By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Charles Taylor
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Brian Feinzimer
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By Amy Nicholson
They all seem to have this really dramatic, personal connection to the movie. It became more and more clear as the project went on, that all of them and me and Tim and so many of the people I've talked to after screenings of the movie have this really interesting two-way relationship with the movie. That thinking about the movie changes your point of view, and the movie changes as you change over the course of the years. The movie came out in 1980, so I've seen it both as a kid and as a father, and you better believe the movie looks differently from those two vantage points.
Were there specific criteria you used to select the people you did? Were you just trying to get a wide spread of opinion, or was it something else?
It was a combination of factors. It wasn't like we had a manifesto or checklist of who we would use and who we wouldn't. At the beginning, the first two people we really wanted to talk to were Bill Blakemore and Jay Weidner. Bill talks about the Native American themes and he wrote about the movie back in 1987 in an article that was syndicated pretty widely in a lot of newspapers. I think for a lot of people it's been seen as kind of the symbolic reading of the film of record. And Jay Weidner's ideas about the subliminal techniques in the film and the idea that the movie could be sort of a confession to something that Kubrick was a part of back in the day was not just an incredibly riveting read, but something that was beginning to get very widely discussed.
So with those two guys, it seemed like their absence would be conspicuous, and it was also nice that they came from such different backgrounds that they kind of map out the different poles of the film. From there we went to folks who were coming at The Shining from a different perspective or brought entirely different elements to it. One would kind of lead to another in an interesting way. There was one guy I wanted to talk to and I sent him a recorder and he stole it and stopped answering my calls [laughs]. There was another guy or two online who were just impossible to find. They wrote under aliases and had no contact information.
Tell me a little about your process. You mentioned that you sent out recorders to people to get your interviews. How did that work?
Yeah, I would mail digital audio recorders to folks and talk them through the process of recording themselves, then I would talk to them on Skype on my end so that I could record a lo-fi backup and have my own voice on a split track that I could synchronize later. I would have a QuickTime of The Shining opened up so that I could sort of scan through it as they were talking. I think for the most part, when they describe scenes from the movie, they're just working from memory and sometimes it's kind of amazing the amount of detail and specificity they're able to describe the movie with.
That way of working was at least in part due to your budgetary issues, correct? Rather than flying out, setting up the camera and doing the typical doc talking-head shot?
It was, but I'd also done a short film a year and a half before with the same strategy and I was really excited by some of the results that happened when I wasn't able to use a talking-head shot. When I didn't have that shot to rely on, I had to use other visual images to describe what they were talking about, or sometimes that the visuals could be a subjective emotional state or a connection that I might be making on my end or even working in counterpoint in a weird way. It does something to turn it from a battle of individuals to a battle of ideas. There's a lot of interesting implications of it, but like a lot of things the idea first happened based on practical considerations, then I just kind of liked the effect.
It worked really well, as odd as it seemed at first. It let the images take over and provide the context, rather than drawing focus on the speaker.
Thanks. I like to think that we're not looking at them, but we're maybe trying to look through their eyes in some way.
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