The documentary reading I decided to focus on was the reading by Curran (2003), Documentary storytelling for film and video makers. This article was an interesting read. There were several points made throughout this article that I found interesting and/ or did not know about documentary filmmaking prior to this article.
The first point I found that was interesting and to some extent I already knew prior but not to the degree the article explains was the idea of ‘finding a story during production’. The article expresses the point whereby a focus of a documentary can change throughout the documentary process, in production and/ or in post-production. I found this interesting in comparison to other forms of filmmaking as, generally, they have a focus and it stays the same through to the end of post-production. The article gives an interesting example of documentary filmmakers only having days to decide whether to travel to Vietnam to follow a story. I never really considered documentary filmmaking to be like this. I knew stories may change their focus throughout the process but I did not consider how little time some filmmakers have to decide whether to follow a story and spend a lot of money on something that could be considered a ‘risk’.
One part of this article I found was really important in filmmaking, especially in documentary filmmaking, was evaluating story ideas. This article goes through several points as to whether the story should be followed or not. Some of the more important points I saw include:
Access and feasibility. This is one of the first points that can either make or break your story idea. Before anything a documentary filmmaker needs to assess whether they can actually gain access to certain things to make their film. This can include access to a person to conduct an interview, access to a building etc. Not everyone is willing to be in a documentary or allow access to places for the film so this is an important first step in determining whether the idea is feasible.
Affordability. Of course you cannot make a documentary without sufficient funds. You cannot travel around the world chasing a story with no money. The article makes a valid point when posing the question ‘have you set your sights too high?’ (Curran, p. 32).
Passion and Curiosity. Clearly making a documentary is no easy task and requires a lot of motivation. This is where passion and curiosity comes in. Without it the documentary, whenever it ‘hits a hurdle’ it becomes much harder to get back up and find a different way to continue.
Hook. A hook is essential in the selling of the documentary. There needs to be some interesting point that sells the documentary to an audience. Whether it is the same point that sold you on making the documentary or a different one it is an important factor to have.
Existing projects. This is an important step when determining what angle to pursue in the documentary. When looking at other work you can determine what worked or did not work in their film, what angle they took and if you can pursue a different angle, a different viewpoint. It is definitely not a problem if the documentary has been done before it just allows you to go for a different angle, a different perspective.
These points I felt were the most important points and important to remember when determining whether you should follow the story or not, how to sell your story and how to pursue the story.
Curran B 2003, Documentary storytelling for film and videomakers, p. 27-194, Burlington