I did better this week on completing the things I intended. First of all – and in a way that gives me some comfort, given that I have an old laptop – I made a back-up of all my stuff, including still images, b-roll footage, bought footage, and my own written work and research.
I also made some good progress on the Treatment. However, I’m reaching the point where I am missing having the interviews with the Archivists and with Adrienne Shadd in Toronto. I’ve been able to use content from the interviews that I did last October in Chatham and Buxton for some of the early portions of the film. And I hope to be able to continue to make progress with the Treatment using more of that material for the end of the film. But the whole middle section of the film relies on academic interview material that I don’t yet have.
To that end, I spent some time this week on the phone with one of the archivists in Toronto, discussing the kinds of information I want to know about. So that process is moving forward, and we are starting to look for dates in late January for me to go to Toronto. I have also sent an email to reconnect with Adrienne Shadd in Toronto, to try to coordinate to interview her during the same trip.
I have sent my Concept Proposal to Adrienne for her background information about the film, and also to see if she thinks I am going astray in an inappropriate way in discussing Black history. Per the suggestion of my supervisors, I have also sent this proposal to the four descendents of Mary Ann Shadd that I interviewed in Chatham and Buxton to solicit their feedback about portrayal of Black history.
Since the next round of interviews won’t happen until around the time the Treatment is due, I will plan to discuss my approach in the Treatment, including visual imagery, and use that to fine-tune my interview questions. Then I will have the results of the interviews for the next component: the Script.
As I reflect on this project compared to the previous film project I worked on during my undergraduate program, I find that I want to be more rigorous about documenting my sources. In the undergraduate project this was not required, beyond listing the books used in a bibliography. But I think that, for the purposes of this project I want to footnote my material, and the Treatment document is the best place to do this.
Too often, films are criticized for being inaccurate. And while I subscribe to a certain amount of creativity and artistic license, the underlying factual content should be defensible. Clifton Johnson, one of the lead historical consultants for Steven Spielberg’s film Amistad conceded that the film reached a larger audience in a few months than he had reached during the forty years of his academic career. But he bemoaned the fact that he feared he would “spend the rest of [his] life correcting the errors” of the film.[i]
This will be my last blog until Thursday January 8. I hope to do a bit more work on the Treatment, but by and large, I will be taking a break so that I will be ready to head back into school work in January. Happy (and safe) holidays to all.
[i] Iyunolu Folayan Osagie, The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2000), 122.