Writing is Writing: An Interview with Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson

Current VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Annie Howell, along with her co-writer and co-director Lisa Robinson, discuss their film CLAIRE IN MOTION (now available to stream on Showtime), their co-writing process, character development, and how film can be vehicle for change.

Aja Zoecklein: How did you first meet and when did you begin your collaborative teamwork?

Lisa Robinson: We met at NYU grad school, but didn’t actually make any films together there. After we finished school we had both written our own features and were trying to get them made but financing was taking a while…we had a conversation about an idea and decided we should make a web series together. It was called SPARKS and was eventually syndicated by the Sundance Channel, which was great. We had fun with it. We would each write an episode and kind of piggyback off each other. From there, it kind of naturally evolved into making a feature, SMALL, BEAUTIFUL MOVING PARTS, which was partly based off the series.

Annie Howell: When we made CLAIRE IN MOTION, I was living in Athens, Ohio and teaching film full time at Ohio University. As soon as I landed I was like “oh, this could be a really interesting place to make a film.” Lisa visited, and I would send her pictures, and that was one of the jumping off points, just thinking about this interesting town that is not as often seen on screen.

 AZ: What is your writing process like? How do you structure your writing as collaborators—together in a room, separate, both?

AH: We typically write independently, swapping and sharing ideas. For the two features, for example, we would have this really long running text/blast email conversation that never stopped! (laughs) Which is great because it’s what the writer’s brain does anyway, but you are just sending it off to another person. We both like having our assignments, agreeing on what that is, and then coming back together with the results. We had a couple of times when we would sit in front a whiteboard together to figure out whatever challenge was in front of us.

AZ: Do you write differently knowing that you will be directing the work?

LR: I don’t think we write differently because we’re directing. The script has to communicate to not just us, but to our actors and to the rest of the crew. It needs to be just as transparent in terms of what we’re trying to do as it would be otherwise. The prep is actually the really important partwhere the writing is changingbecause you are starting to manifest the stuff, physically: you’re picking locations, costumes, actors… It’s such a crucial part of the translation; it’s at that moment the writing gets pulled into the directing space.

AH: I agree, the writing doesn’t deferwriting is writing. We probably have our producer’s hat on a bit: Is this possible? Can we write for a location that we already have? But, consistently, the writing has to work first.

AZ: The characters in CLAIRE IN MOTION are so well-fleshed out. I never felt like anyone was behaving inauthentically or outside of their spectrum of responses. As writers you get the fun task of people-ing your world, how do you go about writing your supporting characters?

AH: For this film, again, it was really informed by this particular town, and also our shared knowledge of the world of academiaa lot of that world is the personal and the professional mixed togetherand so we brought those instincts, impressions, and experiences to the table. Often it’s so challenging and difficult to understand your protagonist and to keep searching for that thread or theme. Supporting characters can often come much quicker, which helps to build that confidence in the writing. In this case the place that she is in and the people around her are just such an important part of the story…

LR: Since Annie was teaching and living there she had a lot of interesting encounters and specifics to bring to it. Since I was further away, I brought a more abstract mental state to it, more along the lines of, what is Claire going through and what kinds of characters would trigger her or bring out parts of her psyche? Those two things combined helped create some of these character.

 AZ: While part mystery/thriller, CLAIRE IN MOTION really tells the story of a woman who is faced with the reality that, in truth, you never can know somebody entirely, and that, perhaps even more importantly, that lack of recognition extends to yourself as well. What prompted you to explore this subject matter in the way you did? Did you know going in that you wanted Claire’s evolution to start at x and end at y?

LR: We knew we wanted her to go through a tragedy and have to grapple with that uncertainty, and letting the viewer grapple with it as well. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it, or even what the tragedy was going to be,  but we were interested to see how that uncertainty shifted her identity. We set out to explore a character in a place in her life where she is comfortableshe’s a little bit older, not in her 20s anymore, has a sense of who she is and what her life is going to beand we wanted to upset that, let that run out, and see how she shifts and changes.

AH: We also had some time in the writing process to really chew on a number of different scenarioswe played quite a bit with it in terms of plot, running a lot of what-ifs. We have a strong shared value that we want our audience to have their own experience, so we weren’t going to wrap everything up neatly. The persistent interest in theme being: the not knowing of life and how that can surprise you; what you learn from it and how you might be damaged by it; and inevitably, how you have to just keep going.

AZ: In light of the current state of the world, how do you see filmmaking as an art form shaping and/or informing us as humans?

LR: There’s a lot of exciting films out there right now. GET OUT is a really amazing example of a film that is surprising and exciting in terms of genre, subtext, and choices…So, I’m still really excited about stuff I’m seeing every year. Film is such a powerful medium because it hits people on multiple levels at once. Unfortunately, that means film is related to propaganda, to Facebook, and to all this discussion about fake news. It is just such a powerful force that spreads out in all these different mediums, but, I still think it’s a great tool for change. We see films like MOONLIGHT or LADY BIRD, these are very particular voices that are getting widespread attention. It’s so great.

AH: A well-crafted visual story provides this opportunity for identification, empathy, complication of stereotypes, and personal introspection that’s unlike or dissimilar from the other other ways in which those things happenwhich is, through actual physical relationships with other human beings. When you have the ability to silently interact with othersby that I mean, the charactersit’s a totally different process of growth. These stories are important for any person who is interested in evolving, and I am glad we can do that in different types of waysthrough literature, through cinema, through just observing and watching.

AZ: Thank you Annie and Lisa!


Annie J. Howell is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Howell’s first film, co-written and co-directed with Lisa Robinson, was SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, followed by the duos second feature, CLAIRE IN MOTION. In 2016, LITTLE BOXES, a film written by Howell and directed by Rob Meyer premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it sold to Netflix. The script for LITTLE BOXES is the recipient of an IFP Emerging Narrative Award for Best Feature and a San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation grant. Howell’s other credits include a short for the vanguard ITVS series FUTURESTATES, as well as the web series SPARKS, also created with Robinson and licensed to the Sundance Channel.She teaches in the MFA in Film program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as City College, and has also been a member of the faculty at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, Ohio University’s MFA in Film, and at The New School, where she was the Founding Director of the Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies Program.

Lisa Robinson is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Her credits include the feature films CLAIRE IN MOTION and SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, both written and directed with Annie Howell. Robinson has directed several episodes of television, including the Emmy award-winning A CRIME TO REMEMBER and the series FUTURESTATES, that had its series premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Robinson has written and directed several award-winning short films. She also works as a screenwriter and wrote MIND BLAST, an IMAX film for the Blue Man Group. She is the recipient of the Martin E. Segal Prize, the Mitsubishi Digital Media Lab Award for Excellence, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Robinson is currently  Associate Professor of Film at LIU. www.lisarobinsonfilm.com

Student Spotlight: Jason Rosenfield

Current VCFA MFA in Film student Jason Rosenfield discusses his recent appointment to the Board of Governors of the Television Academy, representing the Documentary Programming Peer Group; his past service as governor (2006-2012) representing the Editors Peer Group; and his background that brought him to film and television.

Aja Zoecklein: Briefly, can you talk about the organization of the TV academy and your role there over the years?

Jason Rosenfield: I first began serving on the Executive Committee to the Editors Peer Group around 2003. After a couple of years, I was then asked to run for governor. I was kind of nervous; I’d never done anything like that before, but I was enjoying it, so I ran. Much to my surprise I was elected and I served three terms as a governor of the editors peer group from 2006 to 2012.

The experience was tremendous and it was a big deal for me, because it got me out of the editing room, literally and figuratively, and opened me up in a way that I had never really experienced before. When you’re in that room as a governor and you’re sitting on a committee with a studio executive, a camera person, a makeup artist, an actor [from the other peer groups]—you’re all just Jason and Jane and Bob and Stephen and you’re trying to get a job done, that editor label isn’t even there. So it kind of brought me out of my shell. The editing room appealed to me because I could just close the door and shut the world out, but this changed me and opened me up. I had a great time.

I decided to switch peer groups mostly because I wanted to be more involved in the documentary community. Since 2012, editing documentary features has been my primary occupation. I felt like I had contributed everything I had to the editors peer group. (I am still a hybrid-member though—I’m still a member of the editors peer group, but you have to pick one that’s your primary group.) Just this past year actually, the executive committee members asked me if I would run for governor again. I said yes because I like being in the room and I like what it does for me. I like the camaraderie. And, as I said, I wanted to do more for the documentary community. This was a way to do it.

AZ: Can you expand on some of the goals and initiatives you were part of as a member of the editors peer group?

JR: There were a number of things. First, there really wasn’t any kind of an opportunity for editors to meet each other who were working in television, so we created that opportunity. For example, American Cinema Editors (ACE) has an event every year prior to the Oscars called “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” where they put the five nominated editors on a panel at the Egyptian Theatre in L.A. to talk about their films and how they got into the business and how that particular film was cut/all the challenges involved. The event sells out every year. We wanted to emulate that for TV editors and that’s how “Prime Cuts” came about.

We produced a lot of individual panels and symposiums. There was one evening event which was called “Life and Death in the E.R.”—E.R. a double entendre for both editing room and emergency room. We put show runners and editors from three shows—a drama, a comedy, a documentary—that were focused in hospitals up on a panel to explore how they each approach the same subject in different ways.

There were panels that just focused on the different genres of reality television. There was a huge panel—the last one I did with that peer group—that we did at the United Artists Theatre downtown where J.J. Abrams moderated a panel with Transparent show runner Jill Soloway, Jeffrey Tambor, their lead cinematographer, and a couple of writers… It was an evening called “Anatomy of an Episode,” which I had been nursing along with one other editor on the committee for a long time. The idea of that was to take one episode from concept, to writer’s room, to production, to post, and finally to air and see what changed along the way. The impetus for that panel was how so many people in the other crafts—whether cinematographers or actors or writers—will come to the editors and say, “Whatever happened to my shot? Whatever happened to my close up? Why did you drop those lines and dialogue? What happened to this scene?” We realized that people really didn’t know what happened to their stuff once it got into the mill of the post-production process, so we created this panel to sort of cover that. We managed to attract 1,500 people for this gathering, which was insane for a peer group event at the academy, usually you’re lucky to get a hundred people.

So, the stuff we are doing is professional development, as well as networking opportunities and social gatherings so that the community [of editors] feel like a community a little more.

AZ: Although your post does not begin in the documentary peer group until January 2018, what sort of areas do you anticipate working on?

JR: The documentary peer group is something very different, which I didn’t really quite grasp until I started getting involved with it. The documentary peer group, from what I’ve seen so far, is made up of documentary filmmakers—meaning the producers/directors who are out there actually making the films/shows—but also development and programming executives from the big outlets: HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Discovery, National Geographic. These are above the line people so their concerns are very different. I’m the alone below-the-line-guy in this mix which is really interesting for me, because once again, it really expands my horizons. I can’t go in there and say “hey, let’s do something about how to edit a documentary” because they’re not interested in that, that’s not what their members want to know.

We are planning a series of events in the next 12 months—one in L.A., one in New York, one probably up in San Francisco, and one other possible location sponsored by one of these major streaming services or cable networks. The focus will be on how do you get your doc made: How do you get it financed? How do you raise the money? How do you get it distributed? What are the networks looking for?

So, it’s really more about the marketing and sales end of it and just, really, what do you do when you have an idea and how do you get to the final product… It’s a very different mindset, which for me is fascinating because I’m not simply doing the same things that I was doing before. It’s like a whole brave new world. Even though it’s not what I do for a living it opens me up to a whole other level of the business, which is why I got involved in the academy in the first place.

AZ: Incredible! While I’ve got you, tell me, how did you come to film editing in the first place?

JR: It was kind of a circuitous route. I went to University of Pennsylvania without any clear intentions. Architecture was on my mind, but I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do. Unfortunately, only three weeks into my freshman year my father got sick and I had to drop a bunch of courses and I was back and forth the rest of the school year. At this time, I retreated into a theater group at Penn—it’s where I found my refuge. I was harboring this secret passion—from when I was 11 years old and my parents took us to see West Side Story on Broadway—that I really wanted to be a performer, specifically, a dancer. At the end of the year [my father] died and we were deeply in debt. I had to leave school and get a job because there was no money to pay for school.

So, after five or six years of traveling, living in San Francisco and getting involved in the 60s, I ended up on a commune in northeast Vermont in a little town called Franklin. And, long story short, one day a group of people are going to visit friends at Goddard College (just down the road from [VCFA]!) and I went along for the ride. I ended up meeting this man and his wife who were running the dance program there. He was an ex-Graham dancer. We got to talking and he said, “do you want to come here and work with me? I can find you a place to live and get you a job on campus. I need guys.” So I did that. I lived in Vermont for about a year and a half working with him. I then decided to go to New York City and try my luck. I danced for a number of years, but I had injuries that were preventing me from getting anywhere near where I wanted to get to so I finally decided I needed to find something different.

Among the many part time jobs that I had supporting myself while I took dance classes, was a job with a guy who rented editing equipment so I was always watching what they were doing. One day I went out with some friends and made a little movie with a girlfriend who was a dancer recovering from an injury and taking a private dance class. When I sat down and started cutting that film, I started realizing that what I was doing was choreography and that I was able to dance now, again. That’s really how it all went.

AZ: Thanks Jason! Always a pleasure to chat with you. We can’t wait to hear more!

More about Jason:

Jason Rosenfield, ACE, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning film editor recognized for his storytelling skills in character-driven long-form documentaries, feature films and television series. Jason’s narrative credits range from Robert Altman’s classic Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean to the improvisational television comedy Free Ride. His documentary credits include the Oscar-nominated Blues Highway, HBO’s Emmy-winning Memphis PD and Teen Killers, Dick Wolf’s groundbreaking NBC series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment and CNN’s The Seventies. Over the last four years he has collaborated with three-time Oscar-winner Mark Jonathan Harris on Netflix’s award-winning Lost for Life and Swift Current, both directed by Joshua Rofe, and Harris’s own Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine, which has received numerous festival awards and will be released theatrically in winter 2018.  He is currently serving as Supervising Editor on a 4-part Amazon documentary miniseries for executive producer Jordan Peele and creators Joshua Rofe and Stephen Berger.

Jason also serves as a story and editorial consultant and currently has two films in post-production and one on the festival circuit, winning awards from San Diego and San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain. Additional production awards have included an RF Kennedy Award, DGA Award, Peabody Award, several Emmys and Emmy nominations and prizes at American and international film festivals.

In 2001, Jason was elected to membership in American Cinema Editors [ACE], an honorary society of distinguished editors.  He has served as Associate Director of the ACE Board and was recently elected to his fourth term as Governor of the Television Academy, where he has developed and produced numerous symposiums and ongoing panel series. Jason is an Adjunct Professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in the graduate and undergraduate programs. He has taught at Columbia College – Hollywood, is a mentor at the Stowe (Vt.) Story Labs Screenwriting Workshop and has taught abroad under the auspices of the American Film Showcase and U.S. State Department.





The Voyeur, Revealed: An Interview with co-directors Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, PART II

Part II of our interview with co-directors, Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, on their new documentary, Voyeur. Voyeur premieres on Netflix December 1, 2017. To read the first part of this interview head on over here.

AZ: How did this film change from your original story line, especially in light of the controversies regarding fact checking/Talese’s denouncement and subsequent redaction? Were there any “oh shit” moments that came up in your filming where you had to drastically shift course?

Kuory: Well, Gay tried to the cancel the film a few times. It’s always complicated and it’s not uncommon for documentarians to have trials with their subjects. Gay’s a combustible figure and there were times when it was a long long process. We tried to make our intentions clear throughout, but to be honest,  we barely knew each other when we started this thing, and had to put ourselves in the shoes of a subject and trust them and have them trust us. Issues come up, you work to smooth them out, and you know, a lot of stuff hits the cutting room floor–maybe it wasn’t relevant to the story, or it’s a very interesting idea that just couldn’t fit in the 90-95 minute format. A lot of different things… but we made it…

Kane: I think it’s what makes the film so unique feeling because even though we got in with Gay, the fact was, when we started, there was zero guarantee that we’d ever meet the Voyeur. We shot for months before meeting him, and it was all Gay who figured out how to get us out there to meet him, and then during that time–2 ½-3 years–we could only access Gerald through Gay. And then of course, with the New Yorker involved, and the book deal, it is amazing to everyone that we were able to remain under the radar and that all these outside corporate and business interests didn’t really get in the way or try to stop us, which is always a worry, especially with a high profile writer.

AZ: Now that the film is finished and out in the world, how do the two men feel about the the final product? Do they like the film?

Kuory: Yeah, yeah, I think so… We obviously wanted to show both Gay and Gerald the film before our world premiere at the New York Film Festival. We rented a private cinema for Gay and Nan Talese, his wife, and some of his book publishers came, and it was definitely a tense cold thing, not a lot of laughter happening, but, ultimately at the end of the day, he, you know,  clapped. You could tell that he felt, not conflicted, but that it was a tough watch for him. He consistently said that it’s a very honest film although he didn’t love a lot of what’s in it, it’s raw, but he respects it because he respects non-fiction. He said it was “tough, but fair.”

And similarly Gerald, we also rented a cinema…We had to fly out to Denver because Gerald doesn’t travel. Anita was there, and his son was there, actually. And, they laughed a lot. [Laughs] For them it was also similarly tough. We went out to dinner afterwards, and Gerald said it was really tough to watch certain segments, but again, he only thought we did a good job. It’s funny–this got a laugh at the world premiere– because one of the things he said was that it was very “professionally done,” and everyone laughed.

AZ: Josh, you worked on this film while pursuing your MFA in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. How did being in the program at the time help shape the outcome of the final product and your trajectory as a filmmaker in general?

Kuory:  Myles and I had been making movies together for a long time, but I was interested in getting my MFA so that I could  teach full time. Looking around at different MFA programs, the VCFA model attracted me because of the low residency component and its affordability. I also recognized a lot of the faculty members. In the program, I was able to work with some amazing filmmakers that I had already known about and respected. I was familiar with their work and it was just really great to have the opportunity to sit down and bounce ideas and to workshop different cuts during a time in our project when we were waiting around for the article and the book to get released. It was a really good opportunity to kind of develop the footage we had and really understand what we had.

Another big thing that came from my time at VCFA, was one of my faculty advisors, Jeremiah Zagar–who Myles and I had both known prior to my time at VCFA, but I had the opportunity to work with him in the program–when he first saw our 14 minutes fundraising trailer, he was really excited. He, and his colleague Jeremy Yaches, came on board as executive producers and were both instrumental in helping us creatively get the film to hit its potential. They also connected us with Impact Partners who became our main funders…our creative team just really started to expand at that point and hit another level.

AZ: What’s next for you?

Kuory: We don’t know! [Laughs] Everyone thinks we’re trying to hide ideas from them, but we’re not. We have a laundry list of things and some of them are good, some of them are OK, and some are maybe…who knows? We’re meeting again this weekend.

AZ: Thank you both for taking the time. Congratulations on Voyeur’s Netflix premiere and we can’t wait to see what your next project will be!


Voyeur is now available to stream on Netflix!. Check out the trailer:

The Voyeur, Revealed: An Interview with co-directors Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, PART I

Voyeur follows Gay Talese — the 84-year-old giant of modern journalism — as he reports one of the most controversial stories of his career: a portrait of a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos.  For decades, Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: strangers having sex. Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: What does a journalist owe to his subjects? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? Who is really the voyeur?

Voyeur, co-directed by Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, premiered at the 55th New York Film Festival in October 2017 and will be launching on Netflix December 1, 2017. Koury, an alumnus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Film program, worked on this film as part of his thesis project while attending VCFA.

An excerpt of this interview has been published on New England Film.


Aja Zoecklein: Having seen an earlier version of the film, and now having seen the final version, I was blown away by the differences: how tight the final cut felt and how much more compassion I had towards the players, especially the Voyeur. Can you talk about your editing process over the last year or so to help the story along?

Josh Kuory: The biggest changes that we made, besides general tightening up and refining, was adding additional visual treatments: some more recreations, and a little bit more on the miniatures. Mostly to help get us into the mindset of the characters–especially Foos in the attic and connecting him to that world a little bit, almost as if living in his head. We also added a lot more around when the miniature set starts to fall apart to reflect the overall arc of what is happening in the story. On top of that, we had the opportunity to work closely with Netlix and got the film in front of a lot more people to start that feedback and refinement process.


AZ: To borrow from a line in the film, “when you hold onto stories, things change.” You spent years of your lives with Talese and Foos and there really seemed to be a sense of friendship and camaraderie amongst you all — at one point, Foos says “I love you guys.” While there are multiple layers, the film is really about the relationship of these two–very real — humans, and to the juxtaposition of parallel lives in a specific point of time. How did the act of making this film change the story for you, or did it?

Kuory: Just generally in the way that Myles and I work as co-directors… my wife, Trisha Kuory, the producer for the film, and I, we were spending a lot of time with Gerald and his wife, Anita, and then Miles spent a lot time with Gay. So, I’ll just talk a little bit about our experience with Gerald. It’s sort of like what happened in the film, the more we get to know Gerald the more we started to understand him and empathize with him. Not forgive him for what he did, because I think that’s unforgivable, but just sort of understand him and understand the dynamic between him and Anita –who is, as far as I’m concerned, the most innocent, and likeable, and interesting…that’s just me maybe, but I don’t know…

Myles Kane: No, it’s definitely not just you. I mean she’s like the star at every festival. I think she’s a conduit for the audience because she’s an innocent, and obviously the smallest personality in the room. I think some of her comments are surprising, but also sort of cathartic because she often says ultimately what’s actually going on and speaks truthfully, even if it’s just calling her husband a creep. She’s the human empathetic face that the audience needs.

You mentioned, working with these “two humans”– I think that’s a good way to put it–because that’s definitely how Josh and I always like to try to approach our characters in production, approaching them as “humans,” meaning they’re flawed, they’re real people. In the edit we weighed them both equally. The nature of the format is you expect the subject to be portrayed as the victim and the journalist as the perpetrator, but we weighed them equally, and they’re both flawed and both likable in some ways. It was definitely a challenge, but I think that’s why it took four plus years to make this film, it takes time to peel back the layers.

AZ: Talese writes, “Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places.” The most compelling aspects while viewing this film were the times where you and your team are visibly present, either in reflective glimpses (Foos’s glasses, a window, a computer screen) or in that tense scene with Talese near the end of the film where we can hear you in dialogue with your subjects. Did you know early on that your role needed to be present in the film for the most impact, or did it evolve into necessity?

Kuory: Our filmmaking style is very much to record and to capture as much as possible, in order to give us a lot of different options to layer the story or discover new angles in the story during our post-production. So we had a lot of footage that included us, partly just because of how we shoot,  and to some degree, by accident. Very late in the process we discussed amongst some of our creative peers the idea of bringing ourselves in as a third layer of voyeurism,  the audience then being the fourth layer. Once we started to realize that we were integral to the story we felt it was our duty, or not our duty really, but just that it was important to implicate ourselves here too, because we’re not blameless either.

Kane: Everything we’re hearing about Gay Talese’s career and his approach to journalism is a constant echo to what we do. It was just so clear that we’re all cut from the same cloth in terms of our desire to try to portray the truth, dramatize the truth, make these works out of non-fiction. Like Josh said, it became necessary at some point. If we if we’re going to make this sort of somewhat critical movie about a journalist, successes and flaws, we need to certainly tip our hat to the fact that we are maybe guilty of the same things.

AZ: I loved this idea of toying with perspective, who is looking in/who is looking out… you achieved this truncated POV visually by obstruction and looking through things, as well as camera angles. Can you talk a little about manipulating visuals to convey greater meaning and metaphor?

Kane: Similarly to what I was talking about with the whole kind of journalism parallel, the camera here is obviously the ultimate voyeuristic tool. We, as documentarians, and people in general, are so aware of the camera which for some reason seems to have more power than just the eyes. Stylistically there certainly was a choice in terms of shooting–in both their houses, they are both collectors,  there is  just so much stuff!–it presented itself naturally that you would constantly see them surrounded by many things, or be able to look at them through things. In the edit it proved to be a great element because our film is not a heavy handed essay, we are mostly letting our character tell their own story. So, that was sort of a subtle way for us to make this commentary without using sound bites from other people or other mechanisms to convey the point. It weaved the layers together underneath the main storyline.

AZ: The miniature model of the motel was an essential component to telling Foos’s perspective of omnipotence in a way that literal reenactments would not have effectively been able to. How did the idea come about?

Kane: While we hoped this would be a present day story, we knew early on that a big part of it was past-tense, and we would need to have some sort of recreation happen. Reenactments are par for the course with documentaries, but as a result, are also open to criticisms. We were very conscious of not wanting it to stick out or feel overly falsified or dramatized. So that was the first thing, and then we also really wanted to have something that felt like it was it was more than wallpaper so to speak, not just this kind of literal visualization. The miniature thing came up after we had seen these photos stills of miniatures in crime scene photography and there was something attractive about bypassing using actors to play every moment. Being that the motel itself was sort of a character in the movie, we thought, why don’t we just use the architecture and the space as sort of the main set and use props and lighting and all that to invoke? Knowing that Gay and Gerald are such good storytellers we knew that we could, luckily, rely on them a lot to tell the story. They are both very colorful speakers.

Kuory: Right, and as the film progresses, the model–this perfect memory that they have–is starting to fall apart at the seams and becomes more fragile. And you realize that the model stands in for the truth of the story in many ways…

Kane: Truth can be elusive. Certainly it would feel solid. You think it’s one thing and then you realize it’s not, it’s a model. It speaks to the artificiality of facts, how they can so easily just suddenly dissipate.

Stay tuned for Part II of this conversation! Voyeur premieres on Netflix December 1st, 2017, don’t miss it!