The process of making documentaries has always been a difficult experience for me. Although there is plenty of creative freedom to be found in the post production of the doc, the actual shooting tends to be very uncontrolled. As a filmmaker, you are largely unaware of what your subject is going to say, if they are going to say the kinds of things you want them to say so you can tell the story you intended, etc. When shooting B-roll on a shoot like this, since you do not know the whole story, yet, you are unsure if the B-roll you are capturing will adequately underlay your story. On top of that, on an almost “man on the street” shoot like ours, you lack any of the controlled lighting of a narrative film, which means much of the image comes down to framing. When shooting, subjects move about in the frame as they speak, and you don’t want to stop them to reframe and thereby ruin their thought process. Of course there was the guerrilla aspect as well. We could not record strong audio because of rules preventing video recording within the fair, a problem that obviously would not have existed on a narrative shoot. In short, it is the absence of control that has always frustrated me in the doc process. In a way, that lack of control stimulates creativity, however. You have to find a way to tell a story with what you have, with what you did’t plan in advance for. Documentaries also offer the age old “stranger than fiction” mentality. I can honestly say, I would not have created a man in my head who says “he is himself” when he dresses like a pirate and speaks to a mechanized dragon on his shoulder, or the two well spoken educators who get their freak on with their daughter on the weekends by dressing up as butterflies and gouls and attending renaissance fairs. And let’s not forget the shirtless wolf pelt man who talks about how far the United States has come since the Renaissance. These people are such vivid characters, ones more ludicrous than many I would write about. At the same time, when the stories are “true,” it can be difficult to find conflict. These people were unequivocally happy about their situation. Everyone interviewed refused to point at ANY dark side. In a narrative, we could have manufactured some conflict. In a documentary, you can manufacture conflict, or at least emphasize a smaller conflict, but only if your subjects give you SOMETHING to work with. You are entirely at their mercy. In short, making a documentary was an exasperating, but informative experience, that challenged my group in the best way possible.
View the video here