Thursday, July 19, 2007
The Right Three

I lost another documentary subject yesterday. I'm working on this doc about five first-year teachers, right, and early on one of them left after she was physically assaulted at her school. Then a second faded away into borderline depression -- and I knew something like that would happen, which is why I chose five instead of the two or three I actually needed. Between the remaining three, one had a way of voicing the absurdity and frustration of her situation; one was passionate about his kids and about his job; and the third, now recently dismissed, was always able to give me a clear, articulate analysis. Between them they formed a multi-faceted perspective on the process they were going through, and they all complimented each other beautifully. They were the right three.

But now one of them is gone, for reasons nobody can tell me. I have to wait for him to tell me himself, and for various good reasons I've been asked not to contact him until mid-August. The program co-ordinator only told me now out of concern that it might change the film, and he wanted to let me know before I got too deep into the editing process. We discussed it for a few minutes, and I told him not to worry, I'd see how things played out. This is the sort of thing that happens while making this kind of film.

Now I've had a night to mull it over. My mission, of course, is to make the best film I can out of the material I have, and to tell the truth as best I can in the process. The organization behind it has been great about giving me free rein to make whatever film I want without interference from them. So I can pretty much use my own best judgement. I'd hate to leave all of that teacher's material out of the film -- he said some important things, his students were the most engaging on camera, his teaching was compelling. But it would be awkward to tell that much of his story without pointing out that he was dismissed from the program at the beginning of his second year.

Then again... the fact of his dismissal doesn't change the validity of anything he said or did during the year he was teaching. And technically, I'm making a film about his first year, and his dismissal came in his second year. And I already have a signed release, so I can do whatever I want with the footage I have -- not that I think he'd ever ask me to exclude him. So for the moment, while I'm waiting to find out the rest of the story (which could change things a bit), I'm leaning towards simply proceeding exactly as planned, and leaving this final unpleasantness out, unless it has a direct bearing on the film. It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best I can come up with for now.

Otherwise, I've been slowly (painfully slowly) pulling my footage onto my hard drive and logging it as I go. Last night I reviewed an early interview with the first teacher to leave. The interview was done exactly a year ago tomorrow -- July 20, 2006. I was relieved to see that the footage looked good and sounded decent (I always get paranoid about what I shot after the fact), but I was really impressed with the potential for narrative tension in that interview. She spoke several times about feeling certain that she was up to the job, about wanting "real interactions with other people," but fearing that she'd be unable to finish and ditch the program. And indeed, barely six weeks later she had an extremely "real" interaction with a student, and ditched. The incoming class she was a part of has been bad for teachers leaving -- I think they had five or six (out of thirty) during the first year, and I'm sure a few more have left over the break before their second year begins. It's as much a part of the program as finding passion in teaching, so it'll make the final cut of the film.

It's weird to think that was a year ago. Seems a lot longer.

Anyway, as of today, it's exactly ten weeks until I plan to depart this sad locale and head for what I hope will be a more suitable home. But more on that soon. Or soon-ish. Or whenever I get around to it.
3:04 PM ::
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