The truth, the whole truth and Oasis: director of Supersonic documentary on the importance of trust

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By Chloe Gilson

“In documentary, you aren’t necessarily telling the truth, it’s about telling your version of the truth,” according to editor, director and filmmaker Mat Whitecross.

Whitecross attended Leeds Trinity’s Journalism and Media Week to discuss his career directing music documentaries.

He described documentary and filmmaking as a “collaborative, creative artform” where no two people have the same creative approach.

Mat Whitecross speaks to Leeds Trinity media lecturer Ally Thornton as part of Journalism and Media Week

He said he uses outside sources as an effective way to see the project through someone else’s eyes to spot details that may have been missed.

“I always find it useful to show a project to people beforehand even though it can be painful at times.”

A recurring point Whitecross made through the talk was the importance of upholding a good relationship with the people involved in order to tell their story the best way possible.

Speaking of an unwritten contract between interviewer and interviewee, he suggested that the invasion into people’s lives and dredging into their past to tell a version of a story to benefit a production, requires a level of trust and respect. 

In turn he spoke of the difficulties as a filmmaker of listening to people’s trauma from behind the camera. He expressed the conflicts of wanting to comfort people when emotions are heightened.

“You have to set aside a bit of your humanity and think about what’s best for the film rather than what is best for the person, because their genuine reactions are gold.”

Aside from it being the filmmaker’s story, it was equally important for him to give the audience the ability to draw their own conclusions from a story.

He used his Oasis: Supersonic documentary and the rivalry between Liam and Noel Gallagher as an example where both people told their sides of the story, but no side was validated more in the production, allowing the audience to create their own opinions.

“You can kind of have your cake and eat it because one of them would say one thing and one would say another, so the audience can make up their own mind.

“They’re both kind of right and they’re both kind of wrong.”

He revealed the opposing views the brothers had about their rise to fame and their contradicting lifestyles. “On one hand we had Noel saying the main dedication was about the music and how they had the opportunity to take over the world, and Liam was screwing it up by taking drugs and going out on benders, and Liam’s thing was well this isn’t a monastery, and they were here to have fun.”

The difficulties faced during the process of production were also discussed, revealing that the way the documentary was pieced together meant that it needed to be cut down from seven-and-a-half hours to two hours.

Whitecross stated that there’s little opportunity to ask for things to be changed about a production but gave Noel an exception and re-added the angle of how it felt for Oasis to be on stage with their fans at the beginning of their career.

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