7 Important Documentary Tips: Inspirational Quotes from Filmmakers

“Try to write the whole film out on paper before you shoot a frame. Write the narration or what you hope to get your interview subjects to say on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, write down some interesting visuals that you would need to get in order to make the words come to life. Certainly it will all change as you go along, but this is a good starting point. A far as camera work goes, if you are shooting interviews and can use your own lights, keep the key light on the same side of the camera as the person asking the questions. As for shooting hand held, shooting wider and closer is much better for less shakiness than zooming in and being further away. Keep your legs bent at the knee and when moving, move like a dancer or a Tai Chi master!”
~Peter Stein, ASC

“Be relentless in production and post-production. That means recording as much high-quality content as you can. No documentary filmmaker has ever said, ‘I have waaaaaay too much great footage to work with’. And, editing the piece with such rigor that the viewer cannot detect your enormous efforts to serve their needs and the needs of the story.”
~Courtney Hermann

“Don’t be an egotist. Fortune tends to favour filmmakers who learn early on that professional relationships count as much as does directorial vision. An individualistic approach might work in newspaper and magazine journalism, but factual film-making needs humility, an endless willingness to learn and, above all else, a realisation that the best films are a composite of several people’s talents. In short, it’s always worth listening to advice – and that’s especially so during your edit. Outsiders viewing your film for the first time really can help you improve your story telling.”
~Tony Stark

“Make images every day. Every single day.”
~Michelle Bogre

“Find your artistic identity, and develop subjects you are passionate about.”
~Michael Rabiger

“When you shoot a film, don’t think about things like Sundance or Cannes or what the film should be like in order to get it into a big festival. Just concentrate on your work, and do the film exactly the way you want it.”
~Joerg Wagner

“Being a documentary filmmaker is sometimes more like being a lawyer. But you do not have to say it out loud in court, or shout to make your point. The facts – right or wrong – will have their day on a big screen when you finish. Your editing will say it all.”
~David Kaminski