It’s a psychological disorder that compels someone to tell a story that hasn’t happened yet. To show up day after day (many times year after year) and take a leap of faith that the story will become worthy of a film is irrational. Countless documentary filmmakers have chased a rabbit down a hole only to find out that the tunnel is a dead end. So why do we do it?
We are in the midst of a modern-day gold rush in documentary filmmaking. With so many great stories unfolding and so many storytelling conventions being created, more and more fantastic (and almost unbelievable) stories are becoming timeless documentary films. Stories like “The Square”, “King of Kong”, “The Cove”, “The Jinx” and countless others tell stories in real time, allowing the viewer to experience the story as it happens. Only the best storytellers are able to “see around the corner” and be there to capture the story as it happens.
I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of some amazing stories that became compelling documentaries. Films like “Gip”, the story of one of four remaining authentic juke joints that was raided and closed as our cameras rolled; “Man in the Glass: The Dale Brown Story” which followed NCAA agitator and human rights crusader Dale Brown as he fought systems of injustice on multiple fronts and “Gideon’s Army” which followed public defenders as they advocated for defendants facing life sentences (some victorious, others not). These types of stories are great because they are all some form of the hero’s journey. They resonate with viewers because they are stories of triumph and tragedy that mirror our own experiences.
It’s an exciting time to be a documentary filmmaker – even if it’s just a delusion of grandeur.