Feb 222013

MY column for Lokmat First’s Youth Page

Lokmat column  - Documentary Film Making

Documentary film making, as the name suggests has two aspects to it. The first is documenting a subject area, and the second is film making or visually building a story around it. Documentary film making generally deals with those topics that deal with reality – these could be historical, biographical, environmental, scientific, current affairs, sociological – anything that helps people understand the world better. There are many kinds of documentaries that are made – you have documentaries that are feature film length and are shown in theatres, and there are documentaries that are programme length and run on TV, and there are documentaries aimed at communicating an issue  or training people on a method, that are used for private screenings.  Documentaries communicate many different agendas, and can take anything between a few days and a few years to complete. For example, the average television documentary is usually put together in under a week, while a documentary that documented a number of children in the US as they grew up was spread over many years.

To be a documentary film maker you need to be curious about the world around you and have an aptitude for research and for story telling. So are there careers in Documentary Film Making?  Yes there are.

The following are some of the ways in which you can get into documentary film making. Whether you become a documentary film maker depends on your passion and dedication.

  • Join a News Channesl. Most news channels work with the documentary medium, either within a news programme or as a separate documentary slot.
  • Join a production house that specialises in making documentaries. There are companies that work with TV channels making documentaries either for the Indian or international audiences.
  • Work with a documentary film maker as an assistant. There are enough and more documentary film makers in India, and one of the best ways of learning, even today, is working with a senior film maker as an apprentice.

You may also want to look at the option of starting life making your own documentaries. Without working for anyone. In  today’s day and age, with the cost of technology dropping that is possible. These would be the steps in making a documentary on your own :

  • Find a subject that interests you and that you believe has a story that other people will find interesting.
  • Conduct research on this topic. All research does not come out google, you may have to talk to academics, journalists, specialists, policemen, lawmakers – depending on the nature of your documentary to – to collect more data on the subject
  • Collate this data – and start writing a structure for your documentary. Also based on your research, you would have a fair idea of who will sound good on camera and who will not.
  • Call up people and fix appointments for filming. If you are shooting the film yourself, without a cameraman, then practise shoot at home and play it back to see if it looks and sounds good.
  • List out other shots that you may need.
  • Go and shoot – and make sure both the audio and the video are good. Sound in documentaries, plays as important a part as it does in fiction. You can dub someone in a film or a programme, but an interview with bad sound is difficult to redeem.
  • Watch what you have shot, and write a story around it.
  • Use a free programme such as windows movie maker to edit your film.
  • Upload on a site and tell everyone you know.

The more you make, the better you will get. Don’t expect to make an award winning film the first time around – if you do it is a bonus.

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