As a kid growing up, I knew my life was different. My family was not like any of my friends', and by the time I reached adolescence, it became even more clear to me that my father was definitely different. I loved him, but I was also embarrassed by him.
Once an adult, I saw my father as a fellow human, and began to wonder how he came to be who he is. What had influenced him? What led him on the path of an extreme non-conformist? He was a unique character, not just a simple thief. Well educated with a brilliant mind, my father is a by-product of middle class upbringing who was given every opportunity to pursue a more purposeful path and to achieve "success" in a mainstream lifestyle.
Bruce and Me stems from a book idea I had about his life. Over the years I had collected hundreds of his letters written to me describing his many wild and crazy adventures from around the world, his brushes with the law and his exploits with countless women; not to mention the many letters from his jail cell - some filled with remorse, others simply resigned
All his letters were fascinating, entertaining, poignant and witty. Often I encouraged my father to write a book on his life. "Bruce, while you're in jail why don't you use the time constructively?" He would say "too busy". Evidently his times in jail were more like a holiday, filled with tennis and studying, and devising future scams. I realised that if a book were to be written at all, the job would be left up to me.
Years passed with more letters. My father continued his lifestyle without any change. During these years I had become a filmmaker, and eventually I decided that it would be a film, and not a book, which would best tell Bruce's story. I felt that he had lead a fascinating life, and his story may encourage people to think about questioning the system; to look outside the " box " (not to say I necessarily had intentions of encouraging a life of crime!)
Supportive from the onset about the film idea, I asked Bruce if he had any concerns about possibly incriminating himself, or of how family and strangers might judge him. As expected, he had no concerns and was quite pleased to be given the opportunity to be given a platform to express his views on life, and to be recognized as the non-conforming outsider that he is. He loves to ruffle feathers and create controversy - especially if it makes people think.
Although I was still concerned about possibly incriminating him, he assured me that unless I filmed him actively partaking in an illegal activity, he could not be arrested. He had done time for his past fraudulent activities and was no longer a wanted man.
A couple more years passed as I sat on the idea, fearful for a few reasons: exposing who my father was, and the kind of childhood I had with him, I felt I might open myself up to criticism and judgement - feelings which stirred up uncomfortable memories associated with my childhood.
As I thought more about the environment I grew up in, and the host of other colourful and unusual characters in my immediate family, I realised that their stories gave a context to Bruce's life story. I approached various family members with my idea to make a film, and to my surprise, they were all supportive ... (well, for the most part - ninety seven year old cranky grandma was none too thrilled). I wanted to explore and share some of the quirky, funny, unique, sad and intriguing stories of their lives. And they all have something to say about Bruce!
So much of my childhood was spent on road trips with Bruce, so it seemed fitting that the first time I took my camera to begin shooting, was to accompany him on a road trip through Mexico on route to Cuba. I wanted to finally meet his young Cuban girlfriend.
The experience turned out to be pretty awful for me and I began to realize that my feelings about getting to know my father were becoming part of the film. I came to realize that what I was really doing was not just telling my father's story as initially planned; I was actually using the camera as a vehicle to finally get to know my father, and to better understand him and the choices he had made in his life, and ultimately, how it had all affected me.
As the saying goes, "Be careful what you seek, you might find it." If you look for yourself in your parents, you are finally forced to examine what you see. This is what I experienced, and it was disconcerting to say the least.
It's now been over three years since I first picked up my camera and joined my father back on the road, and it's certainly been a journey of a lifetime.