Taped in Los Angeles by Single Spark Pictures, Turk Bay Prods, and the Independent Film Channel. Supervising producer-director, Ary Park; producers-creators, Mark Mori, Alec Baldwin; For its opener, new hourlong relaxed interview series “Raw Footage” parks Alec Baldwin and his two guests on high stools in a generally genial setting. Docu producers David Van Taylor and R.J. Cutler, considerably aided by good samples of their work, tell of their working style, though show’s focus seems to be how they turn out such good products. Tame and specialized, this introductory program will catch on among documakers, who’ll nod in recognition of their love for their work.
Van Taylor and Cutler produced and directed “A Perfect Candidate,” their take on the 1994 Virginia Senate race between Charles Robb and Oliver North. Discussion of their experiences reveals their ingenuity, their dedication and, most of all, how they come up with ideas.
Excerpts from the guests’ docs illustrate what Baldwin and the film-makers are talking about. Cutler conceived and produced “The War Room,” a behind-the-scenes docu about the 1992 Clinton campaign, focusing on James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. Van Taylor produced and directed “Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James vs. Judas Priest.” Film involves two young men who shot themselves in the heads with shotguns after hearing lyrics to a tune sung by rock group Judas Priest. One man died immediately. Van Taylor shows tape of the other following plastic surgery; his face, even partially covered, is a shock. He subsequently died, which lends poignancy to the docu.
Both Van Taylor and Cutler speak out forthrightly. “Our agenda is to show the audience what we saw,” notes Cutler, “and to share, as much as possible, as truthfully as possible, the experiences we had.” Objectivity, though, isn’t always present: In “A Perfect Candidate,” after showing Oliver North being outdoorsy, the camera shifts to a small boy holding a rifle and being prompted by a woman to explain that the weapon’s for shooting clay pigeons and Democrats.
Both guests enthuse about their professions and the camaraderie among documakers, while admitting it’s tough scraping up financing. (Van Taylor did temporary office work while making docus.) Van Taylor points out that when subjects or their entourage try to thwart or discourage the documakers, they just won’t take no for an answer. He amends that lightly by agreeing that if there’s something a subject really doesn’t want included in a film, it won’t be.
Baldwin’s questions are scarcely probing, and an observation on Stephanopoulos is lamentably subjective. At one point, re “Dream Deceivers,” noting how the docu fell so well into place, Baldwin says, “It couldn’t have been written any better. It was almost as though you scripted it and staged it.” Van Taylor quietly explains, “The process of writing a documentary . . . takes place in the editing room.”
Program may not weigh in as a heavyweight, but it informs and amuses. If this first “Raw Footage” plays without many surprises, and if its samples of docus beg for more footage, hour still spotlights a form of filmmaking too often neglected.
The Independent Film Channel isn’t available in many areas, but program repeats Fri., Oct. 13, at 11 p.m. ET on Bravo.