Lean Team Pro Tip #7: Evaluating Your Project’s Story-Part Three

2019-09-16T00:08:00+00:00Categories: Lean Team Pro Tip|

The next step in evaluating your project is to think about who (or what) your main character or characters will be. As I wrote in Lean Team Pro Tip #5, a character doesn’t always have to be a person. It can be a place, a thing, an idea, or an animal. In the 2019 film Aquarela, the film’s director Viktor Kossakovsky identifies his main character as a natural element: water. You can also have more than one main character, or an ensemble of characters. In our film The Church on Dauphine Street we featured several key characters: a priest, his next-in-command, the volunteer heading up the repair efforts on their church, and a union worker whose house was inundated by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. We tried to imagine the stories these characters would tell, and from those imagined scenarios we visualized how our film might flow forward. We wanted to map its potential momentum. Don’t reject your characters because they don’t seem to be inherently dramatic, or if they don’t represent extremes either in behavior or circumstance. In my book, Get Close: Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking, I write: “Not every story needs to build up to a dramatic event or resolve itself with a positive or tragic denouement, but a story should have some kind of movement to keep a viewer engaged. Map out the plot points, the places where your story might turn corners or introduce surprises or reveal more depth. Again, don’t reject your film simply because it doesn’t contain “big moments,” but be cautious [...]


2019-09-15T00:44:16+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Aquarela Director/ Viktor Kossakovsky Watched in Theaters Rating 2.5/5   With Aquarela, director Viktor Kossakovsky may have invented a brand-new documentary genre: climate chaos porn. With its diamond hard icebergs, its velvety black bodies of water, and its spasms of ocean spraying the camera lens, the cumulative torrential effect of all that liquid is positively orgiastic. But while the imagery is busy pleasuring itself in a kind of seductive sadomasochistic bath, it forgets to ground the viewer with any kind of context. Gradually, yes, you become aware that the director means to preview what it will look and feel like once all the planet’s ice melts and the seas boil and the cataclysmic hurricanes drown our cities, but getting to that apocalyptic climax is a curiously desultory narrative experience. In fact, there is no narrative at all, nothing but a series of puzzling encounters with ice, oceans, and floods. This is a film meant to be read about before seen. If you’re so inclined, here’s the link that explains where the film is shot and what is the driving vision behind it (specifically, that the main character is an elemental force of nature, water, in all of its dangerous beauty). Humans are no match for water’s destructive power, Kossakovsky wants to tell us. But then why do so many of his lengthy scenes tend toward monotony rather than terror? The film begins on frozen Lake Baikal (but you won’t know this from watching the film) where there seems to be an epidemic of cars and their [...]

American Factory

2019-09-02T01:00:26+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

American Factory Directors/ Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar Watched on Netflix Rating 4/5   American Factory is both a straightforward chronicle of the fall, rise, and near fall again of a Dayton, Ohio manufacturing company, and a subtly scathing indictment of the future of working class labor in the U.S. It’s hard to watch this film and not want to scream, wail, or simply weep at the decomposed remains of the American Dream. An astonishing level of access is what makes the documentary a fascinating, consistently engrossing film. Several scenes will have you silently asking, “How did the filmmakers manage to get that?” These moments, scattered throughout, are a testament to the tenacity and patience of the directors, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, and they reveal the cultural gulf that lies at the heart of the film. Reichert and Bognar were there in 2009 when a General Motors plant shuttered its doors in the wake of the 2008 recession, putting thousands out of work. A few years later a Chinese billionaire saw an opportunity and re-fashioned the location into a factory making windshields, hiring several of the previous employees who, now desperate for jobs, were willing to work for a third of their previous pay. The factory, called Fuyao, is at first a source of renewed hope and optimism for the workers and a charming experiment in cross-cultural relationship building. But things began to sour fairly quickly. The Chinese owners at first work in tandem with their American counterparts, but they have a difficult time adjusting to [...]

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