The genius that is Errol Morris


During this weeks Supervisor Session, Ian mentioned a man named Errol Morris, a name I am ashamed to say I had never heard until then. After leaving the session I decided to go and see what was so great about this man and what was meant by his style of interviewing, are interviews not all the same? In Errol’s case – ABSOLUTELY NOT!

During my research I came across this article Errol Morris’s Secret Weapon for Unsettling Interviews. As I went through the example of his work I began to understand why he stood out and how he managed to make an interview so personal and in a way, unsettling. As I have said previously in my blogs, I have tried to understand the correct way to set-up and conduct an interview. My belief was that you have the person set-up on one side of the screen and have them talk diagonally across the lens as if they’re looking into the centre of the screen and straight out the other side. This is the most traditional form of interviewing but that wasn’t good enough for Errol.

Errol’s style of the subject looking directly down the camera lens is evident in all of his work.

As a filmmaker and a viewer you would wonder; How does he still manage to get the emotion out of people and unsettling interviews if the person is looking down a lens rather than to Morris’s face? The truth of the matter is that they were looking into Morris’s face. Well, his face on screen! He did this through his own invention The Interrotron. The details of how this works is explained in the article, it is sheer genius and something that I am sure a lot of filmmakers wish they had come up with first!

Something I found quiet striking was his blunt editorial cuts. Usually if a filmmaker or editor wants to make a cut in an interview they would place a cut away over the interview and then go back to the subjects face and the viewer would be non the wiser. This was not necessary in Errol’s eyes. He used different cameras to make his cuts and almost make it look like the subject is moving around the screen rather than in a fixed seated position.

The pictures above are screenshots of a documentary about IBM he had made. These shots are played one after the other, of the same person, sitting in the same position. In some other cases we may see a cut from a wide to a close up or vice versa. Not here. Here we simply see the subject in a different part on the screen. All of these things are simply yet different and definitely something to think about when it comes to making documentaries in the future.

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