FREDERICK WISEMAN ON FILMMAKING

Watch MONROVIA, INDIANA excerpts, and hear director Frederick Wiseman talk about his approach to filming and editing.

Frederick Wiseman Photo by John Ewing
© John Ewing
"I always have 6-7 ideas for potential films floating around in my head."


– Frederick Wiseman

Description
Clip from MONROVIA, INDIANA

"I mentioned to a friend of mine that I wanted to make a movie about a small town in the Midwest, and she told me she had a friend who worked at the University of Indiana Law School whose family lived in the same small town for six generations.

The law professor said he would introduce me to his cousin, who was the town undertaker. He said she would help me out because she knew everybody.

I visited for an afternoon, and when I came back a couple months later, I started shooting."

– Frederick Wiseman

Clip from MONROVIA, INDIANA

"I filmed for 10 weeks and shot 150 hours.

Filming is totally immersive. I was present and ready to shoot for 10-12 hours each day.

Nothing was planned. Every shot is the result of chance, judgement and luck.

The shooting is a collaborative effort between myself and my cinematographer, John Davey."

– Frederick Wiseman
Clip from MONROVIA, INDIANA

"People have their way of life, they have their work, and they are very satisfied. They are not wildly curious about the external world outside of Monrovia.

I tried to edit the film so that each sequence has enough information for the viewer to understand what’s going on.

My point of view is expressed indirectly through the structure, i.e. the choice and order of the sequences."

– Frederick Wiseman

 

 




 
Clip from MONROVIA, INDIANA

"I shoot everything that interests me and think I may need in order to edit a sequence.

No sequences are staged. For example, the meeting scenes were all at least 8-10 times longer in their original form then in the final film.

The sequences are shaped in the editing."

– Frederick Wiseman

 

Clip from MONROVIA, INDIANA

“In the early 20th century, small towns were the backbone of America. There are still roughly 23,000 small towns sprinkled across the country.

I would like people to compare and contrast their way of life in the big city to the way of life in Monrovia so that they can understand the similarities and the differences of life in a small town.”

 

About 600 people from Monrovia saw the film as soon as it was finished in the summer of 2018. Those that talked to me about it seemed to like it."

– Frederick Wiseman