Documentary Film Making

Matt introduced us to a documentary by Adam Hopkins whom he assisted whilst making the film. The film was a situational documentary tracing back the story of children born in London in the 70’s who were given the surname ‘Wild’ as part of the new radicals communist way of living. The narrative began with a look back at the early 70’s where it all began, then found some of these “Wild” children in the present to piece together how their lives had been affected by their different upbringing. It appeared that the journey was steered by some of the people they interviewed i.e. when one of the contacts told Adam that he could find his son at Cambridge University, however this was merely to provide a link for the audience; in fact Adam was already in contact with the son. To guide the audience into the journey of the documentary, scenes of the producers travelling around the country are included, such as road signs to guide the narrative.

Adam’s tips for good storytelling include:

  • Using character and story to form a narrative.
  • Visualizing what your character could do to help tell the story.
  • The need to research and become close to your subjects.
  • Consider the parts you would tell your friends …. Including these will help your audience feel engaged.
  • Judge when to hold information back and when to reveal it.

Adam carried out a lot of research before beginning the documentary, so that he was able to predict what he was going to find and create the scenes to fit his visualization. He advised you should forewarn your subjects of how likely their scenes are to be included and in what way in order to stay true to the story and to the producers you may be working for. It is a good idea to create ‘active scenes’ getting people to interview whilst visiting somewhere of importance (as Adam does in his documentary). Matt concluded that we should consider how these methods of telling a good story and capturing interest can apply to us as photographers.


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