The Future

The question for the future is, Where do we go from here? Old solutions and ideas for documentary writers and directors may not work in tomorrow's world, and the sooner we realize that the better. How do we face the twenty-first century? What do we want to do, and how are we going to do it? What do we want to say? Should we be putting out the old messages or saying something new? Who will our audience be? Will our films be framed according to past styles, or will they be totally innovative? And will we be using the old technology or futuristic equipment we can only dream about now?

Technology and Audience

Taken together, the 1980s, 1990s, and the early years of the new century have been the age of the communications revolution, the age of the CD-ROM, the DVD, the VCR, and the videodisc. With the Avid and other technological wonders, electronic editing in both film and video has taken tremendous strides forward. Cameras have become even more lightweight and miniaturized. Video has become an essential tool in filmmaking. One television cassette takes hours of material, and yet the advent of the videodisc camera may kill tape. High fidelity is the norm. The Walkman and the Watchman proliferate. The fiat television screen and high-definition TV have arrived. Cable television spreads, and television satellites orbit the earth, providing international as well as national audiences. Interactive television and digital technology have become the buzzwords.

What it all means is that nothing is sacred—neither the technology nor the classical concept of audience nor the style and manner of film distri bution. Our task is to see that the change becomes a blessing and not a curse.

The new computer chip has changed filmmaking in important ways. Because of it, filmmaking will eventually become as easy as writing and considerably less costly. Filmmakers will no longer be burdened by massive crews, horrendously heavy lights, and bulky equipment. Instead, one person will go out with a lightweight digital camera and do every single job. Though easier today, filming is still a hassle. What I hope to see in the future is a one-pound camera/tape-or-disc recorder that can go anywhere, do anything, record continuously for four hours, and give images as fine as anything on 35mm or 70mm film. I want to see technology simplified so that the filmmaker's problem becomes what to say rather than how to film.

As to distribution, everything is up for grabs. At the moment, the market is heavily weighted against the filmmaker, since the main distribution options are television, cable, and commercial distributors. That may change. The spread of satellites will bring a demand for product, and one can only hope that the demand will include documentaries. Perhaps documentaries will be marketed by mail order. Already, electronic systems allow films to be fed privately and cheaply to the viewer-consumer, and documentary has to become part of that system. Meanwhile, Web distribution promises heaven; whether these pearly gates are within our reach has yet to be seen.

The lesson for filmmakers is simple: You must keep up with the new technologies and look for ways to use changing distribution systems to your advantage.

Subject and Style

Subjects change fast. Nanook and Chang inspired the romance and travelogue films. Potemkin and Triumph of the Will showed what could be done with political propaganda. Grierson developed the social documentary, and Jennings's poetics boosted war morale. Then even these innovations gave way before new trends. In the 1970s, subject matter ranged from Vietnam and the women's movement to films on the family, interpersonal relationships, and the growing threat of nuclear war. What characterized these films was that many were made outside television and were made with a passion that was frowned on by the networks. Many of them also embodied new techniques and new styles. Until the late 1950s, the accepted form for the documentary was the prewritten script with the visuals conforming to the narration. Cinema verite changed all that, bringing the personal, unscripted film to the editing room. Now, video in its turn is changing the shape and style of films, adding a zip, a flashiness, and an immediacy not seen before.

One of the greatest changes may come through interactive video and DVD. In the future, the filmmaker may no longer be content to market his or her simple one-hour film. Instead, he or she may also prepare a longer version that contains not only the "master" film but also all the outs, the interviews, and all the research materials and articles. All these "resources" can then be activated and accessed with the flick of a switch. This vision is, in fact, fast becoming reality, with both The World at War and Heritage: Civilization and the Jews and other major series having been made available on digital video discs.

Of course, change doesn't necessarily mean improvement. The objective is to absorb the lessons of the past and hope that they provide a map to the future.

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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