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First Time Documentary Production


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#1 juderobertson

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 10:25 PM

Hey! First post! :)

I've been making little films for a while and I just got my hands on an XL2 (it's a friends.) I've had a plan in my mind for a while to do this documentary but I can't seem to start and actually do filming because I can't organize. :P

I have a few general questions which may or may not be important:

How to go around arranging interviews?

How much should I have researched and pre-written before hand? Or should I just do a bunch of interviews and hope that they all edit together smoothly?

I'm hoping to start interviewing this week (I've already arranged one) and I really need some general tips from those of you that might have done something like this.

Thanks. :)

-Dave-

(If this is in the wrong section then just move it. I won't get offended. :) )
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#2 Oron Cohen

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:15 AM

hey dave,

Your questions are too general, when I started to shoot documentaries as a DP the first thing I did is to watch allot of documentary films.
If you explore other films you see how other directors and DP's approach interviews, also if you took some DVD you can find interviews with directors explaining the method of there work.
The second thing I would do is to read books on this subject.
I think in cinema there are no tricks and no easy way you need to work hard and learn and then make a film and after that to learn more (read and watch more) and then to try to make another film and so on.

Good doco films:

- Love and Diane
- My architect
- Errol Morris films (great interviews)
- Memory for max, Claire, Ida and company- Allan King (all of Allan King work)
- Sherman's march, Bright leaves- Ross McElwee

Those films pop of my head,

Hope I have been helpful,

Oron
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#3 Andres Pardo aka Gral Treegan

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:00 PM

Hi!!

I also recomend to read this book

http://www.amazon.co...r...TF8&s=books

bye!
Treegan
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:09 PM

Hi,

I spend most of my time making documentaries, especially at the moment.

There are fundamentally two ways to do it:

1) Minutely research every aspect of your subject, draw your conclusions according to strict moral principles, write it as more or less an academic paper and then plan what material you need to support these conclusions. Shoot and edit should therefore be by-the-numbers. This is how everyone claims to do it.

2) Go and shoot tens of hours of material and form your opinions along the way, then edit to support the view of whoever's paying you to do it. This is how everyone actually does it.

OK, to be fair, most of them are a mixture of the two. The more commercial something is, the more it's liable to incline toward option 2. My position is that you're going to practically have to interview the people you're speaking to in order to do option 1 before you even shoot, so it takes a lot more time. If you're paying professional crews or doing a lot of travelling, then obviously it's cheaper to conduct a few phone calls to establish whether an interviewee is someone whose views would be useful, but in many cases, the time involved makes it easier to just go and shoot some DV.

I've made three fairly successful commercial documentaries, revolving mainly around historic houses and their maintenance and running, using option 2, and everyone's been perfectly happy. It is, however, considered somewhat lazy practice.

Phil
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#5 Stephen Press

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 01:37 PM

That?s a good description Phil. To be honest option 2 directors are my worst nightmare. The concept of ?if you throw enough sh!t at the wall some of it is going to stick? just doesn?t do it for me.
The other thing is if you are rolling and praying all the time you often miss things that one well thought phone call would have brought up. The number of times the talent kills the story dead bringing up something halfway through the waffling interview? :D
Anyway I guess it?s just whatever works for you but I do think that the old 4 to 1 shooting ratio is still a good thing to aim for. Tape maybe cheap but that?s no reason to waste it.
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#6 Nadav Hekselman

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 02:30 AM

I agree with most of whats been said here...

Ive done many documentries DPing and worked with many directros with diffrenet approches and diffrent expreince level.

Most of the questions you ask are too general because you lack the experience. my first suggetion than is just go shot . when you start shooting you will tackle many difficulties: your material will be very sporadic, not in focus, questions not working good. But watching the material you shot will help you learn your problems more specificly. I watch very carefuly most of the material I shot on documentries, just as much as I do in fiction.

Dont worry about interviews at the begining because you can always reshot them. many documentries have the same people intrviewed in diffrent locations and it cuts perfectly. But something you better decide ahead :

1. the style of the interviews you want visually . will it be perfect composition and light (earl moris style) or just handheld avalble news style ? interviews shot in diffrent style dont cut well into the movie.

2. Sound is very important, record with a good microphone, near the speaker. (dont use the camera internal mic because its usually not good ebough)

3. A good way of interviewing a person is writing down to yourself the answers you want to hear from him and not the questions you want to ask. this way you make sure you get the lines you are looking for from him and you ask less leading question which brings a better dialouge between you.

4. make sure the person interviewd answers full answers and if its something realy important, ask him politly to repeat in a full answer. for example, you might ask him "tell me about your father" and he will go on describing his father without ever saying "my father" and only saying "he" (he was a great man, i loved him) .With these answers it will be difficult to understand who is he talking about when you edit the interview. so ask him to add "my father" in the beging of evry sentence describing him.

hope this helps you with your interviews... (sorry for bad english)
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Aerial Filmworks