This book shows what happens from the birth of the idea until a film is completed. This means covering all the hurdles, and the bumps, and other obstacles along the way, including inspiration, proposal writing, finance and marketing. The book shows how the author developed, produced, and worked on seven films. Four are major documentaries, the fifth a feature-length docudrama, and two are works in progress. All have and had multiple problems. None of the completed films were easy to make. The book discusses the pros and cons of working with partners, and shows what happens when there is harmony, or where things break down through disagreements. The problem of raising a budget comes up in all the films, and is discussed most thoroughly in the book. The book also addresses the difficulties of working internationally, and shows how infinite patience and stubbornness can be required when working with a broadcast station. At the end of several of the chapters the author has also added a short section called 'Production notes.' These notes usually amplify and explain further some central problem raised in the chapter. One of the chapters in the book deals with the specifics of making one particular family film. The notes which follow, however, tell people about making family film in general.
Films need backing. They need financing. And times are changing.
I won’t say it was easy in the old days. It wasn’t. But things were clear.
You went to a TV broadcaster, outlined your idea, and if they liked it
they possibly came up with the whole of the budget. Of course there
were usually a few telephone calls, and letters beforehand, but you
knew pretty soon where you stood.
But life moves on.
I’ve written about financing and co-productions in another book,
Succeeding as a Documentary Filmmaker, 1 and hopefully covered the
current situation fairly thoroughly
Learning the ropes
I became a documentary filmmaker by accident. Because of my guitar.
Some people dream of being filmmakers. You know their stories.
‘At the age of three I was making cinemascope films for my parents
to show on my birthday. By the age of five I’d built a multiplex theatre out of cardboard, and was showing my epics to my kindergarten
friends. By seven I was reprimanded for making my first sex film, etc.
etc.’ Well not me. I wanted to go to university and be a lawyer. My
parents liked this idea. Maybe I could keep them in their old age.
swap stories like old comrades. ‘Do you remember the
Ebro? Do you remember when that bastard Franco launched his attack on Madrid? Do you remember when those German planes came
over and we lost fifty men, women and children? And were you really
there in Barcelona when I was filming … ?’ And so on and so on. We
in the audience listen in awe, and silent admiration. We know we’ll
The documentary diaries
remember this afternoon. We know we are privileged, and that few
others will ever see Joris Ivens and Abe Osheroff together again in
pick up your filmmaking
Well the aim of this book is to stop you quaking. Give you courage. Help you on your way. Its goal is to assist you, the filmmaker,
to bring your films to fruition in the real world. My method is that
of using casebook examples and analysis. My hope is that when you
read about a few films I’ve made, and which I discuss here in detail,
the experience may help you understand and cope with the everyday challenges of making documentary films. And that’s vital when
you’re out there standing alone.
In one sense these notes are a
Married to the Marimba
I used to think of myself as the intrepid explorer. I’d go out and hunt
for documentary ideas with all the courage and determination of
Captain Scott heading for the South Pole, or Neil Armstrong heading for the moon. Then it struck me that I needed my head examining. These bold men and true knew exactly where they were going.
Their difficulty was getting there. But as a documentary filmmaker
the whole problem was to find out where I wanted to go. I had no
destination in mind.
So then I changed tack. I dedicated my search for film ideas
Stalin’s Last Purge
One of the things that I had really liked over the years was the possibility of giving documentary workshops in different countries. And
the longer the period the better. So when I was invited by Ngee Ann
Poly in Singapore to be a guest lecturer there for six months I was
absolutely delighted. On arrival I was even more delighted to find
that I only had to teach one and a half days a week. In addition I had
a few hours of consulting, but nothing serious. As a result of these
arrangements I had a lot of time on my hands. The only problem was
This chapter will examine the predilection for
documentary modes of representation that runs through Tavernier’s career from its beginnings.
We have seen that even within the artifices of fiction, documentary effects can be produced by
means of extensive background research, or by inviting actors to contribute their own decor
and speak in their own idiom, or by intervening directly or obliquely in public debates. His
avowed aspiration, inherited from the Lumière brothers, to ‘montrer le monde au monde’ means
Documentaries and sound films
Epstein’s filmography contains roughly an equal number of films
that can be labelled fiction and documentary – a little over twenty
in each category. This will likely come as a surprise to the many
cinephiles who know him only as the filmmaker of La Glace à trois
faces and La Chute de la maison Usher. Unfortunately, only two of
Epstein’s documentaries are accessible outside of archives, and very
little critical attention has been devoted to this substantial part of
his œuvre.1 Indeed, in-depth research on the documentary work of
Resnais’s early documentaries are
meticulous, exquisitely edited works, encompassing both his interest in art
– the visual arts and his own art as filmmaker – and his
constant attempt to create a visual testimony to traumatic history. These
documentaries offer models (sometimes in miniature) of the spectral and
architectural worlds found in his feature films. Bounoure argues that the