Big Enough

PBS Premiere: June 28, 2005Check the broadcast schedule »

Production Journal

POV: Talk about the decisions you made in cutting together the archival footage from Little People with current interviews and your stylistic approach to the structure of "Big Enough."

Jan Krawitz: The biggest challenge for me was balancing the number of voices in the film, because for each character, I basically had two characters -- separated by 20 years. In addition, I wanted to include new characters who are currently connected to the original five through birth or marriage. This meant incorporating spouses in two cases, and children, in the other two. So it was a major structural hurdle to figure out how to tell the disparate stories of so many individuals while also balancing the temporal factor. The most important consideration in any film is that the story be told in a coherent and compelling way.

It probably would have been easier, but more simplistic, to introduce each character sequentially rather than try to inter-weave multiple stories as I did. Often films that are longitudinal in scope present characters in a circumscribed, self-contained way. However, I resisted that structure because what was interesting about the experience of my characters was the manner in which their stories both intersected and diverged -- not only from their earlier selves, but also from each other. If I had presented each character in a circumscribed sequence, it would be a lot harder for the audience to recognize those differences.

It was my job as a filmmaker to create a multi-layered film in which all of the voices could comfortably dip in and out when appropriate. So at certain times, a character might disappear for a while because the topic being explored isn't germane to his or her experience. I think that's why the editing took me so long -- because it was such a delicate balancing act to create this type of "Greek chorus" in which various participants contribute to the multiple through-lines in the film.

One stylistic consistency is that I always introduce the original character in the footage from 20 years ago and then segue into a sequence that features them today. Consistency on this point was critical to assure that the film would be comprehensible to the first-time viewer. Another important stylistic device is the recurrent use of LPA convention footage (from Little People) that is presented in slow-motion, devoid of sync sound, and accompanied by original music. These sequences remind the viewer that the individual stories depicted in the film are only a small representation of the larger population of little people. I use the scenes as transitional devices between the introductions of the four sets of characters in the first 15 minutes of the film. I then reprise this stylized convention footage towards the end when the discussion of genetic testing allows the film to extend beyond the individual stories into more general themes.

I consider it a wonderful challenge to make a film in which the "text" is constructed solely from the voices of the participants. I'm not crazy about the idea of using a disembodied narrator who tells the viewer what to think or fills in holes in the exposition. It's admittedly a more frustrating approach to work without narration because you don't have a device through which you can expediently telescope information.

The interviews were filmed in such a way that the audience would be allowed to occasionally forget that the person speaking is a dwarf. In the observational scenes (the supermarket, the tailor, the gas station, the bathing scene), the characters went about their activities with no interference from me. For example, the audience is allowed to watch Mark and Anu navigate in their kitchen as they prepare a meal and do their laundry. This same scene, filmed with an average-sized couple, would be completely banal and not film-worthy. But because Mark and Anu are dwarfs, it's fascinating to watch them move about in their average-sized kitchen. Similarly, to see Len and Lenette's average-sized son, Brandon, cook in their scaled-down kitchen allows the audience to consider the importance of the environment when determining its perspective on "normalcy."