The Way We Get By

The Way We Get By is a documentary about three senior citizens who live near the Bangor Maine airport. They go to the airport at all hours of the day and night, whenever there is a flight of soldiers coming home from or headed out overseas. They give handshakes, hugs, and even loan out cell phones so the soldiers can call their loved ones. I found it mostly good and engaging, and would give it  out of .

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell, CA on 8/23/2009. The writer/director/editor, Aron Gaudet, was on the phone to discuss the film (there may be spoilers below):

  • This was his first feature–his background is in television news
  • The woman whose granddaughter, etc. deploys is the director’s mother–they did return in January 2009 with no casualties
  • The director and producer were working in 2004 in Grand Rapids–he brought the producer home to meet his mother that Christmas, and they learned about the story then [note that the director and producer married shortly after we saw the film]
  • Bangor Maine used to be a military base and has very long runways, so it’s a good place to enter and leave the United States
  • The numbers are up to about 900,000 people now
  • The war makes people crazy, but he thinks this is about the least political war film
  • The first rule of troop greeting is to leave your politics outside
  • The troops themselves do cover the gamut of politics, but that did not seem to be the point of the story–the point is to recognize their service to the country
  • Tim (the Club director) thinks the focus is on aging and mortality
  • The director still worked full-time jobs in television while making the film–he just kept shooting, and didn’t even look at the footage much during the process
  • They had 300 hours of footage, and tried to edit it the same way the filmmakers discovered it, starting at the airport
  • They actually went to Bill’s farmhouse and saw how he was living the first night they shot
  • There are lots of colleges and universities in the credits, inspired by the John Sayles film Honeydripper–the colleges designed local marketing plans in exchange for credit–the director would do it again next time
  • Did his political point of view change? Not really, but he has a bigger appreciation for the troops.
  • Jerry has not gotten another dog, but since he keeps getting asked that question, he is considering it
  • Started out following one more troop greeter–she was the oldest and was a state representative, but she didn’t want to talk about anything but the troop greeting, so they dropped her since the other three opened up much more
  • It was shot with two cameras with a crew of three total (the producer was usually the interviewer)–no boom mike, etc. helped people open up
  • They still talk to Bill and Jerry regularly, and the third one is his mother
  • Putting the film out themselves is harder than making the film
  • Next is probably a scripted narrative film, starting early next year [which is about now]
  • There are other groups at other airports, though often affiliated with organizations like the USO–and the volumes of troops elsewhere are much smaller
  • Nothing is going to end anytime soon, even if the destination changes (Iraq to Afghanistan)
  • Bill, Jerry, and his mom all really like the film
  • Injured troops come back directly to a medical facility
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