Rudy Bednar: The Caffey FamilyQ: Tell me what moves you as a director and how working on Final Witness plays to those interests.
I remember one stormy day in my childhood running out of our house in rural Pennsylvania to feel the lightning and thunder around me; a car was approaching and as the headlights went by, through the hard rain, I could make out a girl and boy necking in the front seat. The wipers were beating syncopated time against the Doors "Light my Fire" on the radio. As the passing Mustang splashed me, I was completely transfixed by the latticed texture in the taillights. I thought, "this is what love must feel like."Final Witness
pushes the margins for just that kind of visceral sensibility, making it possible for the audience to "feel like that." During this episode, as fellow director Adam Feinstein was working with the firemen -- brilliantly staging an enormous fire which would consume the Caffey house -- I was working on the continuation of the fire scene where a Texas Ranger steps out of his car in front of the burning Caffey home. The shot needed something more atmospheric to cut with the surreal house fire. Like a kid, I started wildly kicking up the dirt all around that car. As headlights backlit the floating dust particles, his big cowboy boot landed solidly on the ground, heightening and deepening this rural Texas story without a word .Q: You shot in Texas for 10 days. What was one of your favorite parts of the experience?
The little Mexican diner next to our hotel. It is run by a family of four generations, each person making sure that you felt welcomed and cared for. A very life affirming experience and a some awesome home cooked meals.Q: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Terry in the ambulance, with five bullet wounds and nearly unconscious as he tries to gather the strength to tell the police who did this to his family.Q: What is your favorite scene in the finished product?
Actually it's in an interview with Tommy Gaston, the Caffey's neighbor who speaks with absolute truth and integrity throughout his interview. Fellow Executive Producer, Christine Connor, said to him, "Tell us what went through your head when Terry appeared on your doorstep and told you what had happened." Looking directly at her through the eyeliner he says, "Oh God, not Penny and the kids," and then comes a heartbreaking beat and look of deep, silent anguish. That was the moment where this film became truly tragic for me.Q: What makes this hybrid format - half documentary half narrative - so compelling?
Combining both forms can produce a more immersive experience - where either drama or documentary alone can't go. Each time an interview appears you're reminded this story and its people belong to the real world.
We begin with a time line --- the beats of the actual story, assembled from court documents, police records, and interviews -- it becomes a blueprint for the entire story. Then another kind of more personal research is applied, looking for the fine detail of everyday life, helping to create a three-dimensional person who was much more than a victim of a crime. Through this process we can begin to imagine dramatic scenes as they could have happened.Q: We'll never know for sure, but why do YOU think the murder happened?
Hard to say -- even the prosecutor was at a loss to really understand it. A Freudian might say it's the dark stars of youth in alignment ---the fantasy of killing the parents, sex and death - only in this case those fantasies were realized. The only thing I can say is that once that fuse was lit, there seemed to be no stopping it. It's a cautionary story -we must all be aware that the potential for evil is in each and everyone of us.Q: Give me a story or two that you remember from production.
Three short ones:
One was Series Producer Lee Beckett flying for a day to her brother's recording studio in Nashville to ADR the two hymns that Erin sings in the scenes in the church. She does them so naturally and beautifully. I was moved.
Another is in court where fellow director, Adam Feinstein did the reading of Terry's original victim's impact statement to get the actors to understand the moment. It was done with such power and emotion we were stunned and silent afterwards.
And the day our Director of Photography, Andreas Burgess, in a fit of frustration when the camera just wasn't giving him enough, pulled off his glasses and held them in front of the lens to create a little bit of out-of-focus dreamy texture. The result was stunning.Q: Are there any parts of Terry's story that didn't make the episode and that you were sorry to have to lose?
Many, many. 42 minutes isn't really a lot of time when you think about how expansive and detailed a story like this is. But one scene comes immediately to mind. Terry's story felt almost biblical, with sin and redemption playing very strongly. And at some point he told us an incredibly moving story about finding in the ashes of his leveled home a book with passages from Job and how that gave him the courage to accept what had happened to him. I was sorry we didn't have time for that scene in the show but I made sure to put a quote from Job at the very top of the hour in honor of this event that played so significantly in Terry’s life.