“The history of Apache 8 is unknown to the world at large, even to the world near Whiteriver [Ariz.] where the firefighters are based,” said Zeig.
After her airport encounter with the Apache 8 women, Zeig approached their crew boss, Cheryl Bones, about making a film. Bones was enthusiastic about the idea, and invited Zeig to begin filming the following day.
“I had no idea what the film would be [about],” said Zeig. “I thought it would be the history of Apache 8... but it really moves into the lives of these firefighters.”
For example, firefighter Katy Aday was sent to California by her parents at age 8 to live with a Mormon family and go to school. Despite her protests, “her father said, ‘you have to go, you have to get an education and you have to come back and be the voice of the people,’” Zeig said, quoting Aday. She lived with the Mormon family through her high school years.
“That story was one story that was a complete surprise,” said Zeig.
Zeig’s path to becoming a filmmaker is also one of happenstance. She majored in theatre, and had been producing, directing, writing and acting in theatre while living in New York City. “I’m more the entrepreneurial type, so I wasn’t the kind of actor that wanted to wait for roles,” she said. “I started writing my own theatre pieces and producing them.”
In need of employment, Zeig worked as a marketing assistant, publicist and programmer for Bleecker Street Cinema, a prominent 1980s art house movie theater in New York. Her work in the film business landed her a job in film distribution. She eventually started her own distribution company, Artistic License Films.
After working behind the scenes of the film industry, Zeig tried filmmaking. “I decided the creative work I was doing in theatre was easily moved to film,” she said. “That’s when I decided to make that first short film [entitled Central Park].”
Central Park premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to appear at over 30 other festivals. Zeig’s next film, The Girl, was a collaborative effort with her partner, French writer Monique Wittig. The Girl is a feature film and film noir based on a short story by Wittig. Zeig’s first documentary, Soul Masters: Dr. Guo and Dr. Sha, is a film about a doctor of Chinese medicine and his teacher.
Zeig met Dr. Sha when he performed a spiritual healing for her ailing father. “We felt a lot of things on a vibrational level... a lot was happening,” said Zeig, talking about being in the room during the healing. When her father’s condition improved following Dr. Sha’s healing, she became interested in his work. On an impulse, she decided to join him on a trip to China to meet his teacher, Master Guo.
“Two weeks later I was in China with Master Sha, meeting his teacher, Master Guo,” she said. Seeing the two men together, the same familiar words came tumbling from Zeig’s mouth.
“I want to make a movie about you!” She said.
What Soul Masters and Apache 8 share for Zeig, she said, was her “instinctual feeling” upon meeting Master Sha, Master Guo and the Apache 8 firefighters, that “there was something more there than you could see at the surface.”
Both films have resulted in lasting friendships that transcend the films themselves, Zeig said. “My life has been profoundly changed by meeting these people and being deeply involved in their lives.”
Interview conducted by Ben Kreimer
Interview edited by Ben Kreimer with support from Tobias Grant