Wanting to discover how Cunningham found his subject and if he faced any ethical dilemmas during production, DN spoke to the director about his latest short documentary:
How did you meet Alex and what made you want to capture her unusual hobby on film?
I met Alex through mutual friends. They had told me about her a few times and I thought it was an interesting story that would cause some controversy. I’m always interested in a great story and I love trying to understand why people do certain things and this was a pretty unique opportunity.
Did you face any ethical dilemmas making a documentary about “stalker photography”?
To be honest, I didn’t really think about the ethical side of things until after the piece was done. I started getting responses from my friends like, “You’re going to get sued” and “I’m not sure that was a good idea”. Then I got more worried about Alex at that point. I became friends with her throughout the shoot and in my eyes she is pretty harmless. With that being said, I also understand where my friends are coming from. If I had a chance to do it over again, I would, no question.
After making the film, did it alter your perception of her hobby at all?
I let the piece go where it naturally went. The composer, Dan Petersen and I had a few conversations about the tone of the video. I’d say the only thing I altered was the tone as far as the music went. Music is such a big part in my work and I knew that the song we chose would have a certain effect.
Did making a film about a visual art have any impact on the aesthetic style you chose for The Observer?
I always stay pretty true to my style. The only thing that I did for the first time in The Observer was use still pictures in a video of mine. I’ve never really liked using them and was always against it but for this it was essential and I thought it brought a pretty cool aspect to the piece.
Can you give us an insight into the production?
I shot Alex for about 4 hours. At the end of the video we are actually filming a random person that lived down the street from the house we were shooting the interview section at. It was great to capture her in her element. I shot the piece on my RED Epic and the Zeiss CP.2 28mm and 50mm prime lenses. I don’t really like to overshoot. I know exactly what I want to shoot and I rarely go over unless I see something I like when we’re out and about. I probably have 4 minutes of raw b-roll footage and 6 minutes of interview footage. I don’t do much coloring to my footage. I use mostly all-natural light so I like to keep that image intact.
What are you working on next?
I am focusing a lot on making a short film. My crew and I are working on a script to take to film festivals in hopes to get a feature funded out of it. I also have a comedy series that I direct and act in called The Cronkites that takes up a lot of my time also.