The Unknowns of Documentary Filmmaking—and a Commitment to You
Updated: Jan 15
Executive Producer Todd Graves on the current status & challenges of the production going into 2021
(Left to Right) Director Nathan Edwards, Cinematographer Spenser Sakurai
& Executive Producer Todd Graves set up for an interview
Three years ago, when I decided to become a filmmaker, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into–that I didn’t know anything about filmmaking. What I didn’t know then, I still don’t know now.
Not knowing about something before I start hasn’t ever stopped the entrepreneur in me, and it’s not unusual for my ready-fire-aim mentality to sometimes send projects off target for a while. To be completely honest, the Moe Norman documentary project was one of my most planned projects. Before starting, I had developed a detailed two-year plan and an executive summary that time-lined out the undertaking. I had planned for this project more than almost any other business venture embarked upon in my lifetime.
It was author Robert Burns who said, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." I figure that he must be following the film's progress. For two years, we obtained dozens of interviews and everything was moving along as planned. Then, after our interview with PGA Tour Player Peter Jacobsen, we got sidetracked as the celebrities who knew Moe best became hard to reach for various reasons.
PGA Tour Player Peter Jacobsen (right) signs the Moe Norman hardcover biography following an
on-camera interview with (left to right) Exec. Producer Todd Graves & Director Nathan Edwards
We already had over fifty hours of interviews, plenty of content to cut the film. We could easily move forward with the project without any further interviews, but most of these interviews are from friends, family and associates of Moe. I still feel we needed to wait for a few more key interviews from people who I consider to have been "inside-the-ropes" with Moe. There are still Moe stories out there from the people and professionals who knew him from a golf perspective—which are captivating on-course and off-course narratives that need to be captured on film for everyone to hear, and so I have decided to give the project more time.
According to Barry Morrow, the film’s producer and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Rain Man (1989), unknowns and detours are common for documentary filmmaking, especially when the team’s commitment to the project is to produce the definitive documentary on Moe. According to Barry, documentaries evolve the more you dig into the project:
“The story takes on a life of its own. That is both the beauty and the challenge of documentary filmmaking. You start one place, and you end up in another.”
Famous filmmaker Michael Moore has a number of rules for making documentaries. One of them being, "Don’t tell me shit I already know." Another one being, "As much as possible, film people that disagree with you."
It’s all about learning more about our subject as we go. This is how filmmaking takes shape—especially with documentaries—and that is exactly what is happening with this project. In a typical feature-length documentary, you have 90 minutes to tell the story. As we move through the project, we want to tell every aspect of Moe’s personality—the good and the bad. According to our director, Nathan Edwards, "There are so many storylines about Moe, it is hard to know which ones to follow to complete the Moe Norman puzzle." Nathan and Producer Jason Matthew Jacob are both navigating the storylines and editing the project, and they say it’s a great problem when there are so many great interviews as it adds so many layers to the over-arching story.
As we continue to obtain more interviews to create the most powerful documentary possible, I plan on making sure you—the supporters of the project—are better informed of the process. Our upcoming newsletters will keep you in the loop as well all push for the completion of this passion project.
Thanks for being a part of the "Feeling of Greatness" documentary project, and I look forward to 2021 and all of the new adventures to come while learning “shit” that we don’t already know about Moe Norman.
Todd Graves was a personal friend of Moe Norman's who learned the Single Plane Golf Swing directly from Moe. Todd is the Co-founder of the Graves Golf and teaches Moe's swing method.