By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Oh, please. It’s like, “Sony is paying the tab. We want to go first class.”
Exactly. We tried to keep ourselves at a low-enough budget so that if there was a chance someday, and only when we really had something to present, we could pitch ourselves to some networks. And we got on the network that was our first choice. And we were very lucky, because MTV easily could have said no. And the reason they were my first choice was because they are, in my opinion, the lion’s mouth of youth.
How long did it take you to edit?Three months. Myself and my three producers were really just new to it, and trying to find our way. So we just kept trying to figure out how to do it. Our first early cuts were good, but we felt that when we really sat back and watched it, there was just no element of the journey. I had been so focused on the other subjects that I had almost cut myself out of it entirely, because, as a director, I wasn’t interested in myself. I know myself. I live with myself. I’m sick of myself. But it really lost the narrative thread. And I also wanted there to be humor and emotion there. So the first cut took a month, and then we went back for another pass for a second month and worked on my journey. We had 80 hours of footage, so by the second month, we were down to a two-hour version. And then, for the third month, we just really spent whittling it down and taking this piece of marble and making a little sculpture out of it. By then we had no objectivity. It crawled up our butts and died. I mean, we were just so stuck in it. And this new editor made us sit down and talk about stories. And he really came in and just helped us hone in.
You had a big learning curve to be a Hollywood producer. Was it the same with producing a documentary about politics?When I started my production company, and I don’t know if I did it subconsciously or not, it was exactly the way I started this documentary. I funded my own production company for two years, until I felt that we could go to a studio and have something to offer them. When I started my production company, I had been making films for 20 years. But that still doesn’t give you the experience of how a budget works, or how the casting process works. So I went on a learning curve. And I did this documentary exactly the same way. I just like to do things without other people’s expenses and expectations.
And the major difference in making a film versus making a documentary?The thing that really baffled me about this experience was that I’m so used to working with a script, and using it as a guide, and we did not have anything like that. We only had the opportunity to know what we wanted and to try to capture them and to go to the places we thought they would happen. But you never know. Like when we drove through Selma, we saw people playing at a baseball field. And it wasn’t planned. And I had butterflies in my stomach because I had so much fear of coming in and in any way disrupting anyone’s life or making anyone at all uncomfortable.
It’s a very foreign world from yours.And I had so much respect for it. I remember that day I was very nervous, and we decided to go stop at the baseball field and interview some people. And it was all spontaneous. And we sat there for 20 minutes watching their game and eventually started talking to people. And that’s where the guy came from who told us he was in the march, and he became like our angel. So we really did things spontaneously. We did things from our hearts. We did things instinctively.
Had this boom in documentaries started yet?No, none of it. It was really a quiet thing when we started. We weren’t even in editing yet when we saw an early screening of Super Size Me, and I just walked out of there going, “Fuck, I want to throw in the towel. That is like one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. What am I doing in this world? How dare I even attempt this?”
And your reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11?I went to the premiere. I hate going to premieres, and I ran past the red carpet. I didn’t even want to be photographed. I said, “I’m only here as a learner.” I went with one of my producers, and we just sat there as the credits rolled up. And we looked at each other. And we were just silent the whole ride home. And we went into the editing room the next day, and we were so inspired. And I watched Roger & Me a lot while I was making this documentary. And that was a real narrative piece. And then I watched The Fog of War. And I was just studying documentary after documentary, and being so inspired by what people were doing. I didn’t want to copy, but I was just trying to be more informed. And I’ve always liked documentaries. I just ate them up like a delicious meal all the time.