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Documentary Filmmakers Speak Paperback – August 1, 2002
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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Documentary films are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Ken Burns' TV series have drawn huge ratings, at least for PBS; HBO and other cable channels fill out their schedules with nonfiction films; and Michael Moore's satiric features meet with unprecedented success on big screens. Stubbs interviews 13 filmmakers, from cinema verite pioneers Albert Maysles (Salesman) and D. A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back) to newer practitioners with fresh approaches, such as Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) and Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney). Other subjects include Barbara Kopple, an Oscar-winner for Harlan County, U.S.A.; Chris Hegedus, who documented the dot-com crash in Startup.com; and Burns, the genre's golden boy. They all share their observations about such matters as the effect of the camera's presence on their subjects, the difficulties of obtaining financing, and the inevitable switch from film to digital video. Several mention the experience of starting off to make one kind of film, only to end up with a different kind, the product of an unscripted spontaneity that fiction films can only enviously imitate. Gordon Flagg
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“This book is like a series of master classes with some of the best, most articulate and passionate documentary filmmakers working today. Liz asks the right questions. She has the ability to get her subjects to open up and share a personal side to what it take to become a documentary filmmaker. If you do or don’t go to film school, read this book.”
(David H. Lyman, founder and director, The International Film Workshops ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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For better or worse, the book reveals the enthusiasms of a novice. The interviews are superficial, and somewhat adulatory: the writer seldom takes a critical or analytical view of the filmmakers' assumptions and methodologies.
The book may appeal to beginner film students looking for easy-to-read interviews with Ross McElwee and Berlinger & Sinofsky; there are much more informative interviews with Al Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, Barbara Kopple, and Ken Burns elsewhere. Caveat lector.
Liz Stubbs' interviews with well known film makers provides important insights into their style of working, the physical and personal demands of the work, and the challenges of funding. For a beginner, this kind of knowledge is invaluable, especially the various attitudes towards shooting and editing; it's great to know that even successful film makers struggle with these issues.