Interview with Director Tim Alberts (HOW HISTORY IS WRITTEN)

HOW HISTORY IS WRITTEN was the winner of BEST DOC STORY at the December 2020 Documentary Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve worked on films in various capacities for almost 20 years, but this is the one I’ve always wanted to make. Full disclosure; Betty is my mom. So like my daughter Maryn, who narrates the film, I’ve heard her stories my whole life. The decision to make the film, though, developed with the rise of populism and fascism around the world in the last several years. I began to see the echoes of my mother’s stories. As a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I couldn’t have imagined neo-nazism returning in a significant way. I certainly wouldn’t have predicted an American president accepting very public support from white supremacist organizations. I realized that a film about my mom would not just be another retelling of a WWII tale, but that hers was a relevant and current story

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

The film was completed over 6 years – partly because I made another documentary film during that time as well.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

“Labour” and “Love” 🙂

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

It proved very difficult to get funding for the film. I found it difficult to get people excited about a story of an unknown woman doing a small act of service in an obscure part of the Dutch resistance during WWII. I ended up paying for it out of pocket. And that’s why I had to do other work during the post production stage of this project. It made for a long process.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Gratitude. I was very grateful that the audience had really invested some thought in the film. They understood that the story was a current one. I was pleased that one of the viewers felt that she had learned more from the film than she had from her studies in history. The personal nature of the film seemed to help her. I was also pleased that the shifts from past to present weren’t confusing; and that, in fact, the viewers seemed to enjoy that aspect of the film. I was pleased that one of the viewers enjoyed the music. (I started in the film business as a film composer and music is still my favourite aspect of the work, although I enjoy the whole process.) In general, I was pleased that the film seemed to have had an emotional impact.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Hard to answer. Possibly Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and directed by Bennett Miller. I’m not sure that it got especially good reviews but, for me, it’s one of those films where every aspect of the production is working in harmony with everything else. The music by Mychael Danna, (which I love) sounds the way the images look. The pacing of the editing, (which was not well received if I remember correctly), is exactly right for the story. Everything feels symbiotic in that film for me

7. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Film Freeway is a great help to me. I’m sort of a one-man shop, so it’s hard to do everything well and for me, the business end of filmmaking is the thing that tends to suffer. Bringing so many festivals together on one site and making the submission process so quick is a great help.

8. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Again – difficult. Possibly “Pacing the Cage” by Bruce Cockburn. It’s one of those songs that knocks me sideways. It certainly did the first time I heard it, but it continues to impact me every time I re-listen. I almost have a love-hate relationship with that song. It knocks the wind out of me but I love it. In fact, it’s those experiences that make me want to produce music and films. I like the thought that something I’ve made might impact someone else in a similar way. What a privilege that would be! It’s hard to know what effect your work has after you release it into the world. That’s why the feedback from your viewers is so meaningful.

9. What is next for you? A new film?

I always get a rush of creative energy after a big project. Covid was just getting started when I finished “How History is Written”. So in the absence of other work, I started recording some songs that I hadn’t properly recorded yet. I’m about 15 songs in now. Haven’t really decided what I’ll do with them, but it’s been a good way to spend these strange times. I have ideas for other films. We’ll see what happens.

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