Shooting Much Too Young has change me not only as a person, but also how I will capture all my future projects. As it took me deeper into our families’ lives it showed me how you can capture that lightning in a bottle of the authentic experience. You might not be able to find that anymore backpacking in Asia, but you sure as hell are faced with it when witnessing a young daughter struggle to put her mother with young onset Alzheimer’s to bed.
Filming documentary is not only my job, but the physical act of shooting doc is also my yoga and my meditation. When you are in someone’s life and you know that there are no second takes, it makes me drop all the mental bullshit that can get in my way. It’s hard to describe.
My sore calf muscles, the political frustrations of the day or the fear that a lot of money and people are counting on me to make this doc all vanish when I push the REC button and walk into the room.
This gets even more defining when it is a true observational doc, which every documentary cinematographer should get at least one in their career. A long-term project where it is just you, your instincts and the raw story in front of you.
When we started shooting Much Too Young, I warned the producers that I was going to try something a little different. I said that I was going to not touch any moments. I wasn’t going to ask someone to say something again, I wasn’t going to stop people so I could get to another position and I wasn’t going to even ask someone to go through a doorway twice so I could get them leaving one room and walking into the next. I just wanted to let things happen without interference from the process.
If I didn’t get it in the moment, we were just going to have to cut around it.
Executive Producer of Nomad Films, Mark Johnston, didn’t miss a beat when he smiled with his one word answer… Cool. Which was a relief because this didn’t feel like it is anything new.
I wasn’t doing this because of some ethical or journalistic reason. (Though that is a good reason as well) I just felt there was something obvious about not touching anything. I already changed the world just by being there with a camera, so why not try to be a little more gentle in the making. More importantly, I wanted to create an environment where my subjects stopped thinking about the process of being in a film. I just hear the difference in how people speak and how they move when they are in themselves and not thinking about being on TV. There is a natural cadence with pauses and breaths that on paper sounds intangible, but to my ears feel… well, it feels real. Because it is real.
Not because we were making some kind of high concept art, but because they were not being constantly reminded that they were a part of a documentary. Yes, I know… there was a camera on my shoulder and a sound-recordist with a boom in the room. Chris Miller (sound) and myself constantly tried to create a feeling that is wasn’t the tools of TV in the room, but it was Chris and Russell who happened to have a boom and a camera. It sounds like semantics, but I believe it is real and that relationship showed on the screen. Especially, when things got very real.
Of course this is some thoughts of a much longer professional and personal journey that I will probably explore more in future posts; how stories are capture, how to create an evironment to capture stories and how that space is not created with the latest camera or stabilizing gimbal. They are the tools that you can’t buy at B&H.
It is the ability to be quiet inside, drop the reigns holding back your instincts and give pieces of yourself to your subjects. The ability to be vulnerable and take photographic risks.
You can go to www.muchtooyoung.com to watch the feature documentary (Canada only) or download the virtual reality app to your smart phone (worldwide).