As a documentary film maker, it’s your responsibility to accurately and responsibly represent someone on screen. That means giving careful thought to how you structure and edit their interview, so they’re not taken out of context.
Today’s Image: Eagle at Westchester Ave., Bronx, 1970 by Camilo José Vergara. Photograph from the Library of Congress.
The challenges of editing are many and have to be tackled with great care. Some people’s interviews are easy to edit on their own, but tricky to fit into a broader story. Other interviews are downright frustrating, but essential to the film. Some interviews present ethical challenges. Some (hopefully most) slide seamlessly into your film.
Light, light baby. The classic three-light setup, natural light, or a variety of other options? How you light your subject can completely change how the subject looks on film and how they sit with the rest of your production. Here we’ll go through the best ways to light your subject and make sure you get it right.
You point your camera at your subject, but there’s a bit more to it than that. There are various ways to film an interview, and each produces a different look to your production. Plus, if your editing is going to be successful, you’ll need to have more than just the interviewee on screen.
Sometimes documentary makers conduct interviews on the fly, in the street, or interview a group of people. We might have to try to interview someone who is less than cooperative. This lesson looks at those interviews that are outside of the norm, the potential challenges and how to best cope.
Watching someone talk about interview technique is one thing, but having a microphone in hand and a camera at your side with all eyes on you as you prepare to ask questions is a whole other ball game. Pressure can be high, so in this lesson we go through and set some practical exercises to help build your skills, and most importantly your confidence.
Putting someone in front of a camera and asking them questions can be brutal. In this lesson you will learn how to lessen the impact of the process of filming an interview and put your interviewee more at ease.
Most documentaries have interviews in them: The interviews add weight to the subject matter and offer expert testimony or alternative points of view. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to research and select people to interview for your own documentary film.
The documentary film, in the literal sense, is a filmic document of something that happened. It is presented as non-fiction. Documentaries take a wide variety of styles and viewpoints, from cutting edge social documentaries, to dramatic historical documentaries, to perspective-shifting nature documentaries, and so on: the list is truly endless, and you can, of course, document anything.
In this tutorial series we’ve talked about using a variety of tools to move your camera, with special attention paid to fast-paced documentary shoots. There’s a lot of neat gear out there, both new and time-tested, to help you achieve creative camera motion. Simply getting into a car can introduce many new kinds of shots to help add variety in your documentary edit.
Before gimbals, drones, segways and motorized dollies, documentary filmmakers relied on the old standby for much of their moving footage: cars.
Pans, tilts, jibs, and sliders are all solid, established tools to help you add motion to your documentary. But a steadicam, or more recently, a brushless gimbal, can emulate all of those traditional movements with ease. More importantly, they can do things that no other tool can do: they can take your documentary production to a whole new level.
While video technology is moving rapidly, the format of documentary hardly ever changes. You have your interview or dialogue for A-roll, and then everything else is B-roll. The interview format doesn’t change much because anything new or snazzy could distract audiences from the heart of a documentary, the story.