?What is a Documentary Film
What is a Documentary Film?
A documentary film is a movie that attempts, in some way, to document reality. Even though the scenes are carefully chosen and arranged, they are not scripted, and the people in a documentary film are not actors. Sometimes, a documentary film may rely on voice-over narration to describe what is happening in the footage; in other films, the footage will speak for itself. Often, a documentary film will include interviews with the people in the film.
The earliest film of any sort was a documentary film. These featured single shots of actual events, such as a boat leaving shore, and were referred to as “actuality” films. Other early forms of the documentary film included propaganda films, such as the famous Leni Reifenstahl movie, Triumph of the Will, which made Adolph Hitler appear heroic.
One type of documentary film that became popular in the 1950s was called cinema verité, which is the literal French translation of “cinema truth.” Cinema verité is a type of documentary film that includes no narration; the camera simply follows the subject. One famous example of such a film is Don’t Look Back a biography film about Bob Dylan, covering his tour of the United Kingdom in 1965.
In recent years, the documentary film genre has become more popular and high profile, though it is still far less popular generally than the action or adventure film genre. Many of today’s examples of the documentary film have a political or otherwise controversial agenda, such as An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, and Fahrenheit 911. Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 911, which documented the Bush family’s ties to Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden, was the most popular documentary film of all time, with over $228 million US Dollars in ticket sales.
The documentary film is still low on the radar of most movie audiences, but the popularity of recent films illustrates that audiences are willing to watch a movie that has a serious agenda. Because documentary films are much cheaper to produce than commercial movies, they are a low risk for studios. In the future, we are likely to see many more documentary film releases in theaters.
What is a Film Festival?
A film festival is an event at which multiple films are screened for participants. Typically, film festivals are accompanied by panels which may feature directors, cast members, and other film personnel, and awards may be offered at the close of the festival to films of particularly high quality. Numerous regions all of the world hold film festivals every year, ranging from the prestigious Berlin Film Festival to smaller regional events which focus on work by local filmmakers.
The first official film festival appears to have taken place in Venice in 1932, when the medium of film was starting to explode in popularity. After the Venice festival, numerous other cities took up the trend, and many started focusing on specific categories within the field of film, such as independent films, documentaries, animation, or gay and lesbian films. Depending on the festival, just getting a screening can be an honor, which explains why movies have advertisement copy like “Screened at Sundance Film Festival!”
In many cases, a film festival includes multiple venues, allowing participants to pick from several films at once. Typically, the films to be shown are included in a catalog which has information about them; this information typically includes showing times and details about panels and discussions. Participants may pay a flat fee for admission, or they may be asked to pay a fee for each screening. Many film festivals issue coupon books or tokens which people can redeem at various screenings of interest.
Getting a film into a film festival is no mean feat. Depending on the festival, the festival may hold an open call for submissions, or filmmakers may be invited to participate. Typically, a panel reviews any proposed films, determining which ones will be shown. If the film festival offers awards, the panel may make award nominations at this time as well. Filmmakers may be required to pay a fee to submit their work.
Often, films premiere at festivals, making them great opportunities to see films which will not reach general audiences for months. Many film festivals also focus on independent distributors, who sometimes have trouble getting their work into large theaters, so in some cases, a film festival may be the only place to see a movie. It is also a unique opportunity to meet the people involved in the production of a film, which can be an interesting experience.
To find a film festival in your area, try searching for the name of a nearby major city and “film festival” in your favorite search engine. If you’re lucky, the search will return an assortment of film festivals to choose from, and you may find one which piques your interest.
What is a Film Crew?
A film crew is a group of people which works on the production aspect of a film. Film crews are differentiated from actors in that they support the production of a piece without actually appearing on screen (except by accident), and the members of the crew are also separate from the producers, who handle the intellectual property and distribution aspects of production. There are a number of positions on a film crew, ranging from the prestigious roles to scut work, and a good film crew is key to producing a high quality film, commercial, television show, or any other sort of filmed piece.
There are a number of broad departments within a film crew, each with specific responsibilities and players. As a general rule, these departments work closely with one another to ensure that the film has a polished, consistent, professional look and to create a piece which matches with the vision of the producer and director.
The production department on a film crew consists of the producers, director, and their support staff, including second units, stunt coordinators, continuity supervisors, and choreographers. This department handles the creative aspect of the film, working together to create and realize a vision, and they also handle the day to day needs of production, through production assistants who organize everything from facilities rental to catering services. Also included on the production team is the front office staff.
Many people in the production department of a film crew have worked in other departments, to gain a thorough knowledge of all of the positions on a film crew. This deeper understanding of the way other positions on the crew work can be extremely helpful when they issue orders and directives.
The art department is responsible for the look and feel of the film, realized through sets, props, landscaping, and so forth. A production designer typically supervises this department, working closely with the director. For the look of the actors, the hair and makeup and wardrobe departments work on costumes and physical appearances, typically consulting with the lighting and design teams to make sure that the actors look their best.
The production sound division of the film crew handles the sound recording during production, while the sound crew works on incidental music and post-production sound. Camera crews are responsible for the physical filming, along with lighting, assisted by the grips, riggers, and gaffers who actually position and manipulate the lighting on set while meeting other electrical needs. In post-production, editors and visual effects crews put the finishing touches on the piece, ensuring that it looks perfect before distribution.
What is a Film Genre?
When filmmakers and movie critics refer to a film genre, they generally mean a specific style or subject matter. While a movie may have elements of a number of different genres, it is often classified under a single film genre for reference purposes. Some people may consider director Mel Brook’s movie Blazing Saddles to be in the Western genre, for instance, but its satirical tone and comedic writing put it squarely in the genre of comedy. Other film genres include drama, romantic comedy, action/adventure, musical and experimental.
A film’s inclusion in a recognized film genre gives potential viewers some general hints about its subject matter and suitability. If a film is described as a Western, for example, the audience should expect to see cowboys on horseback in the American West during the 19th century. There are also certain stock characters and dramatic situations associated with a specific film genre, such as a sheriff, a villain and a saloon bartender in a Western.
Categorizing films by genre is not always an easy task, since a dramatic film may have its share of comedic moments or a comedy may take a more dramatic turn. Some film experts will create new genres or subgenres to describe these hybrid films, such as action comedies or dramedies. In general, however, most films made in a specific genre, such as film noir or crime drama, follow the established structure and plot lines of that genre. A few movies may challenge the rigidity of their own genres, however, such as Clint Eastwood’s deconstructed Western Unforgiven, which pointedly avoided many of the cliches associated with the Western film genre.
Film genres are similar to musical genres or literary genres in many ways. A filmmaker often understands what elements are expected in a specific film genre and steer the film towards that end. Certain actors are generally associated with a specific type of film genre, as well as scriptwriters and directors. The late director John Ford, for example, worked almost entirely in the Western film genre. Actor Hugh Grant is perhaps best known for his work in the romantic comedy genre. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer specializes in the action film genre.
Understanding the basic elements of a film genre such as action/adventure or crime drama allows these filmmakers to create films which are satisfying to both casual fans of the genre and critics who appreciate the history and tradition behind the film genre.
What is a Producer?
A producer is someone who works to create the conditions required to make a film or television series. Producers are typically involved in a production from the early development stages through to the completion, and their roles in a production vary, depending on the industry and how the production crew is structured. Producers are extremely important in the filmmaking hierarchy, and a number have become notable in their own right, thanks to their efforts on major films or on behalf of major studios.
Producers are often heavily involved in the finances of the projects they work on. They are responsible for securing funding and managing the finances. As a result, producers are typically included in major hiring and firing decisions, and they may pick out some of the personnel who work on the production, ensuring that the production has the desired cast and crew.
Many producers participate in the day to day operations of the production, especially in the case of line producers, who actually supervise daily operations and manage budgets. After the director, the producer is a crucial part of the artistic team, making decisions about the ultimate look and feel of the piece. At times, relationships between directors and producers can become strained, especially when they come into creative conflict.
Executive producer credits are often given to major sources of funding, studio heads, or creators of the production. Associate and assistant producers report to either the executive producer or the producer, helping to manage the myriad tasks involved in production, from arranging screenings to organizing contracts. Many producers like to establish good working relationships with key members of their support staff, taking them from production to production to create a familiar and efficient work environment.
Sometimes, actors join in on producing a piece, to retain more creative control and to explore the world of production along with the world of acting. Producers may also be writers or creators, especially in the world of television. In these instances, the work of a producer can be extremely complex, as he or she will have producing duties in addition to creative duties, and assistants may be crucial to ensure that the producer does not become overloaded with work.