This is great, thanks.
Read it ages ago. Loved it. Beyond being helpful, it was a page-turner filled with helpful and fun anecdotes, particularly about relationships with writers and actors.
With my FS7 stolen a month back, but all my work now requiring RED or Alexa, this article was great to read. I had JUST been wondering if there were any options in the middle. Do I drop the $40k for an Amira, or settle for another FS7 that I don't really love. Much to consider. Thanks.
Meanwhile, anyone know any good short film "advocates?"
Boy, this is so tempting, to want to track all of this. I've been going through this lately, trying to figure out if I'm just tossing my film into a black hole or if people are watching. Part of the trouble with this though is that nowadays I'd guess someone in a different city could be watching for a festival. I had people view mine in Indiana, but never submitted anywhere near that state, so who knows what that was.
John is right about a lot of the differences. I am both, which is to say, a director of both narrative and doc. They are different beasts to be sure. Lotta overlap, but a lot of key differences.
Probably the biggest difference to understand is the workflow difference. A narrative is written up front. The director's job really comes before the shoot, working with the script, planning out the look and feel, making a lot of choices. Their job, on the day, is to communicate those choices to affect that clear vision. If they've done their job, most of the work will be done before production and on production they will be free to work intimately with the actors and make minor tweaks as needed.
Doc on the other hand can be fairly fast to get into. You find a story or a character and jump in. Doc is about capturing a thing and then figuring out how to tell the story later. The real skill of a doc director is having a good enough sense of story going in that they understand what's happening in front of them and the value of it: (is this a beginning a middle, an ending? How does this affect the arc?) Production on doc is often more hectic, though smaller in scale, as you try to find shots and ways to capture what's happening on the fly. Ultimately, the director must find the story, with the editor, after the fact. I liken it to mosaic, where you capture a bunch of tiles then have to figure out how to make a picture after.
Another key difference is that scale thing. Narrative tends to have money attached with it, and crew, etc. Lot more people and moving parts. Doc tends to be on the fly, smaller crew. As a doc director, you're also really a producer, pushing the thing forward.
Ultimately the choice is about the kinds of stories that you want to tell. There are super overlapping skills for both. I love doc. I love finding an interesting person or subculture and following it and capturing those real moments. There's nothing like a real moment. But I have sort of left documentary too, because I enjoy telling my own stories, and because story craft is more respected and more easily recognized in narrative work.
In a Q&A for a narrative piece, people will ask about the writing and the shots and the behind the scenes. In a Q&A people will want to know how you met your subject and what they are doing now. You are regarded as a journalist, and few will know the creative choices you made. At least this is how my ego felt.