Each and every creative person has a continuously growing pile of unused work that was rejected for one reason or another. The chunks of stone hacked away to make a sculpture. Discarded canvasses. The edits left on the figurative editing room floor. Our little writing darlings that we’ve killed because they didn’t make the cut. They will never see the light of day.
And while most of us accept the mounds of unused material as part of the detritus of creation, documentary director Gary Hustwit couldn’t just let his go. He’s come up with a great idea, which is promising, and which we might all learn from.
Hustwit is taking the 97 (out of a hundred) hours of interviews that didn’t make it into his trilogy of design-focused docs (Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized), transcribing them, and making a book out of the unedited interviews. You can check it out on Kickstarter.
He plans to have a print run of several thousand books, called Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized: The Complete Interviews. (No, wise guy, the book font is not Helvetica; it’s going to be Maison Neue, by Timo Gaessner.) The Kickstarter campaign reached its $55,000 donation goal in 10 days, so it appears the idea is grabbing an audience of people who are fans of the films, a core following of design folks, and filmmakers and academics curious to see how Hustwit puts his documentaries together.
“We’re lifting the curtain on our editing process,” he says, acknowledging that any other director interested in doing the same has to be willing to reveal “the guts of their own process.”
Most filmmakers should appreciate what Hustwit calls “one more stream of revenue” for the films. “It’s been an untapped one,” he says. “It’s maximizing every angle I can on the film’s release.”
Hustwit’s idea follows a trend of interest in unexpurgated transcripts, whether they come to us for free via our spooky friends at WikiLeaks or for 99 cents a pop on your Kindle — Amazon.com released an uncut 42-page interview with Israeli president Shimon Peres under its new “Kindle Singles Interview” banner.
It might be tempting to call it turning lemons into lemonade, but Hustwit doesn’t want people to think of it that way; “It’s not like we only use the best stuff in the film,” he says. “We use what works best in the storyline of the film.”
For instance, in Urbanized, about urban living, Hustwit landed an interview with super awesome architect and theorist Rem Koolhaus. It took six months to pin him down, but when they got to Holland and rolled camera, Koolhaus said, “I haven’t been thinking about cities lately. I don’t want to talk about cities,” recalls Hustwit. “He said, ‘I want to talk about what we’ve left behind in the countryside.’”
Hustwit said it was great material, but nothing he could use. (After a while, Koolhaus eventually warmed to the subject of the film.) Now, you’ll be able to read that long tangent.
Hustwit isn’t sure other filmmakers will catch on. “We’ll see if there’s an audience,” he says. But he says he’d love to get a look at Errol Morris’s transcripts. I, for one, would love to see Werner Herzog’s.
Oh, and to finish on a meta moment, I’ll openly declare that the full transcript of my interview with Hustwit is not worth reading. We didn’t talk for very long. But if anyone is interested in The Lord of the Rings: Tom Roston’s Complete Interviews, I have more than 50 hours of never-published material with director Peter Jackson, the full cast, and the crew of the three-film production. It’s all on tape, collecting dust in an attic in Vermont.
What’s in your attic?