Your new documentary The
Siege of Fort William Henry - in a few words, what's it about?
documentary is about a siege that took place in 1757, during the French
and Indian War. The French army, and their Indian allies, laid siege to
the British subjects in Fort William Henry for 6 days. The attack
finally came to an end, and resulted in what is now commonly referred to
as a "massacre" of the surrendered troops. These events
ultimately inspired the 19th century American novel The Last of
got you interested in the actual siege in the first place, and what made
you want to make a documentary about it?
first learned about the siege from the 1992 film version of The
Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day Lewis. I absolutely love
that movie. Over time I became interested in learning more about
the true story of the siege. I have always been interested in history,
and love history documentaries, so when it came time to choose my next
film, this story seemed like a perfect fit.
What can you
tell us about the research you did for The
Siege of Fort William Henry?
spent months researching the siege of Fort William Henry, and
surrounding events. I bought several books on the subject and scoured
the internet. The U.S. Library of Congress, National Archives, as well
as other public and private libraries have quite extensive digital
copies of their collections, which was extremely helpful.
items were quite hard to track down. One journal that is cited in every
book on the siege couldn't be found anywhere. Eventually I located a
copy of the periodical from the 1800s that first published the account.
I was able to find more than a dozen historic journals written by men at
the siege. I also was able to find numerous maps and original plans for
the fort. It was really interesting to see how many documents have
experts I interviewed for the film were also great resources. It is a
fairly popular historic event, so I was able to benefit from the
research of people before me.
For telling your
story, you have opted for a mix of real life re-enactments, computer
animation and talking heads - so what can you tell us about that approach
lot of the way the documentary is made came down to practicality. I
started making the film right as the coronavirus shut everything down
last year, so I wasn't sure I would be able to film any reenactments.
Animation allowed me to visually portray large groups of people without
needing actual people. I also knew I could make the animations
myself, which was more practical and cost-effective than trying to
create a ton of real sets to film on.
always knew I wanted reenactments with real people, and thankfully I was
able to film them. There is a replica of the fort on the original site,
which I was able to film at a few times. Having footage of real muskets
and cannons firing definitely makes the documentary more exciting and
visceral. I also think the animation and live action cut together gives
the movie a unique aesthetic, and keeps it visually interesting. This
is the same reason I incorporated talking head interviews, and voice
actors reading from historic journals. I relied on the interviews to do
a lot of the setup of the story, as well as narration. I knew that if
the documentary was only voice over it might become tedious to watch.
The talking heads become a break from the voice over, to keep the
Do talk about your (voice-)cast and
interviewees for a bit, and why exactly these people?
chose the voice actors based mostly on their ability to give an engaging
performance. I wanted the historic accounts to sound authentic, and not
be the stereotypical overacted voice over heard in many
also wanted people with distinct voices. I want the audience to be
able to distinguish the various voices they are hearing - at least to
the interviewees I sought out experts on the subject. Fortunately the
people who participated are very knowledgeable. They have all researched
the siege of Fort William Henry, and French and Indian War quite
extensively - and given lectures on the topics.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoots for the reenactments were quite a bit of fun, but also a
challenge at times. As
I mentioned earlier there is a reconstructed version of the fort on the
original site. They let me film B-roll, and the cannon demonstrations
that they put on for tourists. They also held a few events last summer
that I was allowed to film. All
of the reenactors at the fort were very friendly and supportive of my
project, but I couldn't stage anything specific. I needed to just
capture what I could as it was happening, and do my best to avoid
filming the tourists and modern town surrounding the fort.
able to stage some reenactments specifically for the documentary. I
built a small barricade out of logs, and set up some other small
locations to film various scenes. I was able to film a reenactor for a
day in various scenarios, and also roped some family members into some
scenes. For a few scenes I was in them, and got family members to
operate the camera.
crew was pretty much just me, which I think made it fun for everyone I
was able to get involved. It kept the shooting atmosphere very low
key, and made it feel more like helping a friend move a couch, than a
high stakes movie production.
$64-question, where can The
Siege of Fort William Henry be seen?
Siege of Fort William Henry is currently available on DVD. It can be
purchased on my web store, with both US and international shipping: https://eks.tv/product/
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
Siege of Fort William Henry?
far the response has been very positive. I was at an i- person event in
September, and had several people tell me how much they enjoyed the
documentary. I also get a lot of great feedback on social media,
which is encouraging. The
critical reception has been good so far also. I had one review that I
enjoyed quite a bit. It wasn't a 100% sunshine and roses, but the
reviewer seemed to really understand what I was aiming for with the
movie. He compared my documentary to how programming on the History
Channel used to be, and acknowledged the excitement of some scenes,
while guessing at the motivation behind other filmmaking devices. I
really appreciate all of the positive feedback I have gotten, hopefully
it will continue as more people see the documentary.
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
have a few things I'm working on right now, as well as some old projects
that I need to finish. My
main project will be another documentary, about a former US
President. I also plan on sharing a behind the scenes blog and vlog of
my documentary filmmaking process as I make the movie.
What got you into filmmaking in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
first got interested in filmmaking through animation. I was always into
drawing and painting as a kid, and eventually went to college for
drawn animation and stop motion. While there I started moving more
toward live action filmmaking.
became more interested in visual effects than animation, and preferred
the speed of live action filmmaking to the slower pace of animation. I
got out of school right at the time digital video and computer animation
really started. So while I did receive formal training in film and
animation, the skills I learned weren't really applicable anymore. I
wound up getting a computer and taught myself any software I could get
my hands on. What I learned in college probably gave me a decent
foundation, but I think having access to software and eventually cameras
to experiment on my own was a much bigger part of my learning process.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
Siege of Fort William Henry?
Siege of Fort William Henry is my third film. My first film was a
documentary about skiing and snowboarding, Altitude
Adjustment. My second film was a narrative feature, Fabric
Unraveled, a psychological drama, with an
experimental story structure. Both of these are available on various
streaming sites, or will be on them soon. I
have also created several short documentaries, music videos and other
experimental videos over the years.
Having done both
narrative and documentary films, what are the main differences for you as
a director, and which do you enjoy more, and why?
think the main differences between narrative and documentaries is how
they are made. Narrative films are much more procedural - first you
write the script, then you film, then you edit. There might be some
reshoots - but write-shoot-edit is the accepted process. With
documentaries the process is less structured. A documentary might start
with video - an interview, film of an event, archival footage. These
starting materials inform the writing process and so does editing. If
you include an interview clip in the film, then the sections leading
into it or out of it need to be rewritten and re-edited. Writing,
filming, and editing all happen throughout the entire filmmaking
enjoy documentary filmmaking much more because of this. It is more of a
free form creative process. When I was in college, my painting teachers
would always tell us to build up the whole painting at the same time,
not to get caught up finishing one small section when the rest of the
canvas is blank. That is what documentary filmmaking is for me -
building up the whole painting at the same time. At
some point I hope to make a narrative film that can be approached in the
would you describe yourself as a director?
a tough one... I guess I would say I am very practical, and let that
drive my creativity. When
first developing an idea, or even when filming scenes, I always keep the
limitations of the circumstance in mind. I then work within those
constraints to come up with a solution to drive the story forward.
a different camera angle would frame out the tourists and souvenir
shops from my 18th century documentary - maybe a greenscreen composite
can make one man standing at a table look like 4 - maybe sound effects
can make one real cannon on screen intercut with animation sound like a
battery of 9 cannons. Rather
than trying to remove an obstacle I find a creative way around it.
who inspire you?
filmmakers who first inspired me to pursue film and animation are Ray
Harryhausen and Terry Gilliam. I still love their work, and really
enjoy the experimentation in it.
Your favourite movies?
favorite movie is probably The Last of the Mohicans by
Michael Mann - the cinematography, the score, everything about it is
also love Grand Prix directed by John Frankenheimer. The
vignettes by Saul Bass are gorgeous, and the PA system in the stadiums
being used as a story telling device I always thought was great. Another
film I love is F for Fake by Orson Welles. I feel like it
is a horribly underrated movie that was pushing the bounds of what a
film/documentary could be at the time.
and of course, films you really deplore?
try to find something to enjoy in every movie. I have learned just as
much about filmmaking from "bad" movies as I have from the
classics - but,
since you asked... I really hate a lot of modern blockbusters. Some of
them are ok, but there are only so many times I can see entire cities,
or planets destroyed by aliens, spaceships and superheroes before I stop
caring. They really lack any sort of human element or emotion.
Everything has become about spectacle and is on such a grand scale, that
having characters to care about isn't even considered.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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movie's website, social media, whatever else?
website is below. That is the best way to keep up with what I'm working
on, or pick up my documentary.
can also find me on Facebook or YouTube
for the interview!
My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I really
appreciate it. Hopefully we can talk again soon.