Celebrity Interview: Emmy Award Winning Directors Phil Lott and Ari Mark Talk on Making "The Invisible Pilot"

The Invisible Pilot, an HBO original three-part documentary series a tale of a charismatic, daredevil husband and father who unexpectedly jumped off a bridge in 1977, despite a seemingly happy home life and a lucrative career as a pilot.

His small-town Arkansas community searches for his body in vain while family and friends seek answers. Years later, a mysterious story emerges involving hypnosis, secret identities and a double life of dangerous missions and law-breaking.

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From Adam McKay, Executive Producer of Succession, comes a labyrinthine story that begins in the very small town of Hazen, Arkansas and ends up as part of one of the biggest political scandals of our time. As shockwave after shockwave is exposed, this seemingly unintriguing documentary explodes into a wild, once in a lifetime, unbelievable expose on crime, drugs, and corruption.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Emmy®-winning filmmakers Phil Lott and Ari Mark. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.

Janet Walker: Good afternoon, Phil and Ari. Congratulations on the documentary it's unquestionably a wild ride. It appears the documentary was filmed over a decade or more so describe why you kept revisiting the stories and the characters?

Phil: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I think the crazy thing about the story is that it's been with us for 12 years, but it's been with some of the people involved in this all their lives. I was lucky enough to meet a screen writer, at a Film Festival, about 10 or 12 years ago, who was fictionalizing this story and as he kept turning in the story, I just kept asking him ‘so is this real’? Wait, you made this up? Wait, did you make this up? And he kept explaining it was based on a real a real-life story.

And then it just stuck with me, personally for four or five years and then I started talking to Harry about it and I think once I kind of explained it to Ari, this is kind of a crazy intersection of an amazing central character with one of America's greatest political scandals.

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It hit the sweet spot of what we're looking for when we're making films. So, to go back to that film maker and tried to persuade them, you know five years later to finally get this footage of them, I think was it was a gift from the documentary gods.

But then it was very important to go back and dig into the story ourselves, and refilm and pull these people and get to know them ourselves. This story, the sensational information, is really wrapped up in the biographical right. So anytime you sit down with a subject, and you approach them in the right way delicately, respectfully, with a sort of aim at being authentic, you can't go for the sensational, right away, you kind of go for ‘give me the whole picture’ and that what sort of unravels through those conversations. This sensational stuff they usually don't even think is that sensational you can see.

Janet Walker: Thank you. So, why do you think the family chose to reveal this wild, shocking, and extremely, episodes two and three were extremely sensational, so why do you think that they chose to reveal this story?

Ari/Phil: Good question, um I don't think anyone set out to make a documentary. They knew Craig Hodges who is this local kid who had a relationship with the family, a friendship and he grew up on the playground hearing these wild stories and he got curious and wanted to know more. He kept feeling like this is a movie and so eventually he just turned on his little camera and he started shooting some basic, kind of, just tell me the story interviews and overtime you know he started to collect more and more and more. So, by the time we came into the picture I think they were aware of the fact that the story was special. They realized okay well, we've already come this far, you know we've been talking to this guy and if these people are the real deal let's talk to them. So, it took some proving, and it took some time like it always does. It took some trust building but eventually we got there, and I think they're very happy with the result.

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Janet Walker: Yes, it's very sensational it's phenomenal thank you I mean it was phenomenal. So, what's next for you?

Ari/Phil: I guess for us finding stories like this as you know they don't come along every day. Obviously. But we really do look for stories of this level and I think you'll find and I think this is the interesting thing about doing nonfiction storytelling in general is that if you peek behind the curtain of most world events if you could take that macro piece and you can go really micro with it and find people who are closest to it or the people who you know can tell you the story that you never knew but you thought you knew usually with time patience and a lot of persistence things will polarize and I think we're just hoping for some more. But you know we're not greedy and just happy to do great work and have great partners.

Janet Walker: Well, thank you so much for your time. Again, I really enjoyed it and congratulations.

The Invisible Pilot debuts Monday, April 4 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT) with new episodes airing subsequent Mondays at the same time. The series will debut on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max. See this!

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