Robert Greene interview: ‘Procession’ director
“Procession,” the Netflix documentary directed and edited by Robert Greene, focuses on six men who were abused by Catholic priests who are now trying to heal from their trauma. But instead recounting their stories in a standard talking-head style format, the men reenact their trauma through scripted short films as a form of drama therapy. It’s a unique form of therapy that Greene himself wasn’t sure they would all be on board with — and he was ready to wrap at any point in the process.
“The first meeting you see in the film when we’re talking through ideas, it’s not just like, ‘Hey, I have an idea and would like to do this.’ It was very much, ‘Should we do this?'” Greene tells Gold Derby at our Meet the Experts: Film Directors panel (watch above). “We were prepared that that was going to be the last shoot that we would ever do. In fact, we were prepared for every shoot that that would be the last shoot we would ever do.”
“Procession” follows all six men — Joe Eldred, Mike Foreman, Ed Gavagan, Dan Laurine, Michael Sandridge and Tom Viviano — as they share their stories and plan, write and shoot their films, the final cuts of which are all within “Procession” itself (the men are credited as “in collaboration with”). Reenactments have been a calling card of Greene’s previous docs, but this one was different in that while he was the director of “Procession,” he was never calling the shots on the men’s films. That also prevents triggering retraumatization.
“Rebecca [Randles, the men’s lawyer and confidant] said every early … retraumatization and trauma, really on its face, comes from power being taken away. It comes from being diminished and put into a corner and shamed. All we had to do … was never, ever, ever take the power away from the guys as they were making the film,” Greene shares.
While Greene says he doesn’t ever really feel like he’s “boss of anything” on his films, he knows the director is seen as the leader on set who has the final say. In this case, his job as a director was to provide support for the men any way he could. “Those hierarchal relationships are difficult to break. It’s actually very hard to give power in a power scenario. Making films is often about power imbalance, frankly,” he says. “We would approach that every single day in new ways, whatever was needed. Sometimes these guys were puddles and they were on the floor and my job was to lift them up. Sometimes they were creative bulls in a china shop and they just wanted to try things, like, ‘Let’s just do it.’ And my job was to help realize those visions.”