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iW’s Snag Pick of the Weekend: Charlotte

iW's Snag Pick of the Weekend: Charlotte

“Charlotte” is a film about an extraordinary boatyard, the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, located on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin established the boatyard in 1980 with the purpose of designing, building, and maintaining traditionally built wooden boats, and in the process they transformed Vineyard Haven harbor into a mecca for wooden boat owners and enthusiasts. [Synopsis courtesy of SnagFilms]

Responses courtesy of “Charlotte: A Wooden Boat Story” director Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte.

Taking a leap of faith…

Knowing of my strong interest craftsmanship and woodworking, a friend of mine introduced me to Nat Benjamin about 10 years ago. At the time I had no plan to make a film about Gannon & Benjamin, but after visiting the boatyard over the years I was thoroughly smitten, and despite my better business judgement I took a leap of faith and embarked on making the film.

Taking the long route…

The passage of time is a central theme of Charlotte. I knew that it would take at least a year to make the boat — as it happens it took over four years to make the boat, and a couple more to finish the film. But I was glad that it took so long because it allowed me to appreciate the process in a deeper way than I imagined. Today immediate gratification is everywhere, but beautiful, lasting creations take persistence, dedication, and patience — this holds equally for traditional boat building, filmmaking, relationships, etc. I hope that this films gives people renewed appreciation of the profound power of “slow.” The world would be a better place if we could all put a little more slow into our lives.

[Watch the film]

Finding the balance…

The production of the film was relatively easy — saw dust, blizzards, endless machine noise were no problem for my production team! The challenges were mostly in editing — finding the balance between character and process, plot and “poetics,” comprehensibility and pacing. I am very happy with the balance that was achieved, most viewers are quite satisfied with the result, and those who aren’t tend to want to pull the film in opposing directions and basically cancel each other out. In any case, I love criticism of my films: they help me make the film better and it shows that people are attentive and engaged — what more could a filmmaker ask for?

Favorite thing about being a filmmaker…

I love filmmaking. I don’t have a favorite part. Every aspect has its challenges and pleasures. All in all I would say that doing the final edits on this film were probably the most exhilarating (though still daunting) aspect of filmmaking. This is the moment where it all came together, where infinite possibilities were reduced to a single form. There was a feeling of relief and accomplishment.

Up next…

There are a number of projects on the horizon. A feature film based on the book “Living Well is the Best Revenge”; a TV series with HBO; a documentary series that we are gearing toward PBS. I am also working on finding ways to bring reliable financing to innovative narrative filmmakers — too much creativity is never expressed due to the lack of funding, and I hope to make a small contribution to changing that.

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