BRATTLEBORO—Amanda Wilder has been working on her documentary since 2007 and is facing an ever-tightening financial environment in the current recession.
So the Marlboro College graduate is trying a new funding source to complete the film.
At the suggestion of Jay Craven, her teacher at Marlboro and the producer of the film, she has turned to an inventive online fundraising method called Kickstarter, which lets creative people from photographers to writers to filmmakers like Wilder seek people to donate money to get a project off the ground.
As of last week, Wilder has received pledges from Kickstarter users of more than $10,000 of the $14,500 she will need to complete Approaching the Elephant, a feature-length documentary about the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, N.J.
As Wilder describes it, a free school is a place where “classes are optional and rules are made by democratic vote.”
That’s democratic vote, as in the students get an equal say in the process.
Approximately 200 such schools operate in the U.S.
Wilder says her first feature-length documentary “chronicles a free school in the making.”
She describes the documentary as “an intimate portrait of a small group of people from a range of educational backgrounds, [who] come together to forge a place where children are treated as equals, at liberty to spend their days however they please.”
Approaching the Elephant documents the complete lifespan of one such free school.
The documentary spans two years, “from Teddy McArdle’s first day when there were no rules or classes, through the changing of the school’s director and the expulsion of a student by democratic vote, to the last day of the second year when the school closed.”
Working in the filmmaking style of her role models Albert and David Maysles, who were team directors of such documentary classics as Showman and Grey Gardens, Wilder employs “the observational mode,” where the cinematographer shoots footage with a minimum of interruption or intervention, stepping back to let the action play out as if the camera were not there.
Wilder began filming from the very first day of classes of the Teddy McArdle Free School, but she soon came to realize that it would take a long time to capture a complete picture of what was happening there.
So she ended up staying the whole two years the school was open, shooting 230 hours of film which must now be edited.
According to Craven, an average documentary is edited from about 70 hours of raw footage.
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