Magazine article American Cinematographer

Married to Their Craft

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Married to Their Craft

Article excerpt

The man with the flashlight led the way into the darkened room. The atmosphere was hushed and troubled. Slowly the light searched from the floor, up along the wall.

A camera followed as the images of war and devastation appeared - images Vietnam veteran Guy Iredale had painted himself, from his own memory and experience. In his private bunker at the back of his garage, Iredale was showing CBS correspondent Dan Rather, and the world, images that even his wife and son had never seen.

"This man had never taken anybody into this room," says producer and photographer Paul Fine. "Somehow I got him to take me in. I couldn't believe what I saw. I looked up on the wall and there was a whole different life in front of me. I saw his life in paintings on the wall, and it was eerie. Holly can tell you, I walked out in tears."

Paul and his wife, Holly, were producing a piece for CBS Reports about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychological illness that affects more than one million Vietnam veterans.

What would make a man who has guarded his secrets for 20 years reveal them to perfect strangers?

"I guess there's something about our personalities that allows people to open up to us," says Holly. "I think they know from talking to us that we're going to be fair. It's great to get a special interview and put it on the air, but you're so worried that the person is going to be hurt. Paul talked to Guy about whether he wanted to show us the room - and together they weighed whether or not it would be good to show it to the world."

"One fear we had," says Paul, "was that once we had gained the confidence of these people, they would withdraw when they faced the interviewer-a stranger. In this case it was Dan Rather, and we had never worked with him before. We were asking ourselves, did he trust us? Did we trust him?"

"He turned out to be an amazing person," Holly says. "All the trust the vets had in Paul and me, and all the rest of the crew, they put right onto him. And he never violated it. He made them trust him even more.

"It was really something to watch," she says. "He's been to Vietnam, so he had an idea of what they were talking about. He was able to pull from them what we told him was there. If s our job to do all the research, so the correspondents know what the person is like, inside and out, before they meet them."

Holly and Paul Fine have been a filmmaking team since the early '70s. They met at Washington TV station WJLA, formerly WMAL, where Paul was shooting news and Holly was an editor.

"She was the best editor in news - so I started directing my pieces toward her," says Paul. "Then I started directing myself toward her."

At first Holly was less than pleased with his tactics. "Paul knew the guy who did the scheduling, so he kept having him change my days off. When I had other plans it made me very mad," she laughs.

Despite the rough beginning, they were soon producing pieces together. "We really didn't know what we were doing back then," she says, "but we were producing music videos for the news. We were taking songs like Simon and Garfunkel's Old Friends' and putting pictures with them to use on the news at night. We called them our 'essays.'

"They were a hit," she says. "The viewers and the station loved them."

Within a few months Holly moved to the documentary division as an editor. Paul was anxious to get out of news, but thought that making documentaries might be worse. "I saw that documentaries were just a bunch of talking heads," he says.

Holly reminded him that documentaries didn't have to be dull. After all, she and Paul had done their news essays, and they had worked. Why not try something new?

"So I pulled him kicking and screaming into documentary," she says, "and little by little we sort of changed everything. At that time documentaries were made up mainly of talking heads - experts who would discuss why we have crime, and what we should do about it. …

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