Truthful Documentary Making Tips


How does a cinematographer film a truthful documentary? Commonly know as Cinema Verite; it is a method that unites natural with stylized cinematic equipments of editing and camera angles and dramatic set-ups. The camera is used to incite subjects and the interactions between the filmmaker and the subjects.

It is also known to take on a confrontational position towards its subject matter as the intent is to film real objects, real people and real events. This confrontational method is used because it is the best way to capture the truth in the most objective way.

Below are some essential tips to successfully create your cinematographic masterpiece:

1. Listen

Hearing is equally as important as seeing especially when behind the camera. During a filming every single information going on outside of a camera frame can be heard. It’s this possibility called thoughtful listening where you can subtly detect the changes or end of topics, whether something is said will cause reactions, changes in breathing. From these little thoughtful listening observations one can sense when to pan cameras for wider shots etc.

2. Seize the moment

Odds are always going to be against anything really good happening twice. So get it right first time but if the good miraculously happens twice; film both with different frames. Don’t be afraid to take risk and push limits as it is how key moments of film are made some times.

3. Commit

Don’t second guess where to point the camera; it’s an amateurish mistake. When you hesitate on your decision such as where to point the camera, what frame size to use or compositions; you are wasting valuable filmmaking time. By the time you think you set everything perfectly it won’t hold long enough to make a good cut. Find your frame and commit to it.

4. Know what is going on

The main thing is to understand what’s going on in your scenes otherwise the earlier tips are rendered useless. It actually takes a lot of thought, discussions and understanding where the scene will fit with concept of the film before you shoot. Once you know your objectives and understand them you will know what to look for and apply the other tips.


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