Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"I can't recommend a better place to start your journey...."

Thank you to Stephen Nathans-Kelly for his thoughtful review of Documentary Storytelling, 3rd edition, in!

Writing for a readership that primarily includes event videographer/filmmakers, Nathans-Kelly asks, "And why should this book matter to you...? For several reasons. One is that the line between event filmmaking and other filmmaking genres is increasingly blurred as event filmmakers continue to absorb influences from outside the event world, as tools and filmmaking techniques converge, and as event filmmakers aspire to achieve the same sort of impact with their event films that the best documentarians do. Another reason is that for most of us in this industry, shooting events is only one of the things we do; we’re also doing corporate and commercial work, legal videography, biography films, or other types of video production that edge us ever closer to the documentary world. What’s more, when many event filmmakers think about the movie they really want to make, outside of the commissioned work that’s the lifeblood of their businesses, that movie is a documentary on some topic of great personal significance. The information and techniques presented in Bernard’s book may well fill the gaps (probably sizeable, but manageable) between the technical chops they’ve developed in their event work and the storytelling techniques they’ll need to master to produce the feature they aspire to create."

Read the entire review at:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mon 8-23 and Tues 8-24: Spike Lee's Katrina sequel

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, the 5-year Katrina anniversary sequel to When the Levees Broke, is airing tonight and tomorrow night on HBO. Produced by Sam Pollard and Spike Lee and directed by Lee, the film has been widely reviewed -- in the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and elsewhere. Sam Pollard is among those interviewed in Documentary Storytelling.

Friday, August 20, 2010

History, Documentary, iPod -- a walking tour in Boston

From the July/August 2010 issues of "Humanities" (National Endowment for the Humanities), a report by Craig Lambert on Walking Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill -- an iPod app offering a walking tour that explores an 1849 murder in Boston. The tour was co-produced by Eric Stange, director of Murder at Harvard, a broadcast documentary (PBS's American Experience) -- which in turn is built around historian Simon Schama's book, Dead Certainties, which looks at the murder and how historians piece together narratives.

The app is available from Untravel Media. (See also Ryan Gilbey's article for The Guardian: "The first film made for the iPhone: Is this the start of a whole new cinematic genre"?)

Thursday, August 5, 2010


"The Internet and other digital media offer an unprecedented opportunity for creators to reach consumers and for people to watch and read what they want, when they want," notes the Writers Guild of America, East, in demanding that the Federal Communications Commission and Congress NOT allow the Verizon-Google deal to move ahead.

Should it pass, they warn, "the Internet will resemble television and the movies: completely dominated by a handful of multinational conglomerates that decide what the public will watch based, not on the quality of the programming, but on the margin of profit." READ THE FULL ACCOUNT.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Included in Apple's "A Curriculum for Digital Media Creation"

Sponsored by Apple Inc., Marco Antonio Torres and Ross Kallen's 84-page "A Curriculum for Digital Media Creation: Sixteen Lessons, from Storyboarding to Producing a Documentary" (2008) -- see page 10:

"Many books focus on the post-production side of the process. Also, some great reference books exist for documentary moviemaking classes. We recommend two of them, both of which look at the whole picture of documentary moviemaking:
Directing the Documentary, *Fourth Edition (Paperback) by Michael Rabiger
Documentary Storytelling for Video and Filmmakers by Sheila Curran Bernard"

Thanks! (Link:

Documentary Storytelling for Government Agencies

Documentary Storytelling is one of two books on visual storytelling recommended in the "Do It Yourself Video Guide for Government Agencies" -- available online (January 2010).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Now available in Korean!

Translation Elsevier Korea LLC
CommunicationBooks, Inc.
ISBN 978-89-8499-555-0

Monday, July 19, 2010

Want to work in documentary? Study drama.

Just back from 10 days in Washington, DC at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive, reminded once again of the value of exploring a range of art forms to truly understand what it means to tell a story.

Documentaries -- to outsiders -- offer a parade of facts on screen. They're those 5th grade film strips that taught hygiene or bicycle safety; they're the aggressive recitation of carefully-chosen facts that provide additional ammunition to people who've already formed an opinion; they're the bland presentation of information -- about history, science, people, places, you name it -- in an order that is factually dutiful and creatively dull. No matter how interesting the basic subject matter is, if this is what you think a documentary is, the film you make will be the equivalent of a stranger's home movies.

But this is not what today's best documentaries -- or yesterday's, for that matter -- are.

Documentaries are movies that draw strength from a simple contract between filmmaker and audience, that what is being presented as the truth -- and the evidence used -- are both honest and true.

Documentary filmmakers are artists -- skilled, seasoned artists -- whose palette includes the tools of both journalism and drama. They shape stories, rather than invent them. Watch Alex Gibney's Gonzo, or Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir, or Deborah Scranton's The War Tapes. Tune in to Frontline or Nova, and try not to get sucked in by the content but instead to watch the craft. Better yet, watch it once for content, and three or four times for craft. Look at where the film starts, how it's structured, how it's "cast," what themes it illuminates and explores. Look at how the filmmaker shows rather than tells. And if you don't know what that means -- study drama. Playwriting, screenwriting, creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, fiction, short stories.... The answers are there.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The Tribeca Film Festival line-up has been announced, and documentaries include:

Gerrymandering, edited by Sam Pollard (directed by Jeff Reichert) - Discovery

Earth Made of Glass, directed by Deborah Scranton (trailer is here) - World Documentary Feature Competition

Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film, a work in progress directed by Alex Gibney - Special Event

Third edition update!

Coming in September, Documentary Storytelling, 3rd edition -- featuring new interviews with Alex Gibney, Deborah Scranton, James Marsh and more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Partners in Health

If you’re looking for a way to help in Haiti, I strongly recommend Partners in Health ( )

PIH has been on the ground in Haiti for more than 20 years, creating a revolutionary model for health care delivery that’s since been implemented in locations as diverse as Roxbury and Rwanda. (PIH not only treats patients, but also sets out to “alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world” -- As another of their web pages notes: “When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services.”)

PIH was created by doctors Paul Farmer and Jim Kim, and was written about in Tracy Kidder’s extraordinary book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. (See Kidder’s op-ed piece in the January 13 New York Times,

The Partners in Health hospitals were far enough from the epicenter to avoid damage, and as early as Wednesday were receiving patients; see this article in the Boston Globe; see also this clip,

I have nothing but admiration for this organization, and urge you to consider donating.

Monday, January 11, 2010

BBC and ethics in media

Doc filmmakers should plan to spend some time at the BBC's Safeguarding Trust website... From the site: "Safeguarding Trust is an editorial training programme which examines the issue of where to draw the line between legitimate media artifice and unacceptable audience deception. The BBC launched this site following the serious editorial breaches that occurred in 2007. Among these was the incident in which a child visiting the Blue Peter studio was asked to pose as a phone-in competition winner, the showing of scenes from the documentary A Year with the Queen in a wrong and misleading order and the revelation that competitions on various channels had involved audience members being asked to call premium rate numbers when they had no chance of winning." Make your own way through interactive modules and more.