© 2014 ellathompson


In 200 words or less please outline your goals, desires – what you want to get out of this semester. You will review this later in the course. Many will rethink this dramatically by the end of the course – this is a good thing.

I knew what I was walking into last semester, having crewed on a number of drama films. Not to mention a lifetime’s experience of watching fiction films and things. Plus an awareness of the fiction filmmaking world – that being what I want to go into. But I don’t know much about documentary. I don’t really know what I’m walking into this semester. Yes, there was the 2013 broadcast media project. And, yes, there was ‘True Lies: Documentary Studies’ last semester. But I still feel like documentary is a very, very unknown area for me. I have a ton of ideas for fiction films. Not so many for documentary films. I’m aware of the inconstant, unpredictable nature of documentary-making. You can’t control the film you’re making. This is a difficult idea to grasp. Especially since, in fiction filmmaking, you’re supposed to lock down every variable possible. But you can’t do that and make a doco. Documentary is wayward. And, I suppose, you have to let it be wayward. This is a concept I want to become more familiar with this semester.

I’m very interested in the story side of documentary. The power it holds in being true and real. I’m interested in it also because I am unfamiliar with it. I want to become more familiar with what makes good documentary stories. Or subjects. How to find a good documentary subject or story.

I’m worried about using real people. Actors are great. It’s easy to ask an actor to play a character on camera. It’s incredibly difficult to ask a real person to play themself on camera. Even more so if it means delving into a difficult subject for them. I would feel uncomfortable asking a regular person (non-actor) to do that. It’s almost as if you’re taking advantage of them. I actually watched this because I was curious as to how Brandon Stanton gets so many people to allow him to take their pictures, not to mention how he gets them to reveal such personal stories about themselves.

Editing is another concern. Finding a story among so much content. Of course, there can be problems with not shooting enough. But there can also be problems in shooting too much. And then having to sift through all that material. I’m more concerned about the latter for some reason.

One thing I’d like to do this semester is improve my technical understanding of equipment. Sound, camera, lighting, editing, etc. Particularly cameras. I want to get better with a camera. A lot of people talk about story often being the most important element of film. I don’t disagree. At the same time, I think it’s incredibly reductive to be so focused on story. Film is far more than story. It’s kinetic and sensational. Visceral. It doesn’t even need story to be powerful. BUT, there’s no point having a good story if everything is too crappy to suspend disbelief. The audience will forget the story in a second. Because the film isn’t believable. Doesn’t have enough impact. People are lazy. They can’t be bothered to appreciate unless something forces them to appreciate. Cinematography (and editing) is so incredibly powerful. It’s often the first thing people notice. It’s memorable. It makes stories believable for audiences. So, I want to get better with a camera.



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