| "Wood" filmmaker David Fenster talks seeing common objects in a uncommon way, honest interviews and the impact of Frederick Wiseman on his work.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
I get to follow my interests and passions. I can be an artist and explore. That doesn’t mean people are going to line up around the block to see what I make, or fund my projects, but it means I can follow my heart.
Which filmmakers inspired you to get behind the lens?
There were many, but Frederick Wiseman is a major inspiration. His films are illuminating without judgment and they are subjective in an interesting way, despite being called objective so often. They show us so many facets of people and places that other filmmakers would miss. They are patient.
Could you list three films that all independent film supporters should take the time to see?
I’ll limit it to documentaries, and since I already mentioned Frederick Wiseman, I won’t mention any of his specific films: "Vernon, Florida" (Errol Morris), "Harlan County" U.S.A. (Barbara Koppel), "Paris is Burning" (Jennie Livingston).
What do you hope the audience comes away with after seeing your film?
I would love for people to look at a two-by-four, or their kitchen cabinet in a new way. To think about how many lives are touched and how much effort is involved in turning a tree into a wood product, and what the implications of that are.
What was the most unexpected moment you captured on film in the sawmill?
What I was most surprised by was captured in the interviews. It was the openness and willingness of the sawmill workers to talk about work and life in a deep, honest way. Studs Terkel’s book "Working" inspired this film and in the introduction he writes: “…people with buried grievances and dreams unexpressed want to let go. Let things out.” This proved to be true. In making this film, and subsequent films about work, I realized that people’s feelings toward their work haven’t seemed to change much since the early 70’s, when "Working" was first published. If anything, the relationship has gotten more problematic.
What captured your interest about wood’s journey from the forest to the mill?
It is a seemingly simple process, but it involves a lot of people and connects to ideas about work, the environment and politics. It is also a visually violent and beautiful process. I find all those aspects interesting.
What did you find most compelling about the sawmill’s working men?
The simultaneous dedication to and frustration by their work, as well as their deep love of nature, something I initially would have thought ironic or contradictory but made sense after getting to know them.