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July 10, 2014
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Suspension of disbelief


In “The Imposter,” a doc about the 1997 case of the French con man, Frédéric Bourdin, who impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a Texas boy who had disappeared at the age of 13 in 1994, the reenactments are super stylized and cinematic. They bring you into the story in a narrative way and they elevate the whole piece to be more cinematic.

Some sequences, however, particularly the ones where you see actors’ faces, take you out of the story completely, and I found myself wanting to see more of Mr. Bourdin, whose interview is by far the most interesting part of the film. (Both of these films are on Netflix Instant and worth a watch.)

We are trying to accomplish both of these things—reenactments that feel integral to the story and that make the film more cinematic.

Our plan is to hide the actors’ faces with a variety of tricks—super-wide shots and shallow depth of field to keep things out of focus—as well as other creative techniques.

This particular part of our story deals with a day/night in 1982 when our main character’s wife went missing. It’s her disappearance and possible murder that begins the saga of the film. Everything stems from this one night. Whatever we can do to heighten the importance of this night in the audience’s mind will help.

The film goes through several different versions of what happened that night. The first one comes from the original detective reading his notebook, the second from our main subject and the third throws a wrench in what you think you know.

Being on a period-1982 set feels a little bit like a time warp—old appliances, clocks, pill bottles; you feel the time period. Yesterday, an old Risk board unlocked a memory for me of an afternoon with friends that I hadn’t thought about in years.

Over this three-day shoot, footage is shot, transcoded and then cut back into the sequence. I have already roughed out with placeholders the scenes that we are shooting and it’s a very rewarding process to switch out the placeholders with the real footage. It feels a lot like paint by numbers; the hard work has been done. Now it’s just a matter of plugging in the pieces and watching it come alive.

The main goal is avoiding, at all costs, the moment I experienced as a young boy, seeing the re-enactor move. That relief, that break in tension, is not something I’m interested in letting the audience experience.