The autumn 2010 issue of DoX also reported on Doc Lab participants Jasmina Fekovic and Pietra Brettkelly. Some events Fekovic planned to include in her project on art collectors and collectormania were delayed and so is her project; she is still in preproduction. Brettkelly’s film, Maori Boy Genius, about Maori ngaa rauuira going to Yale, premiered on 13 February 2012 at the Berlinale.
In autumn 2010 DOX reported on Doc Lab, an 18-month documentary workshop initiated by the Amsterdam-based Binger Film Institute. The lab is aimed at developing selected projects from start to finish, hence its duration. Started in May 2010, we’re nearly two years on now. So what’s been happening since the kick-off? After the initial sessions in June 2010 (see DOX #87) the participants gathered in Amsterdam again in November 2010 to attend sessions about storytelling by Jennifer Fox, about narration and drama by John Appel, and about creative postproduction by Patrick Lindenmaijer.
In addition, Michael HaslundChristiansen conducted a case study around Armadillo and participants had an individual session around their projects with their mentors. Christy Garland is one of the participants and her project, The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, was mostly shot when she arrived in Amsterdam in autumn 2010. The Bastards was entered as a project about birdsong competitors in Guyana but the focus of the story has shifted somewhat to the main protagonists Muscle and his mom Mary.
For the November meetings the main question for Garland was what the purpose of her story was: “What is it that you want the audience to feel as they walk out of the theatre? How have their view been altered? What am I showing them that they don’t already know and how does it connect to their own lives?” she summarizes. Watching, analyzing, and discussing her footage with other filmmakers offered a muchwelcomed, fresh approach because they do not have the biases Garland has about the material: “Things that I had taken for granted, or never actually realized…”, such as the complex morality of her protagonists.
The post-production workshop seemed to come too soon but was actually well timed, or late if anything: “I found that part of this workshop would actually have been very useful before I shot … to avoid the damage control that we now have to perform with certain inconsistencies in the material” concluded Garland. One of the most important consequences of the November workshops for Garland was “… that I will be looking at my footage with much greater awareness of the thematic and narrative possibilities”. At this point, Garland felt she had a strong beginning and a strong end but was unsure about the middle, the second act. Her idea was to first show how Muscle and Mary struggle: Mary drinks, Muscle threatens her, Mary disobeys, and Muscle in the end locks her up. The third act would start from Mary’s death. On a cloudy tuesday morning in May last year I meet with Garland again. She tells me about her session with another advisor, Molly Stensgaard, a Danish editor working with Lars von Trier. Molly Stensgaard last Saturday, aptly called The Heart of the Story.
Stensgaard is praised for actually getting to the heart of the story, which in Garland’s case meant getting the structure right. Mary’s death is intercut with the death of one of Muscle’s birds Stensgaard suggested that Garland start from the current situation of her protagonists, as the process leading to it is not the story of the film. The film is about how Muscle and Mary deal with love and loss, about cruelty as an act of love. Because Mary drinks too much and runs the risk of falling and hurting herself, Muscle locks her up. It is his way of saying that he doesn’t want her to die. In the current set up, Mary dies at the end of the second act. Stensgaard suggested bringing her back at the end of the film.
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