POV: Describe the process that you go through when you’re making a film from start to finish. How do you come up with your finished product, something that you’re happy with?
Filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar
Eric Daniel Metzgar: I’ve made three films now, and Life. Support. Music. was my second film; the second film and the third film (Reporter) were kind of happening simultaneously. The process of making each film while it’s happening feels very different and unique to each film. But I can see in retrospect that the process is very similar. There’s a pattern where I start out extremely, extremely excited and optimistic about the film, and when I start shooting it’s just this process of discovery. Then somewhere along the line I lose all hope, and I think, this is not going to work. I just don’t think I can pull this together. I should not be doing this with my life. Then I usually have to leave the project for a couple of weeks and just go feel sorry for myself. After that, there’s some little breakthrough: You might read a book or something that has a line that gives you an insight into how to shape the film.
And then I come back and I edit, edit, edit. I back away and I think it’s terrible. It’s this kind of coming-and-going process. Then I show it to a few key people I really trust and get some delicate feedback. That’s kind of my process. But really, I like to lock myself in a room and work on a film until it pleases me. I can’t say that I make it for some imaginary audience in some screening room later. I just have to love every scene. So if it starts and there are a hundred scenes and one of them is great, I just keep building out from that one scene until I love all of them intensely.
POV: As a filmmaker, you’re a one-man show. You’re the writer, the director, you’re behind the camera, you’re editing the film. Has that been the case with all of your films? And are there any other people involved?
Metzgar: Making Life. Support. Music. was a pretty solitary process. They haven’t all been this solitary. But, yes, on this one I wore all the hats and part of that was because it was a very sensitive environment. When I would go up to Massachusetts to stay with Jason and his family, I would stay with them in their house. You don’t want to bring in a sound man who’s a stranger and have him follow you into the bedroom to film the family having pillow talk late at night. Because I know how to operate the camera, I can do sound and I have the editing equipment, I never felt the need to bring in more people and to make the film more expensive. I did have a vision for how I wanted to tell the story in the film: I wanted to tell it in this very personalized, very sensitive way, between the family and me. I didn’t want the film to be a classroom-like, objective view of brain injury. I wanted it to be this little journey. So I just tried to follow through with that.
POV: What was the biggest challenge that you faced when you were putting it all together for Life. Support. Music.?
Metzgar: I think the biggest challenge in making this film, as in making any film, was finding the essence, but not trying to put an essence you create onto the film. It sounds kind of sappy, but you have to let the film tell you what it wants to be. For me, a really difficult phase is one where you have already imagined, in your head, what you want the film to look like and feel like, and then you have to make something out of what you actually have — what you’ve imagined and what you actually have are always different. So you have to let what you have tell you what it’s about, and I find that really hard, because it diminishes the ego: You have to stop wanting to be the filmmaker and wanting to be the guiding force. You have to turn that off, and get small and get quiet and let the footage and the film do the talking. And that’s difficult.