I didn’t know what to expect that night on the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was an unusually warm night for San Francisco in November. Because it was Thanksgiving weekend, there were so many people, families, and tourists everywhere.
We needed to do some stealthy, ninja hand-held filming on the bridge. Our producer, Martin, dropped off Patrick, Jay, and myself at the foot of the bridge, and we started walking up to capture the footage.
That's when I had an anxiety attack.
TODAY'S STORY IS WRITTEN BY WendI Koble, editor FOR TEAM san francisco in muse film school cohort 1.
Our team at Muse Film School was telling the story of Kevin Briggs, a retired California Highway Patrol officer who has saved over 200 people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The story pushed us to be extremely creative problem solvers – as we couldn’t gain access to over half of the locations we needed. Plus our secondary character, who was going to bring the perspective of someone on the other side of the rail, backed out the day before the shoot.
This was a big problem for me. As the editor, I desperately wanted the perspective from the other side of the rail. And maybe that’s because I could relate to the other side’s view more than I wanted to admit. I have struggled with depression and doubt for years, and as we got deeper and deeper into this story, everything was becoming more real and vivid, and uncomfortably mirroring parts of my own life.
But since our interviewee dropped out, how were we going to tell that story without actually talking to someone to get that perspective? This was a tremendous responsibility, and it had to be done right.
We could not get a filming permit for the bridge, but we were going to take the risk and attempt to get a few shots at night. We had one chance to do it.
When we were planning our shot list, Someone mentioned “slow motion” – but that didn’t seem right to me. That didn’t represent my experience.
For some reason, I always saw the perspective as a crazy, fast-paced, dark, blurry point of view as someone walked across the bridge. The shots would build over time, much like the decision to end one’s life does.
This perspective would solve two problems: we didn’t need to risk calling attention upon ourselves by bringing a big crew or a lot of gear on the bridge; and we could more easily capture shots that would help to tell the other side of the story.
Everyone saw the value in that perspective, so we decided to shoot at a higher shutter speed and keep our shots somewhat out of focus, much like how the world would look like through the tears of somebody about to jump.
When we stepped onto the walkway, real tears started pouring down my face. My heart was pounding.
Reality hit that I was walking the very same path of so many people who wanted to end their lives. At the same time, all these other people were walking around having the time of their lives, seemingly oblivious to a silent soul’s suffering.
I was completely overwhelmed.
When Kevin would approach someone in an overwhelmed state on the bridge, he would slow everything down and listen. His caring presence and empathetic approach shined light into someone’s darkest moments. He changed so many lives just by listening, and really hearing someone. He still continues this work to this day – because it brings him purpose.
In a sense, two of my worlds were coming together. My passion for storytelling was meeting the side of me that has battled with the same darkness that causes so many people to jump over the rails of the bridge. I took a few deep breaths and went to work.
It was our job to tell the story, visually, of someone dealing with immense overwhelm, much like what I was feeling at the moment. We all took turns with the camera to capture the rushed, dark, blurry, disorienting perspective.
At one point as I was tilting the camera up, filming one of the towers on the bridge, Patrick said, “Don’t make it wedding perfect, film it again.”
That one remark made me laugh out loud. It broke the tension I was feeling, and allowed me to relax. Even though we were tackling a serious subject matter, all of a sudden it became…FUN. It was so freeing to be “messy” because I knew it was authentic. It was human. I was capturing the perspective of an important, often hushed topic that needed to be brought to the light.
While I can’t speak for anyone else, that night on the bridge was truly a cathartic experience for me.
One of my favorite quotes from Salomon Lighthelm goes like this: “Creativity is for others. It’s not for yourself. It’s to serve others.”
That night on the bridge was a beautiful moment. I was able to bring a unique perspective to a creation that impacted myself...and hopefully, just like Kevin Briggs, will serve many others in the future.
-Wendi Koble, Editor of Team San Francisco
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How do you get someone back over the rail? Nobody seemed to know – but Kevin Briggs was determined to find out.
After watching a young man say his final goodbye one cold, rainy night on the Golden Gate Bridge, Kevin saw an opportunity to help people find a reason to keep going. This is the story of how he learned to help people through their darkest hour.
A FILM BY MUSE STORYTELLING AND KEVIN BRIGGS
DIRECTOR JAY MENEZ
PRODUCER MARTIN HILL
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY PABLO GARCÍA SALDAÑA
SECOND CAMERA MARLA GUO
AUDIO/GAFFER BILL ASTON
EDITOR WENDI KOBLE
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER RANDY PANADO
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER PATRICK MOREAU
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER KATHRYN GIROUX