How Julia Reichert Gained The Trust of Workers & Factory Chairman for ‘American Factory’ | Close Up


(upbeat music) – Access is a big part of
subject choice, as well. Julia, in your case, you
were dealing with this Chinese entrepreneur who
gave you extraordinary access even when he was going
through some rocky times. Can you talk about
navigating that relationship? – You know, I live in Dayton, Ohio and it’s you know, kind of known as like, a blue-collar place that has
a great history of invention and you know, a great history
of manufacturing and so forth, and I think that’s
partly why the chairman, chairman Cao, chose Dayton
as where he was going to have his American factory. And I think he chose that
General Motors plant, you know, the General
Motors plant was where we had made an earlier
film, my partner and I, called “The Last Truck: Closing
of a General Motors Plant”, like 11 year ago, and really
it’s kind of a mega story. That film, the closing of the plant, the leaving of the American capitalist and then the coming of
a Chinese capitalist to our town to offer jobs to people. So, access, I think the chairman was proud that he was doing that. I felt he was, he was bringing
jobs to our community, he was gonna produce high-quality glass. It’s one thing to get access, it’s another thing to get trust. Two different things. And I think the reason we got the trust of the American blue-collar workers is because they had all
seen “The Last Truck” and they knew that we
understood their journey and we had followed it for 10
years almost, at that point. The chairman could see we
could make a good film. He saw it was an Oscar nominee. I think he thought, these are my guys. And once the chairman said yes, you know, it’s, it’s a Chinese
company, privately owned. So, everybody had to say yes. So, even though there were
some uncomfortable meetings around tables like we are right now, where people said things that, you know, they might have been
made uncomfortable by, they had to go, you know,
the chairman said yes, and he never took back that access. (upbeat music) I think it’s interesting that several of our films examine
power, the nature of power. Yours very directly, I mean,
your main character says, “You have to be willing to
strike and hit to get power”. I mean, Imelda, clearly uses
her manipulative abilities to gain power and she
brings her own family in. You see the power of propaganda, which is phenomenal in your film. And even in our film, in
this small little factory, you see the power that
those jobs, that plant, has over people’s lives. You know, you see the power of what’s going on in our
country, capitalism-wise. Like, you see peoples
being being beaten down. You know, workers who made a living wage no longer can do that. Workers who want a union, the powers that be keep
that from happening. (upbeat music) – I’d like to hear about
the editing room for you. What was that process like? – I will say, we have, my
partner Jim Klein and I edited our first films together and then Steve Bognar and I
edited those films together, although Steve was
definitely the lead editor. So, all the films, we
had never had an editor. We were very lucky to have the
support of Participant Media so we could actually hire an editor. Which had, we would have never been able to do before in that sense. So, we actually were
able to hire the editor whose name is Lindsay Utz
and she is a fabulous editor. She would sometimes see a scene, like, there was a worker who
gets injured, Bobby Allen, and he comes back to work after being away for like six weeks with
a really bad injury. And, you know, it’s
another day and we’re there and we’re filming him coming back. And she’s sitting at the
editing table crying, right? Because she sees the
emotion of the workers welcoming him back, poking
at his belly that he, that he had developed, this
scene is not even in the film. But, the working class
comradery and warmth at bringing him back. She was sitting at the, in
front of the thing crying. Now, I would’ve never ever thought that. I would’ve never seen the
emotion in that scene. So, Lindsay brought a verite sense and big tune in to the
emotion of the, of the scenes. Which we knew, in our film, we need it. I don’t think we could’ve edited that film ourselves, the way it is. I think it was a tremendous collaboration. (upbeat music)

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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