The Making Of
Director/Writer/Producer Brett Morgen talks about blending animation with documentary, choosing the music and working with voiceover actors in CHICAGO 10.
What led you to make this film?
On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan it seemed to me there were a number of Americans who opposed the war, but no one was taking to the streets. The time was right to look back at the Chicago 8 and the anti-war movements of the ’60s to have gain an understanding of what it means to take a stand and to encourage people to take a more active role in protest.
What do you hope audiences will get out of seeing your film?
I tried to make this story universally appealing. By shedding the layers of historical context and focusing the narrative on the characters’ battles with authority, I feel I was able to craft a story about courage and honor and the refusal to be silenced, themes I hope will resonate with a broad audience.
My goal with this film, as a filmmaker, was not to tell people what was going on in 1968 but allow them to experience it themselves. This is a movie about experience. It’s what I call experiential cinema—your experience with non-fiction.
What didn’t get included in CHICAGO 10 that you would have liked to?
I would have liked to have more time to develop the render style for the film’s animated sequences. When you work in motion capture animation, the last thing that is applied is the render style—in essence, the look. I wasn’t able to see any completely rendered scenes until a few weeks before the premiere, which was two years after we started work on the film.
What was it like working with the actors who provided the voices for CHICAGO 10?
For me, it was a bit like going to acting fantasy camp because I got to sit there and jump in the booth with all of our performers. I would have to act out all of the other characters they were acting with because everyone was recorded individually. It was a pretty extraordinary experience.
How did you choose the music used in the film?
Ninety-five percent of the music is contemporary—rap, reggae, genres that didn't even exist in 1968—but they are organic to the story because the other elements in the film feel a bit more contemporized.
I wanted the music to feel contemporary—the soundtrack of my audience's lives, not their parents’.
Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.
Even though I watched some of the riot scenes hundreds of times, I never became numb to their effect. To this day, I get emotional when I see them.
Were there any technical challenges you faced while shooting, and if so, how did you resolve them?
We had to animate 35 minutes of dialogue!
The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?
Finding new and challenging ways to present nonfiction.