Four months into the editing of Multico, my son Ethan, our first, was born. I honestly can't remember how many nights I sat at my desk (purchased for $25 at SWAP) listening through my headphones to the garbled sounds of audio editing all the while continually tapping a regular rhythm with my foot on my son's crib and humming a low lullaby. It was a crazy time in my life, but I was committed to making this film and doing right by Rebecca Jallings and the students in her Multico program.
Multico is a semester-long multicultural traveling theater class at Madison West High School. Multico is the documentary I made about it -- the creativity's in the film, not the name.
All told, it took me two years to make Multico. I began shooting in the fall of 2007 with a tiny Canon consumer-grade handheld camcorder with a broken battery latch, and I finished primary shooting in January 2008, fortunately with a much better camera.
It then took about nine months to edit down all the footage I had taken, along with the archival footage I had been given by Rebecca, Multico's founder. It took me so long to edit because the shooting ratio was so high, about 200 to 1. For every minute in the final cut, there were 200 hundred other minutes that didn't make it. Usually anything above 100 to 1 is considered some manner of ludicrous. This difficult situation was ultimately my fault, though, as I was more or less the entire production crew -- a one-man show, if you will.
I guess the short answer as to why I had so much footage was that I was, and still am, a young and inexperienced filmmaker. I filmed nearly every single moment of an entire semester of this two-hour long class that met daily. There was such a spontaneity to the profound and beautiful things that happened in the class. I didn't want to miss any of them.
Now, amateur filmmakers are supposed to be quirky, clever and cool. I'm really none of these things. In fact, I'm rather boring. You have to be boring to sit day after day, month after month, and season after season in front of a buzzing, antiquated iMac editing a documentary film when the rest of the world is doing other things like drinking beer, enjoying the sun, cavorting and whatnot.
But here's the thing: All joking aside, the story of Multico, Rebecca and the scores of students who have gone through the program is, without qualification, an amazing and moving one. It is about confronting the real problems of our time and developing the heart's capacity to hear and understand difference. I worked so hard for so long on this project because I knew that even though my skills as a filmmaker were mediocre, I still had an important responsibility to make a film that did justice to the amazing phenomenon that is Multico, to the best of my limited ability. And that, frankly, was an awful lot of work.
Multico screens on Thursday, April 15, 5 p.m., at Monona Terrace as part of the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival.