Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Last Night's Screening

The private screening for Surry, Joe and Adam went well last night, despite my dog's attempts to be a part of the viewing party.  He wasn't too happy about being ignored and vocalized it repeatedly, much to my chagrin.  Next time, I believe we'll find another time to show the film or find a way to wear the dog out before they get there.

This is the thrid time Surry, Joe and Adam have come over to watch the film. I'm so grateful for their kindness in offering their thoughts as we develop the story.  It is really wonderful.  They talk amongst themselves on ocassion, debating certain things that come up.  Hearing this conversation puts me to the test, too.  I have to think through the critique and search through my reasons for making a certain creative decision.  It leads me through a series of questions:
  • Why did I include this clip?
  • What point is it trying to make?
  • Is that point going to add to the overall message, or detract from it?
  • Does the clip (or series of clips) help make that point or harm it?
  • Is there a better, more succinct way to address the same thing?
  • How will audiences feel about this certain point?
  • What conclusions will be drawn by audience members watching it?
Obviously, we have our main points we want to make but we have to be careful to let the audience draw their own conclusions.  I'm always grateful to my time learning from Susan G. Wellborn at Washington High School because she helped me understand responsible journalism (which is what I feel like I'm doing as a documentary filmmaker). 

You research, research, research.  Then you form a story based on what you believe are the proven facts, while taking into careful consideration the reactions to the things that get published.  I have SGW's voice in my head, even though I took her class more than 10 years ago.  She has had a huge, positive impact on my life and I'm so grateful for her leadership. 

While we make this film, I recognize that there's a careful balance between our investigation into the matter at hand and forming public opinion about it.  It must be done strategically and tactfully.  Where do you draw the line on how much gets shared?  How can you provide more info for people who want it?  How do you allow the conversation to continue after the credits roll?  How do you not provide answers, but lead people to think for themselves?

Our research is limited by a number of things, the most pressing of which is time and funding.  There's so much more I want to learn about the Montagnards, Special Forces, American foreign policy, and Vietnam's human rights record.  But our film has a narrow focus for a good reason, and we have to stick to that or we'll never finish.  When the conversations during the viewing parties get started, I find my mind working over time to process everything. I love the critique process.

Last night's conversation has been replaying in my head for hours.  I try to reserve filtering the feedback until I have let it all simmer for a while.  Once that happens, I start to turn those conversations and suggestions into direct actions I can take to make the film better. 

The end of the film, for example, has been pretty vague for me for a long time.  I've had an idea of what it should look like, but it's not been as strong as I want.  After the conversation with Surry, Joe and Adam, I feel like I have a better grasp on how to shape the ending.  Now I have more confidence about what needs to take shape.

We have several other team members coming over to view the film this week, for which I am very grateful.  Things are moving along really well, and I am so happy to have a team of people involved at this point.  If we can get the motion graphics, music, color corrections and audio improvements going full speed ahead, then I'll be one happy filmmaker!


Annie Beth said...

Hooray for Welly!

Camden Watts said...

Yes, I adore Welly! Have you heard much about what she's up to these days, AB? I think about her often!