To whom it may concern:
After reading Peter Margasak’s Post No Bills column (January 17) concerning Russ Forster, we feel that there are some factual errors in the piece concerning our film …An Incredible Simulation that should be cleared up.
The article states, “Tributary started in 1996 as a collaboration with [Dan] Sutherland, Jeff Economy, and Darren Hacker, but that partnership soon dissolved.” Margasak has an unusual way of defining “soon.” Shooting on …An Incredible Simulation (not Tributary) commenced in 1996, and the four of us worked on the film as a collective until late 1998. Over 50 hours of footage was shot in that two-year period. The partnership was never formally dissolved; Forster took it upon himself to terminate his involvement with …An Incredible Simulation (AIS) by walking off with approximately 25 hours’ worth of raw footage belonging to the partnership (not him as an individual) from the studio where it was being edited. He did this without anyone’s consent.
Margasak goes on: “Forster says his cohorts were more interested in mocking the musicians, while he wanted to find out what motivated them.” Forster couldn’t have been more incorrect in his assessment of our motivations (as Margasak would have discovered had he contacted either one of us at any point during the preparation of his article).
Making a documentary film is a lengthy, time-consuming, and emotionally and financially exhausting process, and the assertion that we would spend literally years of our lives dedicated to the sole purpose of deriding the work of others is incomprehensible. We view documentary filmmaking as an avenue of artistic exploration, not a bully pulpit. Again, Margasak was (and still is) welcome to view AIS in order to decide this for himself or to solicit our point of view, but he made no discernible attempt to do either.
Furthermore, the actual circumstances behind Forster’s departure from AIS are decidedly different from the one-sided view presented in the article. At the time of the break, Forster was insisting that all producers go on camera in a “roundtable discussion” as “experts” on the subject of tribute bands. The rest of us opposed this notion as it seemed motivated more by the servicing of Forster’s ego than any aesthetic ends. (We always intended to let the musicians speak for themselves, and our final cut of AIS reflects that.) It was during this period of negotiating a compromise that Forster withdrew from the project; apparently he couldn’t bear the idea of not being on camera, so he took off to make his own movie.
The article goes on to say, “So [Forster] kept his footage, gave the others theirs, and set about making his movie his way.” In truth, Forster removed the aforementioned tapes from a communal work space without prior notice or consent. Footage, it should be noted, that we had all agreed would be shot exclusively for use in AIS. Therefore, to refer to that footage as “his” (Forster’s) implies an unchallenged endorsement of Forster’s take on the matter.
Mr. Margasak is, of course, free to write about whatever he wants, with whatever point of view he chooses. But to repeat Forster’s assertions as unchallenged fact is just lazy and irresponsible journalism.
…An Incredible Simulation
Peter Margasak replies:
Forster claims he introduced the “roundtable discussion” concept as an “editing tool” to put the band footage into context, since many of the musicians weren’t very reflective. He says that when his partners dismissed this suggestion he proposed using outside “experts”–a psychologist, a rock critic, and others–to serve the same function. Forster says that after the other partners rejected this idea as well, he had no hope of finding a solution. He says he wrote a letter explaining his decision to return the footage shot by the others and saying he would use the footage he’d shot to make his own film, though he’d be willing to make that footage available to the others so long as he received proper credit and compensation.