Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos

Article excerpt

Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos by Barry Hampe Henry Holt & Co., 366 pps., paperback, $16.95

"From the outside, making a documentary seems like the easiest thing in the world. You just go where something interesting is happening, turn on the camera and record it."

So begins the first chapter entitled "It Looks So Easy" - of this important new entry in the literature of documentary filmmaking. What ensues is a thorough, 314-page explanation of why there is so much more to making an effective documentary than just being in the right place to photograph the events of the day. Barry Hampe, a longtime pro in the field, has amassed a highly informative and readable volume illuminating the practical, ethical and aesthetic aspects of producing documentary films. He goes beyond the basics to describe avoidable pitfalls just as carefully as he explains what is entailed in devising a documentary that transcends mere reportage. He outlines the whole process, from preproduction through postproduction, and does it well. In underscoring the importance of the visual aspects, for example, Hampe says:

"A documentary is existential. …

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