“Documentary challenges you constantly to find a new way of telling a story. That’s what I love about it: to start a journey without knowing where I’m going to arrive. At first I have to encounter a place. Then within the place I have to encounter people.”
One of the staples of documentaries is the interview. It’s a shorthand way to get information on a topic. But interviews can be overdone. Interviews can seem forced, or they can seemed canned liked the person rehearsed their answers, and perhaps worse, interviews can be boring.
Interviews aren’t going away (heck, the quote today is from an interview), but this is just to show another way of working from a filmmaker whose recent doc film was nominated for an Oscar.
“The way I work, I don’t ask questions, I don’t interview people. Either I have an interaction that is real, and then I can feel the moment, or I can’t. I don’t go in front of people and ask questions. My teacher used to say to me, ‘You asked them a question, yet the answer is not interesting. You have to be able to grab something much deeper inside and you don’t do that through asking questions,’ which is true.”
Gianfranco Rosi (Fire at Sea)
Filmmaker Magazine interview with Roberto Minervini
P.S. Rosi also acts as his own director of photography and sound man on his docs. He spent a year and a half shooting Fire at Sea.