Working experiences of a non-fiction filmmaker

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.

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off. 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

in The documentary diaries
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1 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. In due

in The documentary diaries
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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 96 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 informal discussion. Like most

in The documentary diaries
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pick up your filmmaking elsewhere. 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

in The documentary diaries

2 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

in The documentary diaries

3 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

in The documentary diaries

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 that

in Bertrand Tavernier

5 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

in Jean Epstein

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 themes explored

in Alain Resnais