Subject: need your guidence sir To Jason, Sir, I am sunny from India. I have grown up in science fantasies and watching movies, but when I grew up I learnt that I loved science and reality more. We friends worked on some movies and projects at local and state level, but atleast I wish to make documentery. My vision is to make some films for Discovery channel, and Net Geo. Sir, can you guide me what kind of preperation do I need? What kind of hardship will I have to face? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being documentery director? How hard is it to become a documentery director? I have learnt all the basic skills about working on special effects, editing, sound editing,even i direct one short movie (ofcourse not hollywood block buster). I am doing Msc in physics. Ask u frank question, how is your life being a documentry director? Yours faithfully, Sunny
Hello, Sunny. It’s good to hear from you.
Bear in mind that I’m not a full-time documentary filmmaker; I have a day job, a bunch of other projects not related to documentary filmmaking and I don’t have a salary related to it. So while my advice may have some amount of use to you, none of it will get you a job in an industry and it certainly won’t get you a job working for a documentary farm like Discovery or Net Geo.
I am not a big fan of working on documentaries based on assignments; while there are people with more journalistic instincts than I have in the way of “a story is a story”, I specifically want to talk about and spend time filming stories that I think nobody else was going to tell, as opposed to trying to do my own version of something that has been done many times before. This sometimes means I spend more time trying to explain what I’m working on than working on it, but I don’t mind that trade-off. Your preferences might be different.
Assuming you do not wish to have your subjects “assigned” to you, as would happen if you were working for a production firm or a documentary channel, then I say that you will know, rather soon, the sort of subjects and approach you wish to take. My films take years; other people will be able to shoot and put together a film in months. Your subjects might not want to be covered. Others will work side-by-side with you to tell their story. But even though you might get sick of your subject halfway through the production, the intensity of wanting to finish it right will pull you through.
My life making these films has been wonderful. Before I started work on my BBS documentary in 2001, I suspect that I’d not travelled more than 30,000 miles before my 30th birthday, and most of that would be a stretch of road between my parents’ homes and my current residential city. It is likely that, if you count air travel, I have travelled another 30,000 miles to places I’d never been, and only read about. It is one thing to think you know people, when all you’re doing is assembling distant sets of like-minded people to chat lightly about. It is another to drive for a hundred miles and walk into the home of someone you’ve never met who has lived an entire other existence separate from you and talk about their life with them. I am not the same person I was when I started this new hobby, and I am many times better for it.
As an example, I found that I had spent a lot of my life not listening; treating whoever came near me as a personal audience, waiting to recieve one-way communication from me. I still do this often. But as I started work on my documentary, I learned that I would have to train myself to listen, to understand what someone was trying to say and to not interrupt them when they said it. Initially, I still had this problem in some interviews, but now I have a “listening mode” I can pull into where I am in fact not trying to dominate the conversation. This is a skill worth having in life in general.
I would say that my “hardships” have been absolutely minimal, the rewards are greater than I could have dreamed of, and when all is said and done, I like to go back and play my old films and watch them anew. That’s not a bad life at all.
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