Need to shoot a high-impact personal documentary? Nevertheless there is no rule book to documentary film making, there is others' experiences that will help show you. In this post, I am going to give you many ways concerning how to produce a successful personal documentary. Some recommendations here relate to the project generally, and a few relate specifically to filming interviews and shooting on location.
Exactly what is a personal documentary?
A "personal documentary" is a branch of documentary film making that is targeted on a definite human subject, or sometimes a couple or a family. Commissioned from the subject involved or even a loved one, this is a bespoke (customized) video biography that takes advantage of the immediacy and emotion of film to see personal and genealogy and family history stories that could well be told on the net.
Being "commissioned" does not mean that the personal documentary is pure flattery or without difficult issues. On the contrary, to reach your goals the personal documentary must contain objectivity and a few real dark to balance the light. In my experience, subjects themselves haven't any interest in saccharine stories. But where mistakes were made, or wrong directions taken, a private documentary will offer the subject the ability for explanation, context and - desirably - understanding. Ultimately, though, editorial control rests with the party commissioning (paying for) the personal documentary.
Tip 1: Keep the subject in the forefront
There are plenty of twists and turns into a life, and lots of rabbit holes which a well-meaning personal documentarian could disappear down. But resist diversions, unless they bear for the subject's progression.
When asking questions, make an effort to relate events to motivations and feelings. Subjects are normally good at giving the "who what and when". The non-public documentarian has got to try to get at the "why", as well as the "why nots".
In telling stories involving former generations, try to connect the storyplot to, or tell the storyplot in the outlook during, someone well. The thrilling exposition of even the most fascinating of historical detail (e.g. "Grandfather George Unwin once killed a tiger in Bengal") means little unless it can be attached to someone something like that tangible for your audience (e.g. "Old George Unwin was an adventurer, like his grandson Frank, both whom joined the military when these folks were 18...")
Tip 2: Go above the top
In the personal documentary, the majority of your information arrive from the subject as well as their friends, colleagues and families. Nevertheless, you should dig just a little deeper whenever feasible, and don't overlook the documents.
For instance, I always perform a little genealogical research on my subjects whether request it or not. Not uncommon to discover mistakes within the family's collective memory, and yes it can occur that odd and surprising revelations occured (like underage marriages, name changes and significant understating of ages).
A prosperous personal documentary
An excellent personal documentary can have feeling, humor and layers. It is going to cover the primary "stations from the cross" within the person's everyday life without trying to be comprehensive (an impossible task in a medium, at any time). It will require a view.
Based on the time available, that can be done historical research in the city or even the state or events recounted or perhaps the time period involved. Newspaper searches are able to turn up interesting material (you may need to join a library to obtain accessibility to the best data bases). And a few filmmakers even conduct Freedom of knowledge Act searches to improve their research.
Tip 3: Show patience
Barry Hampe in "Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos" says most of documentary film interviewing includes running endless tape through the camera waiting and hoping the topic will say something interesting.
That's a little harsh. Nevertheless it speaks to the truth of excellent fact gathering: it is possible to seldom force the pace. More often than not, with careful, patient and open-ended questing you have to let the story eventually be yours.
Tip 4: Shooting the job interview
Then you is going to be filming in interview set ups as well as location.
When interviewing an interest, ask the prepared questions and also seek advice (and shoot footage) which may reveal something pertaining to that person e.g. their job, hobbies, the positioning itself, etc. Also, capture a variety of shots in the subject in the interview - from wide shots (with the subject with the interviewer and also lights etc), to shut ups (say, waist and above) to extreme close ups (face only). Avoid moving you whilst the subject is speaking.
Attempt to record (full) names, ages/birth dates (if they are gonna be relevant), place names etc either in writing and/or hold the subject say their name and spell it on tape. Of all of the mistakes you're making within a personal documentary, getting names wrong or misspelt generally seems to draw the most attention.
Having shot a scene, think about whether there are any worthwhile close-ups to find the end: e.g. hands, feet, objects. Consider POVs (viewpoint shots) - in which you walk around behind this issue and movie things (often a physical object or even an activity) off their viewpoint.
Tip 5: Shooting on location
On location within a personal documentary, you could be following subject around as they definitely start some activity, or shooting places of private significance or places from the person's past.
For each location, try to capture a 5-10 second "establishing shot" - i.e. a long shot showing the whole building/village/room/whatever. This helps to orientate the viewer and offers you with many shot variety. Avoid moving the camera during the establishing shot, save to get a smooth and slow pan or zoom.
Look out for signage and writing of any type that happen to be usually worth a go Place names, warnings, graffiti, ads...
And if you aren't shooting a fisherman's show or even a music video, avoid fast pans and fast zooms. Generally, it is best to frame the shot carefully first, steady the camera, then let the action take place in front in the lens - without any noticeable panning or zooming.
Bonus tip: Find a rhythm
When it's time to edit your own personal documentary, search for a rhythm to the edit.
Like a poem routinely have a rhyming scheme, a personal documentary could also frequently have a pattern (e.g. chapter 1- interview clip, image and voice-over, interview clip, location shot and interview audio, interview clip, interview clip then repeat for chapter 2). After establishing the fabric you wish to use along with a satisfying pattern, make sure you break the pattern every now and then.
An excellent personal documentary
An excellent personal documentary may have feeling, humor and layers. It will cover the key "stations from the cross" in the person's everyday life without seeking to be comprehensive (a hopeless task in any medium, at any time). It'll likewise require a view.
Require a view? It's likely that, if you are creating a personal documentary centering on a lifestyle or possibly a family, you've arrive at know your subject well. An individual documentary is very little polemic, but you're allowed a viewpoint. You may express that from the facts from the life you determine to cover, through the title with the documentary or even the title of chapters (in the event you create named chapters - it really is a possibility), and even - if you are very careful - through narration.