Sunday, February 13, 2011


A wonderful thing happened to me recently.

I have had a lot of luck with people getting the DVD for De Luxe. Usually they are train historians or enthusiasts... people that have been subscribers of this special interest topic. Someone recently, after watching De Luxe, got a copy of Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza.

I took this as the biggest compliment! This individual watched one of my pictures because of his special interest and was impressed enough that he wanted to see another one of my documentaries. I am, yes, easy to please and flattered... in the humblest of ways of course.

This sparked my interest in looking at material I had stocked away from Goodwill. It was always my intention to create a deluxe version of Goodwill with extra content. My own personal Criterion Collection version if you will.

Here is an excerpt from Goodwill:

Excerpt from Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza from Robert A. Emmons Jr. on Vimeo.

So, I went to the archives and labeled and exported some clips to share with you Emilio Carranza and New Jersey history fans.

1.) First up is the ever present "deleted scenes" clips.

The original version of Goodwill was actually ninety minutes long, just as De Luxe is. However, after watching it a few times, and at the wise suggestions of close screeners (and to try to get a sixty minute version for an interested NJN producer), it was too long. I/NJN wanted to cut it down to an hour. However, no matter what I tried I couldn't do it. Well... not without completely changing the film's approach. If I would have dropped myself as the narrator and that angle of the story, which is my personal journey in making the film, it would have been possible to make an hour long program. But I had grown fond of this particular approach to tell the story and I couldn't part ways with it. Plus, I would have had to find a new narrator and that would have taken lots of time and money. (An early attempt at that approach didn't go too well. SEE BELOW.) I could only whittle it down to seventy-five minutes. I'm happy with that.

I had to cut a few scenes, but I am only going to present a couple here. Actually, what I have here is a deleted scene and a scene that was never used. So the second clip isn't fully polished because it never made it to a final edit. But I think it's interesting nonetheless.

2.) Voice Over Narrator Test

Now this is a real gem! As I mentioned above in the beginning I struggled with the film's approach. How was I going to construct this narrative? For the most part it operated like a traditional historical documentary, like any you would see on the History Channel. After the interviewing process there were holes in the story that needed filling. There are only really two ways to connect those dots:

a. Shoot more interviews or footage that tell the missing parts of the story.


b. Write narration that fills in the missing information.

Considering that half the picture's interviews were shot in Mexico and I had already made multiple trips there and exhausted the budget... Narration was the choice! By the way, it took three year to make this picture. Three long, hard years of research and filming.

As I edited and resolved to using narration I sent out pieces of the script to voice over artists. I wanted someone that evoked Mexico. At first I shot big. I wrote to the agents of the Mexican-American comedian and actors Paul Rodriguez, George Lopez, and Cheech Marin. Mr. Rodriguez's agent responded and sent me his contact email. I was ecstatic! I wrote him and we went back and forth a couple of times. However, we could never make it work. I couldn't raise the extra funds quick enough and he had projects he had to move on to. So close!

After that, I thought I would try something even more ethnic, so I sent script excerpts to Mexican voice over artists that could speak English. The results of that were mind-blowing. An education indeed. It wasn't going to work.

Now as this was happening I was having trouble editing the piece and contructing the historical narrative. I was striving for accuracy, fairness, and trying to represent all of the film's constitunats as best I could. The problem was, at times, there were three different versions or perspectives on the same historical event. This was troubling. I couldn't find THE answer, THE truth in my own research so I presented each perspective as best I could and left it to the audience.

In this process my involvement in the story became richer, deeper. It was important how I came to the story, what I learned during it, and my struggles telling it. So I became the narrator. This worked for me because I now had so much obvious stake in the film. Viewers could see me and hear me. There was no separation between filmmaker and film. Audiences have responded well to it and I feel satistfied with the outcome. So much so I made my next documentary the same way. For my current film, Diagram for Delinquents, I don't think I am going to use that approach. However, if I learned anything, it's that things change.

3.) Mel Carranza Reading NYT's Funeral Cortege Article

As you may or may not know, Goodwill is a story in two parts. First, it is the biographical tale of the hero Mexican aviator Captain Emilio Carranza. It is also the story of Mt Holly, NJ American Legion Post 11 and their undying commitment to Capt. Carranza. Because they had a hand in the recovery of his body after the crash and they felt a kinship and respect for Carranza, they have memorialized his mission and death every year since that day in 1928. This year marks the 83rd Annual Carranza Memorial Service. That is a commitment, friends. If you haven't been to it, you must. It has become a truly original piece of New Jersey and American history and culture. There is nothing else like it in our country. It is a beautiful day.

As I made Goodwill I returned every year to film the service out in Wharton State Forest. It follows the same format each year, but something amazing always happens. Some years it's a surprise guest or dignitary. Perhaps a family member. Or perhaps someone comes forward with a piece of Carranza's crashed plane, "Excelsior". In 2005, Mel Carranza read an article from the New York Times that described Carranza's funeral cortege in New York City. Mel's reading is everything the memorial service is: dramatic, emotional, evocative, and sincere. Here, for the first time, is that reading:

4.) Mexico City International Airport Aviation Heroes

Every time I have visited Mexico, I am flattered and blown away by the level of respect I am treated with. I love the country. The Carranza family and the Mexican government have been extremely kind to me and have honored me in numerous ways. Goodwill is shown each year to the military aviation school cadets. Is there a bigger honor? Actually, there is. I am the first American to receive the Emilio Carranza Medal as a Messenger of Peace. The medal is typically reserved for citizens who achieve a high amount of flight hours or have demonstrated high acts of goodwill. The award was presented to me by General Gonzalez of the Mexican Air Force. I am still overcome by this honor.

From my very first visit there, it was apparent we were going to have a special relationship. When my crew and I touched down and walked through the terminal we were picked up and whisked away through the airport on a golf cart, bypassing all hold-ups and lines. We felt so important. We were taken to the airport's exhibition hall where they had the busts of Mexico's most famous fliers. We met family members and goverment and military officials. It was overwhelming and a high honor.

Here is a glimpse of the Hall of Aviation Heroes and some of the family and dignitaries we met:

The music you hear in these clips is by the Ages: Jeff Blatcher and Dave Downham. They crafted the film's score. If I didn't have their work, I wouldn't have the film I do. They were an inspiration. Keep your eye out for their new album, coming soon! Also, I have copies of the film's soundtrack. If you're interested email me: raemmonsjr@gmail.com.

I hope you find these Goodwill remnants interesting!

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