The person I had the pleasure of interviewing was Gerald Potterton. Gerald Potterton was the director of the final silent film Buster Keaton was a part of, The Railrodder, as well as many other films of his own creation, which for the most part were animated.
Gerald, due in part to the nature of my question, didn’t go in-depth about his past work but he talked briefly on some of the variance between his work with Buster and past projects. He mentioned how with animation most of the work was planning, sketching, and story boarding, but with Buster it was much more “spur of the moment”. They had the locations and they had the plot, but each gag and scene were changed constantly.
Further along in the interview I asked him how he had started working on this project, after all it’s not ever day you get to work with one of the greats of the silent area. The way Gerald explained it modestly as one part fault of a wise cracking co-worker and another part luck. Gerald had written a half page script for a short film titled The Traveling Man. He imagined it at the time as an animation piece using a photographed actors head on an animated body as the figure travelled across Canada. While talking about it with some fellow animators over lunch one of them tossed out the idea of using “The Great Stone Face” himself Buster Keaton as the actor. Gerald admitted he wasn’t sure if he was still “around”, until he remembered someone mentioning he was working on a film in New York. So he set off to meet with Buster in New York and discuss the possibility of working on The Travelling man with him. “He read it, thought it was a crazy idea, and immediately said he would do it” Gerald said, he felt ecstatic after one of the greats agreed to work with him.
Towards the end of the interview I asked about how Buster Keaton left an impact on him. His words were “it opened my eyes
up to his thorough thought process of how to plan and work out the workings and complexity of the gags n his films”. He also mentioned how he realized the genius Buster really was and how amazing The General, one of Buster’s most acclaimed works, was. It was obvious that after talking to Gerald he thought incredibly highly of Buster.
My take away from the interview in the end was this. Buster Keaton was a man who strives in a social atmosphere, he was unlike other visionary directors like that of Stanley Kubrick who were often described as cold and distant to their crew. Though like the other great directors he was someone who was passionate about his work, working tirelessly on his films. Every scene and every gag he put together was made with a purpose and a idea in his mind. Buster Keaton was a man who there to get the job done in the way he wanted to do it.