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Tag: Documentary

Kicking Off the Richard Fairbanks Documentary Project

by on May.24, 2011, under Projects

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately but wanted to share some footage from my latest: a documentary on influential American art potter Richard Fairbanks.

This will be a longer term project which I’ll shoot in bursts as exhibitions of Richard’s work and interview subjects become available.  Here is a snippet of an interview with art critic Matthew Kangas, along with some images of Richard’s work–all of which I recently filmed at an exhibition at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum.

To say that I’ve been connected with this story for quite a while would be quite an understatement.  Richard was one of my mother’s art professors at Drake University.  (And without my Mom’s influence and art lessons since before preschool I doubt I’d be pursuing an artistic profession today.)  My wife, Ahn Lee also edited one of the first books written about Richard fifteen years ago.  And our family has known Richard’s widow Dixie Parker-Fairbanks for many years.  So when the opportunity came up to make a documentary film about Richard’s work, I was in. Richard and Dixie’s story is remarkable: bridging the worlds of art, international relations, and intrigue.  There’s also an inspiring human story at the center of it, so I’m excited to see how it evolves and takes shape.

This documentary is also a great example of the “new model” of filmmaking…namely all the jobs being done by a lot fewer people than they used to be.  The economics of this project dictate that I do all the jobs of lighting, shooting, running sound, interviewing, and of course, packing up the truck at the end of the day.  (Not to mention all the post-production.)  The “new” part of this equation is that the equipment that’s available today makes it possible to actually capture the quality that a project like this demands. With two Panasonic GH2 HDSLR cameras, a Tascam DR-680 recorder with mics, and a couple lights and stands, I can get professional results from a film studio that fits in the back of a Saturn Astra.

The "new model" of guy does everything.

I’ve been doing a number of one-man-band shoots lately and I’ve come away with two realizations.  First is a deepened appreciation for what a true dedicated professional brings to each job on set.  The second is amazement that one person can actually pull off a nicely lit, two-camera shoot with quality sound and no nasty surprises in the editing bay.  This is certainly not the way I’d like to work from now on; every moment I’m on set I feel like I’m just barely capturing what is required without really bringing the art or sophistication that one could if they were to focus on just one or two jobs.  However, many of these projects are the kind that simply would not happen if I had to wrangle vehicles, equipment, and personnel.  They would be missed opportunities.  And I’m usually pleasantly surprised (and very tired) at the end of the day to discover that the work I spent all day worrying was less than my best still looks pretty good.  Especially compared to something that just wouldn’t exist at all otherwise.

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