'Packing in everything you could want to know about setting up, shooting and distributing your work, this is the last word on its subject'

Empire Magazine, FIVE STARS

 

The Documentary Film Makers Handbook,

2nd ed.

 Interviews, tips, tricks and strategies for doc film makers from the best selling Guerilla Film Makers stable.

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The Documentary Film Makers Handbook contains over 110 interviews with top doc industry professionals. We have asked them the questions that you NEED the answers to. EVERY aspect of documentary filmmaking is covered such as: finding your subject, exploring the various doc genres (from political to nature to IMAX), budgeting, fundraising, broadcasters (including HBO, MTV, National Geographic and Discovery), ethics, interview techniques, archival footage, censorship, organisations, crew, docu-dramas, production and post, film festivals, and distribution (traditional, grass roots and new media), survival AND a global perspective that explores documentary filmmaking around the world.

Included are 24 inspirational case studies that take an in depth look at some of the most cutting edge and controversial docs from today (Control Room, Born Into Brothels, March of the Penguins, Mad Hot Ballroom, My Date With Drew, Dogtown And Z-Boys, Riding Giants, Why We Fight…) Read how these present day intrepid explorers faced everything from death and the extremes in Antarctica, shooting in "Axis of Evil" countries such as North Korea and Iraq during the war on terror, torture and imprisonment in Indonesia, kidnapping in Colombia and banishment from China. But docs are not all doom and gloom. Follow the inspiring stories of children learning skills to better their worlds, teenagers advocating sex education in Christian right wing Texas and the genesis of modern day skateboarding. Further, expert advice comes from Nick Broomfield (Kurt And Courtney, Aileen: Portrait Of A Serial Killer), Michael Apted (The Up Series), Barbara Kopple (Harlan Country U.S.A.), St Clair Bourne (Black Journal, Paul Robeson: Here I Stand!) and R.J Cutler (The War Room, American High). In addition there are hundreds of useful tips, technical info, forms, documents and websites in easy to read sidebars that will save you time, money and gray hairs.

The Documentary Film Makers Handbook is a continuation of the best selling series on narrative film, The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. Written by Genevieve Jolliffe and Andrew Zinnes, The Documentary Film Makers Handbook pulls no punches and is THE ultimate guide 

EMPIRE REVIEW

The Documentary Film Makers Handbook: A Guerilla Guide *****
Directly transpose their tried and true formula for movie-making guides to the world of non-fiction films. Packing in everything you could want to know about setting up, shooting and distributing your work, this is the last word on its subject.

Whether you're an utter novice or a seasoned veteran of the nonfiction film genre, this massive compendium on the nuts and bolts of documentary filmmaking offers a wealth of information and insights. What's more, it's a lively and engaging read, owing to the dozens of interviews with documentary filmmakers—including more than a few giants in the field—who provide real-world war stories and inside dope.For the longest time, it seemed documentary filmmakers took more risks and received less notoriety than their peers in any other film genre. They put their lives, careers, and personal finances on the line to bring stories to the screen that inform, challenge, and entertain the masses, but other than a few minutes on the Oscars telecast each year, documentaries went mostly unnoticed by the unwashed masses. The Werner Herzogs and D.A. Pennebakers and Errol Morrises of the world were doing amazing work, yet reaching only a select and selective audience.

 

But with the mega-success at the mainstream multiplexes of recent docs like An Inconvenient Truth, March of the Penguins, Super Size Me, and Michael Moore's works, suddenly nonfiction film looks like not only a vital calling, but perhaps also a viable one. Still, making documentaries is not something anyone should jump into without thorough preparation and planning, but where can an aspiring filmmaker turn for sage advice? Fortunately, Genevieve Jolliffe and Andrew Zinnes' The Documentary Film Makers Handbook has arrived at precisely the right moment, when the genre is growing in recognition and interest in the field is growing fast.

This 560-page volume, which is really more of a bible than a handbook (it barely fits in your hand anyway, and it's damned heavy), is jam-packed with information and real-world stories that illuminate the long, hard-fought process of getting a film made. Every step is covered, from finding a topic and choosing a documentary sub-genre, to raising money, creating a budget, pitching to broadcasters, assembling a crew, interviewing techniques, docu-drama versus straight documentary, film festivals and distribution, music rights, stock footage, the IMAX format, shooting overseas, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking. There's even information on what to do if you're arrested while shooting in a foreign country (as happened to co-writer Jolliffe when she was directing the feature film Urban Ghost Story). No stone is apparently left unturned, and for producers, directors, writers, directors of photography, and on down the line, this is a definitive compendium that will benefit novices and experienced pros alike.


"Long gone is the notion that docs can only be stuffy and boring," Jolliffe and Zinnes proclaim in their introduction. That theme permeates the entire book, the bulk of which is composed of more than 100 interviews with filmmakers and others in all facets of documentary filmmaking. Some of the genre's heaviest hitters are here, including Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney), Michael Apted (14 Up, etc.) and Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A.). The interviews are presented in the question-and-answer format, and are deceptively informative; many begin with a simple question such as, "What does documentary filmmaking mean to you?" and quickly segue into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, instructive anecdotes, practical how-to information, and big-picture discussions about the role of the documentary filmmaker in the media and society. Many of the hurdles faced by documentarians, who often must shoot at a moment's notice, are world's away from the bloated-budget world of their mainstream Hollywood counterparts; and some are quite similar, such as the struggle between art and commerce—or, in this case, between the filmmaker's passion for the material and the marketplace's willingness to fund certain projects but not others.

 

"The reality is you choose the subject that you think you can get done next," says Eugene Jarecki, director of Why We Fight. "And that's a tragic thing to say. There are other things that I was dying to do, but this was the one in an increasingly complicated world of national security and international relations, that was a natural to pitch to the world community. It's also something that I really cared about."

THE WRAP UPIt's been 30 years since movies like Hearts and Minds, the unflinching examination of the Vietnam War, raised expectations about what documentaries can accomplish. A book like The Documentary Film Makers Handbook is long overdue, and an essential tool to help new and future generations of filmmakers continue to raise expectations and challenge audiences to reconsider the world around them.

So much more than another how to book!

Though this book has plenty of useful resources from writing to funding to filming to distributing your film, what really sets it apart from the rest are the short interviews throughout the book with people from all sections of the industry--not just directors! They generally start off with a simple question--What do you do?--and then quickly gets down to brass tacks and inside dope. It's fascinating stuff...engaging reading isn't exactly what one expects from a "handbook" but they've done it right.

Cliff Milledge

The most complete resource and a great reference for novices and experienced docmakers alike!

Zinnes and Jolliffe cover almost every aspect of making great documentaries. As Zinnes says in his classes, "The point [of the book] is to give people straight answers and practical tips to keep them out of all kinds of trouble, and to help their projects move forward faster, look better, and cost less." 

Using the book, documentarians of all stripes will have a basic grounding in the process, that can prepare them to make an excellent film. People need to get some real-life shooting experience, but the rest of it is covered here. 

Zinnes again: "I can't teach people to be creative, or intelligent, or great storytellers." But he can give them a map and guideposts to the long and arduous process of creating a watchable film. The book would benefit from a re-issue after some editing, but the basic data is there. Already serving as a text in schools, it continues to create a wide-ranging and stimulating discussions about the very nature of filmmaking and particularly the themes and processes of documentary-making. 

Full of interesting viewpoints from seasoned pros, this book takes in all angles and gives many useful resources and solid advice on just about every subject - writing, funding, filming, to distribution, as well as those great short interviews. 

Hakim, San Francisco