Monday, December 2, 2013


When I tell people that I'm shooting a documentary, I get LOADS of suggestions of other docs I should watch.  Some are close to my subject, some are simply people's favorites.  

It's amazing how MUCH watching a bad documentary can teach you.

Things I learned/confirmed today:
1.  If your documentary has some sort of thesis (which they all should), do not include yourself in the documentary.  Let the topic be the focus, not the documentarian.

2.   Do not do any kind of voice-over yourself, unless you have an amazing voice and can completely disconnect from the experience you went through making the thing.  A director who does their own voice-over risks sounding full of themselves and preachy.

3.  When choosing which segments to include in the final piece, make sure that each story provides a progression from the last.  Repetition is boring.

4.  Cinematography is EXTREMELY important.  Unless making your project look DIY has a specific purpose that's related to your theme, and that look is done in an original and properly accomplished way, it'll simply look like what it is:  amateur-hour.

5.  Unless the primary focus of your documentary is Burning Man, do NOT include Burning Man in your tale.  The filmmaker needs to earn the level of emotional/philosophical/magical wonder that people have at Burning Man by gradually leading their audience into that.  Without establishing it properly, everyone on the playa sounds either full of it, or like a cult member.

6.  In my project, my journey will not be part of the documentary at all.  Couchsurfing... staying with friends... driving across the country for the first time... none of that will have a place in the film because that is not the topic.  I will be sharing those things via social media... but the documentary is not the place for that.

Burning and learning... every day.

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