Introduction

In the last twenty years, tremendous changes have taken place in documentary and nonfiction filmmaking, including changes in subject matter, form, and the very way in which documentaries and industrial films are made. However, despite the rise in the number of university film and video courses, very few books explain how to consider, create, write, and direct the "new" film. One object of this book is to fill that gap — to provide you with a thorough, down-to-earth grasp of documentary filmmaking, from idea to finished work. But above all, this is a book about ideas and concepts. Its goal is to help you to think about the film as a totality before the camera is switched on. This approach may seem obvious, but it is not always so obvious in practice. Many people jump into a film, shoot hours of material, and then wonder what it's all about. To me, that is putting the horse before the cart with a vengeance.

In essence, this book is about the daily problems that the filmmaker faces—from concept to finished film, from financing to distribution, from censorship and political problems to breaking into the networks, from the complexities of location shooting to problems of ethics and morality, from difficulties with the crew to the problems of dealing with real people and the complexities of their lives. Finally, the book deals with research, problems of style, varieties of approach, and the challenge of new technologies.

This book does not deal with equipment. Because this subject is thoroughly covered in other books and is well taught in most film schools and universities, this omission is deliberate. And therein lies one of the problems: Most film schools provide a level of technical training that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Students graduate having handled more editing equipment than Eisenstein ever did; they know how to take apart and rebuild a Nagra in ten minutes and how to light a set using the best techniques of Nestor Almendros and Vilmos Szigmond. So the last thing they need is additional advice on bounce or direct lighting. But students do tend to be deficient in what to say and how to say it. Documentary writing, for example, is often the weakest subject in the curriculum. One of the aims of this book is to redress that imbalance.

A second topic deliberately left out of this book is that of the history of documentary filmmaking. The subject is tremendously important, but I assume that most readers of this book are familiar with it. If not, then Erik Barnouw's Documentary: A History of The Non-Fiction Film is the best introduction around. If you know some history, you can proceed without reinventing the wheel. If you are familiar with the films of Flaherty, Riefenstahl, Jennings, the Maysleses, Drew, Leacock, and Pennebaker, you already have a good sense of evolving styles and objectives. So, for the rest of this book, I will assume that you learned about cinema verite at your mother's knee, and that you know that Nanook of the North is a film, rather than a Canadian hockey star.

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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