Dealing with the unscripted drama
The reason I like documentaries is that you are dealing with unscripted drama. Some documentaries are fully scripted before the cameras roll. I however prefer a documentary to develop by itself. The best laid scripted plans often come apart as circumstancecs change.
I remember the time we were in New York. I wanted my presenter standing in front of the Wall Street Stock Exchange talking about the disastrous Stock Exchange Crash in the 1930s. Unbeknownst to us we arrived on a public holiday. When we got to Wall Street the Stock Exchange was closed. Not a soul in sight. No people. No cars. No flags.
Quick thinking. The great Wall Steet Crash heralded in an economic winter that lasted for years.
We were there in June. Middle of summer. Sweltering heat. Change of plans. We dressed up the presenter in thick woollen clothes, scarve, gloves and a heavy coat complete with hat. He stood there and spoke convincingly of the Wall Steet winter that presaged the depression.
In making documentaries I try to stick to Sam Goldman, co-founder of the movie giant MGM, motto; “ If you want to send a message, go to Western Union.”
I do not subscribe to message sending in my doccies. I feel the way you handle the subject, both through commentary and camera, is to make the veiwer aware. Let the viewer take whatever meaning he or she finds in the images on the screen. Awarness lasts longer than information. It sinks in. You take it with you long after the program has finished.
I have to admit I have sometimes succumbed to what I regard as the cardinal sin. personal indulgances.That lovely little snippet of prose or quote from some one else that you cherish. Big no no.
The short doccie on Janneman’s death was a total spontaneous decision.I tried to be as honest as possible. Especially the beginning and the end.
I remember the wash of peace and freedom that came over me when I sat with the injured driver of the other vehicle. A black man. And I simply said’ “Let not this stand between us.”
And I walked back and said to Janneman, “Go. Fly. Be free. We will cope.This is your greatest adventure.
I can’t even remember when or how I wrote the poem, Anderkant die Son. It just happened.
But the most profound experience for me was when the printer started pushing out email after emal talking to Janneman from people all over the world. Not to us, to him. I never would have thought that living down here in South Africa on a small, insignificant farm, Jan had such a huge friendship circle and international impact. Wow!
Throughout the period of goodbyes to him, Jeanette was an incredible pillar of strength. When I succumbed to my grief she was the one who stood firm. In her own quiet way.
I think it also comes across in the doccie. And then there was the broader family. Everybody. Their thoughts and memories created a web of understanding and support wich was at the same time so normal and so unique. It was honesty.
Exept for the accident scene we did not stage anything in the movie. It is just ....real.
Jan lived his life in full untill his Point of Departure.