And that's audio?
Audio. What we did was we went through it over and over until we
found out how the story worked, and then we constructed what they
said into the narrative. We learned about the group and how they met,
and we learned about how he died that night. Also, we knew how the
family of the deceased responded, from Jen. From that we were able to
structure a story.
We decided, instead of making it the night that he died, let's make
it any night that they would go out. So it runs like a story. It's
like Proust would do with his "would" statements.
"Then we would go out and we would see the sky," and it sounds like
you're saying this happens any time of the year.
Making this more about the group instead of the death.
But the death happens. And we're using the "would" statements. "And
then they would come here, and then they would smoke, and then they
would drink beer, and then they would go and have sex, and then one
night he died." That's a shift. Then we go into the story of the
death. That was sort of built in after the interviews occurred.
One thing I really like, and it's done in short films but rarely
in features, is having the separation between the audio and the image
where they're running parallel, and sometimes counter to each other.
Rarely is there a need for synch sound. It's cinematic, though I
guess it's more the form of an "essay film" than a documentary.
You know in Police Beat
we did this weird thing where we took
the [African language of] Wolof and we made this independent film
into a foreign language film by adding the voiceover narration in
Wolof. It was a similar thing here, but that narration is something
that we put together first and we shot that narration as a script.
That's sort of a trick, you know?
I don't know if it's a trick necessarily. It's just an interesting
So this script is exactly what they said, and they had to act out
exactly what they said.
It was a small budget, but I think this method makes it look big.
Especially with Sean Kirby's
How much did Sean Kirby end up being a writer, seeing as the
images and the narration are almost on equal footing?
I would say the film is really made by four people. Joe Shapiro, the editor, who with his
team really cleaned up the voiceover. What we did was we took raw
voiceover and organized it into a script. Now still, that voiceover
has to be cleaned up. It's full of mistakes. Some words don't come
out right. It's cut and paste. So for him, that became a super job in
the editing of the film.
And that's just the audio editing.
First the audio editing, and then the visual editing, and you've got
to make them match. So that became a super job for him. Then there
are the visuals, because we wanted them to have an exceptional look,
and [cinematographer] Sean Kirby is exceptional. I know that some
directors tell the cinematographer, "We will allow you to have two or
three beauty shots, and the rest need to just get the job done." You
know what I mean? Directors will tell them how many shots they're
allowed to go for. In this film he was told, "Every shot has to be a
beauty shot. Don't hesitate at all if you can do something
interesting with the material." So that gives a cinematographer the
power to do anything.
And he was free to change up the speeds because you didn't have to
sync the sound.
All that, the speeds, that's all Sean Kirby. There's all sorts of
stuff that we couldn't fit in because it would have been too long.
All sorts of dazzling stuff.
It's like Christopher Doyle working with Wong Kar-wai, where 80 percent or 90 percent of his
gorgeous footage is just thrown away as they make a film.
I could imagine. I know. You cry. And then there's Rob and there's
myself in terms of this film. The other person who comes into this
family is Paul Moore
. He did the
music, he did the score.
Talk about your choice not to use names. Did you go back and forth
on that, or was it a relatively easy decision?
The guys wouldn't talk with us otherwise. If we weren't protecting
names, we wouldn't have gotten the principal three interviews.
Meanwhile, god bless the Internet because his name is all over the
place. Probably all of their names are out there.
That's the funny thing.
Mr. Hands has got his own Wikipedia
It's there and we know who he is, and that's fine. If you want to
know his name, that's fine. We thought it was kind of cool to use
their Internet names. We actually liked the idea that we were using
their Internet names, because it kept it in the Internet.
In a way, using their online names makes it about the community
rather than the incident.
Yes, that's right.
What was the screen name of the ranch hand?
Mr. H. He was the last one we interviewed. He came in at the last
minute. We really wanted him, and we felt that the film was
incomplete without his input. What we did was, we gathered what Mr. H
was about from the first three interviews and then, when he came in,
he just proved or corroborated all of the speculations we had about
him. We were able to fit or retain everything we had already shot
about him, except for one or two shots we had to add at the last
minute. So what they said about him was true. He just came in and
fleshed it out. He came in at the last minute, and that was actually
Talk a little bit about the owner of the horses.
We know him more about him, actually, not from him. We got a lot of
good stuff about him from Mr. H, the ranch hand. Most of what we got
about that couple we got from the police report. There was a very
extensive description about how the cops arrested Happy Horseman, and
the scene where they're showing the owners watching the videotape,
that's based upon the police report. We know that they showed them
that to verify, because they wanted to get him on trespassing, so
they wanted to verify that it was their horse.
What about the actual death itself? The other taboo in society.
Did you learn things that were different from what previous reports
It's hard to tell.
What are the different scenarios for his death that have been put
The biggest problem was, we do have some theories about his death but we couldn't assume [they're true] because his family didn't want to
help or to be involved with the film.
That's Mr. Hand's family you're talking about?
His brother is [a character] in the film, because we know about him.
He had a wife?
He had a wife, he had a son, he had a sister. We know all that. But
what we didn't know for sure was, he had several complications...
from... I'm trying to say this without really saying it. We know that
his life went kind of rough at the very end. We know that he had been
involved in a motorcycle accident.
So by "rough in the end," do you mean in the weeks leading up to
this? Or the day of?
No, no, towards the end of his life he was in bad shape. In general.
In the last months? In the last years?
In the last two or three years. If you look in our film, all that
remains of that is that we know that he had two holes in the side of
his head, and that was because he was involved in an accident that
put him in braces, in body braces, where they screw into your head.
Those marks were still in his flesh. What happened was a bad
motorcycle accident. So his body was already really not in great
shape. So we knew all these things, but we couldn't justify them
because we couldn't find the record of the accident. The parents
wouldn't verify this. So we just dropped it.
How long was he with the group?