Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Search for Reality: The Art of Documentary Filmmaking

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Search for Reality: The Art of Documentary Filmmaking

Article excerpt

Tobias, Michael. The Search for Reality: The Art of Documentary Filmmaking. New York: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998, 387 pp., $29.95 (paper).

It takes passion, perseverance, fortitude, determination, and luck to be a successful documentary filmmaker. Because there is little money to be made, most filmmakers who begin their careers making documentaries switch to fiction. Few can endure the rigors of funding, producing, directing, editing, and distributing documentary films. Fortunately, a few hardy filmmakers make documentaries a lifetime dedication and passion.

Michael Tobias in The Search for Reality shares stories from directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, editors, distributors, and interviewers about nonfiction filmmaking. As Tobias states, "It is my hope that readers will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the extraordinary range of involvement and projects by documentary filmmakers throughout the world."

In his introduction, Tobias sets the stage for the 36 essays and two interviews:

Each contributor has been asked to write a very personal essay, an eye-witness account of a particular concern: that might be a saga, a behind-the-scenes blow-byblow, a decisive moment in a film that reflects the problems, challenges, and possibilities for documentary; a theme, a point in a career, a moment in a film, or an overview of a general pattern of special significance that emerges from many films in the contributor's professional career.

The jewels in this book are Mitchell Block's essay, "Documentary Production and Distribution: Beyond the Year 2000," and Michael Tobias's interviews of documentary legends Frederick Wiseman and Albert Maysles. Block's essay is a concise history of documentary funding and distribution from the beginning of the form to the present day and near future. The essay is thought provoking not only for a film student but for accomplished documentarians. As Block states:

It would be simple to offer up, as conclusion to this discussion, a piece of advice to budding filmmakers: get out, while the getting's good. And to some extent, that would be sound counsel: forget about making serious works with the hope of making a living and realize that imagemaking is at best a mere job, at worst a hobby. …

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