Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bradley Beesley, Most Inspirational Speaker

            Bradley Beesley was definitely the speaker I found to be most inspiring. I hate using the word “inspiring,” especially in this case. Certainly not because Bradley’s words weren’t encouraging or that he didn’t seemed passionate (he was very much so both of those things) but to describe him with such a cliché as “inspirational speaker” seems pretentious and insincere – and  that does not do him justice.

            Bradley has to be one of the most genuine, funny, down-to-earth filmmakers I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing speak. The stories he told about making documentaries made him seem like, well…me. I loved when he told about the catastrophes of working with an unwilling subject while filming Dr. Dante. I actually found it encouraging that he had so much trouble working with this washed up hypnotist/entertainer. And particularly encouraging were all the problems he had trying to persuade him to perform in a show that he (Brad) had put so much time, effort, and MONEY into. He told us how he got so frustrated that he called Dr. Dante and angrily yelled at him that he’d put a lot into making this performance happen. I loved his honesty. How many of us would be so open to share that we’d lost our cool with an old man? And yet Brad spent so much time with Dr. Dante, a man who is rarely visited by his own kids, that he began to consider him a son. I think that was the heart of Brad’s talk (or at least what I came away with)– in documentary you get so close to your subject that they really become family.

Which leads into another of  Brad’s films: Okie Noodling. At the end of our discussion with Brad he let us hear some of his saved voice messages from the men of Okie Noodling who STILL call him. He’s become such great friends with these people that they call him on a regular basis. That’s when Brad said something that made me stop and think about the all around purpose of documentary filmmaking: “You have to go into documentary because it’s a lifestyle, not because you want to be rich and famous. You want to tell these people’s stories.”

Jordan said in class that she is double majoring in Pre-Med and R-T-F because she decided that art is kind of selfish and she wanted to do something that would actually help people. Documentary, though, bridges the gap between the egotistical artist and the humanitarian and makes art something beneficial on all levels – not just the intellectual.

I could go on for ages about how Brad’s already started to influence me, (and how Lacey and I cut out our own cardboard signs from boxes and gave them to Dave with a marker calling it the “Bradley Beesley technique”) but all that just digresses from my point. Brad has impacted the way I look at documentary, how I look at filmmaking , and how I look at life. If that doesn’t qualify him as the “most inspirational speaker” I don’t know what can.

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