POV: Talk about what led to your decision to use two film crews and what that experience was like. What kind of interaction did your two crews have during filming? Was it difficult to edit the film together afterwards?
(Note: Each filmmaker answered individually via email, this doesn’t represent the transcript of a conversation.)
Dow: The choice to use segregated films crews to investigate a racial issue seemed very logical to us. So logical, in fact, that we assumed that other films had already been created in this way, and that we could learn from any failings they might have. When we could not find any films that had been made with segregated crews, we were even more convinced that this approach was going to result in a unique film.
In order to ensure that there would be some cohesiveness to footage shot by the two crews, we created a manifesto [to] guide our shooting practices and areas of investigation. During the year we spent filming of Two Towns of Jasper, Marco and I stayed in separate hotels, did not acknowledge each other when we crossed paths in town and did not review each other’s footage. This allowed each of us to fully immerse ourselves in our own communities without being affected what the other was experiencing across town. The footage resulting from this approach, although quite strong from a content point of view, was divergent enough to make for a long and arduous editorial process as we tried to connect, what were in effect, two separate films, into a single narrative.
Editing the film was a bruising process, as is any undertaking that addresses issues of race honestly. The final edit is truly a synthesis of Marco, and my experiences in Jasper, and is a result of a collaboration that required from both of us an extreme commitment, and a willingness to compromise. I hope that the result of our efforts is a piece of work that helps illuminate some of the intractable issues that continue to divide us.
Williams: The use of two crews was essential to confronting and forging an understanding of racial difference. The absence thereof of any understanding in no small part contributed to the murder of James Byrd, Jr. In order to have the town’s residents speak candidly about race, we felt that it was important to provide them with an environment in which they would not be inhibited to speak. When blacks speak with blacks or whites speak with whites around the topic of race, we tend to speak differently than when we speak across race. It is the difference between sharing an experience and explaining experience.
The experience was quite easy for me, as I found myself right at home with the blacks of Jasper, even though I am from the north and even though I did not agree with every thing that they had to say.
The two crews did not interact at all during the making of the film. We tried once to suggest to the other what he should film but neither of us did what was suggested because it went against the grain of what we were discovering on our own, in a segregated — i.e. non-influenced by a different view-point — condition. When in New York, Whitney and I would speak because we needed to raise money to make the film.