Are We Serious?
Everyone knows documentaries are informative, serious, and boring. So that must make us informative, serious, and boring. After all, we are certified documentary filmmakers. Our show LOOP DREAMS won three Emmy awards including directing and writing; the award for Best Documentary Feature at the Magnolia Film Festival; the Golden Orbs at No Dance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Robert W. Wagner Screenwriting Award at the Chris Awards at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival.
But wait a minute: what’s this? How could a documentary win the Gold WorldMedal for Comedy at The New York Festivals and an Emmy award for Outstanding Entertainment Program?
It’s what we call a “comic documentary.”
Screenwriter Terry Southern of DR. STRANGLOVE and EASY RIDER was once asked, how can you make a funny movie about nuclear holocaust? He answered, it all depends where it happens to you. If you’re in the living room, it’s tragedy. If you’re in the bathroom, it’s comedy.
That’s how we make comic documentaries. (Captured Time producer Harvey Hubbell V and writer Jeremy Brecher were both taught by Terry – which mostly involved a lot of whiskey.) Yes they have the information, the deep probing, maybe, God help us, even a touch of moral uplift. But we try to put all that in a context (like Terry’s bathroom) that makes it fun and funny. Judging the audience reactions, sometimes we even succeed.
ELECTRONIC ROAD FILM was another of our comic documentaries. Yes, it was a documentary, recording a 13,000 mile trip across the United States and the amazing people (from flying saucer witnesses to homeless veterans) met at random along the way. Telluride Indifest Director Michael Carr calls it, “The best ‘grassroots’ depiction of current American values.” But it also won an Emmy for “Most Informative, Serious and Boring” – oops, no, for “Outstanding Entertainment Program.”
Not all the documentaries by our company, Captured Time, are comic. But we always strive to make what we call “documentaries with a difference.” For example, when we made a documentary about reproductive rights we didn’t just portray the current conflict but put it in the context of a few thousand years of history – and roped Katharine Hepburn, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, Peter Coyote, Ann Archer, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Margaret Avery, and Sharon Stone into performing the voices of the historical characters.
When we made a documentary narrated by – Lou Grant – oops, Edward Asner -- called GLOBAL VILLAGE OR GLOBAL PILLAGE? about that notably entertaining subject, globalization, we used animation by one of America’s leading labor cartoonists. The global fat cats are played by – you guessed it – cats. But there are an awful lot more mice than there are cats around, and – unfortunately for the cats – they are figuring out how to get together.
At the end of LOOP DREAMS, we showed some of the crew members trying to express why, in spite of the grueling work, they loved to be part of filmmaking. One of them told us, “I like that energy. The energy that starts to flow when it’s going crazy.” Others said, “I just get a buzz”; “it’s almost like addictive”; “it’s almost like a high.”
That’s how we feel about it, too.
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