THE DOC SHOT Q&A: Don Hardy and Dana Nachman, Producers/Directors: 'Witch Hunt'
The DOC SHOT Q&A is an exclusive online
feature by Documentary magazine associate editor Tamara Krinsky. Through
this mix of questions (some serious, some sassy) each DOC SHOT provides a
glimpse into the work and lives of those creating and supporting nonfiction
Don Hardy and Dana Nachman, Producers/Directors: Witch Hunt
Brief description of your film:
Witch Hunt is the story of one
small California town-Bakersfield--where cowboy law enforcement replaced
justice while destroying families for generations, as 34 families were falsely
accused and wrongfully convicted of child molestation in the early 1980s. Their
lives and their children's lives are now damaged forever, with some of the
accused spending anywhere between six and 20 years in some of California's most horrible prisons, as they
waited to be exonerated. The film is a true crime drama, where the criminals
were actually the city's trusted authorities and leaders.
role/credit on the film.
Don Hardy: Co-director,
co-producer, DP, editor.
Dana Nachman: Co-director and
did you find your subject or become involved in the film?
DH: It was a defining
moment. When a story this good comes to you, you have to find a way to tell it
or shut up about wanting to make documentaries.
DN: We're television journalists and had done work
with the Northern California Innocence Project before. Once we heard about this
story, we couldn't stop with a three-minute television piece.
Was there a moment in this film that went a different way
than you expected?
DH: When we first started putting scenes
together, we framed the story like a mystery, similar to Capturing the Friedmans or Paradise
Lost. We quickly realized that while those films are great, that wasn't our
film at all. The people in our film didn't do it. The courts set them free
after years of incarceration, and our story needed to be more of a call-to-action
than a whodunit.
DN: Two of our characters
were too frightened to do an on-camera interview when we got to their home in Oklahoma. We agreed to
do the interviews in silhouette but knew this would limit how much we could use
their compelling story. When we called years later to say we would be
premiering in Toronto,
the wife wanted to come to the screening. After seeing the film the night
before the premiere, she changed the way she felt about all of it, and wanted
to talk about what happened to her in a very public way because through the
movie she said she got closure. If we had known that she and her husband didn't
want to go on camera before we flew out to their home, I don't think we would
have gone because at this point we were financing the film on our credit cards.
Seeing how this all ended for this family makes me happy that we hadn't known
how reluctant they were before the shoot.
If you had had an extra $10,000 to spend on your film, what
would you have used it for?
DH: Actually, $10,000 would have helped in
so many different ways. Sure, a new camera would have been great. More bells
and whistles for my Avid would have been nice too. Ultimately, though, I would
have liked the money to pay our hard-working crew. They gave us a lot of time
because they believed in us and the story we were telling. Hopefully next time
I can get them paid.
DN: Great question! Considering
we had zero dollars for all the shoots, we would have used them to buy plane
tickets to fly to the shoots. Don would have wanted to buy a new camera; that
would have been good too!
What excites you about playing your film at the Toronto International Film
DH: The crowds here at
the festival really excite me. Toronto
is known for having the best audiences on the festival circuit, and our
premiere was no exception. The applause we received and more importantly, the
standing ovation our cast of subjects received at every screening will never be
forgotten. Our Q&A sessions were so engaging, and everyone was very fired
up. For both of us as filmmakers, and especially for our subjects, the reaction
to the film from the Toronto
audiences was moving and inspiring.
DN: It's such an
incredible honor to be in the company of so many talented filmmakers at Toronto. The audiences
have been so gracious to us and to the people in our film. The outrage and the
passion from the audience during our Q&A discussions and the comments made
to us after the screenings really made all of our work and worry about this
project worth it, and our subjects felt it too.
If you've had time to check out the TIFF catalogue, is there
a particular film (aside from yours) or event at the festival
that you're looking forward to attending?
DH: I am so looking
forward to Kevin Smith's new film and hopefully a chance to meet him at one of
the filmmaker events. He empowered me to just make a movie by any means. My
credit card bills can testify to that.
DN: I am looking forward
to seeing Food Inc. and New York I Love You.
Tell us about a film that affected your profoundly or
way you do your own work.
DH: The Thin Blue Line changed everything for me. Errol Morris is the
best. His films entertain, inform and sometimes change the world.
DN: Leaving Las Vegas.
I thought it was such an amazing portrait of love. I think it impressed upon me
that you can go to a dark place in a movie with a great outcome. Things don't
have to be sugarcoated.
What would surprise people the most about your job or the
way you execute it?
DH: How little tape we shoot. We keep it
pretty tight and focused. We know what we need to tell the story, and that
helps us to be a lot more organized when we start to edit.
DN: We edit in Don's
kitchen. We started in a guest room but the computer equipment started
overtaking the room, so we moved it all into the kitchen...Added bonus: it's
close to the coffee.
When you are feeling creatively stumped or burnt out,
what do you do to get the creativity flowing again?
DH: I usually watch a
bunch of docs. I find inspiration in what others are doing. Works every time!
DN: I usually move on to another project. Since we have
so many balls in the air, I can switch and take my mind off one. And that
usually does the trick.
DN: The New York Times and Good
What's on your TIVO or iPod right now?
DH: My TiVo is full of Mad Men and docs like The Unforeseen and The Black List. My iPod is overloaded with Tom Waits and Neil
Young. Also a cool new band called Band of Horses. Plenty of Eddie Vedder on my
DN: My iPod: Don gave me
a recent Eddie Vedder concert in Berkeley
that I couldn't go to. He gave it to me the day before I was running my first half-marathon.
That concert has all of the Into the Wild
songs on it, among others. That movie is so important to Don and me, so that's
the best thing on my iPod right now.
do you want more of in your life? What do you want less of in
DH: More time is always
a goal. There are several stories I want to tell, and I need to step it up.
If you could add an extra hour to every day, how would you
DH: I use that hour to
catch up with friends and family. Many of them are still on the East Coast, and
it can be tough to connect as much as you should.
DN: I would spend that
time with my kids. Shout-out to Charlie, 14 months, and Annie, 3 years (neither
were born when we started this movie)!
What do you want for your birthday?
DH: Funding would be
DN: Funding for our next