Whether you are a seasoned filmmaking pro or just starting out, there are a lot of great documentary movies that can teach you a lot about filmmaking. You just have to know where to look.
Herzog’s Grizzly Man
Grizzly Man is a 2005 documentary film about a bear enthusiast named Timothy Treadwell. It is a fusion of interviews, archival footage, and staged scenes. It was directed by German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who narrates the film. It was co-produced by Discovery Docs and Lionsgate Entertainment.
The film features aerial footage of the Katmai National Park in Alaska. It also shows a few of Treadwell’s close encounters with grizzlies. The film won the Best Feature Documentary at the 2005 Telluride Film Festival. It also won the Alfred P. Sloan award at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film has received a mixed review from critics. Roger Ebert awarded it two thumbs up. It was released in limited release in North America.
In order to make the film, Herzog used more than one hundred hours of video. He also interviewed park rangers and bear experts. He also recorded some of the audio from the scene of Treadwell’s death. The audio is so good that it’s often difficult to tell that it was not recorded live.
Throughout his life, filmmaker William Greaves left behind more than 200 documentaries. One of these is the controversial and experimental Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One. A re-edited version of the film is now available on Blu-ray.
Greaves shot Symbiopsychotaxiplasm in 1968. The film is shot on 16 mm color reversal. This stock was common for avant-garde and documentary filmmakers in the sixties.
The film features a soundtrack by Miles Davis. Rather than just a background score, the music becomes a central element in the film. Using two actors, the film crew records each of them playing the same scene. Then, Greaves uses the film footage of these actors in the finished film. The crew wonders whether Greaves manipulated them.
The film was directed by William Greaves, who also produced and edited the film. Greaves was a black filmmaker with connections to many different worlds. He studied and researched the works of John Grierson and Werner Heisenberg. During this time, the US Information Agency hired Greaves to make documentaries.
During his lifetime, Abbas Kiarostami has created a number of masterpieces, but his 1990 film Close-up is arguably the most influential. It has also reverberated around the world. The film tells the story of an Iranian man who impersonated a famous Iranian director.
Hossain Sabzian conned the wealthy family of a well-known Iranian film director. When the family discovered that Sabzian was not who they thought he was, he was arrested and sent to prison.
Kiarostami wrote Close-Up after he read about the trial in Iranian newspapers. The director, who was in pre-production on Pocket Money, was immediately inspired by the case. He assembled a crew, and set off to make a film about the case.
The film follows Sabzian’s trial and imprisonment, and the efforts of the filmmaker to create a film about the case. It is a documentary, but it also contains flashbacks, and archival trial footage.
The film explores issues of class, beauty, and artistic creation. It also critiques the illusionistic quality of cinema. It uses the real-life case as its basis, and recreates the events of the trial with real actors and real people.
Dean Semler’s Long Shot
During his career as a filmmaker, Dean Semler has been a member of the Order of Australia and received three Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards. He was also awarded the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Dances With Wolves (1991).
The documentary Long Shot: Art of Film: About Television was shown in Toronto and New York in 2011. It features Semler and his assistants discussing how the movie was shot, including how they used digital cameras to capture scenes.
Dean Semler was born in South Australia in 1943 and began his camera career at a local TV station in Australia. He moved to Sydney and started freelance work in 1981. He shot television news stories, documentaries, and anthropological films. He then joined Film Australia, a government-sponsored film unit. He directed several films in the 2000s, including action films.
One of his more popular films was The Patriot, a film starring Steven Seagal. It was based on the novel The Last Canadian by William C. Heine and loosely adapted into a film.