The LIDF, one of the UK’s largest independent documentary film festivals currently on in London, not only pays attention to feature-length docs but also screens a lot of fantastic shorts. One of them is Trevor Anderson’s The Man That Got Away. DocGeeks talked to him about the making of his unique film.
Why did you feel this was a story that needed to be told?
My Uncle Jimmy was the black sheep of a side of the family we already didn’t talk about. I almost never knew about him. When I started making films, my mom said, “You should find out about your Uncle Jimmy… But ask somebody else.” She didn’t know the story, just knew that there was something juicy there. Finally a different uncle told me the story, in the form of a brief email. Then, that uncle who told me the story passed away. So, I became the keeper of the story, as it were, and I felt it was my responsibility to share it.
Was it difficult to tell a story on film using songs?
Actually, it was really fun to tell the story using songs. We advance the plot in huge jumps with voiceover before every song, just one or two sentences advancing the plot suddenly every three minutes or so, then use the songs to explore an emotional state. I enjoyed it immensely.
I understand you wrote the lyrics while Bryce Kulak wrote the music? Did you work well together?
Yes, I wrote the lyrics and Bryce Kulak wrote the music. I love working with Bryce, he’s incredible. We’ve known each other most of our lives, having come up through the same theatre family in Edmonton. Bryce and I had already written a children’s musical for the theatre that toured Western Canada, called “Nami Namersson, The Viking Who Liked to Name Things” so we already had a working method we liked. We decided to try to apply it to film, and I loved the process. It’s very collaborative, we build together as we go along. Bryce also plays the lead role in the movie, and I think he does a terrific job.
What were the challenges you faced when making this film?
I suppose the biggest challenge was shooting the whole film in three days on a downward concrete spiral parking garage exit, which is semi-outdoors and thus exposed to changing sunlight. Fortunately I had a great team, including choreographer Gerry Morita and cinematographer Mike McLaughlin, plus an army of good-natured cast and crew, and together we made it all work and got it all shot in the limited time we had.
You have been studying under master filmmaker Werner Herzog, how has he influenced you as a filmmaker?
I attended Herzog’s Rogue Film School, which was very inspiring. His main theme was that there’s no such thing as independent filmmaking, that’s a myth. But there is such a thing as self-reliant filmmaking, and that’s what he was trying to instill in us. It was very… fortifying. It strengthened my courage and made me more willing to take risks. He’s very generous, kind, and of course a mad genius.
All your films have been shorts, why does this genre appeal to you? Would you not like to make a feature length film for a change?
I like shorts, and I think the audience does too. People are busy. I hate sitting through features that should’ve been shorts. I respect economy of thought. I’d like to try my hand at a feature, when I have an idea that warrants that kind of length.
Your film is winning awards all over the place, is it keeping you busy or do you have time to work on your next project? And what is your next project?
I don’t have time to work on my next project at the moment, because The Man That Got Away is keeping me hopping. Fortunately, this film won the DAAD Short Film Prize at the Berlinale, which comes with a three month residency in Berlin. What a nice gift, time to think! I’m looking forward to the chance to take some time to write, to spread out my ideas and see which ones match, and might combine into the next film.