This is the second part (read part one here) of the interview with the Co-Directors of 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem conducted by Joshua R. Godinez. This is Joshua’s first, but hopefully not last, article on Scouting News, his website BoyandGirlScouts.com provides News, Opinion, Advice with the tagline, “Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts under one roof… with proper supervision, of course.”
759: Boy Scouts of Harlem Interview – Part Two (Read Part One Here)
By Joshua R. Godinez
Boy Scouts typically joke around a lot with each other and film sets are notorious for having things not turn out they way they were first planned. What were the unexpected and funny moments you can recall while making this film?
JAKE: After the first few weeks of shooting Justin and I realized pretty much nothing was going as we had planned or expected. So we threw out the plan and went along for the ride–which made it very true and very unexpected. But we’re not going to tell you about it–you’ll have to watch the film.
Who are you hoping sees this film?
JUSTIN: I hope a lot of people see the film–active Scouts, alumni, and especially people who don’t have first-hand experience in Scouting and may not understand what it is all about. It is a good chance to get a view into a real live Troop.
Do you hope your film will generate interest and participation in the Boy Scouts of America?
JUSTIN: I hope so. I like what Will Rogers had to say: “There’s only one thing wrong with the Boy Scouts, there aren’t enough of ‘em.”
Documentaries can have different styles of storytelling. What is the style you use and how does that help the way the movie is received?
JAKE: Most of the film is shot using methods of cinema verite (or direct cinema). We hoped to have the camera have as little effect as possible on our subjects. We wanted the boys to come off naturally – not say what they though we wanted to hear or act in a way appropriate for the camera. We did shoot interviews with our subjects – and use clips from these interviews occasionally. But most of the film is made up of scenes capturing the reality of scouting in Harlem and at Camp Keowa. By getting to know our subjects well and spending a lot of time with them they were comfortable when we were shooting. Thus we were able to capture some unexpected, surprising moments on camera.
When will people have an opportunity to see the film?
JUSTIN: Good question! We are trying to work out a way to show the film in New York. It is especially important for us to show the film in Harlem and we expect to have a “community premiere” there in mid-March. We have also been approached by several Councils about setting up community screenings. The concept is that the local Council would be responsible for finding a venue, promoting the event and handling logistics; we’d provide a copy of the film and fly out to do Q&A. Any Council interested in this kind of thing can just give me a ring. We are also in the process of figuring out a way for Troops to get a copy of the film so they can build an event around it (e.g. a recruiting event). Of course we hope to get in to some film festivals and get it on TV. We expect to have DVDs available for order on our website this spring. Anybody interested in what is happening can sign up for our emailing list on our website (http://harlemscouts.com)and we will keep you posted.
How long did it take to make the film?
JAKE: We started planning and doing some initial work on the film in March 2007–so about two years of on-and-off work.
What was the process that made it take that amount of time?
JUSTIN: First, getting our subjects comfortable around two strangers with cameras took awhile. We spent weekend after weekend with Troop 759–at meetings, camping, at their homes around the neighborhood. Sometimes the camera was on; most of the time it was off. Over time we built up a good relationship with the Troop and everyone could just be themselves around us and the camera. But it is a slow process–that trust is something you have to earn.
Next, all that shooting meant there was a lot of footage to edit–over 180 hours. Turning that into a seventy minute film is no small task–and takes a lot of time in the edit room.
Music can strongly impact the way a film is perceived. How did your soundtrack influence your film?
JUSTIN: We lucked out. Ms. Ann Dozier and Joy Willis (Keith’s Mom) sing in a gospel choir in Harlem. We recorded them as part of our soundtrack. Joy also did some solo work for us for the film–including a beautiful version of the Scout Grace that you may remember singing before meals up at summer camp.
Patrick Byers, whose son KC is in Troop 759, is a classical composer and KC’s Mom, Jennifer Byers is a cellist. They put together the film’s theme song based on the tune of the Scout Grace which is an old Protestant hymn. Several other musicians from Harlem are part of the film–including Nik Munson, a gifted guitarist and Master Drummer Charli Persip who played for Dizzy Gillespie and happens to live in Jake’s building in Harlem. So it is a community thing.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
As a Scouter I’m incredibly excited that Justin and Jake have made this documentary. The opportunity to see a positive film about Boy Scouts, in just about any form, is great. I look forward to having the film shown in my area and I hope Scouters around the country do the same.
Learn more about 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem by visiting http://harlemscouts.com. Be sure to sign up for the email list to receive up to date information about the film.
This was a guest post by Joshua R. Godinez of BoyandGirlScouts.com.
Check out Harlem Interview Deleted Scenes over on Joshua’s website to read his commentary on conducting the interview, some additional questions and answers, and how the film is about a Troop, and not an overarching social cause.