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How to Create a Story for a Documentary Film

  • October 24, 2018
Video Production Documentary Film Story On Whiteboard With Sticky Notes

I recently wrapped up production on a feature documentary called, "They Care They've Earned." I've worn a lot of hats with my previous films, right down to "movie poster designer," but this one was different. Instead of 10-15 hats, I wore only two—editor and co-writer. Both are services we offer as part of our documentary film services at our company, Z-Channel Films. Thanks to technological advances, lower-priced video production equipment, and an increased array of distribution platforms, more and more documentaries are being produced every year. And the directors of many of those films are finding themselves in the same position I found myself in after completing principle shooting on my first documentary—namely, now what? For me, I was staring at 160 hours of footage with…

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Koyaanisqatsi: A Documentary Film to Blow Your Mind

  • June 6, 2018
Koyaanisqatsi Documentary Film

Wow, 35 years! That’s how long it’s been since Godfrey Reggio’s seminal film, Koyaanisqatsi came out, challenging our beliefs about what a documentary could be. I watched it again last week while gearing up to make a new documentary here in LA. The story I’m trying to tell is more of an essay film, which demands more of viewers than a traditional narrative documentary with a conventional plot. That’s why I turned to Koyaanisqatsi for a little inspiration. How did it manage to blow our minds without a word of dialogue?   Time-lapse, how I love you so During the first half of the film, I could only assume that the time-lapse shot was a true innovation back in 1982, because the long takes…

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Recommended Documentary Film Viewing: “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes”

  • April 25, 2018

Documentaries seem to be less confined to rigid story structures than fiction films.  Without the ability to premeditate a script and shoot to it, documentary filmmakers must rely on available footage and what they have acquired along the path of story discovery. This often leads to creative and unusual storytelling techniques and structures. Such is the case with "The Prison in Twelve Landscapes," a documentary directed by Brett Story and released last month. Story describes the film as a non-fiction film "about the prison from places we least expect to find it." This includes a corporate environment, a forest fire, and a chess playing board in a park, among others. In each of these locations, Story seeks to uncover how mass incarceration has affected lives.…

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Documentary Filmmaker Arrested on Baseless Charges

  • October 14, 2016
Documentary Filmmaker Arrested

The Huffington Post is reporting that documentary filmmaker Deia Scholsberg was arrested in North Dakota while filming protests against tar sands oil pipelines. She has been charged with three felony charges, including conspiracy to commit theft of property. Her footage and documentary film gear was confiscated. She faces up to 45 years in prison. As documentary filmmakers ourselves and well, as citizens of the United States, this comes as a shock and we are outraged at the treatment of Scholsberg. Schlosberg was acting and operating as a journalist, not a participant. This is a violation of her rights, the freedom of the press, and the first amendment. According to Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film "Gasland" the director of the film for which Schlosberg was…

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Finished Your Documentary Film? Forget About the Distributor

  • September 27, 2016
Digital Documentary Film Platforms ITunes, Amazon, And Netflix

I hate clutter in my email inbox so I am extremely selective about what I might subscribe to. "Nofilmschool" is one of those weekly emails that have made my cut. They consistently provide high quality articles and news relevant to the filmmaking industry, whether documentaries, feature films, or commercials. One of the most intriguing articles they have produced arrived in my inbox this week. It is titled, "How We Made $1.5 Million Self-Distributing: The 6-Step Playbook." Mind you, this was for a documentary film, not a dramatic feature film. In today's documentary film climate, unless you are Michael Moore or Davis Guggenheim, this is absolutely unheard of. Nearly every documentary film loses money. How do I know this? I've produced documentary films. I have many, many…

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  • April 1, 2016

I'm honored to report that I received the "Joint Service Achievement Medal" for my work making the documentary film "Jobs for G.I.s," which Z-Channel Film produced for DirecTV. The award reads: "While in collaboration with DirecTV and working alongside Denver Producer and Director Doug Gritzmacher of Z-Channel Films, Director Dorst's keen perspective was instrumental in capturing and melding the stories of five veterans from the services of the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marines. His technical skills proved to be essential as he witnessed the realities most veterans face transitioning from military service to the civilian workplace." "GIJobs", a documentary feature film produced for DirecTV by Z-Channel Films. It concludes with "The distinctive accomplishments of Director Dorst reflect credit upon himself, Z-Channel Films, DirecTV and the…

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