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Old September 20th, 2008, 08:16 AM   #1
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Need some ideas/tips for short documentary

I'm helping a close friend with a short documentary project for school.
And any tips/ideas are more than welcome.

The title must be "The choice".

Must be a portrait of the main character/person, but no interview in the documentary.
BUT: Research must be done based on interview with the main "actor/actress".

Location: Urban/City
Duration: Maximum 8 minutes.

Catch:
The documentary must include at least one conflict!

Deadline:
October 17.
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Old September 20th, 2008, 08:57 AM   #2
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A gazillion ways to approach your assignment, here is ONE of them;

Step One - Find a subject you will have ACCESS to. It's amazing how often people will come up with a topic to which their access will be extremely limited, or expensive to achieve. So since the topic is "Choice" - you must find a person who is faced with a choice. Make sure you will be able to shoot them, or have access to whatever their choice is. Could be 'what to buy' could be 'should I take this job?' maybe its funny, ' chocolate or vanilla for the wedding cake?' - of course, the 'right to choose LIFE' is a huge topic, not sure you can do it justice in eight minutes - but it's your call.

Step Two - INTERVIEW the subject, - yes, record this interview, although the assignment says you are not allowed to USE the footage in the cut (As I understand your explanation) - having the interview will help guide your structure. Listen to it over and over - understand where the conflict lies.

Step Three - RESEARCH - what sorts of footage can you get that illustrate the different aspects of the choice? Can you get access to the local bakeries. How many bakeries are there? Do they all give you the choice of Chocolate or Vanilla, if not - why not? WHy does the bride's mother insist that chocolate is bad luck? Why does the groom hate vanilla? Start planning your shoot based on what the research turns up.

Step Four- SHOOT - Depending on the nature of the subject, you might shoot B-roll first, such as how wedding cakes are made, interviewing the baker on what percentage of people choose chocolate or vanilla, - whatever OR you might have to shoot the SUBJECT agonizing over, and making THE CHOICE - then go back and shoot the B-Roll - again, much of this will be determined by what your research turns up - You might shoot B-Roll concurrent with the actual footage of the choice. Let the topic guide you.

Step Five - Make a paper cut. Sit down and write out what you think the doc should look like. Use index cards if it helps. If you've kept good records while shooting, then use those.

Step Six - Make a 'radio cut' - using any talking heads or voiceover or action sequences that explain the dilleman, and resolve it. Don't worry about whether the footage looks good. I like to pick the opening shot, and the closing statement, and work backwards and forward from there, like bookends - but your procedure might be different. Some people work forward from an open, some work backwards from a final statement/shot.

Step Seven - Start refining the timeline, put in B-Roll over talking heads that helps to illustrate what they are saying. Put in filler that extends the image (Or remove extraneous).

Step Eight - Polish. Cut. Polish. Refine. Lay in music bed if its suitable. Polish. Cut. Refine. Test Screen. Cut some more. Polish. Cut. Refine. Agonize. Realize it will never be 'finished' - you could have shot more of XYZ and less of ABC -

Step Nine - Turn it in.



Just my thoughts. Good luck
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Old September 20th, 2008, 08:57 AM   #3
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This sounds more like a short fiction piece, rather than a documentary.

Martin
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Old September 20th, 2008, 09:13 AM   #4
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Richard,
Thank you very much for the detailed answer. Really appreciated!

Martin,
Yes it can sound like fiction, but it is specified that it is a documentary.


Anyone else with good (or bad) ideas?
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Old September 21st, 2008, 02:51 PM   #5
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Last edited by Brian Standing; September 21st, 2008 at 02:54 PM. Reason: Deleted, inadvertent double post.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 02:53 PM   #6
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I don't know what's going on in Norway, but here in the U.S., there's a presidential election going on. That's a pretty big "choice" that would lend itself to a "fly on the wall" documentary treatment.

Any local elections in Bergen? Is the city government considering any major changes in policy?

An employer trying to hire someone? A job-seeker trying to choose between job offers?

Choosing a spouse or a life partner?
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Old September 21st, 2008, 02:57 PM   #7
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Hi Brian,

Good ideas you come up with. Thank you!
The US election is all over the news here in Norway too.
No local elections until late next year.

So far, we have thought a little about Richard's ideas of some funny "choices".
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Old September 21st, 2008, 04:26 PM   #8
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Abortion, but perhaps that's too obvious.
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 05:34 AM   #9
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A follow up..

The idea we're thinking about now is remodeling of an appartment (or house).
One idea for the mandatory "conflict" is the choice of ex. "standard" or "luxus" furniture, based on this idea from Richard:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
maybe its funny, ' chocolate or vanilla for the wedding cake?' - of course, the 'right to choose LIFE' is a huge topic, not sure you can do it justice in eight minutes - but it's your call.
Any specific tips or ideas regarding this idea?
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 07:49 AM   #10
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Whose story is it? Is it a couple trying to decide or an individual? Where is the conflict? Is it an interior conflict within the guy trying to decide or an exterior conflict between the couple? Or a person and a salesperson?

You have eight minutes - will this doc present the problem only, or will it contain within it the solution/decision as well?

Choosing furniture is pretty lighthearted. Have you got a concept for your delivery? A stylistic choice? Sure, it will alter as you shoot and cut, but its good to have a concept going in. "Comedic - lots of fast conflicting shots. Ping ponging between points of view, alternating shots between the upscale store and the cheaper store, shots of the discussion/arguments cut in between -OR its a very slow deliberate style. First one side presents its argument, followed by a very methodical dissertation of its merits, then the other side - finally a formal comparison and the decision, with a short denoument where we see the apartment remodeled.

Like I said, you WILL alter the concept as the story unfolds, and you get the footage in the cutting room - but HAVING a concept, an outline, a treatment - yes, a 'script' - for what you HOPE to achieve will give you direction and purpose as you start to shoot.
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 08:45 AM   #11
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Thank you very much, Richard.
Your expertise and advices mean a lot.

We are thinking about the comedic-style as you describe.
So far it is open if it will be one individual or a couple. Both options will be possible. Maybe having a couple could make the documentary more interesting, as they would have different opinions.
8 minutes isn't so much for a doc, but I think it will be best if the conclution comes as the final part of the video.
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Old September 25th, 2008, 10:25 AM   #12
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Alright, time to start planning. Look at your calendar - you have a delivery date, so work backwards. How much time to post? WHEN is the final 'decision' going to be made on the furniture? What is the couple's timetable for shopping? How many stores are they visiting? Is this a verite' or talking head shoot? Interviews on the fly, or sit down and light them? In the couples home, or in a studio?

Good luck.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 12:20 AM   #13
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Thank you again, Richard!
You have helped a lot, both with ideas, and how to develop the project.

Over the weekend, the story/idea has changed a lot, and we will now use an upcoming local bus/public transportation strike instead.
Focusing the "conflict" about how to affect the other part, but at the same time trying to affect the 3rd party (the passengers) as little as possible.
Already got an interview with one manager of the bus company, so now we have something to work with.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 05:30 AM   #14
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Sounds like a good topic. Three parties, three sides - some good 'b-roll' potential on and off the busses, the strike lines, mechanics at work, - yup, good stuff there.


Good luck, and have fun!
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