You’ve captured the heart-searing pain of rejected love through your uplifting narrative and by focusing on the wisdom of your film teacher. Please tell us how the project evolved from the initial idea – was the initial thought autobiographical?
Gregg actually wasn’t my film teacher, he was a professor and adviser assigned to me in my freshman year. When I proposed my idea for my final film I wanted to do a non-fiction piece, since I have some background in radio journalism. I had a number of other ideas for non-fiction films fall through, but I was required to remain committed to my original proposal of doing a non-fiction film. Out of desperation, I decided to record as much audio as possible in search of a narrative that could work visually. My inspiration was definitely autobiographical – I was struggling with a break-up and wanted advice from people I admired on the topic. I emailed a couple of the adults closest to me, and Gregg was the first one I interviewed. For me, this film was as much about Gregg’s incredible devotion to helping people as it is about heartbreak.
Love the tracking shot inside Gregg’s house and the various perspectives which put the audio story perfectly into a sense of place. Did you operate the camera yourself? Did you draw on everything you’ve learnt in film school or were you inspired by your own research?
I’m actually not in film school, I go to a liberal arts college and this was the second of two film production classes offered. I used a Sony FS100, and my school also had a tripod and dolly that I was able to borrow. On that particular shot I was not operating the camera. My wonderful camera assistant came with me on the shoot at Gregg’s house and he was operating the camera during that portion.
Was it an instinctual process making the film or did you have a fair idea of what you wanted to achieve from the outset?
There were some parts of the audio where I had a clear idea of the exact image I wanted. For example, I knew that it would be fun to have a “cute boy montage” when Gregg advises me on meeting other people, and I had a clear idea of the way I wanted words to appear during the “I don’t love you anymore” segment. For the sections of the script that I wasn’t as clear on I systematically picked apart and brainstormed multiple images that I thought might work. The rest was trial and error. I shot as many of my ideas as I had time for and then used the ones that I thought worked best.
Did you work with the musician on the score, how did it come about?
The musicians are friends of mine who go to school with me. I played them the edited audio of Gregg’s story as it would be in the film and recorded their music in two sessions both under 30 minutes. In the first session I asked them to improv a song using the words “Holy Cow Lisa” (which they nailed the very first time) and “I don’t love you anymore” (which we did two versions of). Before the second session I had done some more shooting and editing so I had a clearer idea of what I needed. That time we recorded as much general lyrics-less music as we had time for as well as some other improv songs riffing on Lisa’s story.
Is there anything you would have done differently with hindsight? What were the lessons you learnt from making this film?
My main goal was not to confuse people, while still telling the story in an unconventional way. Since there are no talking heads in this film, one major challenge was establishing my main characters and matching their image to their voice. My solution was to begin Gregg’s narration with him speaking directly to me, and then show his image for the first time when he begins talking about himself. Of course I always wish I had more time for projects. In a general sense I learned how to give more specific direction to the people I’m collaborating with. In the case of the music, I would have the musicians watching my video as they performed the music. I would also use a separate mic on their instruments and vocals so I could have more control over the separate audio levels.
When do you graduate? And what film projects are you planning next?
I’m graduating in just a couple of weeks on February 3rd! I’m hoping to make a very short experimental film that continues to explore this style of non-fiction multimedia in the next couple weeks. After that, I have no plans as of now but am open to any ideas! I would love to continue doing this type of work in any way I can.