All’s Well and Fair began as a very personal project in 1996 after I had moved to the US in my early 20s. I was amazed by how quickly the Gainesville, Florida, punk community and especially the young single mothers among them embraced me; a total stranger from Germany.
I was immediately intrigued by how outspoken, funny, compassionate, nurturing and intelligent these “welfare mothers” were – despite some of the hardships they faced. But I was also wondering what impact their situation and choices would have on their children.
When Rachel, Margaret and Tina won a local “Fuck the Government” song contest, it seemed like a great catalyst to explore, capture and share their lives and perspectives in a film.
I shot the documentary over just a few weeks with my big VHS camera and edited it within three weeks on two VCRs. We played it at the local punk rock bar. And that was that.
Ten years later I was in the midst of post-production of All God’s Children, a documentary about child abuse within the missionary community, which was quite heart-wrenching, very consuming and carried a lot of expectation, when I began fantasizing about what life and filmmaking had been like in my 20s – before film school, before moving to New York, before knowing about film festivals and distribution deals… when it was just me, a camera and an interesting subject.
I suddenly knew: I must go back with just a camera and revisit the carefree filmmaking of earlier days and capture how much Rachel, Margaret and Tina had changed, what had surprisingly literally become true and how their children had turned out.
The inspiration to keep filming came in part from Michael Apted documentary series “Up Series” – but All’s Well and Fair differs in that it not only looks at several people of the same age (group) over time but also shows two generations and the effects on each other.
The journey back with them in time, geography and filmmaking style was incredibly rewarding. Again we only took about two weeks to film – in their backyards, their kitchens and while driving around to pick up the kids. Their conversations to the camera, to me and thus to the audience are just as casual, familiar and personal.
When the film was rewarded with the prestigious Jerome Foundation NYC Film and Video Grant it was a wonderful opportunity to focus on finishing the film in an organic way.
This is not a traditional documentary in the American theatrical documentary sense. It doesn’t have a 3-act story line where a hero we meet in the first act struggles against obstacles in the second act and hopefully wins it all in the third act. This isn’t even a straight-up portrait film. This is a conversation; a conversation between women, a conversation between their younger and older selves and between a film and you. The story is there, because every conversation tells a story.
Since the film is rather unconventional and has a DIY/indie spirit at its heart, I was looking for an alternative, DIY, grassroots and direct way to reach the audience. I wanted to honor the sentiment that Rachel expressed in the film: “Our culture is being sold to us at this point instead of us creating it for ourselves. […] We should be in our cities, in the woods and on our fields […] making the culture ourselves. But now we just watch these boxes and have it dictated to us. And it’s very sad. I don’t want that for my kids.”
Time and progress were on my side when technology and culture had developed to the state we’re in now and I am able to utilize the video streaming and sharing site YouTube, social media networks and mobile apps like Facebook and Twitter, RSS feed websites like WordPress and interactive platforms like Disqus and Google Hangout to release All’s Well and Fair not just like a documentary film, but as an interactive transmedia experience, where everyone can become part of the conversation via comments, discussions and their own response videos. I am so excited to bring this film to you in this perfectly fitting way!
I hope that when you watch All’s Well and Fair, either in its theatrical version or in episodes online, that you feel like you’re part of one of those personal conversations with a dear friend, late at night over beers or in the afternoon over a cup of coffee, when you discuss personal details of your life and grand philosophies about the world.
Next, I hope you’ll remember bits of what you heard in the film days later, trying for a moment to remember which of your own friends shared with you this perspective before you recall it was in a film. I hope you’ll keep thinking about your response.
And then, if you hadn’t done it immediately after watching, we invite you to let your own voice be heard and share your experience or opinion via written word or in your own response video to a specific episode or someone else’s response.
That all of this distributing, viewing and interacting can take place for free gives me great hope for a culture that we do make ourselves!
And for the future? Yes, I have a vision of 2016 when Rachel, Margaret, Tina and their children will hopefully allow me and my camera into their homes again to see what all of their lives are like now that the kids are in their 20s!