If we had tried to write this story, no one would believe it. You know: a bedridden former Madam who collects exotic birds...who dies and leaves the birds to Heidi. Come on.
Look, we had a lot of soundbites and audio from Heidi that would tell the kind of story we needed to tell. But there is just no way that this film would connect to people without that kind of an interview. We needed that. We were at a point in the film where we were shut out of our subject's life; she refused to work with us. Sheila Nevins conducted that interview. In the film, you see a number of people that we witness come into her life and get shut out -- you see Michael get shut out. Literally, that was gonna happen - no matter what - from day one. So we were just waiting for that to happen to us, and eventually it did.
You use a lot of imagery in your filmmaking. When in the process do you decide on those elements, and how do you choose them?
Everything is inspired by the subject: All the images, everything. A lot of it we decide as we are putting the film together, as we are in the edit room, as we are listening to things she said. That's where it all comes from. Some of it is stuff that we already shot; some of it is stuff that we literally set up in shoots, like the birdcages. There were a lot of metaphors going on and a lot of possibilities of visual motif that we kept seeing -- like birds in cages and her in prison.
If we had tried to write this story, no one would believe it. You know: a bedridden former Madam who collects exotic birds...who dies and leaves the birds to Heidi. Come on. And I remember the first day meeting Maryanne, and seeing the way Heidi looked at the birds, and I just thought "Oh my God, really, this is the story - and this is the film."
How would you describe your style or influences?
Our style is all about the subject. I think that we are versatile documentary filmmakers. We are not "old school," we are not "purists," we are not particularly objective. [LAUGHS] We make films that aim straight for the heart. We are all about trying to understand misunderstood people. The number one thing is just for us to listen. We listen to what people are saying. And we watch what they are doing. And everything we do is inspired by that. We are not precious about filming a prop or recreation. We are not precious about any of that because everything is inspired by trying to understand our subject; by their words; by what we are feeling; by just...trying to get into their head and their heart.
There's this idea with documentaries that they are "more balanced" or "objective" or "real" than fiction because they are true.
Here is the thing. Truth is stranger than fiction. And truth inspires all fiction. Everyone who wants to tell a story - every movie that's made, every book that's written, whether the story is based on truth or not, everyone is trying to recreate something real. Recreate a real emotion. Recreate a real feeling. Recreate a real character. In that sense, documentaries always have one-up on all those other forms, because you have the opportunity to get the real deal right there, right in front of your eyes. But sometimes people get it wrong, [LAUGHS] you know? Pointing the camera and just shooting it at something real does not make a great documentary.
Photo credit: Noel Vasquez/WireImage.com