Dec Retreat: The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But the Truth

It’s been quite a weekend. We started with learning all about the technical aspects of a good interview, from lighting to positioning to costumes. We talked about portrayal of our interviewee and how to frame a technical expert versus a practical expert versus a total stranger to the subject all-together. With an expert, you want an intimate feeling, with traditional framing and little headroom. You want to feel like you can trust this person. With a practical expert, you want to show them in their element, working in the trenches, dealing with the everyday situations that your topic presents to them. With strangers, you need a united voice. With friends and family, you need to appeal to the emotions of the viewers in every way you can.

So, I got to thinking about how many different kinds of people appear in these documentary films and how documentary film-making isn’t really about proving yourself right at all, it’s about showcasing the truth, not about what you think is right. There are countless different ideas about what’s right, especially in controversial issues like the ones we’re looking at. In the case of mental health care and the stigma surrounding it, there is no right answer. The truth about mental health care is made up of all of the different perspectives of the doctors and patients, friends and family.

There are so many passionate feelings and ideas behind this topic, and so many feelings of relative indifference. I’ve always thought of documentary film-makers like journalists, like at Spotlight at the Boston Globe. To me, they were always fierce, wrathful, political and social warrior pacifists. I thought that they were looking to expose the truth, no matter the cost. Turns out, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Sometimes, people are wrong and what’s ‘right’ and what’s true are not the same thing at all. Anything can be right, it just matters who you ask; and if you surround yourself with people who agree with you, you will always be right. But there is only one, indisputable and undeniable truth. In the words of Thomas Huxley, “you have to learn what is true in order to do what is right.” I think that applies here more than anywhere else.

When talking about the stigma around mental health, the truth is a fantastic, terrifying mold of all the different people affected by our current mental health care system, which is nearly everyone. So when you create a piece of work like the one we’re planning on, there are countless different perspectives and different ideas that we can’t afford to miss. There are new conceptions of what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘good’ being formed every single day. We can’t risk overlooking any of those, because as soon as we start doing that, we start creating this echo chamber, surrounded by people who agree with whatever we’re saying, repeating back to us over and over again. We need to make sure everyone is represented. Otherwise, we’re just hypocrites. We say we want to represent the people who are hidden behind this huge stigma surrounding mental health issues. We want to cheer for the underdogs. But we can’t do that without the input of the big guys.

I know that it’s hard to find a balance between remaining and non-biassed while also following my own more compass. But, in the words of one of the guys at Spotlight, “‘I know there’s a story here and I think everybody’ll hear about it.'”

Maisie Newbury

Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *