One of the things that really fascinates me about documentary filmmaking is the visual sense that goes into really well-produced docs. Last night I watched Objectified and it really got me thinking about how important it is to have a cohesive aesthetic approach to a film, even if you’re working with a limited budget and the spontaneity documentary film sometimes requires.
Objectified, as well as Gary Hurstwit’s other movies, are all about design, so it stands to reason they would be stylized to an extreme. What I find really interesting about Objectified, which I did not notice quite as much in Helvetica, was that the locked-down straight-on shooting style he used for the film really underlined the importance of the objects being filmed, even something as small as a toothpick was given this great weight onscreen. The filmmaking purposefully got out of the way of the subject, choosing simple angles, geometric framing and minimal movement to underline the simplicity and the importance of the objects being filmed.
Conversely, it’s pretty obvious that very little of Objectified was spontaneous - that was a film where aesthetics were the story, so they had to be as close to flawless as possible.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how In Defense of Fat will look onscreen. If you watched many food documentaries, you’ll notice the styles really run the gamut, from “we shot this on miniDV without much planning” to something like Food, Inc or the Botany of Desire which are beautiful films that obviously gave a lot of thought to the visual sense of things as they crafted the story.
In the process of developing and publicizing the movie, there have been a lot of questions about how it’s going to be structured.
One approach to the topic that many people have brought up is the standard documentary trope of finding a few people experiencing the issue you are making the film about, and follow them - in the case of this film that would mean finding people who have issues with weight, allergies, etc, and seeing if they can improve their issues by adopting one of the ancestrally-based lifestyles we’re discussing in the film.
It’s a tried-and-true way to put together a movie, mainly because it gives you a pre-made arc to work with and characters for your audience to relate to. It’s popular because it works - it tugs at your heartstrings and give the audience a passive way to piggyback on someone else’s experience.
My objection to using this style for the film, and the reason we’re focusing more on the science around the issues than the human element, is because in weight-related discussion, anecdotal evidence is one of the barriers that has kept us from getting to the truth behind the issues.
So, our initial kickstarter failed.
It really doesn’t feel like a failure, honestly, because even though our fundraising goal wasn’t met, the project ended up being an incredible way to introduce this movie to the world.
From my perspective, it has been at turns terrifying and deeply satisfying as I watch my baby step out into the light and be judged. Thankfully, the response has been positive, and that has been very energizing. It’s something that can’t be measured by analytics or conversion rates or referrer stats - as the movie has become more public, the buzz has grown and more and more people reach out to us to offer help, advice, and support - we’ve been making surprisingly human connections in the midst of all this technology.
We’re continuing to move forward, with a lot more knowledge about running a micro-finance campaign, and a renewed energy focused on getting us to production in 2-3 months.
Stay tuned, it’s starting to get exciting. We’ve raised 10% of our new goal in the first hour of fundraising.
Also, our new kickstarter is here.