Documentry Film Making

In the simplest of terms, a documentary can be defined as a non-fictional film. Although, the art of documentary film making has seen some rapid changes in the recent times, documentaries have a lot of history associated with them.

The term ‘documentary’ came into existence from the late 1920s. However, artists familiar with recording pictures in motion had started experimenting with documentary films as early as 1900s. One of the pioneers of documentary film making was Robert Flaherty, known for his 1922 release, ‘Nanook Of The North’. The idea behind documentaries in 1920s was to ‘document’ the happenings, that is to ‘document’ history as it was being made. Travelogues were also widely made in those days as one could see development all around. Although a documentary is meant to be completely non-fictional, directors from the earliest of times have in a lot of ways tried to stage the action onscreen or even re-enact certain scenes.

Then came the city symphonies, where documentaries were made around the globe to show people living their daily lives in their particular environment. These had a lot of learning value as one could witness how people from different cultures and traditions went about living their life. People started witnessing a new trend in documentary film making just about then, called ‘Kino Pravada’ which used newsreels to show the reality people were living in. Then came the most disappointing phase in documentary film making history, when countries and people in power started to use documentaries for political propaganda with the world on the verge of a second world war. This trend started off in Germany with Leni Riefenstahl making the ‘Triumph of Will’ under Nazi supervision. Soon this style of documentary film making caught up in other countries like America, France, and Italy etc.

Technical advances has then on evolved the art of documentary film making greatly as film makers were able to efficiently use lights, sounds and set-ups in order to create a professional look for their documentaries. This gave rise to the more recent style of documentary film making called ‘Cinema Verite’ where the camera acts as the viewers’ eyes and participates or observes an action through the camera. Pioneers of this technique include Allan King, Richard Leacock, and Michael Moore etc.

Like making a feature film, documentary film making also requires one to go through the three stages of pre-production, production and post-production thoroughly. To begin with, one can watch and learn from the rich resources available these days. Tracing the documentary film history could be extremely beneficial for any aspiring film maker as there’s a lot to learn about the different styles of documentary film making. It is important for any aspiring film maker to be familiar with the technical tools as these come in handy while recording challenging shots or scenes. Technical finesse only makes the film look better. Also, before making a documentary film it is important for you to know your topic inside out. Since a documentary is not feature film, one needs to form a structure for the documentary before making one, as it holds the narrative together and presents the documentary as one cohesive product.




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