JVW Inc. has been in contact with the office of award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns. Mr. Burns is currently reviewing our documentary on Judge Munley and considering it for inclusion in his eagerly-awaited PBS series.
Judge Thomas Munley commissioned us to shoot a small video that would be sent in for admission to an upcoming Vietnam documentary expecting release around 2016. This piece turned into something personal for Judge Munley, JVW Inc. and myself.
On the day of the shoot we took a few hours to set up in his chambers in order to create the interview portion of the documentary. I was granted the responsibility of Director of Photography. Using two Canon 7D’s we setup two different shots: a standard shot for an interview juxtaposing the Judge to the right of the screen, and the second shot with a different viewpoint. Joe Van Wie turned to me and said, “I want something different. Something that captures the eerie, gritty, incompleteness the war at Vietnam gave to the generations before us.” He wanted something incomplete. I had no idea how to frame such a shot.
Then, we saw something that gave us an idea. Joe gave me the camera and a starting point. I took the camera and threw on a lens with a filter that would assist with some of the abundant light blaring through the windows. It was one of the nicest days Scranton had seen during the summer in a long period of time, so we had to compensate more than normal for the shot.
After the completion of our setup we were able to call the Judge in to sit down and tell his story. In Joe’s organic style of interviewing we uncovered so many compelling and real stories of Judge Munley’s past; a truly captivating story that people of my age never fully comprehend.
It was a quiet and tranquil set with the camera’s memory card serving as a blank canvas for the Judge to fill. I had never before heard stories told with such precision and tangibility. I realized during this shoot that Judge Munley was not “Talent Personnel.” He is a man who went through many things and these stories are not easily spoken about; a different element than the usual production situations we work in. Sure we use real people for testimonials during advertising campaigns, but this was something different; this was embracing incomprehensible past without experiencing it. I left with more than I had ever previously gained on a shoot.
The production moved to post and that’s where I began to cut and build an assembly designed for personal use. When we received a call that ECTV wanted to air the documentary I said to myself, “No problem, I just have to make some changes and design it for a twenty-two minute television broadcast.” So, the adventure began. I’ve done small documentaries before and this one gave me a chance to grow. I was asked to keep it simple, to the point, and personal. I made sure Judge Munley told the story coherently and I elaborated on top of it with imagery and video.
I enjoyed everything about this documentary from the pre to post production. I learned a lot about a war I never experienced, tested my skills as a photographer and editor, and learned to capture and retell a story to an audience. I hope you all enjoy the documentary when it airs on ECTV. I will be looking forward to some commentary and response.