Access granted: The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

The most daunting aspect of my work is requesting and gaining access to the people, places, and information that hold the story. By approaching someone to take part in a project, no matter how well-meaning my work might be, I’m asking them to open up, to become vulnerable, and that takes a little courage. For me at least.

When I heard that film producer Judd Apatow had literally been handed Garry Shandling’s personal journals during the making of a documentary, I was hit by how rare getting such intimate access must be. How often does someone as celebrated — and as flawed — as Garry Shandling simply hand over a life’s worth diaries to a friend with the knowledge that they’re likely to be opened to the world? Yes, Apatow and Shandling were close friends for decades, Shandling being Apatow’s mentor in the early going of his career. But it was still a remarkable gesture. The point?

The central principle in documentary work of any kind is that access, real access, is only given when there’s trust.

Access, one of this site’s central themes

This is a theme that’s going to appear and reappear on this site through guidance on how to form trust, and stories about how people gain access through establishing trust with the people who can tell the story.

It’s worth listening to today’s episode of CBC’s “q” as John Power asks Judd Apatow about his relationship with Garry Shandling. It’s clear Apatow had a special connection with Shandling, one based on trust. And therein lies the key to gaining precious access to Shandling’s mind, or at least to his diaries.

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling: Monday, March 26 at 8PM on HBO.

Kevin Shoesmith

Kevin Shoesmith Documentary photographer, videomaker, and writer.

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