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The Art of the Documentary: Fifteen Conversations with Leading Directors, Cinematographers, Editors, and Producers, Second Edition

Book Description

Documentary filmmaking is a powerful and vital element to our society,  and those who are responsible for bringing real stories and issues to a creative medium often have an uncanny ability to make a deep connection to us with their art. Legendary directors and cinematographers such as the Maysles brothers, D.A. Pennabaker & Chris Hegedus, Errol Morris, or Ken Burns have vividly made their marks in recent decades and continue to inspire those who enter the field. Inexpensive video camera equipment and video editing software have helped fuel a new wave of truth-tellers, bringing the tools of the craft within reach of amateurs and students, as well as independent journalists and filmmakers on a budget.

In The Art of the Documentary, the directors, editors, cinematographers, and producers behind today's most thought-provoking nonfiction films reveal the thought processes, methods, and collaborations that have guided their efforts- from project conception to developing, producing, shooting, editing, and releasing some of the finest documentary films of recent decades.

This richly illustrated volume, which will appeal to professional and aspiring filmmakers, as well as documentary enthusiasts, features conversations with directors, cinematographers, editors, and producers, including Ken Burns (The Civil War, Jazz, Baseball), director/cinematographer D A Pennebaker (Dont Look Back, The War Room), director/cinematographer Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens), director Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line), director Chris Hegedus (, Down from the Mountain), editor Larry Silk (Pumping Iron, Wild Man Blues), cinematographer Buddy Squires (The Civil War, Ram Dass, Fierce Grace), director/producer Lauren Lazin (Tupac: Resurrection, Journey of Dr. Dre), editor/director Paula Heredia (The Vagina Monologues, In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01), director/cinematographer Kirsten Johnson (Fahrenheit 9/11, Innocent Until Proven Guilty), editor Geof Bartz (Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, He's Having a Baby), Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentaries and HBO Family, Alison Bourke, executive producer for IFC, Cara Mertes, executive producer at PBS for the POV series, Frazer Pennebaker, producer. And with contributions by: Carol Dysinger, film editor and professor, NYU Film School, and Haskell Wexler, cinematographer.

A Note About the Second Edition:

In this edition of the book, we have included the original full interviews of the producers that did not appear in the first edition. Those producers include Sheila Nevins, Lauren Lazin, Alison Palmer Bourke, Cara Mertes, and Frazer Pennebaker. The interviews of the directors, cinematographers and editors have been left in tact and are included as they appeared in the first edition. The filmographies of each interviewee have been updated to include recent works.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Dedication Page
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. Foreword
  7. Are Documentaries Art?
    1. A Note About the Second Edition
  8. Directing
    1. Respectfully Collaborating
    2. Ken Burns: Inhabiting History
      1. Style and Storytelling
      2. Choosing an Awkward Process
      3. Ambitious Histories
      4. First-Person, Bottom-Up History
      5. Taking Creative Risks
      6. Fund-raising and PBS
      7. Process and Pragmatism
    3. Errol Morris: Revealing Unexpected Realities
      1. The Thin Blue Line
      2. A Retort to Cinema Verité
      3. The Fog of War
      4. A Narrative Free Fall: Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
      5. Innovative Editing: An Organic Process
      6. Stylized Commercial Spots
      7. Stylish “Switch” Campaigns
    4. D A Pennebaker Chris Hegedus: Capturing Character
      1. D A (Donn Alan) Pennebaker
      2. Chris Hegedus
      3. The Changing Definition of Documentary
      4. Creative Collaboration
      5. Shooting Verité, Developing Character
      6. A Delicate Relationship: Director and Film Subject
      7. Accessing Real-Life Drama
    5. Lauren Lazin: Making Television With a Conscience
      1. From Music Videos to Meaty Stories
      2. Urgent Programming, Impacting an Audience
      3. Tupac: Resurrection
      4. Avant-Garde Aesthetics
      5. Attention Span and Awareness Management
      6. Development and Project Financing
  9. Cinematography
    1. Being There
    2. Kirsten Johnson: Searching the Frame, Exposing a Vision
      1. Career Choices: a Commitment to Independence
      2. Derrida
      3. Cinematography and Directing: Informing Filmmaking
      4. The Two Towns of Jasper
      5. Sexism and Cinematography
      6. Deadline
    3. Buddy Squires: Seeing Intelligently
      1. The Birth of Florentine Films
      2. Brooklyn Bridge
      3. The Donner Party
      4. Shooting Cinema Verité
      5. Becoming Invisible
      6. Handling Pressure, Taking Risks
      7. Collaboration and Communication
      8. Creative Choices
      9. Lighting, Subtlety, and Storytelling
    4. Albert Maysles: Being Present and Experiencing
      1. Psychiatry in Russia
      2. Direct Cinema
      3. Primary
      4. Yanki No!
      5. Salesman
      6. Gimme Shelter
      7. Grey Gardens
      8. Christo
      9. Lighting and the Move to Video
      10. In Transit
  10. Editing
    1. Finding the Film
    2. Geof Bartz: Crafting Cinematic Television
      1. Exposition and Eliminating Redundancies
      2. Bending the Rules of Cinema Verité
      3. Creating Structure in Selecting
      4. Conquering Boredom: Parallel Editing
      5. The Surrogate Audience
    3. Paula Heredia: Finding Structure, Inventing Form
      1. Multiple Perspectives: The Editor’s Role
      2. Modulations: Cinema for the Ear
      3. Free Tibet
      4. Embracing the Character
      5. The Paris Review: Early Chapters
      6. Lost in Mississippi
      7. In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01
    4. Larry Silk: Using the Mystery of What Comes Next
      1. The Origins of Documentary
      2. Sit In: The Dawn of Public Interest Television
      3. Reinforcing the Essence
      4. Marjoe: The Appeal of a Rascal
      5. Pumping Iron: Creating Substantive Story Lines and Archetypal Characters
      6. American Dream: Complex, Righteous Characters
      7. Screening Selects
      8. Wild Man Blues: The Real Woody Allen
      9. Making Discoveries in the Dailies
      10. Courage to Change Courses
  11. Producing
    1. Problem Solving
    2. Sheila Nevins: Collaborating with Directors
    3. Lauren Lazin: Pitching and Television Coproduction
    4. Alison Palmer Bourke: Producing Independent Visions
    5. Cara Mertes: Showcasing Independent Voices
    6. Frazer Pennebaker: Sustaining Documentary Production
  12. Appendix
    1. Where to Buy Documentary Films
    2. Notable Film Festivals that Feature Documentary Films
    3. Documentary Film Markets
    4. Mastering Your Craft
    5. Professional Associations
    6. Additional Information for Selected Films
  13. Index