The first step in whittling down so much footage into documentary format was to identify anything that could comprise a coherent scene in the final product. Using that distinction as a first line of filtering still left directors Brewster and Stephenson with a rough cut lasting 32 hours.
Together with their team, Brewster and Stephenson watched those 32 hours of footage across four days. They then pared that version down to six hours and change. During each subsequent edit, they tightened the scope of what they wanted the documentary to address.
As a result of so much focused attention to detail, the final version of “American Promise” feels relentless. It’s as if every scene in the documentary necessarily advances a narrative with relevance to all of society: two families urging their boys forward to obtain the caliber of education they will need in order to become successful men.
Brewster, a psychiatrist with degrees from Stanford and Harvard, told the Deseret News, “We strongly believe that parents as well as educators have to be more demanding. You have to demand that these boys achieve at a high level, and you have to give them some emotional support for that achievement at the same time. It’s a balancing act; it really requires seeing them as capable, as potentially able to be successful. And that’s complicated.”
PBS plans to air "American Promise" at some point during 2013. Although Sundance films are not rated, "American Promise" would likely receive a PG-13 for language and one scene of underage drinking.
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-236-6051.
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