Style Approach And Aesthetics – The filmmaker, Philip J. Marshall has crafted this project in the participatory style developed for his earlier film, F.S. Key and the Song that Built America. Participatory documentaries believe that it is impossible for the act of filmmaking to not influence or alter the events being filmed.
“The filmmaker steps out from behind the cloak of voice-over commentary, steps away from poetic meditation, steps down from a fly-on-the-wall perch, and becomes a social actor (almost) like any other. (Almost like any other because the filmmaker retains the camera, and with it, a certain degree of potential power and control over events.)” The encounter between filmmaker and subject becomes a critical element of the film and especially necessary in the filmmaker’s unique approach.
The film series expands and centers on interviews between the filmmaker and a group of historical “Ghost” characters, treated as if they were alive and scripted so they appear to be back from the grave and questioned directly about various subjects and events involving their relationship and knowledge of Mr. Key. Some of the main historical voices chosen to include in the film are, Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key (Polly), reprised by Debora Hazlet; President Andrew Jackson played by Gary Sandy, and Roger B. Taney played by Boyd Gaines, among others, thirteen in total, who discuss and explore the events of Francis Scott Key’s life.
In order to script the “Ghost” interviews the filmmaker relied on historical letters and documents written by or about the characters and used additional information acquired through interviews with PhD’s, authors and experts on each historical subject. Portions of these historian interviews plus the filmmaker’s visitation and on-site filming at 75 locations in 15 states where events took place are interwoven along with the “Ghost” interviews into a collective conversation, and sprinkled with some recreations of historical events and other special effects. The filmmaker has chosen never to meet or see Mr. Key as he was such a paradox of an individual. He wants the picture of the films main subject (Francis Scott Key) to be imagined individually in each viewer’s mind based on the personal interpretation of the story told.
To the filmmaker’s knowledge the only other project that has attempted anything similar in this approach was the CBS children’s series of the 1950’s and 1960’s called “You are There,” Where news reporters spoke to George Washington after crossing the Delaware, etc. The filmmaker feels his unique approach to storytelling is new ground and demonstrates a potentially valuable technique for teaching complex history in an entertaining way.