DIYREPORTER: Tell me about your
new company, Open Edge Media, and its goals.
Well, Open Edge Media is a fully-independent,
full-service documentary production and marketing
company. We produce and market independent documentary
films. My specialty is theatrically-released motion
picture documentaries. And I'm basically trying to
develop a twist on the traditional documentary genre.
I'm trying to make documentary movies, documentaries
that are, you know, fun to watch and
DIYREPORTER: You feel that most of
the documentaries that have come before you have not
been to that quality?
WG: It's not so much
quality. I think it's really just an artistic kind of
attitude or approach. It's more of a craft milieu than
it is anything else. Documentaries are, by nature, (A)
factual; and (B) they're generally pretty serious. And
so I'm just trying to put a little wonder and magic into
it and make my films a little bit more like movies than
films. It maybe subtler to other people than it is to
DIYREPORTER: When you mention that, one of
the things that comes to mind is Michael Moore.
WG: I'm not saying I'm the only person. I'm just
saying for me, personally, that's where I'm going with
my work. It's not like I'm the only person doing it.
DIYREPORTER: What fueled your initial interest
WG: Years ago, I was a
re-recording film sound mixer. And before that, when I
was a child, I was boy scout. And back in the days when
I was a re-recording mixer, I used to donate regularly
to charities and environmental organizations. And
through that process and other exposure to inclination,
I started to realize that there were a lot of things in
this world that I wanted to be involved in that needed
some attention. So I just got more involved. I've never
been very political, but I just started getting more
involved in, sort of, activism in media, that sort of
combination of the two. I was trying to see where I
could plug these two things together in my own life.
It's still pretty much the same
DIYREPORTER: Why crop circles?
I first heard about crop circles ten years ago. I went
to a lecture down in Santa Monica at a church. And these
two middle-aged English guys were there with photos and
slides and some really interesting stories. And the
photos were really interesting and their stories were
very convincing. At the time, I didn't really even
question the validity of it. I just thought it was so
unusual, I parked it in the back of my mind, and I think
I bought a psoter when I was there and I had it up on
the wall of my office for years. And I probably looked
at it every day. And I'd go, "What about those things? I
wonder where those things really are from?" And
basically, I never was a real serious student of it
until I got involved in making the film. But time went
by, and no answers ever surfaced. And finally, in the
Spring of 2000, I had a chance to pick a project. Now,
what do I want to do next? And I said, "Maybe I should
do that crop circle project now."
Did you know about the Gibson movie at that
WG: No. I had no idea. I started my film
before they even sold the script. I had no idea. We
found out about it last Fall just as I was wrapping up a
summer's worth of shooting in England. So it was
DIYREPORTER: Do you
shoot on film or DV?
WG: I shoot on video. I just
use a variety of cameras. The crop circles project was
largely done on DV, although I also shot on HD in the
summer of 2000.
DIYREPORTER: What do you
WG: Well, it's a cross-over between
flexibility and weight and size and quality. Lugging
that HD camera around the fields of England was not fun.
It's too heavy, too delicate, all exteriors with a very
small crew, which basically was me at the time. And the
last time I shot on DV quite a bit. Because the camera
was so lightweight.
DIYREPORTER: What were you
WG: I used a TRV 900. I
liked it a lot.
DIYREPORTER: Where are
documentaries heading? Obviously, with the tools coming
down in price, there's a lot more people out there
WG: Oh, yeah. A lot. I don't know.
That's a good question. The same thing happened in
regular, dramatic features, when everybody made DV
films. It was great for about five minutes and then the
market was flooded with lousy films. I think all these
things are a process. Good always stands out as good. I
will say that, you talk about doing it yourself -- I've
been trying to figure out how to survive in the
documentary film business for years. And really be
independent, and really be autonomous and really be
successful. And it's hard.
DIYREPORTER: How have
WG: Well, I'm still managing. This
is my third theatrical feature. The other two I've done
were essentially commissions financed by individuals who
had a concern about a specific cause. And I was enlisted
to make the films. This is the first film that I've made
on my own. I basically used most of my own money that I
was fortunate to have to begin with. And we'll see how
this one goes. If I can manage to sustain a career, I
will continue to expand, dump anything I make back into
those movies. But it's one movie at a time.
DIYREPORTER: Will these get any video
WG: Oh, yeah. What I've learned -- I
started in 1991 with the Video Toaster and a couple of
high end cameras. And I did "Waco" that way. The film I
did on Waco that was nominated for an Oscar was
basically done in my garage. And, to me, what really
makes the difference is being able to cross the line and
really get on film and really get into theaters. And I
started the marketing for "Crop Circles" in September.
And I've put as much time and attention into the
marketing of it as I have to the production. And I think
that's really one of the key answers. If you're going to
do it yourself, I think you really need to pay attention
to the real world, because you've got to sell product.
DIYREPORTER: In other words, the daisy has to
stick its head above the fray.
WG: Yeah. There
are other ways to do it. There's getting a good
relationship with HBO or getting a good relationship
with PBS. I think Arthur Dong, I really respect him. I
think he's a very hard-working and intelligent guy who
stays with it. And the model I'm going after --
basically, I've discovered with the "Waco" project,
which started out as basically a one-hour news and
journalism piece that turned into a film. And I think
there's something to be said for understanding the film
business, that it's not the same as the cable television
business. Not that you want to be exclusive to one or
the other. It's just a different kind of business.
DIYREPORTER: What are the differences, in your
WG: Well, you're dealing with independent
theaters, for one thing. You're not dealing with the
mindset of an individual programming executive or
marketing department that's more concerned about
advertising revenue or other things like that. All these
products need to be market-driven. You have to make
products that people are going to want to see. And I try
and combine with what I think people need to see with
what they want to see. My heroes in this business are
Michael Moore and Ken Burns and people like that. I
respect these guys a lot.
found the secret to cross over to mass popularity.
WG: It's a combination of very hard work, some
good insight and innovation, and luck. It's not a magic
formula. I've been working on this for so long. I mean,
people have no idea how much work it takes to really get
something made. And I grew up in a pretty typical
American family with a very strong work ethic and I
think that hard work is 80% of the
DIYREPORTER: What's a typical budget for
WG: Well, I budgeted this at
DIYREPORTER: And would you say that
allows you to be comfortable when making it?
No. Are you kidding? I still sleep on floors and we're
going to do some press touring for this film. I'm at
Motel 6 and friend's houses. You know? I'm at the end of
the line, money-wise. I'm looking for a deal. It's the
same old stuff. But I think I've got a good, intelligent
organization here. We are doing it ourselves. We
essentially work out of my house. We've got two people
on public relations, somebody managing theatrical
distribution and another person managing packaging and
home video distribution. And we're pretty well set up.
Most of the people working for me now are people I've
known for five, six, ten years. So we're just working at
it. I don't think there's any magic to it at all. You do
your homework and you do your best and you keep your
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