November 24th, 2006
It’s not easy explaining my job.
I’ve been asked if I’m a doctor, a nurse, a social worker or a surgeon. I guess these days the word ‘residence’ gets confused with ‘intern’ thanks to this show.
Others have wondered what film I’m making at the hospital. On the birthing floor? The emergency? The trauma unit?
In fact, over the last two years, I’ve barely seen a drop of blood. And besides, that’s all been done before. Over and over and over again. Granted, the first time it was done, it was mind-blowing, and redefined the word ‘documentary’.
I’m not doing what, today, you’d stereotypically think of a filmmaker might do in a hospital – filming the sensational, the tragic and the inspirational, capturing the tales of patients hovering between life and death.
The hospital is full of those stories, no doubt. At the hospital coffee shop, I’ve heard many of them, fathers, sisters and friends confiding in me casually, over stir sticks and sugar packets.
But that’s not what I’m doing at the hospital, or as a filmmaker.
I’m here to experiment. With style, with form, with technology and with content. And with intent.
So a few weeks ago, I woke up with an idea, hoping to put all the rumours and misconceptions to rest.
I thought maybe a “Manifesto” would help.
The hackers, the punks, the humanists all have one.
Lars von Trier, the Danish filmmaker, came up with the famous Dogma 95 version.
So here it is, a manifesto.
- The original project idea and goals come from the community partner.
- The filmmaker’s role is to experiment and adapt documentary forms to the original idea. Break stereotypes. Push the boundaries of what documentary means.
- Use documentary and media to “participate” rather than just to observe and to record. Filmmaker-in-Residence is not an A/V or a PR department.
- Work closely with the community partner, but respect each other’s expertise and independence.
- Use whatever medium suits – video, photography, world wide web, cell phones, ipods or just pen and paper. It can all be documentary.
- Work through the ethics, privacy and consent process with your partners before you begin, and adapt your project accordingly. Sometimes it means changing your whole approach – or even dropping it. That’s the cost of being ethical.
- The social and political goals – and the process itself — are paramount. Ask yourself every day: why are you doing this project?
- Always tell a good story.
- Track the process, the results and spend time disseminating what you’ve learned with multiple communities: professionals, academics, filmmakers, media, general public, advocates, critics and students.
- Support the community partner in distribution and outreach. Spend 10% of the time making it and 90% of the time getting it out into the world.
Just “showing it” is not necessarily a political goal unto itself. Work with the partners to harness the project’s momentum to effect real participation, and real political change.
Entry Filed under: Doc talk