The Making of Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine Documentary - Interview with Rudi Goldman
“This project was going to be, and ended up being one of the greatest professional challenges in my video production career.”
– Rudi Goldman – Producer/Director/Videographer
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING ON THE FILM?
We began shooting Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine in November 2012. Shot in stages, the film was completed in the Fall of 2016.
WHY A FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY ON BURGUNDY?
During our initial shooting period in the Côte d’Or, we had not planned to make a feature length documentary. But as more interesting stories and people presented themselves, we kept going back and were shooting more and more during the following three years. Examining the quality of the stories and imagery from months of shooting convinced us that we had something very special on our hands.
WHO IS THE AUDIENCE FOR THE FILM?
The goal of our film is to demystify Burgundy for a rapidly growing number of wine lovers who care about where the wine they buy comes from. We think travel buffs, who are grocery store wine buyers, will also appreciate the film’s diversity of content.
Burgundy is complex. One of our key objectives with this film is to promote a better understanding about Burgundy: its people, culture, food and wine for an appreciative and savvy world audience. Additionally, we wanted to demystify this unique wine region for winelovers, as well as American and foreign wine professionals.
People who love wine, cuisine and travel become confused in Burgundy, because Burgundy is complex in so many ways. For example, by law, all Burgundy reds are made from Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is the dominant varietal for the whites. If you look closely at a bottle of Burgundy wine, you will find no mention of these grapes on the label.
Current research shows that drinking California Pinot Noir has come into fashion among American wine lovers. As a matter of fact, Pinots are becoming one of the fastest growing wine trends in the U.S. today. Additionally, the number of American wine drinkers who drink premium wines averaging $200 a bottle is also rapidly on the rise. Burgundy has a long-standing reputation for its premium wines, so the film gives these U.S. aficionados a European insight.
In the film, we attempted to find out how the consumer can navigate the complexity of Burgundy and how to recognize quality over name recognition, as well as what to look for to recognize quality over marketing and reputation. The program is specifically aimed at wine and food lovers interested in having the experience of being a part of the Burgundian lifestyle.
WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES?
We had multiple challenges in producing the film. These included gaining entry, finding the right people and producers to work with, cultural issues, language, financial and how to approach the production aspects.
One of our many production challenges was to attempt to cover multiple events per day with a crew of two persons; myself, my wife and production partner Lydia Boeken (who is not a video professional, but a medical doctor by trade), while maintaining high creative, content and technical standards.
This project was going to be, and ended up being one of the greatest professional challenges in my life. Because we were working on a tiny budget, not only was I the film’s writer and director, but I also functioned as the producer, videographer and editor. Even with decades of experience in the U.S. and Europe as a video producer/director (Director’s Guild of America member). So as a literal “one man band.” I was always having to meet the enormous challenge of delivering a quality product under difficult cultural, logistical and technical circumstances.
For example, during our first week of shooting at the famous Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune, we were informed that it would be impossible to use standard lighting fixtures in medieval wine cellars due to the lack of electrical outlets. This turned out to be only partially true. We ended up lighting the back wall in a 13th century cave with three barn-doored garden lights and used three battery operated Felloni 1×1 Bi-Color High Intensity LED lights for lighting the talent.
My wife and production partner functioned in the multiple roles of interviewer, translator, audio recordist, lighting assistant and production assistant. Dr. Lydia Boeken was born in The Netherlands, but speaks fluent French. My early days as a young professional video cameraman and our three prior years of shooting single-camera HD wine and food related videos in Argentina and Chile payed off for this project.
WHAT IS YOUR DOCUMENTARY WORKING STYLE?
With documentary production, I have always tried to avoid tight scripting before the actual shooting. This limits everyone involved and many fine moments are always missed with this kind of approach.
My documentary workflow is to research the subject throughly, have an objective for what we want to have from each story in the film. We then write questions that elicit the answers we are aiming for and then being pleasantly surprised by all the additional brilliant contributions we receive. This is why I cannot supply you with our shooting plan or script. The plan naturally develops as needed with the interviewees and when storylines crystalize. One of our surprise interviewees said it best:
“There is something about this place, in the world of wine, that is unique. It brings out the passion in people. For the wine lovers of the universe, there’s something magnetic about Burgundy that brings you here. “
New York City Sommelier
Additionally, I do not like to work with tight narration. The BBC has done this brilliantly for years, but less skillful documentary makers box the stories in too much. The content deliver feels like it’s in a straightjacket. My feeling has always been that the best documentaries work because the subjects tell the story from their perspectives. This is what we did in the Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine film. I don’t like to rigidly impose my ideas on the experts we are filming.
Our film was shot in English and French to keep much of the cultural interest and beauty in place thus not taking away from the passion the people show in the documentary. The film is subtitled in English, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish.
Regarding the look and feel, I wanted to keep everything looking as natural as possible. I’m looking for warmth, mood and accented light. Shooting in dark cellars was the most challenging, but ended up with some of the most magic results. My production partner hand-carried 1X1 LEC light when working in large crowds like at the Paulée de Meursault.
During many scenes, the camera becomes another person and flows with the action. People at the Paulée became so used to the camera that they stopped noticing it. The music helps with establishing the environment, culture, mood and emotional context for the scenes. With regards to the editing, I wanted to keep it simple, but somewhat modern, no effects were used just for the sake of effects. The editing has to help tell the story in an interesting way, but not get in the way of story telling.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR FILM?
The film’s European Theatrical Premier was in Latvia, at the Riga Wine & Champagne La Paulée de Riga celebration at Forum Cinema’s Kino Citadele on November 27, 2016. The North American Premier occurred on September 23, 2016 at the 30th Wine Country Film Festival in Sonoma Country, California.
The film is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other VOD/EST platforms in the U.S. and abroad. World-wide distribution is by Under The Milky Way, with offices in Paris and Los Angeles.
Film Festival screening and wins include:
- Award winner 2017 International Wine Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California
- Best Documentary from the LA Film Awards – 2016
- Gold Winner from the International Independent Film Awards – 2016
- Award winner from Hollywood Independent Documentary Awards 2016