Ethics

The place of ethics in documentary is discussed at length in chapter 23 of this book, but a short word is due here. When you film your own family, you are entering very dangerous territory. The capacity for harm is immense, and you need to tread very cautiously. You may believe you are working for the public good or for your own therapeutic purposes, but often you are merely washing dirty linen in public, even settling age-old family grudges. So be careful.

You have to ask of yourself, Who benefits and who is liable to be harmed by your film? Generally, your family trusts you. Because of that, they allow you access to their thoughts and feelings, which they would probably deny any other filmmaker. Be careful not to abuse that trust.

You know more about the possible long-range effects of the film than they do. Be aware of that. Protect them from the harm they cannot foresee.

Above all, avoid "rape" with the camera. In his diary project, it seems as if Ed Pincus practically forces his wife to appear in the film against her will. The effect is not pleasant. In Joe and Maxie, Maxie Cohen besieges her father who is really quite angry about being forced into a situation not of his liking. Again, the audience is left with a bad taste in its mouth. This abuse is not, however, to be confused with gentle persuasion of someone to appear in your film. When Oscar Berliner tells his son Alan that he is wasting his time filming him, he is really saying "persuade me my life is interesting." There may seem to be only a fine line between the actions of Ed Pincus and Alan Berliner, but in practice, the gap is a mile wide.

I would add one final caution: Don't go to the other extreme. Don't be too overprotective. In our concern for our loved ones, we can sometimes be too defensive and fail to ask the penetrating and necessary questions. Thus, in Minda Martin's investigation of her mother's life and death, most of the family are interviewed at length, except the father. This is a strange omission, as the father would undoubtedly have shed much light on the mother's life. On being questioned on this score, Martin acknowledged the point but told me she was frankly concerned for her father and didn't want to restir the embers of his loss.

Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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