Reducing more than 20 hours of footage to 36 minutes is difficult, but that was our task in producing “Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics.”
Focusing on answering a question–such as “What is the rightful role of faith in politics?”–helps give direction, as does plotting four chapters, which audiences might use to segment viewings.
Those things help, but the editing process still sometimes hurts. Ensuring that your final, edited video conveys what you think you saw and heard is no small task. So each decision to cut a remark here or there is just that–a decision, and one we hope and believe is based on fairness and good sense.
I began shooting “Golden Rule Politics” by traveling in January 2007 to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to interview Susan Pace Hamill, professor of tax law at the University of Alabama Law School. You’ll understand why we interviewed her when you watch the video.
Robert Parham, BCE’s executive director, joined me for trips to Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo.; Pall Mall, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; and various shoots in Nashville, Tenn. We shot in statehouses and houses of worship, halls of education and people’s homes. We talked to politician, pastor and professor. Camera in hand, I got in the street with people demonstrating–for and against President Bush–when he came to town.
Walking around with a camera, I’m reminded of how unique the gadget truly is, and how the sight of a camera at an event provokes interest, suspicion, monkeying for the lens, thoughtfulness of response, timidity, courage.
At the end of the day, the strength of our project and approach comes down to asking incisive questions and listening to what people say, either as a lone interviewee or in dialogue with a colleague. You might read Jim Evans’ columns but have never seen him in person. Here he is. Importantly, he’s in dialogue with the eloquent Henry Parsley, Episcopal Bishop of Alabama.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Congressmen Artur Davis from Alabama and Lincoln Davis from Tennessee, but have never had the pleasure of hearing some of their extended thoughts about faith and politics. Here they are–one captured on a quiet, rainy day at his home in the scenic Wolf River Valley, the other in the midst of a bustling day of meetings at a district office in Birmingham.
The hard work of your state representatives and senators often gets lost in the noise of presidential races, but Missouri State Representative Judy Baker and Tennessee State Senator Roy Herron invited us to their statehouses and offices, where we can all be reminded of how government happens.
We haven’t given you shouting heads and special effects. We’re uninterested in the former and not funded for the latter. Rather, we took our camera to people who have something to say about faith and politics and to places where those spheres meet–sometimes with collision force, sometimes with a gentle bounce off the other.
Robert asked questions. I shot video. We spent several months reviewing footage, whittling it down, assembling rough cuts, previewing them, making changes. No project is perfect. We’ve already faced criticism, and more is sure to come.
But the issues are before us, and for me their defining image came from Jefferson City, Mo. There, while gathering footage on the capitol grounds, I grabbed a shot with an American flag, a church spire and a statue of Thomas Jefferson all in the frame.
What each element represents is both bedrock and imperfect. That realization demands attention, and we believe “Golden Rule Politics” focuses attention on the question of the hour: What is the rightful role of faith in politics?
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.