Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lecture Review: Lisa Thomas and Margo Pelletier

Lisa Thomas and Margo Pelletier are a team which has produced the award-winning documentary, "Freeing Sylvia Baraldini." They spoke of their roles in bringing this film to completion. "Women are really squeezed out" in the world of film, says Pelletier. "But you have the means to make a film. Be extremely passionate about a subject. And love research--it's like a giant treasure hunt." They said that "most films make themselves," and it is somewhat like painting--when you put that first mark on the canvas, that leads to the second mark...

Pelletier couldn't protest effectively in the 80's for civil rights, but found her voice as a visual artist, who then turned to film. Thomas, who works on TV shows in New York, while being the "main" producer in the team, says that there's a lot of crossover, and that's why they share the titles in the film credits.

My first question was, "How is it to make a movie as a team?" (The two came to our film class and so I got the change to talk with them in a much more intimate setting than the night before.) Thomas generally handles the budgeting, scheduling, casting, and "putting out a million fires all the time." Pelletier, as the main director, "wants what she wants, regardless of budget." So they act as sounding boards for each other. They were in residence at UNR for part of the time they were working on the film and said the questions and opinions of the audience influenced the longer (and untimely award-winning) version of their documentary.

One of my other questions was, "Was there a personal link to the subject of Sylvia Baraldini? " Pelletier answered that yes, she was friends with Baraldini, and she herself had been jailed for six months for protesting against apartheid. The subject of the film was the scapegoating of a young civil rights activist, who ran afoul of the FBI for her involvement with the Black Panthers. She was ultimately "made an example of" until Italy was able to have her repatriated, and ultimately released from an Italian jail. No one was telling the story, so she decided to.

They had a lot to say about the process of making films. I have several quotes: Pelletier: Everything is infinitely interesting. But you have to keep an audience's attention. Film is a visual medium. But not all elements have to be visual. A sound byte can be very effective. Get a camera person who's artistic, who's into going beyond "pleasing," into seductive. All movies are propaganda--your viewpoint to the public. The camera person must be passionate. In working with other people you discover your weaknesses, your blind spots. So much more is added to your knowledge.

Thomas: When you are out getting funding, explain why this story should be told (and it's better, much better, if it's never been done before).
Don't rush through pre-production. When it comes to a shoot, there will be hassles. Editing--it's cheaper to buy your own system. Get a Mac and FinalCut Pro. Then you have the luxury of editing on your own time.

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