Radio Doc Creative Content
Doing a portrait of Kahnawake is something that really appealed to me because of my own ignorance of the place and the people. I went to high school in Montreal with Mohawks, but it wasn't until I was in a Digital Coms class last year, and we had to do a digital portrait of ourselves, that I was reminded of my interest that has lain dormant all these years. One of the digital portraits had the word Mohawk written in bold letters across the top. I was curious to find out who it was. By wonderful coincidence, Skyler had been sitting in the row in front of me all year in Sound II and I had no idea that this was the person I was looking for.
Skyler invited me to Kahnawake to interview his stepfather and anyone else we cared to meet. In the car journey to and in Kahnawake, by way of testing the DAT machine and mic, I interviewed Skyler. I used a dynamic mic as the shotgun wasn't working. That's why you can hear a bit more hiss than one might like. It turned out to be the opening to the piece. It worked well. It opened the piece with the unmistakable sound of being in a car and what goes through one's mind when looking out of a car window. You can also hear other cars going by, and you can imagine the physical space where the interview is taking place (Skyler and myself sitting in the front seats). The voice-over seemed to have its effect as an observer rather than a 'voice of god' telling people how to listen or what to listen for.
When I recorded Chester, the shotgun mic was as dead the dodo, which though horrifying at the time, forced me to use the dynamic. It seems to have worked out okay, and there is no great discrepency between the studio voice-over and the field recordings. It almost gives the field recordings a sense of mission that might otherwise have been missing with a shotgun, in that the recordings were in the field, documenting something that doesn't have the safeness or security that I associate with a studio sound. It's a story of someone's life that has been made 'on the fly' rather than a produced or pre-meditated sound. Though all of this was more a happy accident than anything.
I was fortunate to have talent such as Skyler and Chester who spoke so willingly and frankly about their community and personal identity. I really feel fortunate to have met them.
The difficult elements came in post-production. Because I had so much material that I wanted to use (I know we all did), I found it hard to know what to keep and what to nix. There was a lot more to say about Mohawk community, or controversy within the community that had to be cut. I was suprised that the final cut was still 18 minutes, which was eight minutes over what Iain had recommended and what Jonathan Goldstein had said about a minute representing a year (ten minutes for ten years). Though I suppose I had 18 minutes for 48 years.
I knew that the voice-over would have to be done by me. I am so proprietary that I needed to either heavily direct someone else or just do it myself. It also gave me a sense of participation by directly telling a story as a journalist as well as indirectly as a producer.
The time constraint clipped my ending which was too abrupt, but I wanted to include the part about Chester's spirit guides, especially since the dream was in the old Forum. The old Forum would give many listeners a reference which was impartial and almost inconsequential in that it represents hockey, which everyone can relate to, regardless of their background.
It was quite a learning experience, and although I'm satisfied with the result, there are more paths to take in producing my next doc.