Editing is intuition, is storytelling…

Posted in Documentary, Editing, Storytelling on July 28th, 2014 by Dave

I’m finishing up the edit on my latest film, “Father Soldier”,  hopefully within the next few weeks…and it has been a journey! For the longest time, I’ve felt like a  blind man groping around for a way to tell this story.  Now I feel more like someone with bad allergies and watery eyes – or maybe a mild case of glaucoma…serious, but not life-threatening.

The narrative of this story is simple, a young boy, Leo Hetzler, born of a  well- off family in Rochester, NY, has this wonderful, golden sort of childhood. His parents are loving and nourish him with freedom and responsibility. He goes off to fight in World War 2, as a combat infantryman,  experiences tragedy and hardship, but survives after nearly being killed, “about six times a day”, as he puts it.  He is sent on to the Philippines, where he and his buddies are told that they will not survive the planned invasion of Japan. The allies drop the bomb, he goes home, enters the priesthood, gets his Ph.D, and  spends the following  sixty years as a Basilian  priest and Professor of English at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. So that’s the narrative – now how to make it into a film that is true to the the person I’m filming and to  my own reaction to his life? And on top of that, has a spiritual, poetic qualtity. Something that hangs in the air…

 

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I pretty much ruled out a straight documentary approach: complete with a timeline, on camera interviews, voice overs, and images and sound to cover the narrative.

Instead, I basically did all of the above, but I’ve tried to take it to a different level. Actually I didn’t really try, it just seemed to progress naturally from having spent more than a year turning this film over in my mind – and in my video editor . Like all of my films so far, I’ve gone through periods where I thought the project was utterly hopeless and that I’d never get “there”, – wherever “there” was.   But the more work you turn out, the more keys you find to open new doors.I think in all of my films, “To Have and To Give”, “Captain”, “Not Knowing but Trusting”, “From Talking to Playing, and most recently, “School for Jazz”, I’ve wound up in one way or another exalting my film subject – holding them up as a beacon. Seeing in them all the best things that are to be seen in this life – for  me for sure, maybe to others. And after five films, I’m aware that this is a very important theme to me, perhaps my one and only theme.

For me, if I can come up with a good title that works on multiple levels – and that I can refer back to for guidance I feel that I’m off to a good start. “Father Soldier” felt like a good one to me – a perfect dichotomy! So I did a lot of interviewing with Father Leo, strung a narrative  together, then re-wrote it with with Father collaborating, ( I wasn’t going to let 60 years of literary background go to waste). I recorded Father Leo reading our script. Then I started to slog away, filming visuals and editing , filming and editing.   I knew I wanted to film nature in bad weather, the more extreme the better. I had no clear idea how I would use the footage I was collecting. But I felt that being out in snowstorms, windstorms, and cloudbursts would find there way into the film. And of course, since it’s my film, they did…

Next week I want to keep going thinking about and exploring my process…

The Monday Morning Blog…

Posted in Documentary on July 21st, 2014 by Dave

I’ve decided to begin a regular blog posting schedule covering a variety of film making subjects from production techniques and gear  I use to artistic concerns and preoccupations  in my own film making. I’ll publish each Monday morning at 9am. I’ll be enabling comments for this blog going forward and I hope to create a gathering of  curious and like-minded people.

Currently I’m in the final editing phase of my next film, “Father Soldier” which is turning out to be  an expressionistic sort of poem to an 88 year old World War ll combat veteran who returned from battle and became a catholic priest.

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Father Leo Hetzler

I had met Father Leo at an Honor Flight reception for returning World War 2 veterans on a Sunday morning last year at the Rochester International airport. I had just finished a film about the beautiful and wonderfully gifted  New York City concert pianist  Mira Gill  and was filming bits of the reception in the main concourse of the airport with no real purpose in mind – just to to a little shooting . Then I turned around and saw this craggy, monumental, friendly face. He was sitting next to a friend who had also come to the airport. He had this wonderful, beaming presence about him.  I immediately struck up a conversation with him. The sound of his voice was rough and gravelly-an aural counterpart to that majestic face!

I was just very impressed with this person. In the picture above, you can just see the rifleman’s pin he wears everywhere. I just kept thinking, combat veteran fights all the way through Europe, has friends killed all around him, had to shoot to kill the enemy, then comes back to enter the priesthood. Was it for atonement?  A reaction at the carnage he witnessed?  Those were my initial questions.  And that was the beginning of  this particular film journey which I’ve been involved with over the last year – and which has evolved into something very different then what I had originally pre-supposed…