Interview with Filmmaker and Journalist Mayeta Clark
Mayeta Clark is an award winning filmmaker and journalist at ProPublica. She specializes in non narrated documentary filmmaking and recently won the 2019 Online News Association Award in Explanatory Reporting for multimedia work on gas drilling in West Virginia. Prior to joining ProPublica, Mayeta worked in long form TV — directing, producing and shooting for “Australian Story,” a prime time documentary program at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Her most significant work was the film Final Call, an investigation into the murder of Gayle Woodford, an outback nurse. As a result of Mayeta’s reporting, the state agency SafeWork SA reopened their investigation into Mrs. Woodford’s death.
Mayeta read Sanskrit, Indian philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Sydney. She holds graduate degrees in cinematography (Australian Film, Television & Radio School), and journalism (Columbia University, New York). Her films have been broadcast on the ABC and CBSN Originals, and screened at Docaviv, DOC NYC, Doc Utah and at the Deckchair Cinema in Darwin.
We are so honored to feature Mayeta and glean more about her powerful impact on the communities with which she interacts. Find her body of work here, and continue reading for a more intimate look at Mayeta's influences, acumen, and charm.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small country town called Scone in Australia's New England region. It was a tiny town at the time, just over 2,000 people, and fashioned itself The Horse Capital of Australia. I was the only black kid in town!
What do you do for a living?
I am a filmmaker and a journalist and I love my job.
What lessons has your work life taught you?
My work has taught me the value of active listening. I try to listen to everybody equally - whether they seem scattered or well-spoken - and to be aware of my own cognitive biases that might elevate the opinion of somebody with whom I share an affinity over somebody I do not.
What kind of student were you?
I have always taken courses because I was fascinated by the subject matter, not because I felt that they would lead me in a particular career direction. I definitely didn't have the family support or financial luxury to do that. I was just a daydreamer and a bit stubborn. My favourite course in college was anthropology. It's very un-PC today, but I always felt that there was a fascinating edge in there - a constant coming to terms with the politics of narrative, truth, and power. That dilemma exists journalism and filmmaking in many ways, and I love the tussle.
Can you tell me about someone who has had a big influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
I have always loved learning, but I used to be a terrible procrastinator. I thought that I was beyond help, until a writer-friend recommended a book by Hillary Rettig. Hillary's book turned my life and years of writers' block around. She taught me the value of non perfectionist thinking and personal ethics, ie. how to work without resorting to self-terror.
What do you feel most grateful for in your life?
I am relieved that I found journalism and filmmaking. It took a while and I tried lots of different things in between, including working on cattle stations in the outback.
Can you tell me about one of your happiest memories?
Most of my happy memories revolve around animals, water, and walking in the Australian bush. But one of my happiest memories is from about age seven. I was walking home from school and I saw my grandfather up in our old jacaranda tree. He had transformed a janky platform I had built out of two-by-fours into a spectacular treehouse.