The Documentary

The Documentary is that rare medium in which the common person takes on large, important issues and shakes up society. Michael Rabiger, Directing the Documentary

A documentary explores the mysteries of a actual people in actual situations with creativity. Time can be past, present or future. It is socially critical, has a point of view that is individual and unique and has the personal stamp of its creator. It is an organized story, it tells a good story and has engaging characters, narrative tension and an integrated point of view. We are watching actual people struggling with actual problems.

Objectivity & Fairness:The viewer must be fully informed so that he/she can make up their own mind. The film shows the contradictory evidence. The filmmaker chooses the words and images that most fairly represent the people and issues. The accused is not always guilty and the accuser is not always innocent. The more intricate the issues, the more difficult it will be to strike a balance between clarity and simplicity on the one hand and fidelity to the ambiguities of actual human life on the other. The filmmaker cannot over simplify a complex issue.

A documentary is a creation. The film making process is a series of choices – what to shoot, how to shoot it, what to use in the film, how to use it most effectively. If your film is to be viewed as fair and balanced, you need a broad factual grasp of the the topic, evidence that is persuasive and self-evidently reliable and the courage and insight to make interpretive judgements about using it. You are editing a construct of the actual events, not the events themselves.
A documentary is not an infomercial, travelogue, corporately sponsored promotion or commercial. Every non-fiction film is not a documentary. The documentary is a branch of the expressive arts, not a science.

The director recognizes what works and engages the audience. The director investigates significant people, topics or aspects of life. A director does what is necessary to record whatever is essential and meaningful. He/she lives to expose the underlying truths and conflicts in contemporary life. A director has empathy for humankind and develops a humane understanding of each new world. The director orchestrates a film that is cinematically and dramatically satisfying.

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