National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: “Natchez Rhythm Club”

An animated sequence for a mini-doc goes where footage can’t– or shouldn’t.

Director Matthew Troy and the FirstArriving team came me with a problem: they were working on a mini-doc for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and wanted to tell the story of a tragedy fire. It had to be handled with the gravity and respect appropriate for a calamitous event– reenactment was not going to cut it here. Footage or a montage of photographs was not an option, either: the media simply did not exist, and even if it did, using it would raise complex questions of sensitivity towards the victims and survivors.

The solution we arrived at was to use highly-stylized animation to provide this “missing shot.” The resulting graphical, non-realistic depiction is a nice example of how animation can be used in documentary filmmaking to go places footage can’t, or shouldn’t. Here, it allows a sense of place and presence, but keeps a respectful distance.