Photos and Video
Director's Statement Collapse
Initially, the film was going to be about one man and his puzzle. We would talk to well-known puzzle constructors who submit puzzles to Will (he rarely makes the puzzles himself, rather, he edits them and concocts many of the clues), examine famous puzzles from the past, and talk about the various intricacies of how crosswords are made. The only problem with this approach was that we felt it would only appeal to hardcore puzzle enthusiasts. So, what we ultimately decided to do was explore Will's work by looking at puzzles through the eyes of the fans. This was the best decision we made, as it introduced us to the amazing characters that make up the heart of the film.
As a documentary cameraman with 15 years of experience, I've assembled a small
mountain of equipment. For Wordplay, however, we left almost everything at
home. I shot most of the film myself, and more often than not I was alone with
my subjects during the interviews. This is definitely my favorite way to shoot.
I had learned this style as a young cameraman while working on The 90's, a
critically acclaimed documentary show that aired on PBS from 1989-1993. Our philosophy back then was that the less gear you have, the closer you
can get to your subjects. Studs Terkel, the great interviewer and author who was a regular on our show, took this concept even further. His advice was simple: "You
have to show some of your own vulnerabilities if you want people to show theirs."
I think this overall approach was helpful in getting very intimate and honest
profiles of the people in our film.
We told Will very early on that we were big fans of his work, and that we hoped he would ultimately enjoy the film. But we also told him that we did not intend to
show him the movie until it was finished. Recently, there have been a crop of
documentaries in which the subjects have become very involved in the
production and editing of the film. This is something we absolutely did not want. Fortunately for us Will was willing to go along with this. As for The New
York Times itself, our fear of mountains of red tape were erased with one call at the earliest stage of production. The Times basically said, "If you want to do a film about Will Shortz, call Will Shortz." Will finally did see the film after we had submitted it to Sundance. We received an e-mail from him last October. "I just watched Wordplay," he started, "and I am totally blown away by what you two have made. I absolutely love it."
This has been an amazing year for Christine and me. With over 25 years of documentary filmmaking under our belts, the only thing we hadn't done yet was make a film that was our own. Wordplay has been a tremendous joy to make, especially considering that we made it together, and there's no better way to end this adventure than to bring it to The Tribeca Film Festival.
Film Information Collapse
[WORDP] | 2006 | 90 | Documentary Feature
Foreign Title: (Wordplay)
Premiere: New York