/Mark Welker

Inspired by: Errol Morris

The first time I saw Errol Morris' 1998 documentary The Thin Blue Line I was in high school. At that stage I knew very little about documentary (I grew up on a fairly narrow diet of American Ninja movies), but even back then, when I hardly knew myself, I felt that documentary was an intriguing storytelling challenge. 

Having done plenty of interviews over the last few years, it consistently surprises me how deterministic interviews are to the rest of the production, and that small changes in technique can yield such large rewards.

In many cases, the interview is the story. And those small factors like how you sit the interviewee, where you sit, the way you ask questions, which questions you ask in what order and those you hold back, all determine the story you get and the one you don't. 

Morris is famous for his use of what he calls The Interrotron - a machine that allows interviewee and interviewer to maintain their eyeline whilst looking straight at the camera - but that is the just the tip of the iceberg of a long career as Director and interviewer.

In so many ways, the story of a person, place or subject is not simply there for the taking, you have to draw it out. Hunt it down. Two people can enter the same room, with the same person, and bring back totally different results.  

I remember seeing Morris' 2003 The Fog of War at the movies when it first came out, wondering as the lights dimmed: it's just 95 minutes of one guy talking right? How is that going to work?

But the film's simplicity hides a more complex battle happening behind the scenes. Approaching Robert McNamara, Morris understood, probably better even than McNamara, what a Secretary of Defense wants to talk about and what he doesn't. 

Truth for me has always been synonymous with notions of sincerity, and that's what I believe Morris' true skill is. Even if his subjects don't realise it yet, Morris understands that everyone holds a truth that can be told.

There in lies the craft and art of a great storyteller. And that's why he inspires me. 

Errol Morris talking to Vice on Donald Rumsfeld and Unknown Known 

Trailer for Fog of War

Trailer for Thin Blue Line

 

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