Making Documentary Films and Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing Documentaries

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  1. F. Felix "FF" says:
    43 of 48 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Too much personal info…, June 22, 2008
    By 
    F. Felix “FF” (California) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Making Documentary Films and Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing Documentaries (Paperback)

    Wow, this is a tough one. How to review a book that contains fantastic topical information, surrounded by a lot of ridiculous, pointless, unsupported editorial?

    The Good: as other reviewers have noted, this book provides some great information about the process of documentary filmmaking. There is a valuable & interesting discussion of ethics that goes well beyond the “get a release” advice that is all that other sources ever mention.

    I also really enjoyed Hampe’s emphasis on “visual evidence”, rather than meaningless, pretty b-roll & his suggestion that you should turn off the sound to see if your footage is actually telling the story, or just illustrating the dialog. His recommendation to try to reduce talking heads is a great stimulus to problem-solving, & his emphasis on the all-important need for advance scripting & good story-telling is excellent.

    “Truth” with a capital T is a big issue for Hampe, & he has an excellent discussion about it & the need for the documentary filmmaker to become expert in their subject to avoid manipulation & so that the right questions are asked both in the planning stage & as the project unfolds. This level of comprehension is also efficient because it prevents the project from devolving into the classic error of becoming a fishing expedition or treasure hunt where miles of video are shot in the hopes of something interesting randomly appearing in it, while the critical information needed to stitch a story together is missed entirely. Meanwhile, filtering & organizing all the material ratchets up the cost of the project, even though “video is cheap”.

    Okay, so now The Bad: in a way, this author has a wealth of good experience & information to share if you can just stand to be around him long enough to receive it. As I read this book, I went from “Oops! He’s accidentally giving us a little too much info about his personal politics,” to “This guy has a serious agenda”, to “I can’t believe a professional editor let this slide.”

    Although he frequently bemoans how polarized Americans politics has become, the author does his utmost to widen the gap. Relentlessly, he picks away at liberals, Democrats, unions & Hollywood.

    The book sags when the pointless opinions fly thick & fast. For instance, why are we getting a supercilious, though flawed, lesson in “Economics 101” [if competition really invariably keeps prices down, explain the fashion industry or extravagant executive compensation, Hampe]? And what does a defense of Reaganomics have to do with filmmaking, anyway [yeah, I guess if you write yourself a check & deposit it in your savings account, then technically your revenue HAS increased]? And tell me again: why are we discussing how businesses offering their workers health insurance led to the corruption of American self-reliance? Is this guy really serious when he claims that oil companies are not necessarily profiteering in a time when Fidelity returns on the energy sector are sometimes surpassing 40%? Hampe even whines that CNN is–or at least was–wildly leftist.

    Hampe is excellent when he sticks to the subject. This book will richly deserve 5-stars if the author avails himself of a better editor next edition–preferably a pinko-commie leftist liberal to counter his own strongly distracting right-wing perspective.

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  2. 16 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A great resource for documentary filmmakers, February 15, 2008
    By 
    RJS94

    This review is from: Making Documentary Films and Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing Documentaries (Paperback)

    I am starting my first documentary project and I picked up a number of books to guide me through the unfamiliar process. After reading and discarding several books on the topic, I was thrilled to discover Barry Hampe’s book. It is by far the best written, most helpful and most informative guide to making documentaries that I have read.

    The author is an excellent writer and the book is at all times succinct, but highly informative. It teaches you everything you need to know to make a great documentary, and also provides an extensive list of films to watch in order to demonstrate what is and is not desirable in a film. The author is an expert on the topic, and he does a fantastic job conveying the necessary information while making it simple and understandable to professionals and amateurs alike. He also devotes a portion of the book to documentary ethics, an important topic which gets too little attention from other writers.

    In sum, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has been indispensable to me in planning my documentary. I believe it is the best book to help guide you, whether (like me) you are just starting out with documentaries, or are a weathered professional looking for some new tips and advice.

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  3. Christopher E. Williamson says:
    12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Great Information, February 19, 2008
    By 
    Christopher E. Williamson (Kansas City, KS USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Making Documentary Films and Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing Documentaries (Paperback)

    The first half of the book introduces the concept of a documentary, what is and isn’t a documentary, and covers the ethics involved in documentary filmmaking.

    The second half deals with actually producing the documentary. He ignores equipment, which is good because that means it doesn’t contain quickly outdated information.

    The author does a great job at guiding a budding filmmaker through the process of making a documentary.

    I am currently using the information he gives on securing funds using a proposal and treatment, planning the documentary, shooting, and editing. I’ve found it to be a great resource and has helped me feel like this is something I can do.

    He doesn’t make it sound easy, but he does make it easier for beginning documentarians by helping us avoid mistakes and plan to succeed. His insistence on planning is really helping me to get my stuff together to do this the right way.

    It’s an all around great book for anyone interested in filming a documentary.

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