Brett Morgen Interview: ‘Jane’ director
During our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) “Jane” director Brett Morgen reveals that he was at first reluctant to make a documentary about Jane Goodall because he “assumed that there had been plenty of films made about Jane.” What he found when looking at other materials on the subject was that “there was nothing that was immersive, nothing in the spirit or style that I tend to work in.” This National Geographic production focuses on Goodall’s early life and work in the study of chimpanzees. The film utilizes never-before-seen 16mm footage shot by Goodall’s late husband, nature photographer Hugo van Lawick, as well as a new interview with the famed primatologist.
The filmmaker used the footage as a way to create “a retelling of ‘In the Shadow of Man,'” Goodall’s book about her life amongst the chimpanzees of Gombe. “The footage was very well preserved,” he divulges, but “the biggest problem was that it was 140 hours of random shots” which were “very abstract.” He continues, “Based upon my own initial research about Jane, I was able to sort the footage” with a team of editors. Once the shots were divided into different categories, “I would say most of the work I did on the narrative was probably done from reading Jane’s books. Once I started screening footage, I had a fairly good idea of where the film was going to go.” Ultimately, it’s “a love story about a woman and her work.”
Morgen received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary for “On the Ropes” (1999). He competed at the Emmys for Best Nonfiction Special, Best Nonfiction Directing, Best Nonfiction Writing, and Best Nonfiction Editing for “Cobain: Montage of Heck” in 2015. He is perhaps best known for adapting Robert Evans‘ biography “The Kid Stays in the Picture” in 2002. This NatGeo film has already won the Critics Choice Documentary Award this year.