The director of successful documentaries like Okie Noodling, Summercamp! and most recently Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, Bradley Beesley, made a visit for class today and discussed his rise to prominence. Although his oration covered a variety of topics, I found two of his points most interesting. First, the sense he gave of the attachment documentary subjects feel towards the documentarian even post-porject, and secondly he discussed "making stories" for his films.
I had not considered the depth at which a documentarian relates to his subjects. Beesley described some of his noodling friends calling him multiple times a week just to talk about their shared interests. I think I gained some perspective today on what getting "into" a project really means. For his documentary on the blues, Beesley lived with a muscian for about a year in poverty-striken northern Mississippi. This type of dedication and exposure led to him being considered a real part of the family even though he began as a big outsider (white, college-educated art student vs. poor, black musician). I hadn't realized before that feature length documentaries take so much TIME. Prof. Spiro also added a great point to cap this off - doing successive documentaries is like building an ever-larger family.
The other part of Beesley's visit that struck me was his perceived breaking of the cinema-verite rule of non-interference with his subjects. He said he frequently "made" stories to film. For example, before tackling Okie Noodling, Beesley created a competition for noodling that brought together fishermen from all over the area. This provided him with lots of subjects, lots of access and lots of footage. Some people may think of this as cheating, but I'm all for taking adavantage of any situation, even ones you make yourself. I would never direct my documentary subjects to do something unnatural, but I definitely have no problem in creating a situation to get the results I want. Overall I fel Beesley's visit was very informative and fun - he's certainly a creative documentarian who is helping shape the genre.