In April, 2010 I traveled to Boston to meet Jason Escape. We had talked about making a short documentary on his life, his performance work on the streets of Boston, and on the idea of struggling to overcome a challenge.
With Associate Producer Karen K. Barber, I followed him for two days. I was excited about the new possibilities offered by shooting video with HDSLR-style cameras, so I used a Panasonic GH1. To anyone watching, I probably looked like a still photographer unable to decide when to take the picture, but I was recording video the entire time.
He performs near Faneuil Hall -- which has been around since 1742 -- in the heart of Boston. As soon as he starts, dozens and dozens of tourists pull out cell phones and record video of his performance, posting it on YouTube later. Because of this, I worked to make the film look as little like a YouTube tourist video as I possibly could. The inspiration for the visual look is from the classic 16mm black-and-white documentaries I've studied over the years.
The editing process took a long time. The challenge: Jason does a concise, short show, complete with an escape. The interaction with the audience is a big part of it, but it's centered around the difficulty of escaping from a straitjacket while hanging upside down. So ... how do you show that in a film? Just show the escape, over and over? Show only one show? Over time, through trial and error, I realized that the day-in-the-life model we'd conceived of from the beginning could work -- but that the film needed to reference Jason's past and future. To me, the interest was in showing his struggles and his motivation, and making the escape into a metaphor we all can relate to. That's a lot to hang on a short documentary, but that became the goal.
Still, since there was no real deadline for the film, I worked it over and over. Finally, in February of 2012, I went to Docuday in Los Angeles. Inspired, I decided it was time to cut the film into its final form, and send it out into the world. I received one last bit of good advice from Sheri Candler -- make it 15 minutes, not 22 as was originally planned, so that it would work for film festival programmers -- and I made a final edit and submitted it to festivals.
The music is a big part of the film. It comes from Dennis Perez and Sherwin Smith, and developed with the idea of keeping the film as activated by music as possible without making it a music video. It's meant to be played loud.
If you've seen the film at a festival, I encourage you to visit the Hanging Downtown IMDB page and give it a rating or a review.
If you write about films and want to see a screener, or if you want to contact me, join the email list about future screenings, or make a comment on the film, you can do so here: clickhere
SEE THE TRAILER HERE.
Trailer for "Hanging Downtown" from Ted Fisher on Vimeo.