Inside the Rockies with Kaitlin Ann Jones

The Soldier Brother creator talks to Playback about making the NFB interactive doc.

Leading up to The Rockies, which will be presented during the Banff World Media Festival June 10 to 13, Playback caught up with some of the nominees to talk about their projects.

Here, Kaitlin Ann Jones, creator of Soldier Brother, commissioned by the History Channel and nominated in the non-fiction programs category, talks to Playback about making the non-fiction NFB interactive documentary.

PB: How does it feel to be nominated?

KAJ: It’s an honour, and kind of a surprise. [The project]‘s been nominated for a couple of awards so far, and it doesn’t really seem real in a lot of senses.

PB: How did you get here?

KAJ: With Soldier Brother we were really able to use technology in new ways. It happened really organically in terms of the material I was dealing with in communicating with my brother. It didn’t start off as ‘let’s show off how we communicate in this day and age,’ but I do think the texting and layering of information is an approach people have responded to.

It was just a coping mechanism, because the project was happening while he was over there, and I didn’t really have an emotional outlet other than working on this. So I think it’s probably more honest than people would expect it to be. But that was my goal.

PB: Did you intend for your production to have international appeal?

KAJ: I wanted it to be accessible to everyone. I think that was a conscious choice by not identifying my brother and keeping him as an abstract idea. It allows people to connect with certain elements that remind them of someone else.

The intention was never whether or not it could appeal internationally, but on a human level I wanted everyone to be able to connect to it.

PB: What, in your opinion, makes a good documentary?

KAJ: It’s a conversation of reflecting reality versus exploitation. By telling the story, are you helping them or taking advantage? How is telling the story going to make their lives better? Those are really the lines you have to tread carefully with documentary.

Truth is a pretty important part of a successful documentary as well for me.

PB: How important were the interactive elements?

KAJ: I don’t necessarily know if we’ve reached the point of interactivity yet where we’ve had a lightbulb moment and we’re like ,’Wow this is really going to change the world and how people consume and understand art,’ but it’s really important to be thinking about communication in new ways.

I think we might be in a slightly romantic phase of, ‘Okay interactive, what can we do?’

I’ve had some feedback from people where they want a model, like the TV sitcom. I think instinctually we’re looking for that on a web-based perspective as well, but there are so many options I don’t know if we’re going to achieve that.

PB: How important is a multi-platform approach in today’s industry?

KAJ: It’s really getting to a point where we’ve crossed the line and can’t go back. Whether you make a photography exhibit or a film, there’s an expectation of a web presence at the very least, combined with all the social media tools.

People now know that more information is available to them, and they almost have that expectation. But it’s a fine line as to whether or not it actually helps the piece, or whether the piece can stand alone.

PB: What have you got in the works?

KAJ: I’ve been focusing on more video. I’m working on a music video right now and just playing with that.

I think the next logical venue for me, short of creating short movies or animations, would probably be to work on the web again, simply because it’s so accessible.

I don’t want to be an artist who delves too deeply into my personal life, but at the same time maybe that’s what I know best and maybe that’s what I can share with people, because there’s obviously been a response to my interpretation of my relationship with my brother.