Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘art’

Documentary Film

August 13, 2011

On Skywalker Ranch and Sundance

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Last Thursday I filled out the application to submit Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. When I pushed the button to send off the application I felt…what did I feel? Relief? Yes, I felt relief, not like a great metaphorical weight lifted from my shoulders, but a sense of…of…yeah…we did this. We made this movie. We told this story, this old story. And it is old, a lot older than the forty-three years since the Siege of Khe Sanh lifted. This story is as old as mankind, I suspect. Death, fear, sacrifice, savagery. Everything one wants in a good action-adventure flick. But this story is true…or as true as can be after all the time for events to percolate, change, morph, be forgotten and then remembered.

It’s been a wild month. In late July we went to Rochester, MN and showed the film by private invitation first to a group of some of the interviewees and their spouses. Then we showed it by private invitation to a much larger group of men who survived the siege, or who were at Khe Sanh before or after the siege. In some ways, these are the most important audiences we will face, I think. Sure, this story is laden with messages that speak to all humanity about essential and timeless truths we seem to forget again and again. But the men in Rochester lived the essence of the movie and they would feel it more viscerally than anyone else.

After Rochester we proceeded to northern California and Skywalker Ranch to do the final sound mix. To observe longtime professional editors John Nutt and Mark Berger argue and wrangle over how the movie should sound made Betty and I feel as if they really cared.   They cared enough that they got emotional and scolded and sniped at each other, sometimes looking at Betty and me to see which one of them we agreed with.

The tension of the film mixed with the tension created by Mark and John’s disagreements made my torso hurt, like someone nipping at my skin with a sharp bayonet. But art—and even though the subject matter of Bravo! is somber, violent—it is still art. One of the things that helps create art is tension. Art, to succeed I believe, needs friction and conflict. Michelangelo’s art has tension whether it be sculpture or painting; so too, El Greco, and Picasso and Beethoven and Mick Jagger and Werner Herzog and Quentin Tarantino. The tension between Mark and John was part of elevating the art in Bravo.

And in Skywalker Sound’s Studio Mix E it was loud. The resonance reverberated off the walls, through the floor into the feet of the chairs and couches. It knocked pencils out of pencil boxes and—even though I have watched it so many times—surprised me, frightened me, regardless of the fact that I knew what was coming.

So…the movie is loud, and at times brash, speaks to indignations of living like a besieged rat; it is sad, somber, elevating, and in the end, redemptive.