28 January 2008

Pre-Production: Research, Research, Research!

Yes, I did give a lot of information today (all of which is re-posted below), but this is what we will be covering all week, so sink your teeth into it and let's get down and dirty!


The Initial Stages

1. Define your working hypothesis of your subject

2. Site and background research

Familiarize yourself with:

a. People/situations that you plan to film
b. What is typical of the world you are going to film?
c. What’s unusual and particular to the world that you are going to look at?
d. Use the internet to do research and get references/ideas you can find
e. Study publications covering your subject: magazines, newspapers, etc.
f. See films on the subject
g. Talk to any experts (which means more research)

3. Develop trust

Communicate: Make yourself and purposes known to those you want to film
Learn: Put yourself in the position of learning from your subjects
Hang out: Spending time with subjects can be the most valuable thing you can do

4. Make reality checks

Do you have multiple perspectives on each person, fact, or facet?
Is what you want to film accessible?
Are the people open/responsive to you and the subject matter?
Will releases and permissions be forthcoming?
The resources for the project are not beyond your means?

Refining the Proposal

1. Narrow the focus, deepen the film

Always seek the center of your film by assuming that you may not yet have it.
Constantly re-check yourself

2. List points that your film must make

Expository information: what the audience must take away, and plan to cover that
information in several ways

Thematic/other goals that you want the film to fulfill

Shoot material to show what or who is in conflict & bring about a confrontation

3. Develop your own angle

What exactly do you want to say & WHAT EMPHASIS YOU MAY NEED TO FOCUS ON SO THAT

4. Write a three-line description

If you can do this, and people react to the description positively, then you are
ready to direct. If not, then you aren’t

5. Make other important choices

a. Casting: Decide which places/people you are going to use. Define their
rhythms, routines and imagery such as a cityscape, landscape, workplace that
emblematic of their condition

b. List what’s typical/atypical to guide your filming when you are ready

c. Remove cliché’s completely!!! List what you can show that is FRESH, SURPRISING

d. Decide central character or characters (ask yourself frequently: WHOSE STORY

e. Define the essential central points and counterpoints of the arguments to be
able to collect the materials that you need

Aesthetic Issues

1. Style

What is your personal style? Style can be defined as "An individual stamp
on a film, the elements in a film that issue from its maker’s own artistic

a. The style that best serves EACH SEQUENCE
b. The style that best serves YOUR POINT OF VIEW
c. The stylistic characteristics of the film as a whole

2. Seek inherent myths, emblems, symbols, key imagery

What life-role each person is going to enact
What images you have seen/expect to see that convey the heart of what you have to
Key actions whose connotations have special meaning for the central purposes of
the film
What type of story is yours? Any parallels that suggest archetypes, myths,
legends will strengthen your film by moving it to the universal

Additional Research Questions

1. What have I not yet been told about this subject?

2. Is everything I have been told the truth? How much do I need to verify?

3. What would I personally like to know about this subject?

4. If I were a member of the audience, what would I want to learn about this subject?

5. What can I find that is little known on this subject?

6. If the shooting has not yet started, what information can I gather that would aid
the filming process?

Relevancy Test

1. Is this information or source of information directly related to the subject of my

2. Is it necessary for the audience to know this information?

3. Will this information add to the overall quality of the film?

4. Even if it is relevant and will add value, is it more relevant than all the other
information I have gathered so far?

5. Will I be able to incorporate this information into the script even if it is
relevant to the subject?

...Whew! Lots of stuff! But all relevant and good to ponder as we switch gears this week and begin to work on more practical issues for the student's upcoming projects.

The Proposal

Form and Aesthetic Questionnare

Taken from M. Rabiger: Directing the Documentary and T. Das: How To Write A Documentary Script

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