Who Shot the President started out as an idea for a feature film. The idea came to me after I had seen one too many documentaries on the Kennedy assassination. After I played around with the idea for a while, I realized I wasn’t ready to make a feature.
Rather than abandon the idea though, I asked myself what was the point I wanted to make. What I wanted to say was that most conspiracy theories base their argument on a logical fallacy. I reviewed all of the scenes I’d come up with and picked one that would make that point.
It took me longer than I expected to make this film. Although I shot it twice before I was happy with it, the hard part came in developing the idea. I did a fair bit of research to find appropriate images to use. I used a series of still images for most of the film. I did have one short “live action” segment in the film. Years later, I learnt that Chris Marker used a similar approach for La jetée.
I use regular tripod, and put my images on the floor. At first, this worked well, but as I moved to shorter and shorter clips, I realized that it required about 2,000 deep knee bends. I wasn’t a fan of deep knee bends to start with. But, I got it done. Later when I redid the film on 16mm, I used projected slides to make it easier on my knees.
The sound track was an interesting challenge. I had two actors to play the parts, but couldn’t arrange them to be in the same place at the same time. I used an old two track reel to reel tape recorder, which allowed me to record one track at a time.
First I had Michele L record her lines, with gaps for the other actor’s lines. Then I had Steve Hanon record his lines while he listened to Michele L’s recording. We ran into a problem when some of the gaps were not long enough for Steve’s lines. When we played back the recording, it sounded like she interrupted him several times. Steve could have talked faster to fix that, but we decided that the interruptions worked well, so we kept it as it was.
The final touch was to add an echo. The recorder’s playback head was after the record head, so I could feed the recorded sound back into the recording. The sound turned out rather muddy, but years later when I redid the sound for a 16mm version of the film, the better quality sound equipment produce a sound that was too clean, so I used some of the original sound.
This was one of the more successful of my films and I got a lot of good feedback on it. I also got a lot of very negative feedback. I talk about that in an article I wrote: Why Do People Hate my Film?
In my next post, I will look at The Fence, the film I made for the fifth festival in 1996.