Making "Pope Michael"
Although "Pope Michael" was shot over the course of 18 months, the actual amount of time I spent in Delia was about 5 weeks, spread out over four trips scheduled around significant events.
My first trip was in August of 2008 - when it was still only Bawden and his mother living alone at the house. My brother Derek came with me, recorded the audio, and took some stills. I'd asked him to write the music for the documentary so I wanted him to get a sense of the place and meet Bawden in person.
The other trips took place in October 2008, April 2009, and October 2009. I was the lone crew member for all of those trips except for two dates in October 2009 when a friend (Doug Klinger) came to help out with the challenging Kansas City University setup.
Bawden, Tickie, and Phil were a pleasure to film, and a pleasure to be around off camera. I took my time shooting the non-spontaneous items like interviews, and things could get tedious, but they were incredibly patient. The Bawden house happens to be very near a train, and some interviews were interrupted 5-6 times by train noise. Each time, we stopped, waited for it to pass, and continued on.
Although a lot of planning went into each shoot, I had some dumb luck as well. One April morning when I was driving to Delia for the day's shooting, it started to snow. I got to Bawden's house as quickly as possible, jumped out of the car and got the shot of the snow falling on the house. It made it into the documentary, right after Phil arrives.
Shooting "Pope Michael" technically was basically a matter of shooting inside the Bawden house. Luckily, the house had a lot of interesting variety in lighting. Downstairs tended to be darker, and upstairs in the library had gigantic bay windows that lit the entire space. Shooting was a challenge, but the spaces always had a good angle or a nicely lit spot.
One of the challenges of shooting "Pope Michael" was coming up with new ways to shoot the same 5 or 6 rooms, which I did by trying not to shoot a room the same way twice. This forced me to do some things I normally wouldn't do such as shooting Bawden against windows. A lot of these shots turned out the be some of the most memorable from the documentary in terms of style.
One of the most difficult scenes to shoot was the Kansas University presentation. We knew there were going to be question and answers, but the question was how to approach it. We had a handheld wireless mic that we toyed around with using, but it would look strange on camera and at the presentation to have people hold a microphone that obviously wasn't hooked up to a speaker. In the end we went with a long boom mic cord, and requested that people give some time for Doug to reach them before asking their question. The result was more of a real reaction from the crowd, and some great audio from a tricky situation.
"Pope Michael" was shot on a little Sony HVR-A1U and edited on Final Cut Pro.After the last shoot, I finished capturing and logging footage, and started piecing together little 2-3 minute segments, without a bigger idea of how the story would fit together. After about 4 months of creating little segments, I finally sketched out the master plan for the sequence of events, and spend the next 2-3 months putting that together.
"Pope Michael" took a lot of patience to make, and its been an amazing experience. I hope you enjoy it.