There’s a fascinating (and funny!) discussion between two of my favourite filmmakers–Errol Morris and Werner Herzog–posted at the Brandeis University site (Since this post was originally written, the video has been taken down.).
Among other things, they discuss the art of waiting for the afterthought–a skill that Herzog claims Morris has down to a fine art in the interviews he conducts in his films. Morris has what he calls ‘The 3-Minute Rule’ whereby, when you’re interviewing someone, if you’ll just shut up, say nothing, and let someone talk, within three minutes they will show you just how crazy they are. Herzog attests that it is Morris’ ability to be patient and wait for the afterthought that produces the most interesting parts of his interviews with his subjects. That element of uncertainty that the subject feels is powerful onscreen because you know, looking at it, that it was unplanned, unrehearsed, uncontrolled, unexpected, and that deep uncertainty about what to do, what to say, and what will happen next produces what Morris calls a moment that is ‘superlative’. It produces what I would call a very human moment and I think the identification between you as viewer and the person being interviewed onscreen is never stronger than at that moment. Until the crazy shit gets blurted out in an afterthought and you back the hell away. 😉
→ originally published 2007-11-04