The Odd World of Documentary Filmmaking
The Story Behind JONNY
The Odd World of Documentary Filmmaking
By Massimo Salvato / desktop-documentaries.com
Jan 22, 2016

I did not really decide to make a documentary, or at least not in the conventional way of writing a proposal and presenting it to potential funders. My passion and commitment for the film unfolded and grew once I began the process of filming.

Since I had completed my short (fictional) film MUSE in 2011, my mind went through a long period of stagnation. I had a lot of ideas but not the confidence to push those ideas towards realisation. At the same time I had to be inspiring on a daily basis, as I am a teacher in two colleges, and I had to recover from a relationship breakup.

I was at the peak of this situation when I was wandering around the town centre of Newport, South Wales, UK, the city where I have been living and working since 2002. There I literally bumped into Jonny Sherwood, a local artist, life drawing teacher and ex-colleague of mine. He told me about what was going on in his life; that 20 artists, because of urban planning, would soon be evicted from the empty shop they were using as a community art studio and at the same time Jon was being evicted from his house; that he suffers from bi-polar disorder and keeps himself alive through the creation of his art and through heavy medication. I decided right then and there I wanted to make a documentary.

I started filming, without a clear objective, in a pure observational way.

In the beginning, my camera was invading a space which was occupied by artists and disadvantaged people, and I was automatically trying not to be intrusive, for what this could mean when you enter a place with a camera?

I started with pointing the camera at Jonny as he was painting and just observe the surrounding with my eyes. I had to persevere in order to gain everyone’s trust in the first few months; people were coming in and out of this art studio/community/squat space and were asking questions about who I was and why I was there with the camera. In the worst cases they shouted at me.

Fortunately I always had Jon there to support me. I remember going back home and feeling depressed about invading people’s space and needing to explain all the time. But the rushes that I was watching on a daily basis and the feel that this was the last chance to record something unique gave me the energy to continue to ring Jonny and pop there again, and again and again.

I was aware, as a film lecturer, that especially in documentary filmmaking it is important to gain the trust from the subjects being filmed, and trust was the key for getting Jon’s surrounding people and artists on board in the film.

The turning point was again an improvised event.

One day, at the studio, there was a teenage girl who was just hanging around there, like many other people used to do. I asked her who she was and she said she was a singer. I thought she could sing as Jonny was painting, and that I would film that. She did sing, a cappella. We did three takes and this attracted a few people from the studio who gathered around the camera and seemed to have fun.

I thought that maybe introducing staged elements would increase people’s trust, so I planned more of this. I staged scenes using artists from the studio with poetry skills, a sax player, an audio-visual artist, a traditional Lithuanian instrument player, a punk band… I think it was this fun element that helped me to gain trust from the artists involved.

Another element that definitely helped me in pushing forward this project is the fact that I have always been interested in artists and the persevering of artists in reaching their goals and in trying to fulfil their passion despite financial obstacles.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Comedy Can Disarm Bullies
3 min · 4,296 views today · As long as you're funny, it can get you out of almost anything - even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 3,352 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 2,868 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 2,029 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,751 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 1,558 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,160 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 983 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 831 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Compassion, the Antidote
Martin Doblmeier · 633 views today · Thich Nhat Hanh has published nearly 100 books and is one of the best-known teachers of Zen Buddhism in the world today. In the early 1960s his practice of what he termed...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 630 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 612 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 589 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 529 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 459 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 381 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Those That Did Not Seek Revenge
Dr. Ann Russo · 331 views today · Dr. Ann Russo on violence, healing, and transforming justice.
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 288 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
DAPL Opponents Vow to 'Rise' From Ashes of Oceti Sakowin and Keep Fighting
Lauren McCauley · 264 views today · 'They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started,' Dallas Goldtooth declared
How to Be a Great Listener
5 min · 260 views today · There’s so much talking going on in the world with everyone trying to get their opinions and stories heard, but not a whole lot of listening. Yet, when we listen, we learn and...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
The Odd World of Documentary Filmmaking