Doc Filmmaking During a Pandemic: Go Small, Go Lean

2021-02-15T18:58:26+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Nina Davenport filming Hello Photo (1994)   The Pandemic Future: Time for a Radical Return to Documentary's First Golden Age I recently wrote a book with a title that is now comically ironic. Get Close: Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking, published in February 2019 by Oxford University Press, was intended as a refreshing cri de cœur for beginning and veteran filmmakers to commit to a stripped down, low-budget, one or two-person team approach to documentary filmmaking. I emphasized personal creative expression, encouraging filmmakers to become the author of their own work from start-to-finish: directing, shooting, recording sound, writing, and editing. This, I emphasized, could only be achieved by eliminating the financial, physical and emotional barriers between the cameraperson and their characters, and by embracing an intimate storytelling style. “Get close” is the mantra the book is based on. Absurd, right? That’s what I thought, too. But with all of the teeth-gnashing going on in the documentary world about the tenuous future of forums, markets, festivals, and productions in either limbo or purgatory, I believe the timing is perfect for a new strategy, one that is actually grounded in the roots of the early days of the digital documentary filmmaking revolution, when cheap cameras and laptop editing software were intentionally designed for the homemade filmmaker. “We may now be passing through a short golden age of documentary production without even being aware of it,” wrote director Chuck Braverman on the IDA website, “when the stars have aligned to allow documentaries to be produced for relatively modest budgets. If you [...]