Go backBack to selection

“Participants Were Spread Over 10 Countries” | Laura McGann, The Deepest Breath 

A freediver ascends through an undersea cave as a bright blue sunbeam shines down on them.The Deepest Breath, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Every production faces unexpected obstructions that require creative solutions and conceptual rethinking. What was an unforeseen obstacle, crisis, or simply unpredictable event you had to respond to, and how did this event impact or cause you to rethink your film?

Starting out, I was acutely aware that freediving was a really intriguing world that I knew nothing about; I had a lot to learn before I could start to understand the powerful story of our central subjects, Stephen and Alessia. We spent hundreds of hours having conversations with over 50 people on Zoom to learn more. It became clear that there were 15 people that we absolutely had to interview in person in order to tell this story. The challenge was that the participants were spread over 10 countries; Ireland, Italy, Russia, Japan, Czech Republic, Bahamas, France, Egypt, USA, Belgium.

For lots of reasons, COVID included, it wasn’t going to be possible to set up shoots in 10 countries. It was like a pie chart with 15 pieces and we had to wait until they overlapped. Our incredible production team figured out that two groups of our participants would be in Dahab and Bahamas at the same time, which was great, but it wasn’t for another 6 months. This meant pushing back our date of principle photography. At the time it was disappointing and frustrating, but in fact, it turned into an incredibly valuable time.

It allowed me to better understand the world I was looking at, the story I was trying to tell and the best way to tell it.

I wrote a massive story document that I got down to 140 pages; dialogue on the right, visuals on the left. The dialogue was transcribed from interviews we did on Zoom and the visuals were based on a wish list of the archive we wanted to use and the footage we wanted to capture.  I wrote four drafts of the story document before we started shooting interviews; restructuring it a couple of times as we looked for the most compelling way to tell this story.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

© 2024 Filmmaker Magazine. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of The Gotham