By Tchavdar Georgiev
As filmmakers we often hear the saying that documentaries are “stranger than fiction” and that if you wrote this as a narrative script no one would ever believe you.
FINDERS KEEPERS that I had the privilege of editing together with directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel, takes the term “stranger than fiction” to a new high. It is by far the funniest and most bizarre tale that has ever come my way involving a pitched legal battle over the ownership of a severed leg.
As a die-hard Sundancer, I always look forward to getting onto Main Street and start meeting my friends as well as total strangers wondering what are the films they enjoyed the most so far. Usually the response is: “Go see this and this film. I cried my heart out.”
Well this year I would proudly tell them: “Come see FINDERS KEEPERS, you will laugh all the way through.” And yet, it was the humor that I found the most challenging in shaping how to tell this story that was born out of tragedy for the family of the main character and amputee John Wood. As an editor you spend endless hours in front of the computer getting to know in an intimate way the inner workings of your character, whom you have never met in person. It is usually at the premiere after all is said and done you get to spend some time together. I was so excited to finally meet John Wood and ask his impressions of the film. He bit his lip, took a sip out of his non-alcoholic drink, looked into the distance and only then replied that he originally thought that the filmmakers are no different than any news or reality tv crew that has come out to interview him interested only in how to make the wackiest freak show out of him. But gradually as the shooting stretched over six years, him and his family started to develop a special bond with the filmmakers, where they would open up more and more on camera and speak freely about the tragedy of the plane crash in which John lost his leg and his father, as well as the dark fall into the years of alcoholism and addiction.
It was incredibly gratifying that both John and the family were deeply touched by the film. And then John tore up and said that he was never able to get himself to apologize to his father while he was still alive for all the grieve he caused him as an addict, but the film that we have made is in a way his apology, his closure and his memorial to his Dad. He also hoped that other people would be inspired by it in their understanding of how to fight addiction.
As for me, I am grateful for being part of John Wood’s journey and working together with such an incredible team of Oscar winning producers Ed Cunningham and Seth Gordon, director Clay Tweel, as well as the many Trojans involved in the project – Bryan Carberry (director,producer, editor), Adam Gibbs (producer), Matt Radecki and Greg Lanesey (co-producers). It was also a special treat to be sitting at the premiere next to my USC mentor and teacher Lisa Leeman who taught me quite a bit about storytelling and documentary editing.