Hannah Engelson

Hannah Engelson

Interview: How to Make Documentary Films with Hannah Engelson

Hannah Engelson is not only telling her story, but she’s also getting the word out on her friend’s story as a short documentary filmmaker. Her film is based on Jonah, who was born with muscular dystrophy and, as a teenager, learned he had cardiomyopathy.

Below is a summary of our interview:


It’s the quote by Kurt Vonnegut which is “go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

Her Journey

Hannah started out a photographer in high school by working for the school newspaper as a photo journalist, and she like liked that because she met a lot of people and travel to different places. Over time, she got frustrated with the deadlines. Sometimes you’d go on assignment and find an interesting person or story and keep spending time with it, but she’d need months to tell the story. And that had Hannah thinking about documentary filmmaking. She’s doing a project for a piano player, for instance, and he’s very musical, so she needed to transition from documentary photography to documentary video.

Low Point

Hannah didn’t have access to equipment or the connections that would make you a photo journalist. She did freelance as a photographer, but eventually worked her way up.

Aha Moment

Over a year ago, she started working on the project in Boston with the piano player and the more time she spends with him, the more the footage just gets better and better. Hannah always thought if only she had more time to spend with someone to tell their story. So she appreciates the time she spends with someone to create a story.

Hannah’s work now  

Jonah Stands Up is a documentary about Jonah. It’s a portrait of him as an artist and a comedian. He also has muscular dystrophy and at 19 he had a heart condition. He uses his art and humor to communicate his life and his situation. Hannah lived in New Orleans and she met him in a film meet up group and he mentioned that he was looking for help filming some stuff.

Hannah reveals who Jonah is and how he lives with muscular dystrophy with us.

For more information on Jonah’s story, visit Hannah’s KickStarter on Jonah Stands Up. There are only 10 days left to help support this project. Officially, August 28th will be the last day to donate, so hurry.

Lightning Round

Book Hannah Recommends

Miranda July’s It Chooses You

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Helpful Habit:

Making time for yourself and take some time away.

Helpful Person

Her sister’s been really helpful to Hannah and she’s good at pushing her.

Jonah’s aunt and uncle also are remembered.

Internet Resource

Jonah Stands Up

What’s Your Purpose

Understanding people and using compassion to do so. Seems like the right purpose to Hannah.

Where to follow Hannah

Hannah herself  on her website.

Parting Words

Meeting so many people for work, she’s learned that everyone deserves consideration.

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One More Thing

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