When it comes to picking projects or choosing subjects for documentaries, the first thing is to make sure it’s personal somehow — at least for the four panelists on our Meet the BTL Experts: Film Documentary panel, Lisa Cortés (“All In: The Fight for Democracy”), Amanda McBaine (“Boys State”), Lana Wilson (“Miss Americana”) and Sara Bernstein (“Rebuilding Paradise”). Click each name above to watch their individual interviews separate from this group panel.
“[‘Boys State’] was an article we read randomly just in ‘The Washington Post.’ You read a lot of articles and they pique your interest and … this was one that kept bugging us,” McBaine said (watch above). “That speaks to whatever I’m trying to work out in myself. I had questions about our divided country and I needed to spend some time — spent a lot of time — filming and editing around those questions and this happened to offer that for me. You then have to take the next step, which is very scary, which is getting access. … They could always say no and you just have to take that leap in the event that they say yes. I think that is also the next step to what is the film you end up making, how much it resonates in you, and really what the documentary gods give you in terms of what you can get access to, ultimately.”
For Wilson, she didn’t think she and Taylor Swift had much in common when she signed on to helm “Miss Americana,” but that soon changed as the Grammy winner opened about the universal struggles that don’t go away just because you’re a pop superstar.
“As I filmed, the things that grabbed me were things she said,” Wilson shared. “For example, her expressing her own insecurities about her work as an artist, her looking at herself on a music video monitor and saying, ‘I look like I have a very slappable face,’ her worrying about people thinking that she’s a bitch, that she’s not nice, that she’s gonna seem too aggressive or too demanding. That was all certainly stuff that I related to and was really surprised to hear her voice basically what was my own internal monologue.”
She added: “It’s true what Amanda said in that it has to be personally meaningful to you. You have to see yourself in this person, this world, these stories because that’s how you know.”
Watch the full panel above to hear how these documentarians design their one-on-one interview settings, what they would like to see a documentary about and more.
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