Making documentary films is a challenging and rewarding career path. Too many documentary filmmakers fall into the trap of creating the ‘talking heads’ documentary where they simply interview people against interesting or artistic backdrops. However, this form of documentary film making leaves a lot to be desired. The bottom line is that ‘talking heads’ are boring to watch. If people are just going to speak about their experiences, then an account of the situation in written format would be a much better idea since people usually write much better than the speak. There will be no “ums”, or awkward pauses.
The art of documentary film making is the process of ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’. For example, rather than having a person explain the definition of poverty, why not show poverty. The audience is intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions and definitions. What about filming in neighbourhoods where poverty runs rampant. What about showing the lives of people living in poverty. Their long bus rides to work, what they eat for dinner, what they struggle with and so on.
Film is a visual medium and people watch films to have their visual senses peaked. Simply watching someone speak is not visually entertaining. It might be from an auditory standpoint, but if it’s only interesting to the ear then you should write a book rather than shoot a film. You need to make your documentary films interesting to the eye
However, this is not to say that ‘talking heads’ need to be removed all together. They can be great for explaining overly complex subject, for filling in any information holes that you couldn’t ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ and they can provide back up explanations or help give your films thesis validation based on their credentials. The point is to simply use them sparingly.
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Tweet:bit.ly Shirts, DVD’s:www.tlapro.com Watch my other videos: www.youtube.com In this part 1 of 2 tutorial I explain some helpful tips to keep in mind when shooting a documentary or run and gun type of film. What equipment to use and why, etc. HOW TO use your camera HOW TO get the best performance out of none actors
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Question by Carrie M: How do I get into documentary filmmaking?
With no skills or experience where do I begin?
P.S. I live in the Midwest.
Answer by fivetoze
ahh… a good Q… answer, dead easy, you pick up a camera and shoot frames… i do weddings… but not your boring 26 shots and im off to do the next one.. i spend all day with the couple… and thats usually around 8 to 12 (or 14) hours… i document their whole day. and were talking about 2000 images… and in the replay, its all tehre, a whole day… from breakfast to bedtime…
you need a few skills, like never putting the camera down! and a few lines of smooth patter… you want to relax your subjects, and then shoot them…they shouldnt loook like rabbits in the headlamps of your car… ive done hundreds of weddings, ive never seen one without a camera to my eye… (bring on the Borg implants)
you dont have to do weddings… ive been documenting my local area for 30 years… if you want experience, try the fire station, or the ambulance station and ask if you can shadow someone for your project… (on health and safety they may say no) but try a shopkeeper, roadsweeper, bin men, traffic cop on point duty… or even just shoot cars going thru an intersection… and remember, your telling story, a day in teh life… of a traffic signal… sounds daft, but hey who knows… you might just shoot a high speed cops n robbers car chase… or a dog crossing at the walk sign… it rarely until you review the photos that you see what you recorded…
stills are easier to manipulate and control than video… stills are just that, a stolen moment, frozen in time, with no distractions, like noise, and crap framing… it takes time to develop a style, but its well worth it… and from my point of view, allows my work to shine…
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Interview with Director Lucy Walker on the experience of documentary filmmaking and advice for young documentarians at the 2010 Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival. Walker is the award winning director of such films as BLINDSIGHT and DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND. Her new film WASTE LAND chronicles the journey of famed art photographer Vic Muniz as he attempts to transform everyday garbage into high art in Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest garbage dump, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The film also serves as a thoughtful portrait of the inhabitants of Jardim Gramacho, who work in the dump recycling materials within it by hand. WASTE LAND has won over 25 awards and honors and has just been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. CONNECT WITH AFI: twitter.com facebook.com Silverdocs.com http
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