Editing The Corporation: Behind the Footage with Jennifer Abbott

Jennifer Abbott got involved with The Corporation through Mark Achbar. The duo were working on a film documenting the first lesbian marriage in Canada though "Two Brides and a Scalpel: Diary of a Lesbian Marriage," a film which dealt with radical political thought as well as major women's issues. Achbar asked Abbott to come on board primarily as editor, but she eventually drifted to also play the role of co-director.

The most difficult thing about editing such a huge project proved to be the selection of stories. "How do you select stories that are going to illustrate your main point," explains Abbott, "How do you transform ideas into stories? Stories that are both theoretical and entertaining. When you make a film about the corporation it is so big that it is like you are making a film about the world."

With over 33 hours of interviews, Abbott faced the daunting task of putting together what would eventually become a 145-minute feature. So she attacked the project with fervor, "I chiseled and chiseled away until there was structure," she recalls, "until it had rhythm and it was entertaining and emotionally powerful. Ideas are all well and good but no one is going watch and care about a film with ideas that is dry."

But no matter the work put in, the film never seemed like it was done. "Every now and then we'd get a gem, be it archival footage or something else, but it didn't even feel like a film," says Abbott. That magic moment when everything just suddenly clicked together came fairly late in the game - it was in the form of Ray Anderson. "It is a real cue when you have an interview subject that is so charismatic and powerful who criticizes the system." Still small instances mattered also, even if just seeing CEOs as more human because of how they move, or lick their lips...

Some other memorable moments include the interview with Michael Moore, whose interview was also the shortest, at just 45 minutes. (The longest interview lasted for over 3 hours.) Also impressive was Noam Chomsky, the two Fox reporters who were pressured into killing a story about BST and the unforgettable character of Mark Berry, a corporate spy.

So with those usual and unusual suspects and experts in tow, the making of "The Corporation" became a journey. In that realm the familiar became strange, as Abbott investigated further, asking some questions of this dominant, familiar institution.

As she prodded further, she saw a future where if nothing changed, the gap between rich and poor would increase, water & air would become an increasingly polluted commodity and wars would occur over resources. She saw a "bleak future where local economies and communities suffer."

But Abbott isn't one to be pessimistic. "That said I think things are going to change, people won't stand for the trends that we have seen," she says. "Corporation is a social and legal construct, we have made it, and we can change it. It's not written in stone. So there is hope because the more people get involved, the more people can change it.

"The system we have in place is fundamentally destructive, but it's not a matter of ill intent that is destroying the planet. Everyone has to look at their own strengths and weaknesses and see what they can do. Perhaps even join existing organizations..."

In the end, beyond high production values, emotional rhythms and humor, Abbott wanted the film to feel hopeful. "My hopes for this film have been realized in the sense that I cannot believe how successful this film is. It's getting a huge audience, is getting released everywhere and is motivating a lot of political and social action." Perhaps the future is not bleak after all.

Check out www.thecorporation.com to learn more about the film, where it's playing, and even how to get involved in changing the world.

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