Reality seamlessly comes to life on the big screen in “Backstabbing for Beginners,” a new film that the STALKR team had the pleasure of working on last year. Covering the real life scandal in the UN Oil-for-Food Programme, the film required historical footage to truthfully and skillfully tell the story—that’s where we came in. In fact, our team gathered such stunning footage that the archive component became a vital element in how the story was told.
We spoke with STALKR producer Tom Henze to hear more about the creative process in sourcing footage for this maddening tale of corruption and power.
How did you go about choosing the sourced footage for the film?
I would say that we tackled it from two sides: historical accuracy and availability. We had to try to understand the setting of the film historically and find out who recorded what within Baghdad before, during and after the invasion.
During the the entire course of the project, the style of footage never played too much of a role. Authenticity was certainly needed—it was clear that most of the footage was not about blending in but rather sticking out as something editorial.
What was your creative process like?
After a number of calls with the director, Per Fly, we had established a good understanding of what was needed: a great group of researchers and some time, both of which were a given from the start of this extraordinary opportunity. This project very much showed me how important it is to have the right mix of people with different talents that can make even the most outlandish tasks possible. It’s all about variety to keep researchers invested and creatively challenged.
We embarked on an adventure into modern history: 1990 to 2004 in Iraq, preferably Baghdad. How was life like pre-war? How did things change beyond the devastation? How can we communicate the course of history, politics, the invasion, the realities of war, and the crimes? Not as easy task, but incredibly exciting. It was great to see how we were able to help creatively shape the project.
How did the narrative of the film impact your creative process?
We fully surrendered to it. When we first saw the film there was just image, dialogue, and blanks where archive footage was to be added. We then went about filling the gaps, building historic tension alongside the dramatic story. It was always clear where in the film we were and what the aim was for the footage in any particular moment. Per crafted quite a sensational guideline, which creatively led to a truly unique workflow.
How do you feel about the final product?
In my rather biased opinion, the historic footage helps the film immensely and blends nicely with the rest of it. It was great watching it all come together.