This post is in the theme Influences on my own Creative Work. Read the first.
January 17, New York: I went to film school expecting to become the next great writer/director. We all did. We idolized PT Anderson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, etc. But what film school taught us was that that was rare and that if we wanted jobs, if we wanted to survive financially in Los Angeles, we should look to the guilds. Editors, cinematographers, sound designers— that’s what film school wanted to make of us.
My friends and I found an elective class called “Guerrilla Television”. It was taught by a guest professor, a fellow named Allen Rucker, and it was offered in two parts. Part one: spend a semester watching and critiquing alternative methods of producing documentaries. Part two: Spend the next semester producing your own. This class changed my life. I took two semesters with Allen Rucker and then stayed on to be his teaching assistant the following semester. I loved everything we watched and I really loved producing my own work.
I had abandoned journalism when I went to film school because I thought the only path was local TV news reporting and anchoring. But here was a way to tell non-fiction stories and make films and challenge the establishment system my education was pushing me toward. It was through Rucker’s class that I met my first career mentor Mitch and chased a job working with him, the job that became my first real job out of college. And that set me on the path of my career. I owe Allen Rucker’s class a lot.
So who is Allen Rucker? (Buy his memoir! It’s really good.) What are his documentary chops? Rucker was a member of a video collective in the 1970s called TVTV. Artists, filmmakers, experimenters— they were given a batch of the very first 1/2-inch video cameras (the format that later become standard for VCRs) and set loose on the world. They developed a method where they would deploy en masse in teams of two or three at massive events and seek out the quirky details that wouldn’t make the news. The textural elements. “Four More Years” is the Republican National Convention in Miami. They also did the Democratic. They went to the Super Bowl, to a rural Cajun Mardi Gras, to see 16 year old Guru Maharaj Ji greet his US followers in the Houston Superdome. Their work was funny and unpredictable, rough at times but full of absolute gems of story you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
I’ve watched (and love) all the TVTV work, but “Four More Years”, is still one of my favorites. It was the first or the second they produced, and you watch the members of TVTV figuring out the format as they go. Stumbling upon gems of honesty from people in a time that cameras weren’t yet ubiquitous.
I’m not going to send you to Amazon this time. I’m going to send you to an archive website of TVTV content, where you can buy and download high quality digital copies.