I Shot Myself | Letters | Chicago Reader

I Shot Myself 

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Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for your insightful article about Bright Leaves and for making it the "pick of the week" ["Smoke and Mirrors," December 3]. I believe that helped quite a bit in boosting attendance that first weekend.

Just wanted to point out one extremely minor but interesting factual error in your review. You state that "of course both takes of McElwee crossing the field had to have been shot by someone else." In fact, I did shoot both takes myself. There was no one there but me (and a small, somewhat vicious puppy). I placed the camera on a tripod and framed the shot I wanted. I then started the camera, sprinted to a position off frame, and began my walk. At the end of the shot, having momentarily vanquished my canine opponent, you can see me approaching the camera and giving a hand slate before leaning over the camera to turn it off. I always do my own camera work. On rare occasions I have worked with a sound recordist, but 99 percent of the time I work alone. I guess I believe that the notion of the filmmaker protagonist as a solitary, sometimes perplexed figure puzzling through life as he makes his filmed journeys is important to how my films work and to their skewered sense of veracity. The larger point you are making, of course, still stands: all movies, to varying degrees, mix fact and fiction, and Bright Leaves is, among other things, certainly an exploration of that idea.

Thanks very much for your interest in and support of Bright Leaves.

Ross McElwee

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