Advice to makers of documentary extras

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Douglas R, Mar 5, 2006.

  1. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    One thing I hate about documentaries and featurettes on DVDs is the fact that they always include numerous excerpts from the film under discussion. I enjoy having the views from filmmakers about a film but including numerous scenes form the film does not add anything - it simply pads out the documentary unnecessarily, slowing down the pace. Please remember - the DVD contains the film so we don't need to see it again on the documentary!
     
  2. Melson

    Melson Agent

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    Good point! This was especially obvious with the long documentary about Sam Peckinpah on Criterion's Straw Dogs dvd. They couldn't license the clips from his other films, so they cut out those bits. The documentary flowed really well, until it came to the part about Straw Dogs. All of a sudden, long clips from the film (which they obviously could use) appeared, slowing the piece down tremendously.
     
  3. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    This can indeed be detrimental to the flow of a documentary on a film. But the thing that really bugs me about DVD documentaries is the pointless fast cutting between participants, often in a way that has one person finish the other's sentence. The recent featurettes on the Warner Peckinpah DVDs were badly shot, edited and transfered non-anamorphically, but featured excellent interviews nonetheless.


    I prefer Criterion's approach of just interviewing someone at length and then edited the footage down to around 15-30 minutes, with one or two worthwhile clips from the film, no cross-cutting to another actor/director/critic - in other words, they keep the interviews seperate on the menu.

    The loop-hole, royalties-saving technique of breaking up a long documentary into seperate 'featurettes' is also annoying.

    In general, DVD interviews, documentaries and commentaries have evolved into cookie-cutter formats and most of them bore me. The novelty wore off a few years ago for me, but there are still some surprises, but not from the Big American Studios.

    Films like The Battle of Algiers lends themselves to mulifarious appraoches of analysis and discussion, as a controversial, masterful film-in-itself and as a crucial historical event in human history, so Criterion's lavish 3-disc set was not only justified but was ultimately a mesmerizing success in its execution. But most films - especially films of the last ten years - don't really have enough aspects to them that lend themselves to in-depth critical analysis and discussion. High-budget, CGI 'epics' of recent years lend themselves well to in-depth technical breakdowns, ie. Peter Jackson's, King Kong, but really, do most people want to wade through hours of such footage? It seems like the studios don't give themselves much choice, with DVD supplements being planned in pre-production.

    Good grief, that was a long-winded post! :b
     
  4. seanOhara

    seanOhara Supporting Actor

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    That's one of the reasons I prefer the Alien Quadrilogy to the Lord of the Ring Extended Editions. Once you've watched the documentaries for Fellowship of the Ring, you've pretty much seen it all -- how many times can you hear about how bigatures are minatures, but they're big? But with the Alien films, you get the technical details and you learn how Dan O'Bannon butted heads with the producers, and how the English crew reacted to James Cameron's style, and what went wrong with Alien^3.

    I don't think it's just that DVDs for recent films focus on the technical details, but with films made in the last decade or so, no one wants to dish dirt about people they might work with again. The older the film is, the looser the tongues get, and the less glossy the documentaries become.

    It's not that I like gossip, I just prefer to hear what really happened on the set, not some BS about how everyone was great to work with, and the cast got together to sing Kumbayah everyday after filming.
     
  5. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    LOL [​IMG] So true!

    But again, a lot of these featurettes are done with the mindset that you're not watching them right after recently watching the movie.

    Kind of off topic, but I watch this cooking show and when you watch it with the commercials in place, it makes sense that the chef reminds you of what she was just doing when coming back from the break (i.e. like an update), but when I watch taped shows on my DVR (where the commercials get skipped over), it's kind of annoying to hear her tell me what she just did 2 seconds ago.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Dick

    Dick Lead Actor
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    I understand the point of having interviewees looking just right of camera at the unseen interviewer, but this has grown utterly tiresome and actually quite annoying - it now seems merely pretentious. I have grown to dislike "taking heads" documentaries, even the more informative ones. Give us more behind-the-scenes footage with voice-overs!
     
  7. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    I can see some exceptions to using clips, though, especially where the talking head is discussing some particular aspect or shot, and the clip is illustrative of what he's saying. But I'd agree, they tend to be used as padding more than anything.
     
  8. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

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    One thing I don't like about DVD documentary features is when someone is interviewed who had absolutely no contribution to the film at all. Using film critics/historians is one thing, as people like Roger Ebert, Rudy Behlmer, or Robert Osborne thoroughly research classic films and have important thoughts on a film's impact to the medium. The Ebert commentary on "Citizen Kane", and Behlmer's commentary on "Gone With the Wind", for example, are two prime wonderful examples.

    No, I'm talking about people interviewed just for the hell of it who made no significant contribution to the project to begin with. This is my major peeve with the "Batman" DVD anthology for last year, as for some reason they decided to interview Kevin Smith. Who in the blue hell made him an expert on Batman? When his image appeared on screen, it took all the strength in me to shut the documentary off. Just because somebody reads a boatload of comics doesn't automatically make him a qualified expert on the film version. I know some of you will disagree with me about it, and that's fine to disagree, and I'll respect your opinions. I for one hope that he doesn't get interviewed for the "Superman" DVD set later this year.
     
  9. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    He's a famous guy who likes comics, you can bet money that he'll be on that one too.
     
  10. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    Totally agree with the above sentiments on overuse of clips and irrelevent interviewee's, and to add I think any comments relating to how great so and so was to work with and what a life changing experience making it was, would also help enormously in cutting out the padding in most documentaries - especially on newer films.

    If these people have nothing interesting to say or don't even have the slightest piece of information on how the thing was made rather than a pre-constructed soundbyte, then don't bother with them!

    The art of the documentary was perfected many years ago, the fluff that seems to be vomited out from a "documentary" pressing plant is getting unecessarily tiresome - I mean this is the movie business, they can and do make cinematic art, surely they can make an interesting 15 minute piece on an interesting 2 hour film!

    M
     
  11. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Actually, wasn't Smith slated for a long time to direct Superman? So he'd really be a natural to talk about it from that aspect.
     

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