PBS Premiere: Aug. 17, 2010Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

POV: How did you meet Murray Fredericks?

Michael Angus: We met many years ago through a mutual friend.

POV: Tell us about the process of making the film with Murray. How long did it take to make the film? How much footage was involved? And how did you collaborate with Murray?

Michael Angus

Angus: Murray first recorded information on a video camera back in 2006. He had been traveling to the lake for several years and decided to record his experience as support documentation for his thesis for a master of fine arts that he was pursuing at the time. I saw the footage from that expedition and felt there was a potential documentary film in what Murray was doing at Lake Eyre.

From that time it took about three years to realize the film.

We tried to keep the process as simple as possible. Murray would travel out to his location and record the process of getting there and what he was doing when he was there. He would also record all his phone conversations with his wife and his thoughts and feelings when alone.

After each journey, I would go through the footage and begin to put together the story. New tasks and possibilities for Murray to tackle on his next trip to the lake would then be discussed.

POV: You shot traditional documentary-style footage of Murray on Lake Eyre, but that footage ended up on the cutting room floor. Why did you decide not to use it?

Angus: I traveled to Lake Eyre on two occasions, once with a bike alongside Murray and the other time in a chopper to get the aerial shots. On the first of those trips with Murray, I was taking the "traditional" approach, recording his actions and conducting interviews on location.

That was a wonderful experience for me and offered great insight into Murray's viewpoint, but I felt having an extra person present in the footage (albeit out of view) was a distortion of his experience, and I wanted to create a film that portrayed the essence of what he was doing on the lake.

Salt: Murray Fredericks filming on Lake Eyre

Murray Fredericks setting up a camera on Lake Eyre, Australia. Photo courtesy of Murray Fredericks.

The footage that Murray had captured when alone had an edge to it that could only be achieved in those extremely isolated circumstances. Alone with a film crew is not quite alone, after all!

I was also interested in what Murray saw — his point-of-view. After all, he was the photographer, so what better way to understand his viewpoint than to present it as such. So I decided to cut all the footage that I had shot.

POV: What were the biggest challenges of working on Salt?

Angus: We would set off from Sydney, which is three days' drive from Lake Eyre. We were constantly trying to predict the weather, as ideally I would have been on the lake when it rained. But at the time much of outback Australia, including that area, was in the midst of a 10-year drought, so rain was scarce at best. So what I wanted to happen, and what actually did happen, was that a process of renegotiating expectations based on the reality of the situation was constantly underway.

POV: What was the most surprising aspect of making Salt?

Angus: I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed going out into the middle of nowhere. I was surprised by how quickly time went by. Ten days on the lake went by very quickly.

POV: What are you working on now?

Angus: Murray and I are working together on another project, this one based in Greenland. You can find out more about our work at the SALT website.