Dear Documentary Filmmakers: Tributes

Dear Documentary Filmmakers: Is there a story here, or are you just sharing your anecdote-filled tribute to a loved one w me?

While it’s easy to pick up a camera today and start shooting, thanks to the relatively cheap and easy accessibility of video, I can’t stress enough that this alone does not a (good) doc make. Just because you can shoot it, doesn’t mean there’s anything necessarily of substance there, or at least not necessarily something other people will want to see. This isn’t exclusive to the above DDF, but family/friend tributes are a typical subject I’ve encountered many times where this is unfortunately evidenced.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make that video honoring your grandma, or record stories about your dad by his old college buddies – of course, make whatever you want to make, and I’m sure your family members are lovely people. You should ask yourself, however, beyond your family and friends, who else would really benefit from seeing it? Is it something that a perfect stranger would be interested in? Does it offer an engaging story, regardless of personal acquaintance with the featured subject?

If it does, great – fine tune it as you would any doc, so it’s potentially presentable as a film and not as a home movie, and consider submitting it to festivals in the hopes of sharing that captivating story (and your fascinating relative’s life) with a larger audience.

If instead your film doesn’t offer an entry point with which outsiders can engage, be realistic about what you have – a surprise that you can present to your loved one at an anniversary or birthday party, perhaps, but definitely not something that you should be sending to programmers.

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Filed under Dear Documentary Filmmakers, Documentary, Film

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