Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Be brave and allow the documentary to tell itself.
We are often tempted as filmmakers to bend and shape our story to our will and agenda. We come into the doc with an idea or opinion and want to stick with it. It might be why we decided to make the film in the first place. But sometimes the film abandons us and moves in a different direction. If we yield to the urge to manipulate the story and nudge it back to our concept, we start to infuse fiction into our non-fiction film. Then we spend valuable time and resources making the fiction feel true so we can convince our audience. But that's not really the documentarian's craft. You are there to serve the film not for the film to serve you.
Besides fiction is the province of narrative fiction filmmakers. Our fun is allowing the film to teach us and change us.
Documentarians must be brave enough to let the story tell itself and allow it to change them.
From the beginning, Sydney did not present as someone health challenged. She looked too good! She just seemed to be dealing with some commonplace issues. We quickly developed an opinion - Syd would find an easy fix and move on. We would capture that and have a nice little film.
But that wasn't the story. And we needed to change our approach.
Ed explains how we felt in the excerpt below.