As a filmmaker, one of your biggest goals is creating great work that is moving and memorable. While there are no guarantees in business or life, I wanted to share an example of a movie that succeeded in moving me. Searching for Sugar Man tells the story of a a charismatic Mexican-American singer/songwriter named Rodriguez.
Back in the late 60’s some music producers heard Rodriquez playing in a Detroit dive bar and thought they had discovered the next Bob Dylan. So they made a record. The record was distributed to all major outlets…
And then the record bombed.
After a second attempt and another failure, Rodriquez was dropped from the label. He put his guitar away and went back to his construction job.
Meanwhile, the South African movement against apartheid was building momentum. And unbeknownst to anybody in the states, including Rodriguez, his music quickly became the voice of millions!
Here is the Searching For Sugar Man trailer:
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, I think this is one of the most moving documentaries out there. The pacing, structure and emotional punch puts this on my list of top-ten documentary case studies.
Also notable was some of the challenges Bendjelloul had to overcome to bring this story to the screen. “I thought that the fact that this really happened – and the way it happened – would be enough to attract investors. But in the end the story attracted everyone except the investors.” Bendjelloul said.
Searching For Sugar Man took three years to complete! While this would be enough to deter most filmmakers, Bendjelloul pushed forward. While working a day job for money, he was able to edit his film on Final Cut Pro. Additionally, he utilized $500 midi software to compose a dummy for the original score.
Upon competition, the movie had a great festival run and made it’s way into a Los Angeles theater, where I presently shed a few tears of joy. Kuddos to Bendjelloul for having the tenacity to finish what he started.