SXSW 2010 Interview: Director David Bond (ERASING DAVID)

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
April 3rd, 2010

For a guy who tried to hide from our society of surveillance for a whole month, David Bond, the director and subject of ERASING DAVID, is one personable fellow. In his documentary, Bond tried to outrun a pair of private investigators for one whole month in an attempt to prove that it's possible to live off of the world's increasingly watched and monitored grid. Bond hired the P.I.'s himself, and ERASING DAVID presents a surprising quest with some thrilling consequences. And while Bond may be cagey about giving out his personal data to just anyone, he was a wonderful interview subject who had no problem getting to the meat of his film, and where it could end up leading him.

In our interview, we talk about some super-specific geeky things (like camera rigs and sound design), how Bond dealt with coming back into the monitored world, and some juicy tidbits about none other than Google. Hit the jump to check it out!

A huge part of the important tension-building of the film is owed to the score, sound design, and soundtrack – can you talk about that?

It’s a low budget film, and when we were making it, a friend of mine…does occasional work with Michael Nyman, and he is a big privacy fanatic, he really believes in personal privacy. In fact, they installed a CCTV camera in his local pub and he totally freaked and got really angry about it and ended up in the newspapers, so we kind of knew he was on our side...This guy is like a legend, he’s done wonderful, wonderful films, and he agreed to do the music. We totally lucked out with his music…everything he does is about this sense of mounting tension.

On top of that, we had this amazing sound designer, called Finn Curry. And he just is really good at finding those little sounds that just ratchet up the tension, and I think he’s inspired a lot by fiction features. He loves ENEMY OF THE STATE and THE FUGITIVE, these films where sound design is really cleverly used just to kind of bring the tension up to another level. So I think he introduced a lot of those ideas [into the film].

And then, of course, at the end of the film is an amazing Pulp track. And we had it in the rough edit for ages, and we’re like, “we’ll never get it cleared, we’ll never get it cleared,” and then, believe it or not, Jarvis Cocker was like, “yeah, I really believe in what you guys are doing,” and he gave us a big freebie, basically.

Most of the film is just you, and you being on the run, yet the quality of the film is so excellent even when it’s just you and one camera. Can you tell me a little more about your rig?

It’s a small Sony A1, which I love, it’s a fantastic HDV camera, really light. And light enough such that, if you put it on the end of an aluminum tripod, and you extend the aluminum tripod all the way, and you turn the camera back to look at you, you basically have this giant flying crane that you can use, so it’s incredibly flexible.

I also had two great camera people that worked on other parts of the film, Annemarie Lean-Vercoe and Gavin Northover. And they were both real generous with me, because you know, I’m a director, I don’t really know what I’m doing with a camera, and they gave me a lot of time and spent a lot of time just saying, “try this, don’t do this, think about reflections,” so I had a lot of that in my head. There’s a couple shots that I feel really stand up against the full HD camera when the P.I.’s are being chased, and I’m really proud of what I ended up doing.

By the end of the film, you’re incredibly paranoid. How long did it take you to get back into normal life and not be paranoid or freaked out?

I think I’m still feeling some effects of it. I’m very, very sensitized when I’m moving around cities and when I’m in big groups of people. I find myself just naturally going into this kind of suspicious mode, where I think , “who is this? Who’s come into the room, that’s a face I don’t recognize.” So there’s a little bit of lingering paranoia. And certainly there’s a long-term effect in terms of how I behave with data. I’m much, much more careful of who I share my data with. I’m really sensitized to who has my kids’ data. I just want to know why people want it because, invariably, it’s to make money out of me, or to sort of control me in some way…It’s nice to be able to object to that, or at least to be able to know about it.

I didn’t really sleep while I was on the run, it was very hard to get sleep, just because I thought, at any minute, if I was sleeping outside, they were going to jump on me in the middle of the night. If I was in a hotel room, the door was going to go bang, bang, bang! I kind of had that fear all the time, so I didn’t sleep. And that took me a long time to get my sleep patterns back.

I started having these weird delusions that someone had kind of given me away. So I had this idea that maybe my producer had, to make the film better, had – and that’s not true, he’s my great old friend, and I’ve told him that I’ve had this idea. It took me a long while to calm down.

How do you feel about the presence of social networking that makes it so easy to be found out and “known,” like Twitter?

I find Twittering a little bit of a nightmare….I totally embrace this technology for specific purposes, but as a kind of way of just generally spreading your life around on the web, that’s not for me…In itself, those apps are not a bad thing, but when combined with other pieces of information, they could be devastating.

How do you protect your information online and in the real world now?

I’m much, much more careful with who I give data away to…Now I shred all my stuff, really religiously. I’m just very kind of questioning of why is it that people might ask for data.

I had an interesting experience with Google. It’s not in the film, but I went to see Peter Fleischer, who is the head of privacy at Google, during the making of the film. And I wanted to request to him that he tell me what searches I’d made on my computer, which is stored information. “Well,” he said, “we can’t tell you because your IP address will be flexible, mobile.” So I looked into it and no, I’ve got a fixed IP address....[he said], “we can’t do that, because it might infringe your wife’s privacy.” So I was like, okay, well I’ll get her to sign the form as well, so she signed, too. We go back again. “I’m sorry, I can’t do it. Someone might have visited your house and used the search, it would invade their privacy.” I said, “what? Someone could have visited my house and searched for weird stuff, I need to know about that!” So we had this kind of bizarre banter, and in the end, they wouldn’t give me the information. As a response to that, I now use Scroogle (Scroogle.org), which is a scraper for Google…Scroogle takes your search, it anonymizes it, removes all IP information, it sends it to Google, Google responds with a search return, and Scroogle hands it to you. It’s like a barrier between.

What’s next?

I’m interested in a film about Google. I won’t say anymore, but I’m working on it.

Be sure to check out my review of ERASING DAVID right HERE. The film is currently available on iTunes and Amazon VOD, which you can learn more about HERE.

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