After years of filming my investigation into the mysterious death of my friend Michael De Bourcier, it is hard to believe that Looking for Mike is finally ready to see the light of day. When I first started this process, I had an endless list of questions and it was the biggest questions that seemed the most impossible to find answers for: who was my friend, and how did he die? I had kept a file on “Mike” since 2002. I would revisit it once or twice a year — going over old details that I knew about him and trying to collect new pieces of information. But within the 12 years that I started this file, I was never able to make any substantial headway.
While I was working this file, I had also started my career as a documentary filmmaker. For the past decade, I’ve been learning how to track down people and dig for information. These skills helped me beef up my file on my friend Mike, but I still had too many unanswered questions.
It wasn’t until I hired private investigator Dave Perry that I knew I had enough momentum to properly tell my story. Working with Dave was crucial. As a former police detective, he had a great deal of experience sorting through evidence and being able to tell which leads were promising enough to follow. Even more importantly, he was able to help me navigate through the process of working with institutions like the police department and the coroner’s office to get access to information that may not be available to the general public. At a couple of key moments in the film, navigating these institutions proved consequential to moving our investigation ahead.
One thing that surprised me was how similar my work as a documentary filmmaker was to the work of a private investigator. We both gather information to make sense of the world. Whether the end goal is to build up a compelling court case or to craft a compelling documentary, the path to get there is the same: grunt work.
"We phoned every single person with that last name in a 50km radius of the town. We made 80 calls and spoke to 60 families. Not a single one had a clue what we were talking about."
One of the most important skills of a documentary filmmaker is the ability to pick up the phone. Most of the job is tracking people down, calling them up, and asking them questions in the hopes that they have the information you’re looking for. This is, for the most part, thankless work. You talk to a lot of people — the majority of whom do not have the information you need. This is no different for private investigators.