The prevalence and frequency of mass shootings, and the issues concerning our country’s gun culture, has been at the forefront of public consciousness for some time. This year, Sundance Film Festival presented several films dealing with the gun debate, including Speaking is Difficult, a short documentary produced by Will Lennon (Screenwriting ’13).
Speaking is Difficult takes its title from a 2013 plea to Congress for tighter gun laws by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The 14-minute short travels to more than 20 locations to cover and analyze the rise of mass shootings in America, blending everyday footage with 911 phone calls to provide emotional context and give viewers a sense of what the victims went through.
“The project was brought to me by my co-worker, and director of the film, AJ Schnack, in the fall. He, along with Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) and Charlotte Cook, started an organization called Field of Vision, which is an outlet for short form visual journalism. I immediately thought the idea was super powerful, ” said Will. “Once the film was greenlit by FOV, we hit the ground running. I had to organize about 15 DP’s in 20 different locations to go film within a couple of weeks. We ended up adding five other locations as well. I had to do a lot of research on locations, events, 911 calls, etc. I went with our photographers on location several times as well, which was powerful and haunting each time.”
Speaking to the LA Times, Schnack acknowledges that the topic calls for a larger national discussion. “Clearly everyone’s been talking about the issue, but the hope is that by talking about it artistically we can have a different kind of conversation.”
When asked his reaction to the film being selected by Sundance, Will said, “Once we started editing, we knew something was there. Still, it never even occurred to me that we’d get into Sundance. I think AJ and I are still in shock.”
Will is also the producer for the Cinema Eye Honors, an organization that honors artistry/craft in nonfiction filmmaking.