I didn’t record a frame of film. It was a roaring success.
I mention this because the whole reason I work the way I do on my films is to specifically avoid the kind of disposable relationships and interaction with others that plague a lot of professional productions. I maintain the goal of having nobody regret having been interviewed or dealing with me, during my documentaries. Of course, this is never 100% the case but the resultant percentage where people are unhappy are usually because of one of two reasons:
- They thought I was making a different documentary than I was.
- They agreed to be interviewed without really understanding what that meant.
So one of the ways I avoid these problems is to give folks warning about my coming in with camera and questions, and talking to them, if not extensively, at least once or twice beforehand. My experience and rule of thumb, for example, is that if you interview someone within a week of them hearing of your film, it’s probably going to go pretty badly. Probably the biggest misunderstanding is thinking I can do the filming in a local restaurant… followed by not understanding the the interview is on camera. It just leads to heartache.
So I spent all of today driving 230 miles, to meet twenty people and record none of them. Of course, my camera, lights and other stuff was in my car, and I’d flown it all from Boston to be at the ready, but it was never brought out, never used.
Instead, I talked. I talked about my production, about the community I was hanging with. I was talked to about interesting events, books to read and research and about various details. I’ll be heading to the location again, a month later, a little more money spent.
But instead of focusing on the cost, it’s about doing things right. I lose some opportunities here and gain others. I do know, however, that nobody was used and the resulting footage will be real and honest.
I mention all this because people sometimes might see the result of my work and wonder both how I get people to talk like they do, and what my methods are. They might surmise I spring surprises on people or mislead them. I do not.
So lacking not a shot at all, my documentary will still benefit. Sometimes that’s how it benefits the most.
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