Jean-Luc Godard and Marcel Ophüls met in Geneva some years ago. Ophüls criticises the other for not writing a treatment and contract on a film in the Middle East they earlier talked about making together. At that time Godard walked around with him in Ophül’s kitchen garden, but was hesitant about providing any guarantees or writing a treatment for such a film – and the project later stranded. In Geneva, Godard rudely starts to whistle and roll his eyes when Ophüls complains about the missing paperwork and signatures he needs to nance such a film. Annoyed, he shouts “look at him!” Godard then defends his rudeness by asking why he should have bothered? He tells Ophüls that they could have easily bought a cheap airline ticket, stayed in a cheap hotel in Israel and Palestine for a week, shooting with one of today’s excellent, cheap video cameras. And then back home the discussion about a film – based on their materials – could have started. In the material they would nd the film – or no film at all.
If you really have to make a film…
The point is that the material is crucial, just like the trailers at the public pitchings around the festival circuit. DOX has [in the following pages] asked some commissioning editors and distributors at pitchings, and they all consider the trailer the most pivotal factor in their decisions. A trailer can also save a bad presentation. As for Godard, in the material the film lies hidden. Although the treatment paperwork and presentation can be convincing, it doesn’t perform if the material is bad. Remember also that Godard once told us that the script is only made for the financiers, later you throw it away to concentrate on really making the film.
I am telling you this, to underline that sometimes too much planning and financing kills the film on the way. That’s why more and more doc filmmakers are not only learning to shoot themselves – on, for example, a Canon 5D or Sony NEX camera – but also how to edit their material on Final Cut or Adobe Premiere. They have to get the film done within a reasonable timeframe – especially as and when real events unfold. They cannot wait or spend time – like some do – in ten pitching forums, and use up to 10,000 euros to get some financing. If you really have to make a film, you must do it yourself. If the access, the characters, and the storyline are strong or significant – the film will later be seen (and bought).