It’s really not uncommon for a documentary to be considered a “found footage” film. That’s pretty much how we could describe half of all the nonfiction works since people (or let’s just say Esfir Shub) began compiling archives and cutting them into a narrative or argument rather than going out and shooting original material. Of course, nowadays “found footage” is primarily associated with works of fiction made in a sort of documentary style. These are typically meant to be culled from a single source, or only a few sources, rather than being a montage of material from numerous external libraries. They are more akin to home video-based docs like Andrew Jarecki’s Capturing the Friedmans than illustrative histories like Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight.
So what does it mean that Morgan Lott calls his upcoming short thisisstuttering a “found footage doc”? On its Kickstarter campaign page, the film is said to be labeled such because it primarily consists of videos Lott made without intending to turn them into a movie. These videos are journal entries and assignments that were part of the director’s speech therapy, meant to just help him with his own stuttering. Later, Lott saw that the material, when watched together, told a chronological story of his ongoing battle with the disorder. Because it’s so personal, it is indeed weird to refer to it as “found” footage and not “here all along” footage. We may as well call Sherman’s March a found footage doc.
I get the point here, though. Lott wants to distinguish thisisstuttering from the numerous performative first-person docs that start off with the idea to self-document an experiment or some other kind of continuous yet temporary activity. This film isn’t going to have Lott telling us in voiceover that he’s going to start speech therapy and then film himself doing it. It’s not “Super Speech Therapy Me” or “No Stammer Man.” It’s also not entirely all from a subjective point of view, as Lott has noted the significance of co-editor Joel Limbauan providing a necessary third-person perspective. The trailer shows us, also, that thisisstuttering features some traditional “found”-in-archives footage, such as clips of Porky Pig and other non-PC portrayals of stutterers.
Admittedly, thisisstuttering didn’t seem too appealing nor notable on first glance of its Kickstarter page. A no-name director with a personal issue and a lot of messy cell phone cinematography isn’t really my cup of tea. But bringing awareness to the unknown reality of the speech disorder, directly and earnestly, does have its merits. More than that, Lott appears to be a smart guy who is not only personally involved with the subject matter but who also can offer some special insight. He seems to be the absolute best person to represent and cover this (kind of like how Bernadette Scarduzio was the best possible spokesperson for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease as seen in the recently released Bernadette). It’s also likely a good thing that thisisstuttering is not being forced into a feature length.
Lott has set up a Kickstarter campaign that should be recognized for being how one should do crowdfunding, too. Not only is the doc already finished, hardly even in need of any post-production costs, but Lott shares a budget breakdown of exactly where all the hoped-for money (his goal of $18.5k) is going, from festival entry fees to promotional materials and DVD manufacture. And his incentives for pledging are practical and logical. We just have to hope that even if thisisstuttering isn’t great enough to get into fests like Sundance it will at least be good enough for you to enjoy the DVD you get in return for your donation.
Check out Lott introducing the project followed by the film’s trailer in the Kickstarter video below: