I had this thought earlier today, like I could be a great documentarian if I wanted to, that if only I had the equipment, and the knowledge of how to use that equipment, I’d make some of the best documentaries in the history of film. Like these headphones that I’m holding in my hand right now. Where were they made, in China? Where? That’s where I’d start. I’d take my crew, my top-of-the-line cameras and lights and unobtrusive microphone packs.
If only I had the time, and the money to be able to commit to supporting myself while I figured out which Chinese factory these headphones came from, and then even more money to book a flight, to gain access to the assembly line. I’m sure I’d have to talk to some sort of a party official. I guess I’d have to learn how to speak Chinese.
If only I could speak Chinese, I’d make one of the most gripping documentaries about Chinese people making mass-consumed cheap throwaway products, stuff that we get for free over here, like when we buy a cellphone, or when we fly on a plane. I’d follow around just one guy, like his story would embody my story, the story being, look at this man, he’s just a cog in the machine. But he’s a person.
I’d probably have to either bribe my way through whichever party officials would be in charge of allowing an American to just waltz in and paint this cinematographic representation of how bleak factory life must be for the average Chinese laborer, “Bleak, but tinged with hope!” again, my Chinese would have to be spot on, or I’d have to pay a lot of money for a translator clever enough to understand exactly what I’m trying to say, in English, while at the same time being able to deceive the party officials into making it like I’m trying to capture all of the positive aspects of China’s industrial workforce.
I’m sure it wouldn’t be as simple of pointing and shooting, like, there would probably have to be planned out questions, all of the filming employing multiple cameras, so that while he’d be pondering the answer to some existential question, something like, “What does it all mean?” I’d be able to switch between the two cameras, one of them aimed just off of the center of his face, his pensive stare positioned just behind where I’d be if you could see me standing behind the camera, and then the other camera would be a profile shot, and it would have some grainy filter, and it would be in black and white.
I hadn’t considered subtitles. I’d have to use subtitles, right? Yeah, definitely, if even just for my own sake, you know, assuming that I hadn’t learned Chinese. No way I’d be able to learn Chinese. I mean, I’m not saying that it’s impossible. I’m sure that if I absolutely had to … what I mean is, I think that my brain is physically capable of learning Chinese … but subtitles, definitely subtitles. What font would I use? Do documentarians have to outsource the font work, like they do in comic books? Couldn’t I just pick out something myself?
If only I was well versed in documentaries. I think I’ve only ever seen like maybe six or seven documentaries, total. That’s not a lot of real-life documentary experience to then use as the basis for my very own documentary. Or maybe that’s what I’d need, a complete outsider’s perspective. I’d show up at the documentary film awards and everybody would be like, “Who is this nobody?” and I’d win every category hands-down, even the judges wouldn’t be able to close their mouths, hanging wide open in shock, like, he did it, this guy just completely changed the genre forever, for the better.
I remember when I was in college I saw that documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. There’s this opening scene where George W. Bush is making some broad generalization about something, you know, I don’t even remember what he was talking about really, but the camera zooms out and it turns out that he’s golfing, he says something like, “Now watch this drive.” I remember thinking, man, fucking George W. Bush. If that guy spent less time golfing and more time governing, well, whatever, fucking Bush.
But now it’s like, every once in a while I’ll see something on right-wing news, when it’s a slow news day they’ll point the finger at Obama, taking a vacation, or playing golf. They throw out barbs like, “This president has spent more time on the golf course than any other president in history!” And I get so mad, I’m just like, back off, all right? He’s the president. That’s a tough job. Everybody’s got to unwind, right?