Read Hank and Jilann’s Sundance Film Festival blog,

written as they went through the rollercoaster experience of premiering a film at this world-renown documentary film competition for the first time.





Adventures in Documentary Shooting: Day #2


We began Day 2 with another interview, this time with Doris, who is a recognizable actor, having been in 'Tootsie' (one of the best comedies ever), as well as a lot of TV. Doris lives in the assisted living section of the home, which means she can come and go as she pleases. She still attends auditions in NYC, and keeps an active social calendar with lunch dates and so forth. She is living at the home because her husband is in poor health, and needs constant attention. The two of them gave up their brownstone on the Upper East Side, and moved to the Home so he could get the care he needs, and she could be near him. Talk about a story of love, devotion and courage. Her interview was great as she talked about her love of acting, her standards of excellence for her art, and what she gets from her creativity.


After lunch, we did another interview, this time with Paul, the 'too cool for school' jazz musician and sometimes actor. The set up for this interview was great—he lounged upon his bed, propped up by pillows, with daylight from his window washing over his head and shoulders. This created a nice halo effect, but that was offset by a slightly sickly yellow light coming from his bedside table light behind him. The 2 light sources gave a contrasting and conflicting feel to the interview, and it turns out this worked well with Paul, a guy on the one hand itching to get back to his music career by getting out to play in clubs, but on the other hand a man in his late seventies who suffers from memory lapses. It's true the 2 light sources were pretty much luck (Shana and I just like the way it looked) in how they created a conflicting feel for the interview and subject, but I think this could certainly be a theme to hit upon as we go forward—the conflict residents feel between being in the home and wanting to be out, between feeling creative and feeling weak and tired, between taking some sort of control of their life and giving into the daily routine of mealtimes, pill times and bingo times.

Other than this lucky lighting to tell us something about Paul, we filmed him in his room, which is another way to convey character—filming your interviews in your subject's environment. We get a better sense of them, and it can be interesting visually. Paul's walls were covered with Polo and Tommy Hilfiger ads of bare torso-ed men; there was an electric keyboard in the corner covered with song sheets, long since disturbed; a telephone (artists are always waiting for that phone to ring!) on his bed next to his knees, lying there like a cat, wanting attention, but never asking for it.

The phone is very prominent in Paul's interview, as he lies on his bed, and Shana and I discussed moving it, but decided to let it stay. I do not remember having a particular reason, but Shana later revealed to me that she did—she thought the phone said so much about him right now (connection to the outside world), as well as about artists in general—always waiting for the next job to come along. And wouldn't you know it, the phone did ring during his interview—it was his agent with info that an upcoming gig was still on.

Otherwise for the day we filmed some Broll—in the morning we got beauty shots, literally. There was a hand spa with ladies getting hand massages, and it was beauty parlor day at the Home as well. This was hitting on a theme we want to explore—beauty and aging in this population of ex-entertainers and performers. I did not have a chance to ask anyone about the changing of their looks due to the inevitable aging process this week, but I think this footage gives me a start.

We also tried some shallow focus shots down a hallway, with a walker in the foreground and people out if focus in the b.g. Then we tried a locked-off shot of folks coming to dinner, which we may turn into a time-lapse for a transition. We are working to get transitional sequences with this Broll, as well as a feel for the home. We are also shooting these in an anonymous way by shooting over someone's shoulder, close ups of their hands, or pulling back for wide-wide shots. The idea for this is to put the viewer there, for the viewer to identify with the subject, and to project themselves forward to their own old age. May be a bit of a stretch, but nonetheless, worth a shot.  At this early stage of the shooting game, we're up for experimenting and trying to hit upon what's going to work for the film.

Stay tuned for Day 3...


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