Young filmmaker Canaan Brumley, whose first feature documentary is Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click., was present during a screening of his film at the SDIFF. The film features an intense look at a squad of new recruits stationed in a boot camp. We witness the hardships that they faced while training, without any interviews or narration, a purely visual portrait.
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Nick Reed: Do you still talk to the recruits that you worked with?
Canaan Brumley: There are some of the recruits that I still correspond with on a regular basis. They call me sometimes and tell me about their adventures.
NR: Were you ever in boot camp yourself?
CB: I did it when I was 17, I had just graduated from high school. The first chapter in the film is entitled “Taking the Ride; For a Girl” which is kind of a metaphor for how in life, if you ever get screwed, you can say, “Hey, they took me for a ride,” but its also a reference for the bus ride. The second part says “For a Girl” because I did it for a girlfriend of mine, hoping she’d think I was cool, which is, I think, one of the most immature things you can do.
NR: Is that the girl you ended up marrying?
CB: No, not at all. (laughs)
NR: Did you shoot daily and live on the base?
CB: To a certain extent. Sometimes I did sleep out there with them. I initially set out there with four cameramen, but three weeks into it they all started saying, “Uh, I don’t think this is going to work out.” I was in a bind but didn’t want to give up on the project, so in the next eight weeks, I essentially shot the film on my own.
NR: How much footage did you shoot?
CB: I shot roughly 103 hours and the final running time was an hour and 35 minutes. That freed me up tremendously because I could go in and attempt to pull off things that you only see in fiction, and because of the redundancy of the process, I could shoot things on a daily basis, knowing that they’d repeat. I’d shoot things over and over again until I got exactly perfect. The only thing we have in life is time.
NR: What do you want your audience to take away from the film?
CB: I’ve always said the best films that are made are the ones where you put a hundred people in a theater, and a hundred people walk out with different impressions. I got involved in wanting to make this picture, simply because I didn’t want to see a therapist. I saw a therapist once, told him my story, and never went back. This is something I had to do to make sure that make experiences in military could mean something later. If I could tell that story from the point of view of someone who actually went through it, I could find an audience after that.