Documentarian Lana Wilson found a new kind of faith while directing “Look Into My Eyes,” one that offered a glimpse into the world of psychics.

Wilson explained to IndieWire’s Kate Erbland during the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, that she was first inspired to explore the psychic industry while in production on another documentary. Wilson recalled how she felt like she was “living a horror film” while on a production in Atlantic City that overlapped with the 2016 election. Seeking emotional solace, she stumbled into a psychic’s booth on the boardwalk, and realized just how fascinating the psychic subculture is.

“I guess I thought as psychics much more trivially than that, like a silly thing to do at a party,” Wilson said. “And that was the moment for me where I thought, ‘Wow, this can be a film inside psychic sessions with a really profound way at looking at the wash of humanity and all of their questions.’”

Wilson noted how those seeking out psychics are usually at a “real crossroads in their lives.” However, she sought out to capture a specific kind of psychic session for “Look Into My Eyes.”

“Psychics are a very New York-y thing but the sessions are dry and short. I found myself drawn to the psychics operating more in the intersection of psychotherapy, doing these long hour-and-a-half long deep dives,” Wilson said, adding that she accidentally realized that the clients she connected with most were like “fun house mirror reflections” of herself.

Even the psychics were primed for the big screen, with most having theatrical backgrounds and acting aspirations. Wilson set up tables in parks, farmer’s markets, and grocery stores offering free psychic readings to connect with clients who would then become subjects in the film. She added that the validity of the practice is irrelevant when it comes to the message of “Look Into My Eyes,” which instead focuses on the power of human connection and not the legitimacy of the field itself.

In some ways, Wilson added, being a psychic is much like being a documentarian.

“The psychics are really there witnessing their client, who wants to be told a story of themselves,” Wilson said. “The psychics are holding it up to their client, and I think that’s what I’m really doing as a documentary filmmaker. I’m witnessing someone and holding a mirror up to them and reflecting what I see.”

She concluded, “Religious belief systems, a psychic reading, and art are all places we go to make sense of the world and understand who we are as humans. Documentary, for example, is all a construct. It is all artificial, but at the same time it’s real. Just because something is constructed doesn’t mean it can’t be real.”

Check out the full interview above to hear about Wilson’s personal connection to one psychic. Read David Ehrlich’s IndieWire review here.

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18 to 28, with festival talks taking place January 19 to 26. See all the videos published so far from the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, here.

Dropbox supports and champions independent makers, crews, and teams behind the camera who bring their unique perspectives to life at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re proud that over 60% of films at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival leveraged Dropbox in their filmmaking process.It takes a monumental effort for film projects to go from ideation to completion, and Dropbox is dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects across the finish line faster. Filmmakers used Dropbox as one organized homebase to keep video files secure, to remotely collaborate with teams around the world, and to get real-time video feedback with Dropbox Replay.

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