I love that my husband’s first book is called Get Close. In two words, it sums up his best filmmaking advice. And captures his own striking style. And reminds me of what I have learned from working with him, lo these many years.
I am thrilled to report that Get Close: Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking will be published by Oxford University Press on February 1, 2019. It’s available for pre-order now. If you know an aspiring documentary filmmaker, or you are one, or maybe you think you might be one because you have a film in mind that you’ve always wanted to make but you’re not sure where to start, then buy this book. Rustin Thompson will tell you everything you need to know, starting with those two words.
As Rus is quick to explain, he did not invent the idea of “getting close.” It was World War II photographer Robert Capa who famously said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Rus also quotes former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, who—inspired by Capa—advised Yale students in a commencement address that “if you truly want to live fully and leave the world a little better than you found it, you have to get close… Get close. Go all in. Get close to the people affected by your work. Seek out perspectives different from your own. And work to bring others close with you.”
For a filmmaker, this means shooting close to your subjects, so physically close that you and your camera will connect them to viewers in a way that will bring their story, their humanity, fully to life. “You probably won’t become longtime friends with your subjects,” Rus writes, “nor will the divides of class and race magically melt away forever, but for the brief time of your shoot you will be communicating almost non-verbally. The experience can be profound. Getting close has become my way of looking at the world, my philosophy of visual thinking.”
What is always fascinating to me, when I watch Rus shoot this way, is how quickly the people he is filming get used to it. People want to be seen.
And they want to be heard, which is where I come in. Sometimes—especially if Rus has already been filming for a while—the only question I have to ask is, “Tell me your story.” And then my job is simply to listen. Not to tell them what I think of it all; just to listen. That’s how I get close, when we do the work of documentary filmmaking.
But Rus makes it possible, and in Get Close he tells you how, covering everything from planning your project, to essential gear, to shooting, editing and, ultimately, how to get over your self-doubt and get past the gatekeepers and find your audience.
Getting close: it’s like the difference between sitting down in the sand and digging and pouring and laughing out loud with your one-year-old, or standing 20 feet away and watching her play.
It’s like the difference between making a film, or thinking about making a film. Writing a book, painting a painting, composing a song—or not. Trying to solve problems, to tackle tough issues, or trying to tune them out.
Getting close: as Samantha Power can attest, it makes for a rich life.
Seattle-area readers: I will be teaching Introduction to Memoir Writing again at Seattle Central College beginning April 1st. Six Monday nights. Registration opens February 14.
Quote from Get Close about getting close.
What that means in life as well as filmmaking. Writing. Volunteering etc.
Parents at the beach who put down their phones and play with their kids.
Surfers? Going inside the wave? Hmmm maybe not.
“Don’t be shy, meet a guy, pull up a chair…”