Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and a life that you love. In our fast paced world, it’s really easy to miss the beauty that’s often right in front of our face. And today my guest has devoted his entire career to giving us a glimpse of the magic and the wonder that surrounds us each and every day. Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning producer, director, and cinematographer who’s been shooting time-lapse 24/7 continuously for nearly 4 decades. Schwartzberg is a visual artist breaking barriers and telling stories that celebrate nature and life. Two of his recent TEDx talks are regularly cited among the top watched of all time. A 15 episode web series based on his viral video, Gratitude Revealed, is currently on Oprah.com and he was a guest on Super Soul Sunday. His moving art series, which explores the beauty and majesty of nature, is available on Netflix. His most recent films include Wings of Life, narrated by Meryl Streep, and Mysteries of the Unseen World, an IMAX film narrated by Forest Whitaker. Over his long trailblazing career, Schwartzberg has earned a myriad of awards and honors and was recognized as one of the top 70 cinematographers for the on film Kodak salute series. Louie, thank you so much for taking the time to be here today. Great to be here. So you’re a pioneer in the field of time-lapse photography. What inspired you to get into this unique aspect of filmmaking? Well, when I graduated from UCLA I wanted to shoot the highest quality resolution film I could, but I didn't have any money. So I got involved with time lapse because I could shoot one frame every 20 minutes and it would take me a month or two to shoot a roll of film, which was four minutes, and that enabled me to kind of do high quality cinematography but, at the same time, not spend a lot of money. But in addition to that, it really filled my sense of wonder. I mean, being able to see the world from a different time and space, it changes your worldview. It broadens your horizons. I mean, to see the world from the point of view of a flower or the point of view of a mosquito or the point of view of a redwood tree, makes you really understand that we have these narrow windows that we look through and if we can begin to open up that portal, it opens up your heart and definitely feeds your mind and your soul. Did you ever have dreams to be a traditional filmmaker in the sense of, like, I want to go to Hollywood and make those big movies? Or was this always something that you dreamed of perhaps since you were little? I was curious about that trajectory. Yeah, well, growing up in Brooklyn I had no idea I would ever be filming nature, let alone filmmaking. My parents were Holocaust survivors and if they didn't experience, well, neither did I. But when I went to UCLA I got involved in documenting the anti-war movement, which was something that was… it was a way for me to fight back, a way to record the police brutality against the demonstrators, especially against women. And that turned me onto photography and filmmaking, which then turned me onto my greatest teacher. She taught me everything about lighting, composition, and color. It was mother nature. And that was the path I’ve been on because mother nature teaches you really how to live a creative and sustainable life. So I followed my passion more than dreaming about being a Hollywood filmmaker and, interestingly enough, Hollywood caught up to my vision because then we built a large company, they started licensing time-lapse cinematography for commercials, music videos, feature films. And not just time lapse but, you know, aerial, slice of life, contemporary imagery which did not exist before. So basically I created the stock… the contemporary stock footage licensing business. That’s incredible. And it’s something that I know in the beginning of my career just beautiful stock photography and all those things, it made such a difference just to have these beautiful images, so thank you for pioneering that. Yeah. One of the things that you say that I love, that beauty and seduction are nature’s tools for survival. We protect what we fall in love with. Can you tell us more about that philosophy and how you’ve seen that come to life over the course of your career? Well, I’ve had a camera going 24 hours a day 7 days a week for over 3 decades shooting time lapse flowers. Flowers are beautiful, right? You love them as well. And capturing their beauty and the way they move to the light seduced me, and that was enough to keep me going but I think there’s really a greater story, and that story was when I found out that the bees were dying. Well, you can’t tell the story about the bees without telling a story about flowers and how they co-evolved over 50 million years. I call it a love story that feeds the earth. So that relationship between the animal world and the plant world, gives us the most nutritious food we need to eat: fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds. It’s the foundation of life on our planet. And that relationship of pollination is based on beauty. I mean, this gorgeous flower and its color and its pattern is saying to the pollinator, “Come over here, I need to reproduce. I’m ready to go, I need to be fertilized.” You know? So the insect, the bee, gets, you know, nectar and pollen so that it can feed its young. The flower gets its DNA moved from one partner to another because plants don't have legs and they can’t walk. And they can’t mate and they can’t date without a messenger. So life is all about, you know, DNA moving forward, and so beauty and seduction is nature’s way for life to move forward. And we are hardwired, just like they are. I mean, you’ve got a beautiful dress on today. Thank you. The pattern and the colors are designed for my eyes to notice it. Correct? Yeah. So we’re hardwired to respond to color, taste, touch, and smell. It’s… it’s in our… well, it’s just in our soul. Yeah. Now, advertisers use it all the time to manipulate people. There’s always a pretty girl next to a car. Yeah. Right? Hopefully not so many moving forward, but yeah. No, but… but, you know, we, to be honest about it, they use sex all the time to sell products. Sure. And… and they’ve studied it really well because they know they can manipulate you in a certain way. So nature has, you know, has kind of embedded our sensibility to respond to vibrations of color, light, touch, and smell. And that is what motivates, I guess it… it truly makes the world go around. Yeah. You know, I was actually thinking about that particularly for Wings of Life, which is narrated by Meryl Streep, and it is a breathtaking feature from a decidedly feminine perspective. Right. And I thought that was fascinating and I was curious how you came to that choice, if you started the project with that in mind or if that was something that evolved from starting to look at the footage and what you were shooting. It really evolved. You know, most nature programs are based on predator vs prey. Yes. Which is very manipulative and, well, it induces fear, fear and anxiety, but it gets good ratings. Shark Week is always the most popular show on television. But if you really study nature, if you’re present and mindful and observant, it’s the little things that make the world go round. It’s the billions of interactions, as I said earlier, between the pollinators and the flowers, it’s the foundation of life. And that story is a feminine story cuz it’s about relationships, cooperation, symbiosis, nurturing. That is the foundation of life. So obviously I had to tell it from a feminine point of view and who would be the… the best female voice in the world? Meryl Streep. Right? I loved it. I mean, I keep going back to it. And I’m so thankful that there’s a portion of your work on Netflix, which I’m a subscriber. So I was just sitting there and listening to it and watching some things again and particularly, the other thing that got me curious was thinking about you and your process in this, particularly with Wings of Life. And wondering, you know, do you do so much research on these different flowers and the different insects and the different birds and the animals before you actually go in to shoot? So I was thinking about particularly the bucket orchid. Yeah. And the orchid bees. Right. And just how extraordinary it is that these bucket bees come in, they get seduced by the nectar, and there’s one escape route and she holds onto that bee until she can glue down those pollen sacs. So I was just curious to hear from you how much research you do before and what is… or, versus, what is the process? Like, woah, that actually happens. As a documentary filmmaker I’m always on the voyage of discovery. Yeah. So I’m not an expert about insects or flowers, but what I do is I work with scientists and I hear all the, you know, research and the stories and I pick the most seductive story that I think will help me tell the grander story of what we’re trying to, you know, show. So the orchid bee, I loved it ‘cause it reminded me of a guy going from one bar to the other trying to score some perfume so he can get a date. Right? Yeah. But every time he does, he almost dies. And that’s what got me so scared with that scene. I was like oh my goodness, is this orchid just gonna kill the bee? Yeah. So the typical male is going from bar to bar trying to pick up a girl and, you know, and every time he does he almost dies. But after that experience he does it all over again. The drive for life to go forward is so strong, it’s unstoppable. And in most species, I mean, they’ll give up food and water in order to mate. You know, and it’s pretty amazing and powerful. So when I… so rather than just doing a story about a bee, you know, I hear, well, there’s a bumblebee and there’s a honeybee and then there’s the orchid bee. What a rare experience it was to shoot that in Panama. As a matter of fact, it really had never been recorded on film before. But when the scientists told me about that story I thought it was a great opener because it’s not lovey dovey, it’s not a Pollyanna story. Right? Right. I mean, it engages you because the bee almost dies. Yes. You know. Which that’s exactly what I thought was going to happen. Yeah. I thought he was out. And it’s remarkable and it’s incredible and he looks like a martian. Yup. He’s like flourescent blue and turquoise. So that was a good way to kind of, you know, grab an audience. That’s awesome. And the other thing that I love, I happen to have a real affection for hummingbirds. Yeah. Like I know a lot of people do. And seeing them do those acrobatics and how you’re able to capture something that moves so fast that we wouldn’t be able to see if you haven’t captured it and showed it to us in this new framework. Well, that’s the beauty of slow motion again. We live in this narrow world, we’re recording right now at 24 frames per second. That’s the human POV. There’s a lot of… when I say POV, point of view. Yeah. For the audience. Yeah. And what a wonderful way to expand your mind and your consciousness to realize that there are so many different ways of looking at life that is real. And slow motion, with the hummingbirds, it puts you into their world of, you know, you’re seeing the combat, you’re seeing the twirls and all those acrobatics but to our eyes it’s just a blur. Yes. You see a hummingbird go by go [woosh]. There it went. And so to be in their world, to see it from their point of view, it opens your heart and I think it makes you appreciate life, it makes you appreciate hummingbirds, maybe it’ll make you put up a feeder in your backyard. Yes, I have them. Do you? Yeah. And… and that’s good because I think it generates compassion. Yes. By being present and mindful, and gratitude. Let’s talk about the power of focus. You know, in this world, especially with technology, which I think can be such an asset and then sometimes it can be a hindrance, I hear so many people struggling with what to focus on. They have so many choices from what foods to buy, from what to do with their businesses and their careers and what to watch and what to read, and I know for you, you really have to choose your focus. There’s so many things that you could put your camera on. And even within the frame of what you want to shoot, there’s so many different angles. So I’m curious if you can speak to how choosing where to focus both in your work and your life has evolved through what you do. Well, I think it’s a wonderful metaphor if you look at it from a cinematographer’s point of view. You have to choose the right lens, the right F-stop in order to tell a good story. And it means you can focus on the object that’s important and a lot of times you want that background to go out of focus because it’s a distraction. It’s really true in life, right? We have to choose what’s most important because there is a lot of distraction. So, you know, rather than just, you know, shooting wide open and making it be out of focus, we need to choose really what our life’s journey is about and our path. And it’s a beautiful metaphor to kinda see the parallel between the two. I think when you find what inspires you and what your passion is, then you can find that path. And once you find your path you’ll never use your way. Mm. Speaking of finding what’s important, I know something that we share in common is a deep love and a practice for gratitude and being grateful for our lives. And there is a quote in the beginning of one of your talks from Neale Donald Walsch and it really speaks to what I feel like is the heart is gratitude is “the struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Tell us about gratitude, because I know it’s so important for your work and it’s helped me in watching your films want to slow down as I’m walking down the street here in New York and everything I’m doing. Even today I was thinking about this interview and coming here and I particularly chose not to listen to a podcast or do anything and to take in the beautiful scenery, even the concrete, and the people around me. Right. Well, when you’re grateful and you have a lot of good things going on in your head, as you described, walking here to work for this interview, there’s not a lot of room for negativity. Yeah. I mean, that’s just a really simple idea and there’s always something you can be grateful for. You know, you have your health, the fact you were walking, the fact that you’ve got, like, 5 fingers. Yeah. The fact that you’ve got food on the table. I mean, those are the values I think you can always go to and avoid that feeling of problem solving, my to do list, the negative energy of things that need to be fixed. I think naturally the brain goes in that direction because of its survival mode. Absolutely. Of always thinking, “I need to survive, I need this, I need that.” But I think what we need to do is nurture the good things. When something good happens we tend to kind of let it go in our head and out in about a moment, as opposed to nurturing it, savoring it, kind of sponging in it, right? And, again, by filling your bucket with gratitude there isn’t room for the negative energy to come in. And once you change your world view then, you know, things start to flow. Instead of forcing that job opportunity to occur, if you kind of just let back and be patient about it, it… the universe will probably allow, you know, the opportunities to come into your life that you really want to have happen. Mm. For me gratitude is, like, a spiritual power tool that can instantly shift it all. Like, when things are just going down the tank, if you can take that pause and recognize what is going right. It’s the most powerful thing I’ve ever used in my life and I was excited to talk to you about it today.