Soldiers in Hiding
I learned lessons from making documentaries that I have used every day in my work since then, whether storytelling or strategizing or managing teams. Making a documentary requires methodical research and planning, but it also requires the ability to think on your feet and pivot your approach based on how things play in the moment. You also learn that any good story gets told and retold before anyone sees it – as you imagine it, as you film it, as you edit it, you are always shaping, shifting and shaving your material to refine the essential message and find the structure that supports it.
You also need to build trust. Trust in your crew, trust in your interview subjects, trust in your material and your audience. Trust in yourself.
But the most important lesson I learned from my time making documentaries was the value of a mentor. While I had gone to film school and worked as a researcher at ABC News, I started from scratch when I joined Malcolm Clarke to make films at Filmworks Inc. Malcolm taught me by example how to be a producer and a filmmaker. He threw me in at the deep end and trusted me to come through for him and the rest of the team. We worked on four films together for PBS, ABC and HBO, culminating in our film about Vietnam Veterans hiding in the wilds across the United States, Soldiers In Hiding.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award, the Robert F Kennedy Journalism Prize, an ACE Award, the California Governor’s Medal, and the best documentary prize at the San Francisco Film Festival. Here’s a link to the film.