How would you characterize yourself as a documentary director Is there a mission in your filmmaking

I think I wanted it to be as accessible as possible to as big an audience as possible and to find a way of holding an audience. And I always thought that that was part of the riddle that it was important to be able to do that. I suppose I probably started off as a more overtly political filmmaker, but I feel that my films are all to do with that political situation insofar as that reflects the society we're in, and often, the main dimensions and battle lines in a sense, even the...

After Self Health what was your next step

We made our first film about a na ve folk artist that I found. I went on a trip with my daughter, who was around fourteen, and it was one of those wonderful trips where you don't have an agenda. We saw a freeway sign in the Mojave Desert that said, Ghost Town, and we started toward the ghost town. And here, by the side of the road, was this very weird yard with almost life-size figures. And we stopped and I talked to the woman. It was really my first introduction to what's called na ve art, art...

Are there any ethical lines that you will not cross

I guess you could argue that I should not have given any money to the Salvadorian earthquake victim, that it was improper journalism. But, then, I do not think of myself as a journalist. And besides, I didn't give him money until I was partway into the filming, when it really occurred to me it would be tremendously appreciated by him and his family. I have absolutely no regret about having done it and would do it again. So that was my decision on that issue. In Six O'Clock News, I met a lot of...

Are there rules that exist in documentary filmmaking that you wouldnt break

I would never recreate something, and I would never tell somebody to say or do something. But there are subtle ways of getting people to give the information that you need to tell your story. You put them in situations that are comfortable to them where they can talk about certain things. But I would never say, Here, I need you to talk about this, that, or the other thing because I need that material. When I'm working on a film, whether on my own or with Joe, we would do these story conferences...

As youre filming do you know what the film is or do you discover your story in the editing process

I think the latter, probably, although you have to start with something, some kind of script, and then hopefully it's gonna enlarge and be greater Allie at the AVID editing system, working on Dialogues with Madwomen. Allie at the AVID editing system, working on Dialogues with Madwomen. than . . . you can have those moments that you never would have thought you had. You see the crew at the end of Dialogues with Madwomen, the crew working on the beach because I felt that I had tried so hard to...

At what point did you come to that ending

It was an evolution, but it really began before the film began, because I was on a television show with a number of women who had breast cancer in the Bay Area. And one of the women, she's actually in the film, died before the film was finished. But she said to the interviewer that day that she's been fighting cancer for so long, and she said, I'm alive now but behind me are four women who've died and behind each one of those are other women. I haven't forgotten that and it was so eloquent and...

But audiences seem to think that thats a good thing

I think that even with audiences, I can't tell. I get responses from audiences from friends, acquaintances, or people who followed our films, and a lot of them are very surprised that our last film Blind Spot was not a big hit. I still love it and I think it's wonderful and we expanded the language of documentary film. And I still think it's going to find its place in the sun or in the darkroom. The marketplace, the festival directors and critics well, critics didn't get a chance at it...

Chapter The Road to Realism

The motion-picture camera made its full-fledged debut in 1895, courtesy of Frenchman Louis Lumi re. Others, including Thomas Edison, invented versions that predated Lumi re's camera, but his was the only portable all-in-one unit that served as camera, film processor, and projector. A few years after coming onto the scene, D. W. Griffith lensed his full-length epic Birth of a Nation (1915) with the new technology, opening up a new world of possibility for film as an art form. Short films and...

Confronting Humanity

A young eye in documentary filmmaking, Liz Garbus comes to the camera with a well-honed sense of social justice. And her films reflect that passion, focusing on judicial reform and youth issues. One of her first films, The Farm (1998), which she codirected with Jonathan Stack, won two Emmy Awards and captured the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Garbus's other films range from Boys Village, a look at four young men in the juvenile justice system, to The Execution of Wanda Jean...

Contents

Introduction Chapter 1 The Road to Realism 1 Chapter 2 Albert Maysles Father of Direct Cinema 3 Chapter 3 Susan Froemke Celebrating the Craft 21 Chapter 4 D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus Engineering Nonfiction Cinema 41 Chapter 5 Ken Burns Emotional Archaeologist 69 Chapter 6 Ross McElwee Personal Journeyman 93 Chapter 7 Liz Garbus Confronting Humanity 109 Chapter 8 Nick Broomfield Modern Adventurer 127 Chapter 9 Joe Berlinger Journalist Storyteller 141 Chapter 10 Bruce Sinofsky Experiential...

Critics have said Nick Broomfields films are as much about his pursuit of the story as they are about his subjects And

A lot of times it gets in the way of what the story is. He clearly has an agenda and he has an opinion, and he's not subtle about it. That's one of the other canvases that we have to work with. That's the one he chooses and is most comfortable with. I think what happens often when you do verite and you let people talk to each other and interact with each other it's their feelings that are coming across. When you do an interview, they are responding to a question, so it's not coming directly...

Do you always go into an interview shooting

I don't say that I may arrive and I might be filming. And what I normally do after the first magazine is spend a bit of time saying hello and all the rest of it. But I do think, particularly with the sort of stuff I've been doing where you're moving from house to house, you're moving from person to person quite quickly, you sort of want to see where they live and how they are and what it's like to meet them. You don't want to start with them sitting on a couch. I think...

Do you do test screenings

I know filmmakers who don't do them, and I don't see how they can finish the films without doing them. I have to have them. In fact, I enjoy them a lot. I have a group of filmmaker friends and colleagues here in Cambridge and the Boston area that I rely on for advice and criticism, and I always show my films five or six times to this group of people to get advice. There are different kinds of test screenings, too. There's when you do it for a small audience...

Do you have favorites

Definitely, there are films of ours that are more interesting than others at different times. Little ones have their jewels, too. There's moments in every film that I love. One of the interesting things, I think, about documentaries is that sometimes they're for a very narrow audience and they mean a lot to a certain audience and other people who are interested in peering into a different world can enjoy them, too. There's that aspect of films that aren't made for major distribution they're...

Do you have heroes in the documentary world

I think there are favorite filmmakers who have influenced me, and there are just favorite filmmakers. Errol Morris I think he is a genius, and Assembly Line is definitely a film which inspired me to be a filmmaker. I don't emulate his style at all, but I think he's fabulous. And I'm a huge Wiseman fan. I studied Wiseman, and he definitely influenced me, but clearly, I've strayed from a strict verite fold. And then, Barbara Kopple, who I met early on in my career just as a personal role model,...

Do you pay people to be in your films and does it violate anything

In the Heidi Fleiss story, I made a point of letting everybody know how much everyone was being paid, and I kind of Aileen Wuornos. Photo courtesy Lafayette Films. Aileen Wuornos. Photo courtesy Lafayette Films. did the same thing in the Aileen Wuornos film. I think it is a reality of filming today that people want to be paid, and if you want to make the film you kind of have to pay them. Otherwise, I don't think you will be shooting anything. And ideally, I don't think you would want to pay...

Do you think there are certain traits that are beneficial to doing this work

I think you have to have a thick skin and you really have to persevere, because getting permission. . . . With Paradise Lost, we had the benefit of making Brother's Keeper. And the idea of cameras in the courtroom we could have the judge call the judge up in Munnsville, New York, and tell him we weren't going to be disruptive and things like that. But in terms of the people you meet, you have to be patient. You can't force yourself. We always say that the work we do before and after we film is...

Do you think you have different experiences as a woman filmmaker that a man doesnt have

I think that either man or woman, you cannot be afraid of your subject. If you are afraid of something like incest, you can't do a good interview with somebody who's been in that experience and wants to talk about it. And the best example that I can think of happened with In the Shadow of the Stars, where Irving and I were interviewing an African-American opera singer. And in the world of opera, there was a time when there wasn't any place for a black singer, so we wanted to talk to him about...

Doing documentaries is disruptive to your regular life more so than fiction films especially films like Paradise Lost

Films like that . . . it's your responsibility to be a sponge and to soak up the emotions and what these people are going through on either side of the issue. Because we were just as time-intensive with the families of the victims as we were with the accused's families. And your job is to hold in, and you become like a water balloon and you can't let that water out until you get into the editing room. These films that we made are really impressions of what we experienced. It's what...

Giving money makes you a part of the story does it not

I think we affect the lives of our characters in our films no matter what we do if we take them out to lunch, or if we pay their rent. I will draw the line at paying somebody's rent because it affects the purity of the story, in which they would have been out on the street, versus they would have been in this house, which is a huge difference. It also affects your relationship. There's a power dynamic. Is this person in the film because they think they can get money from you Is this person...

Has September affected in any way what types of projects youll do

September 11 affected me more than any event in my public life, having lived through missile crises, fifties nuclear hysteria, assassinations and riots and the sixties, Vietnam and Watergate, and many other things. Nothing has been, in my life, more important than September 11. You're talking to someone who has spent his entire life trying to understand and love and criticize his country, and I took it extremely personally. And the effects in the weeks and months afterwards have been absolutely...

How do you characterize yourself as a filmmaker Because you constantly experiment is that your style

There is a style there now in the last ten films that Allie and I made. People tell us they can tell our films. I guess it's interview-based. We got to be very good interviewers and people open themselves up to us in a way that sometimes scares us. I remember a number of interviews it was after the interview that the person says, I didn't know I was going to say all that very intimate stuff. There was stuff that we decided not to put into the film because we found it was too personal and it...

How do you characterize yourself in terms of style

I hate labels and I hate categorizing because I feel documentary filmmaking is so ghettoized in terms of people's perception of what film is. To me, there is one giant spectrum of what film is. On one end is the talking head, scripted or heavily narrated documentary, and on the other end is the biggest budget Hollywood feature you can imagine. It's all one big spectrum of filmmaking. And I think all filmmaking is extremely subjective. So to me it's all one continuum, as opposed to documentary...

How do you choose your subjects

I am so filled with many ideas, but, you know, there's no failure of good ideas or good projects. What it takes, I think, is a strange kind of emotional alchemy in which, suddenly becoming aware of a project, some bells and whistles going off, I just say, I have to do this. And I never pick a project that I know something about. I pick a project that I want to share the process of discovery as I delve into that subject. Nothing could be worse than a documentary that is...

How do you gain the trust of the people you shoot

You definitely spend a lot of time with them before the camera is on. I do, anyway. I guess the general rule is that I spend many days hanging around with people before a camera is introduced, getting them comfort- Shanae (left) and Liz during the filming of Waxter Girls. Photo courtesy Moxie Firecracker. Shanae (left) and Liz during the filming of Waxter Girls. Photo courtesy Moxie Firecracker. able with it. Oftentimes, they'll watch a film that I've made so they understand. Because I often...

How do you know when youve got the end of your picture Do you know when youre shooting Do you have an epiphany when you

With Sherman's March, I wasn't very sure because I was new at this game of first-person autobiography-documentary-essay filmmaking. It took me a long time to figure out whether I had a movie or not, so that's a metamorphosis process. Time Indefinite, I knew what I needed. And Six O'Clock News was a little more wide open, but at a certain point in my shooting I knew I had what I needed there. Charleen, my first film, I definitely knew when I had the conclusion to the...

How long do your edits take

I think we edited Wild Man Blues for eight months. Some take a lot longer. One reason is, maybe you don't have money. Two, it's a much bigger story. My Generation, which was a film that looked at the three Woody Allen on tour in Wild Man Blues. Photo credit Fine Line Features. Woody Allen on tour in Wild Man Blues. Photo credit Fine Line Features. Woodstocks, the money we were supposed to get from the people who were funding it they decided they weren't interested in it anymore and said, We 're...

Never am aware of you as filmmakers in your films

It was a little difficult in Brother's Keeper because sometimes, we felt by including our voices you could understand what they were talking about we didn't want to subtitle them. Even the little thing where they named the turkeys after us there was a larger scene where you actually physically saw us and both Joe and I said, Let's lose that. It's too much about us. Films shouldn't be about the filmmaker. I'm not Nick Broomfield. It's obvious that he wants to be on film and...

If you didnt make films what would you do

I'd be in the South of France drinking wine. Since the age of twelve I've wanted to be a film editor and a filmmaker. That's thirty-three years. I probably would have been a pretty good politician, or a very good social worker. But there's not much else that really interests me, because I think, when you find what you really like, it's like breathing. I don't have a Monday through Friday. Life is just . . . there are 365 days of the year whether I'm working or not working, on a project or not....

If you werent making films what would you be doing

There's part of me that is very lazy, and I want to do nothing but be a country squire. I don't know if it's guilt or something that drives me to put in twelve- to fourteen-hour days in films. But in between, I try to postpone work as much as possible. Is there any one thing that you can capture or articulate that keeps you coming back and making films You obviously have a passion for it. Yes. Because it's fun. It's really fun. It's like still playing it's like a three-ring...

In terms of your editing and shooting when do you know that youve got the end to your story Can you preplan it or is

In fact, we even set it up. I remember in Fidel we set it up, but the ending became the beginning and the beginning became the ending. And I know that epiphany usually happens not for the ending, but for the moment of truth of the film, that exciting moment, which usually happens about two-thirds, three-fourths into the film. At that point, we grab each other's hand, if I'm not shooting, or look at each other because we know we have a movie now. We do plan for beginnings...

Introduction

Lives of passion are monumental in this world. They shine among us, reaching always for paths without compromise. As with everything in life, there are no guarantees. There is no promise that being true to your passion will bring success, financial or creative. And in that sense it can be a scary road to travel. Those around you may be on more traditional paths in their careers and in their personal lives. And when you look around at your contemporaries to take a reading on how you measure up,...

Is fiction something youd like to do

A friend of mine wrote a screenplay, but it's one of those things that's pretty far on the back burner, unfortunately, because my documentary filmmaking is so challenging, so time-consuming. I think I'd like to try it. I don't think I'd ever want to cross over, because my life is so rich doing this, and I would miss my experiences in the field. But I have tried to think about ways to integrate or to combine fiction and nonfiction filmmaking. With a couple of these girls in...

Is there a feminine facility in terms of connecting with people

When you first meet people and your subjects are men, is there going to be a level of flirtation When we first started making The Farm, because Jonathan Stack and I made that film together, you could tell . . . the interviews he got at the beginning were different they had a different feeling to them than the interviews that I got because sometimes, the inmates were flirting with me. In that way, it was terrific to have both of us there. As time went on and we really got into it,...

Is there a film that youve done that is a favorite of yours

I'm the father of two teenage daughters who are up and out of the house, and I think I'd be remiss if I said I loved one child more than the other, and I don't. Each film has meant something to me, so one film like the Civil War might get more attention and more awards and more whatever, but that doesn't mean that the energy and love I gave to the Shaker film is any less, and so I love it just as much. Just as a child who went on to become somebody famous and celebrated a doctor or a...

Journalist Storyteller

Berlinger began his career in advertising but made the transition to filmmaking after working with David and Albert Maysles on an ad campaign. Berlinger cut his teeth in verite filmmaking at Maysles Films, where he met his frequent co-collaborator, Bruce Sinofsky. Their films, verite portraits of people and communities, often in crisis, consistently place in critics' top ten films of the year lists. Berlinger and Sinofsky's first feature film, Brother's Keeper (1992), garnered several major...

Part of the challenge in nonfiction filmmaking is you dont have the same schedule that you do in fiction films For

When you decide to make a film you make an incredible commitment to it. And, for me, I don't want to leave a stone unturned. I want to do more than is expected and think of all the different things that I could possibly look at to illuminate for an audience what the situation is, or who these characters are, or what's happening. And, you know, it's not forever. You go out there and do it. And when you're out there, you're solely and totally committed to it. Even when you're doing a fiction...

Perhaps the appeal of the abstract is that you could reach different levels of understanding with more abstract

I mean, even with Dialogues, there were people who said, You 're not supposed to use any reenactment. This is a documentary. What you film is what it is. I don't know. I don't believe in purists, purity, or anything like that. What's exciting in the documentary field is, it's changing. There are lots of offshoots from verite. Lots of people have philosophies about what can be documentary and how to push the form. But there are purists who believe you shouldn't do this or that. Even...

Personal Journeyman

McElwee combines a unique verite style with musings from behind the camera to create films that communicate and engage viewers on many levels. His films are unique among the voices here in that he not only captures slices of life, but he includes his connectivity to them and their experiences with very compassionate and personal commentary. From his first film, Charleen (1978), which was awarded Best Feature Documentary of 1980 by the Boston Society of Film Critics, to Sherman's March A...

Recreating Emotions

Saraf was raised in Israel and moved to the States to earn a degree in film from UCLA. He was the founder and former head of the KQED-TV film unit, and then became manager of the Saul Zaentz Production Company, where he served as postproduction supervisor of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He has worked in feature and documentary film as producer, director, and editor with over 150 films to his name, many for TV. With his filmmaking partner, Allie Light, Saraf won a 1991 Academy Award for Best...

Searching for Metaphor

Light brings to filmmaking a poetic sensibility and a background in writing. When she began partnering with her co-filmmaker, Irving Saraf, she brought that sensitivity to the moving images, which, she says, are a search for metaphor. From her first film, Self Health, to their Academy Award-winning In the Shadow of the Stars (1991), to their Emmy-winning Dialogues with Madwomen (1993), and, also, Rachel's Daughters Searching for the Causes of Breast Cancer (1997), Light strives to push the form...

So ethical decisions are made on a casebycase basis

I mean, of the people you film, some people you really like and some people you don't. I mean, I just recently was subpoenaed to appear in this court with Aileen Wuornos to testify on her behalf, or what I thought was her behalf, but it became more complicated. Her best friend was there, who was really poor, and I ended up giving her money. I guess because I liked her and I felt that the film had made money and it seemed kind of weird not to. It's strange that you make films...

Soare there boundaries

Well, sometimes it's just a question of moving things on a bit or someone's backed up against the wall and you know you're not going to get it because it's constricting and restraining. And if you create a bit of activity . . . a lot of interviews are dependent on energy and keeping the energy going and not allowing it to dissipate too much. And sometimes you get in a situation that's absolutely flat and you know that you're not going to get anything because it's just too flat. And I don't know...

Some people cut things out of sequence for dramatic effect Is that verboten

We did flash-forwards, flash-backwards in Paradise Lost, and again, embracing the strength of your material if you can come up with a clever . . . it's not to manipulate your audience to think this happened beforehand, like Barbara Kopple did a couple of times in American Dream, and I don't think it hurt the film. I think she took stuff that she got afterwards and made it earlier, which raised the dramatic tensions. But I don't think we consciously ever tried to put anything in and out of...

The difference between chronicling and telling a story is the critical difference between amateur and professional

You can see the same parallels to fiction films. There are several dozen really talented, great fiction filmmakers, and I think there's the same amount in the nonfiction world. It costs a lot of money to make fiction on a certain level, because they're so much more involved. You can go off on any corner of Manhattan and make a film about something in a documentary. That's good and bad because a camera should be in the hands of people and people should go out and tell stories. But there's a glut...

There are a lot of different styleslike Nick Broomfield and Michael Moore have changed the face of nonfiction film Is

There's reality shows with sort of manipulated reality. And as much as people might not like that, it's really opened up the whole world of nonfic-tion filmmaking to show people at networks and other places that they can be entertaining and exciting and interesting and that there are audiences for them. And then there are the ones that are cinema verite that really get underneath the souls of people. And Michael and Nick, who put themselves into their films and they become a huge character, and...

Through the Lens Fearlessly

Prolific and gutsy are words commonly uttered in connection with the name Barbara Kopple. Her subject matter doesn't shy away from the controversial and even dangerous. Harlan County, U.S.A., her first feature nonfiction film as director producer, won her a 1977 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. It chronicles the violent struggle between coal miners in Appalachian Kentucky and management. Several of her subsequent films look at peace rallies and demonstrations, workers trying to...

To what extent do you know what the big picture is before you go into the editing room

They evolve once you're editing, but I leave every filming situation sort of knowing what the scene is, and I think Joe feels the same way. When you get into the editing room, obviously, the film takes on many lives, and any documentary film can be cut fifty different ways. But if you're instinctive in your editing and your craft, you go with your gut instinct and you start cutting the scenes that you can cut, and you start figuring how you put this jigsaw puzzle together. Most films, most good...

To what extent do you think about the audience when you make a film and does that at all affect how you make films How

We do test screenings in the sense that we'll show a rough cut and an advance cut to friends and family to get some feedback. And you can actually watch and get a sense of what's working and what's not working just by the way people are breathing, how they're reacting things people laugh at, things you didn't think they'd laugh at, or don't understand. That's helpful, and I think Joe feels pretty strongly about that. I've always been a little less in that department because I feel that you can...

Was it difficult to stray from your roots in verit Was it difficult to start using catalysts to move the story along

By nature, I'm a nonreligious person. I don't believe in any dogma. So, anything to tell a better story. And it's interesting, when I was a student, Hollywood people would come and give lectures, and directors tell us that you have to tell a story in a film. I thought, that's old stuff. We don't need to tell a story we have to show tension in the film. And then, when I started working and making films, I realized that that's all we are doing we have to tell a good...

What excites you about documentary filmmaking Where is the passion for you what keeps you coming back

Well, I think it's incredibly hard work, and I don't think it's going to get any easier. It's an incredibly privileged position because basically, you're paid to document a world you are a part of in a way that even a journalist isn't. You can spend months and months and months on a film, and I can't think of anybody else who is in that position. You can do a much more competent story and you can find out things about every nook and cranny you want to. It gives you an excuse to question people...

What is your shooting ratio and when youre shooting are you aware of the big picture of your film or does it evolve in

But the editing is when you see better what you've made. When you're shooting you're not sure what you're making but you know when you're getting close. It's like you're warmer or colder. You can sort of tell by the relationship of the people you're shooting. I always think of it kind of like an investigation in some ways. The process of finding your story while you're making it because you don't really know what it is while you're going along, and there's a lot of...

What keeps you coming back to it

I'm going to answer a slightly different question. In terms of documentary filmmaking, what needs to happen in the industry, I think that the HBO model of films that are long-form, often cinema verite-inspired, films which can take on tough subjects they have been doing so well they have been winning Emmys every year, and Academy Award nominations. And I really wish that other networks would look to that model, because I think it can be successful commercially and critically. So many of these...

What percentage of your films were your original idea versus those that someone approached you with

Well, Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost were from articles that we read in the paper. I was approached about the Sun Records film. We pitched the Begging Game, which was the homeless people's film, to ABC at the time, and the Rolling Stone magazine anniversary show, we were approached. I'd say it's fifty-fifty. I think usually American Masters, or PBS, or HBO they have very powerful people who run these departments they often have a lot of good ideas. Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost had to...

What was your budget for that

Well, we spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on our own and then, when American Playhouse came in, I think the ultimate budget was a little less than half a million. But based on that success it did, like, a mil- (Standing, left to right) Lyman Ward, Roscoe Ward, Joe Berlinger, Delbert Ward, Bruce Sinofsky, and (seated) Douglas Cooper (cameraman) in the Ward brothers' home. Photo credit Derek Berg, courtesy Creative Thinking International, Ltd. (Standing, left to right) Lyman Ward,...

When you first began did you take a vow of poverty

I think every documentary filmmaker, if they're realistic and love their work, knows that you take not only a vow of poverty but anonymity. At best, your films are going to be shown at film festivals to a few hundred people, and that there might be a showing on public television that might bring in a larger audience, but traditionally even public television tends to marginalize documentaries. I was living in New York and shooting my first film on the Brooklyn Bridge and moved to the house I'm...

Where do you think documentary films are going

I'm not very good at predicting because I'm wrong so many times, but I think the fly on the wall, the pure verite, is going to expand tremendously. We just saw a wonderful film on public television. It was about four or five taxi drivers in New York, and it was all shot in taxis at night. Without the new technology it couldn't be done. And it was wonderful. So the verite is going to evolve fantastically. But the limitations of it, of being able to portray only what's public there's going to be...

Would you say that you began in documentary as a cinema verit filmmaker

I remember in 1963 we were filming a series called the Anatomy of a Hit, about how a film becomes a hit. That's how I met Saul Zaentz. And I ordered a lightweight camera that the Maysles brothers were using and I just unpacked it right on the set and put it on my shoulder and went crazy. Here was something you could run around with. And at first it was crazy because we were running around with it rather than letting the action unfold in front of us, so it was useless. I said...

You mentioned Charleen as being your first film and you speak about it as though you like your first film Is that

Well, it's not a good film in many ways. It's shot rather poorly, although the shooting improves as it goes on. The editing is kind of atrocious in the beginning because I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but it gets better as it goes along. One thing it had, thanks to Charleen, is heart and soul, and I think that's what people sensed as they saw it that it was remarkably honest. She's a remarkably interesting woman. It was a very fresh portrait of someone who was very, very willing to...

Your films prompt selfinquiry Is that something you set out to do in your filmmaking Is it a personal quest that youre

Well, it can sometimes be a very simple idea. With Time Indefinite, I just assumed I would be making a lighthearted film about getting married in the nineties from my own particular, fairly committed bachelor's point of view. And it would basically be advice given to me by relatives and friends, and people willing to share their experiences about weddings and marriage. And the preparations for the marriage my wife and I would be making, and then the wedding itself would be the conclusion of the...

What part of the process is the most challenging for you

If I could turn it around, I have three things that just make me glad to be alive. There's a moment when I'm out shooting. It's usually late, late at night or early, early in the morning and you're carrying heavy equipment and suddenly the light is just so and you're able to frame a shot that you know will get into the film somehow. And there's a great exhilaration. It's not dissimilar to the same exhilaration when you're in a dusty old archive and you've got your...

Youve had success with films with reenactments before

But, this time we did much more with acting and with little scenarios, whereas before, we did a lot with metaphor and what we call emotional equivalents. We would call these little things we do emotional equivalents because they are not exactly what you're hearing, but are a metaphor or an illustration for what's being said the emotional thing that's being said. Like, in Dialogues, when the woman runs down the hill with the baby in her arms, what I was saying was that when I was depressed I was...

As a documentary filmmaker you are chronicling their lives versus you are a part of their lives Is there a boundary

In certain ways, it's a case-by-case decision. I think that any documentary filmmaker who tells you that there's a hard and fast line where you have to keep a distance, is probably not making the same kind of film that I am. There's a financial thing. If you're working with people who are poor, I think that there has to be a line in terms of money. I will take my subject out to eat. I will buy my subject a birthday present. If somebody comes and tries to hit me up for 500 because they can't pay...

How did you get into filmmaking and in particular documentaries

With filmmaking, Irving and I are truly partners. He was a filmmaker before I was. When we got together I had just gotten my degree in poetry writing from San Francisco State. So I was an artist, and I've always felt that that's what I was, from the time that I was a small child. But I didn't know a lot about movies, and I actually didn't know a lot about visual arts. So after I finished with my poetry, I felt that I really needed to do something else with my poetry, which would be visual, like...

How did you get into filmmaking

I came somewhat late to the profession. I came to it as a student who was not a declared filmmaker. I was an undergraduate at Brown and was supposedly writing a thesis, but during my senior year I became very interested in what was going on at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which is adjacent to the Brown campus. There I saw people my own age eighteen, nineteen, twenty making movies, and that was a very engaging idea to me. I'd never seen the process before, of editing and dealing...

How did you get into filmmaking and how did you get into history

Well, those are really two separate and distinct questions. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a filmmaker. From early childhood, I was so caught by movies and their power over me and other lives. My father had a fairly strict curfew but it was always relaxed and completely forgiven if there was an opportunity to stay up late and watch an old feature film on the late show, even on a school night. He took me to film festivals, and I went off to college absolutely convinced that I...

Experiential Filmmaking Bringing Us into the Story

Sinofsky began his filmmaking career at Maysles Films, where he met Joe Berlinger. The two collaborated on a documentary short, Outrageous Taxi Stories (1989), and thus began their filmmaking partnership. Brother's Keeper (1992) was their first feature-length documentary endeavor, and it became a much-lauded film and one of the most successful self-distributed documentaries at that time. Their next coproduction, Paradise Lost The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), began as a chronicling...

Do you find the end to your film when you are shooting or when you are editing

I think you know you have great moments that are the conclusion . . . In Brother's Keeper, we knew generally the story was over because the boys were acquitted. However, we had invited them to come to New York. At the end of Brother's Keeper, Roscoe says, Come back up in the spring when, I forget the words, when the green leaves come out again. We see them broken down by the tractor and have this conversation with Roscoe the day after the acquittals. And a few...

How long did it take to edit Civil

Civil War took more than two years of absolutely solid work, with ten or twelve of us working six days a week, ten hours a day. Baseball took two years, Jazz took nearly three years. It's a process, and I think one of my two skills in some way has almost nothing to do with all of the different hats that I wear as executive producer, producer, director, music arranger, and, sometimes, cinematographer it really has to do with having a trust in the process, so that when, early on in editing, it...

What excites you about documentary filmmaking

Delbert Ward Ward Brothers

Part of it is that I'm fascinated by environments and places that I don't normally frequent. We've always loved subcultures and things like that. I'm always interested in the human condition, so I'm always fascinated to live, in some ways, through other people's experiences. I've never been on trial for murder and lived in a trailer park and all those things, but I am fascinated by the human condition and love spending time with people who walk in different circles. So I get to hang out in the...

Chapter Albert Maysles

Lauded as the father of direct cinema, an American parallel to the French verite style, Albert Maysles is a landmark figure in nonfiction films. With the revolution of sync-sound and portable film cameras, Albert and his brother, David, shot films handheld, with very little, if any, interview interaction, simply allowing life to unfold before the camera, capturing more truth than would be possible if they attempted to direct subjects and situations. Their style and their films are legendary...

Chapter DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

Pennebaker began in film over forty years ago. With a background in engineering from Yale, M.I.T., and the Navy, his expertise made him extremely instrumental in developing equipment for recording sound synced to the pictures captured by a film camera. Together with Albert and David Maysles, Richard Leacock, and Robert Drew, Pennebaker developed the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera-and-sound system, revolutionizing the way films could be shot. Now they didn't have to rely on...

Emotional Archaeologist

Perhaps one of the most recognized names in documentaries, Ken Burns's prolific filmmaking specializes in making the history of our country come alive in a notable string of PBS series. His first film, Brooklyn Bridge 1981 , made with two college friends who started Florentine Films with Burns, earned an Academy Award nomination, paving the way for the litany of films that followed. He has traversed such complex and controversial subjects as The Shakers 1984 , Huey Long 1985 , Congress 1988 ,...

How do you find the time

It's so exciting. I love it. I live in this little village where any kind of notoriety that I have plus fifty cents gets me a cup of coffee. So you can't take yourself too seriously. It's like having a big sore thumb. When you start feeling like you're somebody, you sort of look and the thing is throbbing and you go, oh, yeah, you're just the same. There is a thing out there called a Ken Burns film, but a Ken Burns film is really just acknowledging an...

Chapter Susan Froemke

Longtime filmmaker with Maysles Films, Susan Froemke has been Albert's primary collaborator since his brother David died in 1987. Froemke came to Maysles after a brief stint with WNET in New York. Over two decades, and four Emmy Awards later, she is one of the most respected nonfiction filmmakers in the field. With Maysles, she has crafted close to twenty nonfiction films, including Christo in Paris 1990 , Soldiers of Music Rostropovich Returns to Russia 1991 , Letting Go A Hospice Journey 1996...

What do you think your shooting ratio is

I think we shot somewhere around forty hours for The War Room. D.A. There's sort of a point where you get bored, and it's usually about forty hours. I think the film Don't Look Back was forty hours, but some films where they have a little repeat built into them that you didn't expect, like Moon Over Broadway 1998 , they kept changing the script so we'd have to reshoot all the rehearsals because we'd never see the old ones again. Moon Over Broadway is a film chronicling the opening of the...