One Way or the Other, It’s Going to Cost You!

When I started a feature-length documentary almost three years ago, I wasn’t a novice at the craft. I had worked on documentaries and shows for broadcast for a medium-sized production house for almost 17 years. I had put together budgets and overseen crews all over the world. You’d think I’d be realistic [...]

The Dramatic Arc: Does it Relate to Documentaries?

YOU BETCHA. At least, this documentary filmmaker thinks so.
I’ve heard so many newcomers to documentary work say, “Well, I’m just going to let the camera tell my story.” Yeah. Right. Good luck with that.
Any story–a drama, a comedy, a novel, a documentary, even a fairy tale–has certain characteristics that separate [...]

So What Exactly is a Sequence?

Good question. It’s a hard term to define, but once you understand what a sequence is, you can start creating some really strong content.
When you’re putting together a documentary, or any film for that matter, you usually come at it with a certain number of acts in mind. The number of [...]

Never Give Up: Thoughts on Being a Documentary Filmmaker

As I was writing a grant proposal recently, I had a mild panic attack. If you are a documentary filmmaker, you may have experienced one of these as you struggled to find funding. I looked at my budget and my heart sank. The voices in my head started to crowd in on me (mostly my mother’s voice, and other critics from my entire life) saying, “YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT!!!!”

Walking the Walk: How to Create Better Handheld Shots

I recently had the good fortune to take a weekend workshop with Wendy Smith at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, NC. What I learned in two days was worth gold.
Wendy Smith is an amazing teacher and an accomplished independent documentary filmmaker. She lived in Paris for 14 years [...]

The Role of Producer: It’s a Tough Job, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It

The job of a video/film producer is often thankless. Plain and simple. You get to do a lot of the dirty work, you are the point person on a shoot, and you are not always the most popular member of the video team.
The role of producer includes the following (not a complete list [...]

The Passing of a Talented Cameraman

On July 8, 2010, my dear friend and colleague, Sean Newman, one of the most talented photographers and videographers I’ve ever worked with, was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Three weeks before he died, he made this video using a Canon 5D camera.  That’s him in the video.  Yeah, he could have been an actor or [...]

Filmmakers are a Dime a Dozen…Or are they?

It seems as if everyone is making films these days, particularly documentaries and shorts. As equipment gets cheaper and distribution of one’s work easier through Internet sites like You Tube and Vimeo, people are going to be making more documentary films. But making a film doesn’t make someone a filmmaker, just as taking photos doesn’t [...]

The Art of the One Shot

I have long been an admirer of the single shot, also known as the one shot, in movies. One strong memory I have of an amazing one shot is from the 1951 movie Red Badge of Courage, when the young soldier is being walked through the camp by a seasoned veteran. The shot seems to [...]

Documentary Filmmaker: Jack of All Trades, Master of One

Do You Have to Be Good at Everything?  Not Necessarily
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”–describing someone who has a lot of general skills, but who doesn’t excel in any particular one.  In a way, that’s what I feel like as a documentary filmmaker.  I’m not specifically a videographer, lighting [...]




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