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Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #3: ‘Merchants of Doubt’s’ Robert Kenner Tells Aspiring Documentarians to ‘Start With a Story’

Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #3: 'Merchants of Doubt's' Robert Kenner Tells Aspiring Documentarians to 'Start With a Story'

Indiewire invited AFI FEST directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them and the challenges they faced. The festival runs until November 13.

You may know Robert Kenner from “Food, Inc.” His new documentary is no less revealing. Based on a book, “Merchants of Doubt” is a takedown of the climate change “debate” — proposing that denial has been propogated by corporate interests. “Merchants” compares the climate issue to past controversies and conspiracies — from tobacco smoking, to acid rain, to the hole in the ozone layer, to pesticides. Here is documentarian Kenner summing up the film in his own words:

Biggest challenge in completing this project?

“How to tackle a subject the public doesn’t want to think about, science denial, and make it humorous and entertaining, while not trivializing the importance of the issues.”
Did you crowdfund?
“No.”
What camera did you shoot on?
“We shot mostly on the C300 with 5D as the second camera. We used the Phantom for the main titles and magic interstitials.”

Advice for first-time filmmakers?
“Start with a story. Be open to letting the story unfold, but you need to know there’s enough of a nugget to keep you going through the uncertainty.”
Did you go to film school?
“No. I started working in film at 18 and the film set became my film school.”
What films have inspired you?
“‘Waiting for Fidel’ by Michael Rubbo was an inspiration in that it showed how you can turn failure into a success. The filmmakers were attempting to get an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro but their inability to accomplish that goal made for a delightful and insightful film.

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