Following the Story You’re Creating

One of the truths of pointing a camera at any (nonfiction) situation is that the presence of the camera changes the situation. Journalists and documentary filmmakers (should) contend with this truth moment by moment as they film. As soon as you point the camera you have become a part of the story as both a live participant and as the one framing what the camera records.

Direct cinema is, therefore, something of a lie (or, perhaps, an exaggeration). It doesn’t have to be a nefarious lie (or a wild exaggeration).

The Overnighters isn’t the best documentary you’ll ever see. It’s in my top three for a very particular reason. The filmmaker became so immersed in the lives of the subjects that he’s able to capture some jaw-dropping moments of vulnerability. And in one shocking moment, I believe the main character used the fact that the camera was pointed at he and his wife to soften her reaction to a significant admission of… well, you’ll just have to watch the film 😉

Following the story you’re creating is a state of mind: The filmmaker or journalist being aware 1) that their presence (with a camera) is changing the subjects and their participation in their own stories, and 2) that the filmmaker/journalist is framing those stories and therefore telling their own story.

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