The Au Pair Documentary
In the spring of 2010, I was an unhappy and uninspired college freshman in Portland, Oregon, not far from my hometown. I’d fallen in love with Paris on a Europe trip the year before and had taken 4 years of French. Studying abroad seemed too expensive, especially considering I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I wondered what it’d be like not to study, for once. I’d been babysitting for years. Kids liked me. When I learned what an au pair was, I knew it was the perfect plan.
By December 2010, I was 19 years old and on a plane to Paris with 2 large suitcases and a 1 year visa. I would live with and work for a family with 3 children who I’d connected with on an au pair matching website and who I’d only Skyped with a couple of times. Over the next 10 months I would experience the highest highs and lowest lows of my life thus far. I would discover Paris in all her beauty and her ugliness alike. In September 2011 I flew back to Portland broke but bilingual, and completely bitten by the incurable Paris bug. Paris was and continues to be a magical land of endless possibilities. My second home.
I’m not making this film to tell my own story (maybe that'll come out later). What I want is to hear others' stories. The Parisian au pairs of the past, the present, and the future. I can only speak to my own experience, that of a white, middle class, introverted American girl from the Pacific Northwest. It takes a brave and crazy person to abandon the familiarity and comfort of home to care for children in a foreign city in a foreign country, even if that city is virtually the most famous and idealized one in the world. With no social framework in place (contrary to study abroad programs), au pairs in Paris must rely on Facebook groups, French classes, random encounters or friends of their host families to meet “the locals” or even other au pairs. The au pair experience is 100% what you’re able to make of it, a fact that’s as terrifying as it is exhilarating.
Former au pairs of Paris, I want to meet you. I want to know how this adventure affected you and the course of your life. I want to know what motivated you to dive headfirst in the postcard fantasy of Paris in search of something more than a vacation, something real. I want to know how you, the Parisian au pairs of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ’80s, ‘90s, ‘00s & '10s, think of your au pair experience years later. I want to hear and see the memories you captured during these months. Show me your photos. Read me your diaries.
Future au pairs of Paris, I want to meet you. I want to see the Paris au pair experience through the eyes of a few of you from different countries, through interviews conducted before, during, and after your time in Paris. I don’t want to film your host families or invade their privacy. I want to hear only from you, as much as you're willing to share. Your hopes, your fears, your reality. What you’ve learned about yourselves and what more you hope to learn, every step of the way. I want to see your bedrooms and learn how you’ve made them your own despite your odd, ambiguous status of something between an older sibling and a babysitter.
This documentary is currently in development. Filming/interviews will take place in October 2016 and in 2018. Dedicated site coming soon.
Former/current/future Parisian au pairs, feel free to contact me using the form below if you'd like to share your story!