur: That’s hard to answer, because I hate to comment on the history of the animal rights movement and how it’s gone. Some things have been effective, some have not. For whatever reason, a lot of people are seen as aggressive or too radical or extremist. Over a decade, there’s [been] this natural barrier to animal rights messages and messengers. However, that’s awfully convenient because people really enjoy eating animals, and people like to wear and have and buy what they want, which often involves animal product. The use of animals and eating animals is so absolutely ingrained in our history — from the dawn of time we’ve used animals for work and food. Questioning the use of animals is quite a hurdle, and people have been going at it for over a century now, trying to chip away and asking whether it’s ethical to use animals. Because it’s so globally culturally ingrained, it’s a tough thing to tackle.

To talk about animal rights isn’t just to talk about whether we should eat a turkey, but it’s challenging, for example, a tradition like Thanksgiving dinner and sitting down together celebrating over food. People are confronted because it confronts other aspects of their lives as well. It’s a lot to look at and it’s an ethical battle.

GALO: Jo-Anne, what do you try to capture and portray in your animal photographs? In your photography, what makes for the most powerful snapshot that you could take of the animals?

McArthur: Sometimes the most powerful thing is shooting something everyone has seen but from a different perspective, like circuses, zoos and rodeos. I’m sitting there, next to everyone else taking pictures, but shooting things in such a way that shows the innate cruelty in these things we do to animals. Instead of a picture of gorillas at a zoo, I’m trying to show the boredom or the really ludicrous backdrop, which is the painting of a jungle on the wall. Draw attention to not just the animal but the circumstance of the animals that we have created. So it’s not really just shooting animals, it’s photographing our relationship with animals and how we treat them. Trying to open doors and go behind walls and show an explosive thing that people don’t normally get to see. Also, creating a connection between the viewer and the animals — of course that’s about getting close, and about eye contact, because if there’s a connection between the animal and I, there will be a connection between all of the viewers as well. That’s really important when I’m taking pictures of animals. That’s kind of the tip of the iceberg; I could go on [laughs].

GALO: Do you see the animal liberation movement improving? Are you optimistic?

McArthur: Absolutely.

Marshall: But we’re both optimists. You need a pragmatic realist on this phone call who might say something very different [laughs].

I’m new to this movement, but I have a lot of hope and I think there’s a lot of momentum and a lot of galvanized, compassionate, loyal, energized people all over the globe that care passionately about the issue. There are many ways to tell the story, and hopefully The Ghosts in Our Machine and the We Animals book [a new book by Jo-Anne coming out at the end of the year] are things more people will pay attention to.

McArthur: That’s good. That sums it up. We’re both really optimistic and we’re part of the change, and we’re seeing the change every day. There certainly are challenges, but more and more people are taking part in challenging the status quo, so I’m very hopeful.

Marshall: Humanity evolves incrementally, and it takes time. Animals are so built into the way we do things on an industrial scale in terms of our consumer goods. It’s a paradigm shift to imagine not using them in that way.

“The Ghosts in Our Machine” will be screening at Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles from November 15 to November 21, 2013, before making its way to San Francisco and Chicago. For more details, please visit

Trailer Courtesy of: Ghosts Media Inc © 2013.

Featured image: Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Photo Credit: Ghosts Media Inc © 2013.

Cincopa WordPress plugin