If you want to do documentaries, David Hoffman is the man you want to learn from. Hoffman has over 40 years experience making documentaries.
Here are some of his most helpful tips.
1. Eliminate what doesn't enhance the story and exaggerate what does.
The way Hoffman explains this is simple. When doing a piece on history, the real truth is that a lot of the details are boring. The reason that a good historical piece is so exciting is that the creator focuses on the details that are exciting and interesting and leave out the mundane stuff.
Watch any movie ever made on a historical event and you'll see what I mean. It's almost as if they take the entire section of history and condense it down to one or two main points...leaving out all the stuff that will put you to sleep.
In other words, if it's not absolutely critical to the story, leave it out.
2. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
This is excellent advice. The way Hoffman explains it, not everybody is good at every little thing. Some people are good at writing, some at directing. If you can't write, don't try. Get somebody who is a good writer if your strength is in directing.
By putting together a team of experts, you end up with the best movie possible.
3. Don't over criticize yourself.
This is a common mistake that many beginning film makers make. They nit pick about every little thing that they do. Hoffman says you need to just jump into the fire and do it. Go with your gut. Some things will work and some won't. But don't censor yourself during the process too much. Let the ideas just come and have confidence in what you're doing.
4. It's okay to be nervous. Be nervous.
I love the way Hoffman explains this. He says that when people tell you there is nothing to be nervous about, they're wrong. There is a lot to be nervous about. Why? Because what you do matters. And it's going to matter to somebody who is watching your movie 50 years from now.
5. Casting your crew is as important as who is in front of the camera.
This is related to what he said about knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Movies are not just made by a director. They are made by actors, lighting men and an assortment of people. It is important to realize that your movie is only as strong as your weakest link.
6. Tell YOUR Truth.
This was probably the best part of the interview and I'll try to condense it as best as I can. Hoffman made a movie about slums. He could have portrayed the person living in the slums as a hero, going to work at a minimum wage job to support her 4 children. That would have been a truth.
But it wasn't his truth.
Hoffman decided to focus instead on how the person didn't keep the house clean, hit the children, and so on...focusing on all the negative aspects. After all, they were just as true.
Point he's making is this. If you're doing a documentary, you don't have to include all the facts just because they are true. You can focus on JUST the facts that tell the truth that you want to convey.
Interesting way of looking at a documentary.