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Our final excerpt from Jessica Edwards’ new book Tell Me Something: Advice from Documentary Filmmakers comes from Michael Moore:
Here is my advice for those who want to make a documentary film that people will flock to the movie theaters to see:
The first rule of making a documentary is, don’t make a documentary. Make a movie. Nobody wants to see a documentary. To the often-posed question “Hey, honey, what do you wanna do tonight?” nobody responds with “Let’s go see a documentary!” People do, though, want to see a movie. And when they go to the movies, they want to be entertained. I know. I said the E-word. No serious documentary filmmaker would claim to be making something “entertaining,” because that would not only pack the theaters but also diminish the Seriousness and Importance of the Message he or she is trying to impart to the audience.
Well, guess what—nobody wants to sit in a movie theater and feel like he’s being taught a history lesson or preached to or scolded or told he must care about the plight of this or that. People don’t want the invisible wagging finger of the “documentarian” (a word invented for us because we don’t make movies) pointing at them and telling them to take their medicine. That’s why the theatrical audience for documentaries remains so low. It’s Friday night, you’ve worked hard all week, and now you want to relax and go see a movie about … Fracking! Pedophile Priests! My Father Who Deserted Me When I Was 9! Don’t get me wrong—we need to be alarmed about the first two, and the third one, well, I can’t help you with that. I got my own problems. [...]
By Paolo Benetazzo
Push The Boundaries of Your Creativity: How I Made the Film Study
Filmmaking is my day-long obsession, joy and torment
When you can’t see the line between fiction and reality, filmmaking becomes your lifestyle.
I was a psychology student when I came up with the concept behind my feature film directorial debut Study. During my final year at university I was involved in a number of film projects, including short films and documentaries. I didn’t have full artistic control. I had to compromise my vision for the sake of the team and that was the only way to get it done.
When you don’t want to share your vision with others I think you’re ready to make your full-length film, no matter what your budget is. I would rather make a low budget film instead of collecting short films or waiting for the great opportunity that might never come. It’s going to be risky, painful and insane but that’s how real indie films are made.
I’m a self‐taught filmmaker, I’ve never attended a film school. Watching films along with real life experience represents the film school par excellence in my opinion. Films are the greatest teachers of all; they are an endless source of learning.
The Open Screenplay
Fascinated by the study of psychology and its impact on modern life, I decided to explore my studies in a feature film. Once I graduated in Psychology, I moved to Ireland where I started writing the script in English. [...]
Another except from the new book edited by Jessica Edwards of First Film Co. – Tell Me Something: Advice from Documentary Filmmakers. This week it’s DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus:
Work with someone you love. Love what you do. Listen to your partner, but stay true to the voice inside. It’s not always easy, but why easy? Take a deep breath. If you’re lucky, it’ll be the best adventure of your life. And you’ll share it with your love.
We got a dog. A big black dog. [...]
Jessica Edwards of First Film Co. gave us some excerpts from the excellent new book she edited Tell Me Something: Advice from Documentary Filmmakers. This week’s advice is from Morgan Spurlock:
I feel like it was junior high when my parents REALLY started giving me advice. Maybe it was because they thought I desperately needed it, or maybe they believed I was finally smart enough to actually absorb some of it. Whatever it was, from the moment I became a “teen,” my folks bombarded me with a deluge of southern-fried logic that helped deep-fry my brain and make me the crispy human I am today.
When I turned 13, my mother said, “You’re officially a little man today, time to start acting like one.” What exactly she meant by that, I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure I did plenty of stupid things before that, but come on, Mom, when you say something like that, you’re only setting me up to do even MORE stupid things afterwards! Parental logic is confusing to me sometimes—speak up but don’t run your mouth, do your best but don’t try too hard, have fun but not too much fun.
Is there really such a thing as “too much fun”? For my parents, that essentially meant “Don’t do anything stupid,” a.k.a. “Don’t do anything that would get you arrested.” [...]
The only thing you need to make a film is to not be afraid of anybody or anything. John Cassavetes said that. John was inspiring, but he was also direct. He knew that there was no time to be indecisive, or to worry about whether the decisions you’ve already made were right or wrong, good or bad. I think that for John, there was no such thing as a “mistake”—you can only move forward, you can never move backward, and you can profit from absolutely everything.
Many times in my life, I’ve told the story of John’s advice to me after he saw a cut of Boxcar Bertha, a picture I made for Roger Corman. In essence, what he said to me was: Just concentrate on making the movies you need to make. Of course, many directors have approached this in many different ways—Claude Chabrol, for example, who never stopped working and made many, many movies, personal and impersonal. Even John made pictures like Gloria and Too Late Blues. The point is this: Protect the ones that you need to make, keep them alive for yourself, and then make them. [...]