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The Making Of

Director Louise Osmond reflects on Donald Crowhurst’s tragic dilemma, his isolation and his family's reaction to DEEP WATER.

What led you to make this film?

I first heard this story from a director of photography named Noel Smart who’d sailed around the world a few years after these events took place. He told me the story over the course of the day as we filmed together, so I first heard it in fragments. He was a good storyteller and I was spellbound. It stayed with me.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

The greatest challenge was probably the fact that after Crowhurst sets sail there is very little material to either reveal or illustrate what happened on his voyage. There were about eight minutes of footage of him on his boat, several hours of audio recordings, some telegrams home and his log. So in the edit, the challenge was trying to understand and bring to life his frame of mind, his emotions, his dilemmas. The interviews with his family and friend Ron Winspear became the key—they allowed us to get as close as we could to his frame of mind at each stage of the journey.

Do you think Donald Crowhurst made the right decision in trying to finish the race?

I think the great tragedy of the story is watching events close in on him. At each turn when the chance arises to make the right decision—to turn in, or turn back, or even admit the deceit—he doesn’t. And each time he doesn’t, his position becomes more difficult, more complicated, more deceitful. I’m sure he didn’t set out to deceive. I think he was trying to find a way to keep going without bringing disgrace and financial ruin on his family. But in the end it was impossible—the consequences of his lie had just become overwhelming. There was no way out.

What didn’t get included in your film that you would have liked to show?

Oddly in this film—because of the shortage of material—it’s all in there! That’s probably a first and last experience.

Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

Close to the end, after Tetley sinks, when he’s trying to make radio contact with Clare and can’t—I found that desperately sad. It says so much about his isolation, his loneliness and the way the whole chaotic and very public enterprise of the voyage had made it almost impossible for the couple to communicate their feelings to each other.

What has the audience response been so far? Have the people featured in the film seen it, and if so, what did they think?

The family has been very supportive of the film, and that’s been their very generous attitude throughout. For me, the candor, honesty and emotion of their interviews were what gave the film its heart.

The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?

I think nothing compares to the moment of taking these reels of film you have put your heart and soul into and watching them play on a big screen in a dark hall, hearing the audience respond. It’s an extraordinary feeling. It’s addictive.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

Public television has been a fantastic platform for documentary for many years—it’s fantastic for us to have our place in that record.

What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

Everything! It eats up your life, your mind, your emotions, and then at the end, you stagger back into daylight like a wild-eyed pit pony and wonder why everyone is looking at you oddly.

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