Writing the script of a documentary

21 March 2006. Published by Benoît Labourdette.
Reading time: 3 min  

Initially questions

  • What is literature ? A look at the real ? A meeting between a filmmaker and a reality ?
  • What is the value of a documentary ? In the quality of spontaneity, the truth of this meeting ?
  • Spontaneity and truth are they two equivalent concepts ?
  • If everything is written, produced, directed, is it still a documentary ?

The reality of directors

Each director has a particular approach.

  • Some filmmakers waiting a long time before “out” their camera and film. Alain Degree, director of the documentary “Life goes on in the Kalahari” (1991), a magnificent film about the life of the mongoose goes long with animals, to live with them, to be accepted. Then he takes his pillow with him, which is his foot camera, it does accept. And finally, he brings his 16mm camera. And when, after this long meeting, he began filming, he was among them, he filmed up close, never with a zoom. It is also the method as had, ten years later, Jacques Perrin, for his film “Winged Migration”, for which the operators themselves squarely raised birds.
  • Some filmmakers turn immediately, and the subject comes to their writing, filming. The camera pen.

We can agree that it is difficult to write a document as accurately than fiction, and this is probably even antithetical to the genre.

The encounter with the real

  • For the meeting.
  • For playback.
  • By writing.
  • By the sound.
  • On the Internet today.
  • For shooting images. I put it last, but I think it should be first, because it is called “cinema” documentary, as opposed to television coverage. “Cinema”, ie a form of art in the service of a base, an art that is aware of its presence and impact, an art that takes work and the fact that the mere presence of the camera acts on the environment, an art that knows precisely that once a camera is there, it is not the real is not the same reality, it is a reality that knows looked c is a reality that takes the stage himself, claiming his “image rights”. The camera can not hide. The special meeting if the documentary film, deep quality, probably comes from the consideration of its specificity, to be there doing the film. We believe that a documentary is a topic that will be filming for transmission, is lying. The real issue is in the meeting of the cinema with a piece of real impact on the real and the audience - so participants in this experience - the experience of a worn look, the experience of working look. This work light can operate, especially in direct confrontation with the camera I think about it, even if it is not possible by other means.

The reality of production

If you are looking for funding for your documentary project, we will ask you a scenario. This could be an investigation, a project, a management issue, which would be more consistent with the documentary genre. No, this is a scenario you need. Otherwise, nobody invests, neither the public sector nor the private sector.

Two solutions

  • The first thing to be done: to have imagination, write everything to prove that we are able to “hold” over time, and assume that the film may be completely different in the end.
  • The second course to take: his film, without funding, and then once it is done, write the script, and soliciting money to produce it. This is what regularly happens with aid applications for production at the National Film Centre (CNC): This organization does not help the projects already completed, the film should not have been shot. It is already turned, but it does not say. We wrote the script. Who is fooled ? And projects get support this way. Why not.

Why writing the scenario of a documentary ?

Writing is essential, because writing allows us to clarify our thinking. Write a script, as if a documentary was a fiction film, probably this may correspond to certain projects, but obviously not all.

The reason for writing a documentary script is often that of reproof, for the film to exist. Do not be restrictive, some documentaries are instead very writings and find their qualities in this writing, already, before being made. Documentaries rebuild. By cons, if the project is fragile, is based precisely on the apprehension of a meeting between the film and a subject, write can have the opposite effect, can ossify the project can make the truth of the upcoming meeting, the simplicity, which is the condition of discovery, perverted, and can kill the quality of the film, which took precisely this fragility.