Sean Dunne - The archive

8:35, 2008, Documentary
Paul Mawhinney was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the years he has amassed what has become the worlds largest record collection. Due to health issues and a struggling record industry Paul is being forced to sell his collection.
DirectorSean DunneProducerSean DunneEditorGalen SummerCrewDirector of photography: Ed David

CountryUSAEdition2010 Compilation program (2006 2014) 2/3

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Who is Sean Dunne?
He’s just a man doing the only thing he knows how to do.

How did you start with film, and do you have an educational background in film?
I went to school for film theory. Nothing hands on. When I got out of school I started freelance writing and producing short form and commercials. That led to a couple opportunities to direct, which I felt comfortable with. Since The Archive I have mainly been directing.

How does the life of an artist look like?

What is The Archive about?
The Archive is a short story about a man and his record collection. It is a love/hate relationship.

Where did you get the idea for The Archive from?
I had wanted to shoot something about vinyl for a while, then I read Pauls story on the internet and it really spoke to me. I could picture the whole thing in my head before I even met him.

The Archive has a very unique atmosphere, was this on purpose, and if so, how did you manage to create and maintain this atmosphere throughout the film?
Yes. The second I set foot in Record Rama I knew the whole film had to take place there. It is big and dark, lots of hidden little areas. It is green and blue and yellow. Its dusty and disorganized. The whole place smells like an old pile of records. And then out comes Paul. He is like the troll that guards the bridge. A bit angry and protective at first, but he warms up to you.

Right away I knew it would be distracting to take the viewer out of this setting. I really wanted an exterior of the place but instead I chose to show a B&W still when he mentions the name of the store.

We really let the atmosphere speak for itself. We used very few lights and didn’t move anything around, just shot it like it was. I wanted the camera to remain static as much as possible, I thought that reflect the stagnant nature of the place.

I wanted Paul to be the protagonist and the store/collection to be the antagonist. So we tried to shoot it that way.

Could you explain how you work, your method or style, and what’s important to you?
This is kind of a tough question for me simply because I rarely sit down and think about my "method". Usually I am just doing what feels natural or appropriate for the film. Each film is unique and must be thought of that way. I think I would be doing my subjects and my audience a disservice if I approached each film the same way. Instead I try to adapt and think about the most effective way to tell each story, approach each film with fresh eyes.

What is most important to me is that the audience is left feeling something. I want to elicit emotion and leave a lasting impact. I guess that’s what any "artist" would say, but it is really true.

I try to stress visuals as much as story. I think often times with documentary, style is sacrificed in favor of substance. I don’t think either has to be or should be sacrificed. Why not tell a great story that is also visually compelling? Audiences are way more savvy these days and they want the whole package, and you gotta give the people what they want.

Do you improvise a lot during the work process?
Of course. You are kind of forced to improvise in documentary. As much as you try to plan the day and control your surroundings inevitably something is going to happen that throws you off. I tend to try and work with that as much as possible. Keep the interview loose, not force it in any direction right away. Let your subject speak and just listen to them. Eventually they’ll hit on something that you can use.

What equipment do you use?
All different kinds of equipment. That’s kind of a boring question for a director, something a DP might be more excited to talk about. I always tell people that its the wizard that captures the magic, not the wand.

Can you give an example of some struggles/problems you faced during this work?
My DP and I were out in Pittsburgh shooting some commercial spots. They were long days. The idea was to stop and shoot The Archive after we wrapped our paid gig. By the time we got to Record Rama we were both pretty worn out. He was forced to drink Mountain Dew to get through the day. He really took one for the team. For this reason, I will always be indebted to him.

Check out the website of Sean Dunne for more information and films on http://www.veryapeproductions.com

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