Directors Find Strong Drama While Shooting Nonfiction Films

Lara Porzak/Paramoount
"Waiting for Superman"

'Waiting for Superman' helmer Davis Guggenheim waited along with his subjects to see if they would be admitted to a good school.

Charles Ferguson, Inside Job (Read THR review)

While many key financial executives he hoped to interview refused to be questioned, the director was surprised that top economics academics not only agreed to be interviewed but also failed to warn their colleagues how tough the filmmaker’s questions would be.

"They know each other quite well, and I was, frankly, very afraid after the first one or two of those interviews. I was very tough on people, and they found themselves subjected to questioning of a kind that they were clearly not used to and portrayed them in a very bad light. I thought that they’d be on the phone with all their friends saying, 'This guy Ferguson is making a movie; don’t ever talk to him.'Apparently they didn’t do that, maybe because they were ashamed of their own performance."

Davis Guggenheim, Waiting for Superman (Read THR Review)

The movie’s finale was a technical and emotional challenge for the director and his crew as the five children they had been following faced a lottery for spots in a good school.

"There were lotteries in five different locations all across the country, and they’re all happening in the same week — some of them the same day. And these were multicamera shoots in different cities. On top of that, we were desperate for all the kids to get in. We had this emotional challenge of staying objective because you just want Anthony to get in, you want Daisy to get in, and Bianca. We were on cell phones talking to each other, like: 'What’s happening over here?' 'Did Anthony get in?' 'How many more spaces left?'”

Thomas Burstyn, This Way of Life

While filming this affecting portrait of a Kiwi horse whisperer and the challenges threatening to bring down him and his family, the director wrestles with a fear of horses and riding.

"I followed Peter into the rugged Ruahine mountain range of New Zealand on horseback, into an alien world, searching for a herd of 50 wild horses. I knew at every step that if something happened to Peter, I would be useless — I was in his hands. In postproduction, the challenge was to create a coherent story from 80 hours shot over four years. We were also challenged on a personal level to examine how we live our lives and the choices we have made. For me, the most startling thing is how chosen Peter and [his wife] Colleen’s life is. They are creators of their world, and while some may look on and see poverty, we learned to see the richness they embrace."