tells the story of Matthew VanDyke, a young Baltimore native, who went to Libya to join the rebels who were taking up arms against Gaddafi. While there, he was captured and spent six months in solitary confinement before escaping and returning to the front lines.
Tell us about yourself: I’m the director of the documentary "Point and Shoot." I’ve made three other features—"Street Fight," "Racing Dreams," and "If a Tree Falls: a Story of the Earth Liberation Front." And I had a great time Exec Producing and doing some editing on a doc about the band The National, called "Mistaken For Strangers." I love to watch documentaries, and most of the time, I love making them. I have two kids and have vowed that after this project I will spend a little more time with them and a little less time in the edit room.
Biggest challenge in completing this project? I usually shoot my own films, so this was unusual in that it is largely built from someone else’s (amazing) footage. The other challenge was fundraising which is the part of this job I hate most.
Did you crowdfund? No. I think some films are better suited for crowd-funding than others. Films that are connected to a social issue or a person/topic with an established brand seem ideal to me. This film is about an individual’s personal journey. And although it’s an amazing journey that takes him from his Baltimore home into the battlefields of the Libyan civil war, it seemed hard to see why random people would give me money to make it.
What cameras did you shoot on? The main interviews were shot on a Panasonic HPX-250. But there is a huge amount footage shot over the course of five years by the subject of the film, and it was shot on a variety of small cameras—mini DV cameras, Go-pros, compact HD cameras. The footage is remarkably powerful and beautiful, given the cameras.
Did you go to film school? No. I worked for a number of years at an internet design company but really loved documentaries. I had saved up some money and could either go to film school or just make a film, and I decided to just make a film. I spent the next few years learning how to shoot and edit by spending every day shooting and editing (and trying to learn from my numerous mistakes). It was not the most efficient way to make a film, but was a good education. And the film, Street Fight, turned out pretty well in the end.
What films have inspired you? I love all kinds of docs, but have been most inspired by the verite gang: the Maysles, Pennebaker/Hegedus, Ricky Leacock, etc. The films that inspired me most to take a leap and try to make my first film were probably Hands on a Hard Body and Sherman’s March. They showed me that that story and character were more important than icy slick production values. I try to make my films look good and sound good, but above all I want them to be intimate and get into the deep messy stuff of what it means to be human.
What do you have in the works? Jeeze – I’m just finishing the sound mix on this one. No rest for the weary… (I actually have a fiction project that I'm developing, but it's still in its early gestation period.)
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries