Depending on the objectives of the film, the same subject might require two entirely different proposals. Let us imagine we have been asked to put in two proposals for a university film. One is to be a standard documentary for general television audiences, the second a film to raise funds for the campus; the working title for both films is Tomorrow Begins Now. Below, I have sketched out the main differences between the two proposals.

Film A

Film B


A half-hour film to explore the changing University.

A half-hour film to raise money for the University.


The changing university over the last twenty years. Ideas change. Communities change.

The changing community. Education today.

Desperate need for a new kind of university. The answer as provided by our university.


A reevaluation in the eyes of the public of the role and purpose of a university. For general television audiences.

To raise money for the university. For showing to small interest groups, dinner groups, and friends of the university.


The film is about a group of students. We set out to explore their world.

The complexity of a university and the need it fills in a community. Also the future requirements of the university.

Format and Style We follow three students We follow two students for six months as they and two professors become involved in through a typical day. The different social, film is an overview of educational, and political university activities rather activities. The style is than an analysis of the personal and intimate. pros and cons of the university. We intend to stress the building program and the intake of students from culturally deprived backgrounds.


As little as possible. Use We will use a standard the students' voices instead. expository narrator with occasional voice-overs by students and faculty.


Cinema verite. Basic directed documentary style.

Point of View

We view the students as We see the university as basically idealistic and an a vital element in our admirable force for good. growing nation, an element that must be supported if we are to survive.

The proposal for film A follows in broad terms the film The Berkeley Rebels, made by Arthur Barron for "CBS Reports" in 1965. CBS had told Barron that there was a lot of trouble at the Berkeley campus of the University of California; they suggested that he explore the situation in terms of the students' goals and see what kind of film he wanted to make. Barron spent a month at Berkeley, returned to CBS, and wrote out the following preparatory notes. These notes are not exactly a proposal but show clearly the kind of film Barron wanted to make.

Focus. This film is not about the University of California; it is not about the class of 1965; it is not about the demonstrations that have taken place at California. These are all elements in our story, but the film is basically about something else. It is about a selected group of students. Call them "activists," the new radicals, or "green baggers." This picture is about them. It seeks to explore their world. It seeks to answer these questions: Who are they? What do they want? Why are they important? It seeks to reveal the mood, posture, and attitudes of a new and different generation of committed students.

Point of View. We do not state a point of view directly, but we do have an attitude about these kids, and hopefully it comes through. It is this: Despite their faults (intolerance, immaturity, a tendency to see things in black and white, rebellion for its own sake, a certain disrespect for law and order), these kids are a positive and admirable force in American society. They are idealistic, brilliant, vocal, and alive. They are willing to say, "The Emperor wears no clothes." They are generous, compassionate, and moral. They take America's promises seriously. They are, in short, our conscience.

Style. This is a highly personal film. It is intimate. It is emotional. Its style is human revelation rather than reportage. It is told subjectively rather than objectively. It is more a diary than an essay, more an autobiography than a report, more a drama than journalism. Its goal is to enter the world of these kids rather than observe and report on it.

Narration. The rule here is to use as little as possible. Ideally, the story will be told completely in the words and voices of our kids — first person all the way. We intend to use a CBS reporter merely to set the scene, to indicate that (distorted or not) this is the way these kids see the world, and to conclude.

Format. The film is in three acts. Each act corresponds to an underlying cause of agitation and disaffection among the students. Act 1 follows Kate Coleman, a senior who will graduate in June. On a personal level, it is the story of her satisfactions and dissatisfaction with California. On a broader level, it is the story of the achievement and failure of mass education. Act 2 follows Ron and Sally, two unmarried students who live together. In this act, we reveal these kids' attitude toward authority, responsibility, their parents, the older generation, and individual morality. The message of this act is this: Our kids feel the adult world is corrupt and morally bankrupt; they believe they must decide what is moral for themselves. Act 3 is "Mike and the New Politics." Mike is a grad student who teaches math. As we follow him we gain insight into the political mood and stance of his generation. Mike's politics are different in important ways from my generation, which preceded him. We show how and why this is so, and we reveal what it means to youth today and in America.

The notes conclude with a description of the film techniques that Barron intends to use. They include actual scenes, fantasy scenes to reveal "inner states in an unusually imaginative and dramatic way," and staged scenes where the students are directed and told to do something.

George Stoney is another excellent filmmaker, noted for such films as How the Myth Was Made, about Flaherty's work on Aran, and All My Babies. Stoney is also well known as one of the producers of the highly acclaimed Wasn't That a Time, about the musical group the Weavers. One of the most interesting of Stoney's films is the dramatic documentary A Cry for Help, made to assist police forces in coping with the problem of suicide. The following extract from Stoney's proposal illustrates his technique:

What is the average policeman's attitude towards suicide? We have made some efforts to discover this. Fifteen police departments held roundtable discussions on the matter following a set of questions designed by Dr. Rowland. We have personally interviewed policemen in ten other departments. Our inquiries have gone far enough to suggest that attitudes on suicide in the abstract vary quite widely among policemen as among laymen, generally being affected by such fundamental things as family background, religion, education, etc. However, the average policeman's attitude towards the individuals involved in such incidents has been made startlingly clear.

In tape after tape one hears them talk about "sympathy bidders." In interview after interview they have made no effort to conceal their hilarity and disgust in telling us about the "repeaters" or the "nuts who call up."

Happily, we have found a good many policemen who have a great deal more understanding than this. Much of the material contained in the script has been developed with their help. However, it is to the average policeman that our film is directed.

What is our aim? The primary goal of the film is to save lives by emphasizing the importance of suicide threats and attempts.

While the film will be prepared primarily as a training film for the police, it should have instructional value for clergymen, social service workers, physicians, and in fact the public in general.

Emphasis should be on specific situations and how to handle them, but these should be generalized as far as possible, and emphasis should be on attitudes.

The film should enhance the learning of the police officer so that he will handle suicide situations better. This can be done without making him a psychiatrist. Yet it is necessary that the policeman be a student of human nature. In fact, he should get very good at understanding people. With such qualifications, and with some training, he can be a very helpful person.

Structure sketch. Although the attached treatment will result in a film that we hope will be a single dramatic unit, it can be divided, for purposes of subject matter analysis, into five sections:

1. Ways of preventing suicide and suicide attempts in jail

2. Emergency rescue procedures outside jails

3. The role of the police in prevention

4. The policeman's personal attitude towards people who attempt suicide and how this can hurt or help him in dealing with them

5. Understanding "the cry for help"

The film's first section deals with suicides and suicide attempts made by people who are in police custody. This is a problem almost every policeman will accept as part of his responsibility, and here we can give him some fairly simple instructions.

The film's second section tackles a more difficult problem: suicides and suicide attempts made by people not in custody. The second section of the film undertakes these things:

1. To present suicide as a statistically important problem in the overall well-being of the community

2. To stress the importance of responding to these cries for help as literally matters of life and death

In part 3, the film begins to deal more directly with the policeman's role in preventing suicide. To help develop in our viewers an understanding of people who attempt suicide, we sketch four case histories, moving from one to another as our analysis demands.

Some years ago, I worked with a wonderful filmmaker, John Fox. John was always shooting one film, writing a second, and planning a third. Projects came and went. But his central dream was a two-part series about Death Valley for presentation by KCET, California. The project was very expensive, so for funds, John went to many of the major U.S. national funders and foundations as well as private corporations. Because of the complexity and scope of the project and the multitude of questions expected from the funders, the proposal had to go into tremendous depth and detail. Below I have set out (in abbreviated form) the parts of his proposal dealing with story, appeal, rationale, and approach.

Death Valley: An American Mirage Why This Series

Death Valley occupies a unique place in American culture. Its name, familiar to every American, brings to mind images of barren deserts, of twenty-mule teams, of torturous heat, and of circling vultures. It has been portrayed in feature films and was the subject of long-running series on both radio and television from the 1930s to the 1970s. Yet for all that, the real story of this valley remains almost entirely unknown.

There is no place in the world like it. Located on the border between California and Nevada, it is a spectacular wasteland of rippling sand dunes, rugged canyons, and landscapes hewn from primeval rocks. . . .

For hundreds of years, Death Valley was home to Shoshone Indians who extracted a living from its forbidding terrain. The rhythms of their life were disrupted, however, in 1849. In that year, the valley was "discovered" by pioneers on their way to the California gold fields. The forces that transformed the continent were brought to bear on this one valley with such extraordinary results that by the beginning of the twentieth century, the valley had obtained something of a mystic stature for most Americans. . . .

The valley became famous, however, less because of what it was than because of what Americans could dream it to be. Stories about Death Valley, true ones and untrue ones alike, struck a chord deep in the American psyche and continued to fascinate the public well into the second half of the twentieth century. For most Americans, Death Valley became a place more of myth than reality.

To understand why Death Valley rose to such prominence in popular culture and became wrapped in such a theatrical aura, the programs will explore both the history of the valley and the shifting dreams of America. In the interplay between the real and the imagined lies a story of the developing character of the nation. For most Americans, Death Valley was a desert illusion, a mirage that first arose in the days of the gold rush and grew until it enthralled the entire country. We will present the story of those Americans whose lives helped shape and were shaped by that mirage. Their ambitions and their struggles, and their successes and their failures are at the heart of this unique case study of American life.

Filmic Approach

Though they have never before been assembled into a single comprehensive body of work, resource materials about Death Valley abound, documenting the colorful personalities and dramatic events of the valley's 150-year history. Lyrical in story line, with a wealth of original and archival imagery, and a humanistic perspective, these programs will tell the history of Death Valley through the actual and dramatized words of many of those people who were an essential part of the story.

One constant theme and "voice" for the valley will be the Sho-shone Indians. While pioneers and others invaded the valley, beginning in 1849, the Shoshone remained a constant and stable presence. They never knew their home as a "valley of death," and their view of this wilderness will provide a foil for the wild tales, outlandish schemes, and assaults on the valley made by outsiders. . . .

The series will take full advantage of published accounts and will draw from many published collections of photographs, illustrations, and documents. It will also use personal letters, diaries, and artifacts from family and private collections. Archival film footage, audio recordings, and early motion pictures will also help bring the past to life.

A celebrity narrator/host will provide the voice-over spine of the story, and a star cast of actors will provide voice-over readings. Interviews with historians will be interwoven with the narrative to provide an interpretive context.

Film crews will photograph original historic locations, many of which look today almost as they did fifty or a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago. The views of Death Valley are stunning; snow capped mountains, rock strewn gorges . . . and aerial photography will emphasize these breathtaking expanses. . . .

Scale models of such ephemeral towns as Rhyolite and Skidoo will be built, carefully lit and shot with snorkel lenses to take the viewers through the living streets of what are now ghost towns. The Santa Fe railroad has offered the producers use of their working steam engines to illustrate the famous train race of Death Valley Scotty.

In writing of his filmic approach, John also added a note on cameras, film, editing formats, and how he saw the film fitting into HDTV broadcasts. He also dealt briefly with the use of sound popular music—ragtime, jazz, big band—in the series.

Finally, in a separate section, John provided a very detailed and compelling description of the narrative line and fascinating stories that provided the backbone of the films. It was clear that the proposal had taken tremendous time and effort to put together, but in the end, it provided a wonderful platform for the idea and worked as a superb sales pitch.

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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