Jason DeSilva is a prolific and award-winning filmmaker. He has made several films over the past 15 years, including the celebrated feature film When I Walk, that chronicles his struggle with multiple sclerosis in order to foster awareness about the progression and challenges of the disease.
He has directed four short films (Olivia’s Puzzle, A Song For Daniel, Twins of Mankala, First Steps) and two feature length-documentary films (Lest We Forget and When I Walk). In 2019, Jason released When We Walk, garnering awards while continuing his mission to tell the stories of people with disabilities through film story telling. Currently he is working on a new feature film When They Walk and on AXS Map, a website and accessibility database to find disability-friendly places around the world. Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Anne del Castillo presented a “Made in NY” Award to Jason DaSilva at the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards ceremony this week.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jason below:
The Knockturnal: And so tell me about what being here means to you?
Jason DeSilva: I’m really excited to be getting this award. I want to be a catalyst of change so that my award is just the first of many. So I want to see other people with disabilities get an award similar to this. I just want to be the first one in a line of many people with disabilities to get such awards.
The Knockturnal: Can you speak about your passion for documentary filmmaking and where that came from?
Jason DeSilva: Yeah, so I do like the idea that it can really create change and changes that we deserve, but really it comes from my fascination with visual storytelling. So, the simplicity of light and sound, that it can conjure emotion for people that’s something that’s drawn me into film making ever since I was ten years old.
The Knockturnal: Do you have an important mentor in your career?
Jason DeSilva: Yeah, I do. I’ve got a few, so I think that Albert Maysles is a big person that’s really taught me the craft of these cinema verite documentaries. But another person who really has brought me up too — he’s actually an award winner here one year, his name is Stanley Nelson. He received a Made in New York award as well. So I’m really excited to be sharing this with him.
The Knockturnal: Since it is the Made In NY award, can you tell me how New York influences you? Are you from New York originally?
Jason DeSilva: No. So I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but I’ve always been fascinated with New York. I was diagnosed with MS when I was 25 but by that time I had been working in New York as a filmmaker for a few years and really New York is just an amazing place where you can be an artist, get a severe disability and just go on and continue being an artist and continue and bring your career back to where it is today.
The Knockturnal: What are you currently working on?
Jason DeSilva: So I’m working on a film series. So I started with a film called When I Walk. Then the second film is called When We Walk. The third film I’m working on right now, it’s all about accessibility. It’s called When They Walk.
The Knockturnal: When will the film be completed?
Jason DeSilva: The problem with my films is they take ridiculously long. They’re cinema verite documentaries, so in the tradition of cinema verite documentaries, it’ll be another six years.
The Knockturnal: Any final thoughts?
Jason DeSilva: I just want to say thank you very much for this opportunity. This is absolutely amazing and thank you to the Mayor, to the Commissioner, to the city of New York as well.
The Premier Sponsor of the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards is The New York Times, and the Philanthropic Supporter is The Rockefeller Foundation. The Official Water Partner is FIJI Water, the Official Airline Partner is JetBlue and the Official Wine Partner is Robert Hall Winery. Additionally, the awards will be promoted nationally in an eight-page special advertising section in The New York Times in November 2019.