Filmmaker Spotlight: Kyle MengelkampJuly 29th, 2011 | Posted by in Uncategorized
Documentaries have always been one of the most powerful and informative film genres. Environmental and political issues have been popular subject matter since the form’s inception, but beginning with 2006′s An Inconvenient Truth and continuing with the high-profile success of The Cove and Inside Job, that has never been more true than now. Documentary filmmakers continue to combine experience, knowledge, and technology to bring what might be considered specialized subjects to a mass audience. IndieFlix filmmaker Kyle Megelkamp, who recently shared his thoughts on the documentary process with us, is one of these entertainer-slash-educators.
Kyle Boynton: Was there a particular personal connection which prompted you to create Center of the Universe? Do you have friends or family members in the military that gave you inspiration?
Kyle Mengelkamp: After I finished my first documentary, Simple Wishes, I was approached by an organization to create Center of the Universe. Honestly, I had no opinion on the war at the time because there was so much misleading information fed by the media it was hard to keep up with what was really going on. First off, I thought it would be a good way to dig deep into the matter to see what really goes on first hand in the battle field and at home. Since my father was in the army for 20 years and when I was 11 I suffered a brain aneurysm, which brought my family closer together than ever, I felt I could tie a personal connection through my family being in the military and my own personal life to capture a powerful documentary.
KB: How did you get connected with soldiers that are interviewed in the film? Did you find that they were open to discussing their personal experiences?
KM: Fred Zimmermann and Connie Lemkie, executive producers of Center of the Universe had many connections with non-profit organizations and support groups. Because everyone was all over Southern California, I placed many phone calls to see where I could build my story beats and who would be best to interview or showcase in the documentary. Through the research I did on the subjects, I found that we had similar experiences in which I could relate: we both suffered very traumatic life-changing events in our lives. From what I learned in the previous documentary, if you can share a little about your life and how you truly understand what the subjects are going through, you can get receive powerful content.
KB: Why did you choose to make a short documentary versus a feature length documentary?
KM: Originally, I set out to make a short documentary for a convention in Las Vegas to bring the troops home. After all the footage I gathered I realized that we had very unique characters and more of a story that would fit into a feature-length documentary. In order to make the short documentary a feature, it would require a lot more time to get the full story beats of the characters. Unfortunately, we decided not to make a feature because the story we wanted to tell fit perfectly in 10 minutes.
KB: How about some of your other work? Are documentaries your favorite to work on?
KM: Before I started making documentaries, I wanted to produce narrative features. Then documentaries kind of fell on me during college with the first project learning about homeless children—I had to spread the word about the homeless children in Los Angeles because there were still a numerous number of people who did not know the statistics. My first documentary, Simple Wishes, followed the lives of four families dealing with homelessness in Los Angeles. I was fortunate to have LeVar Burton narrate the documentary. Finding out a lot from my first documentary, I also found that documentaries could make a significant impact on people because their true-life stories were more meaningful displayed on screen. It was then that I saw I had a close personal connection with the subjects. I was able to reveal the deep stories and experiences and put them on screen. Currently I’m working on a passion project called Samir & Jeremy.
KB: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Congrats on the film and looking forward to seeing your future film projects.
*Kyle had some great things to say. Click Uncut Interview: Kyle Mengelkamp to read his full responses.