By Melanie Levy
Last summer’s documentary course drew a broad range of students. Some hailed from careers in education, others were budding directors with documentaries of their own already in the works, and others worked with organizations that hoped to harness the power of media in order to effect social change. All had a passion for the craft of filmmaking and for understanding the tools and traditions of the documentary form.
The fascinating thing about documentary is that every background offers a unique and powerful way into the practice of making movies and new opportunities to examine the world around us. I work as a director of documentary short films, as a producer and associate producer on a variety of projects for theaters and television, and on documentaries made in order to further a particular social goal. In documentary, the breadth of possible applications offers countless possibilities on form, style and approach. Whatever the purpose however, the major questions inevitably return to story, visual style, and character. How can we find documentary topics that tell the story we feel is most important to our vision? How do we strategically plan production in a way that allows our most compelling stories to develop in a visual way? What are the tools we have to draw upon once we figure out the story we most want to tell?
For a form that has as many various applications as documentary, breaking down the tools and approaches for development, production and post-production is a powerful way to harness the potential of media for whatever the purpose. From education through production to social action, finding the pieces that will drive your story forward is key.
This summer we’ll not only draw from real life case studies, and hands-on production exercises, but we’ll also look to the films that have broken ground in documentary in recent years and the directors who have brought true stories to life on the screen in new and surprising ways. We’ll experiment with equipment, explore documentary topics and approaches, and collaborate on establishing the tools you need to tell the stories you most want to tell.