Guiding documentary film-makers

Guiding documentary film-makers

Documentary film-making is gradually gaining popularity in the City and becoming the passion of young film-makers. Though the journey in documentary film section is not easy but many are making concerted efforts to make it popular. To support and guide these enthusiastic young directors, Peter Symes, a London-based documentary film-maker was present in Delhi to take part in the DocWok workshop.

“It is very interesting to see that something like this is happening in India and film-makers are trying to showcase the changes in society through documentaries. Undoubtedly, the potential is enormous but the tough task that lies ahead is to make these documentaries reach a larger section of audience,” says Peter, who director a number of films and teaches at various organisations, including StoryDoc (Athens), Ex Oriente (Prague), the Scottish Documentary Institute and Crossing Borders (Malaysia).

According to the film-maker, storytelling is the challenging task in documentary film-making. “You cannot take story telling lightly. There are many subjects around but it is important to present it an interesting way and people generally lack that in their films,” says Peter.

This, however, makes him recall his personal best documentary which he made some 30 years ago, Peter says, “I made a documentary Long Memory for which I used poetry to narrate the story. The subject was strong and based on the life of a depressed woman but it was made interesting by making it musical. Another one was Nightmail, which was based on the postal services in Europe. I used the same concept of musical commentary which was appreciated internationally.” Peter has written about these commentaries in a journal Tony Harrison Collected Film Poems. 

The film-maker was also the commissioning editor for the BBC2 series Picture This and the head of the Documentary Campus Master School, a part of Discovery Campus till 2008.

Having years of experience in documentary film-making, Peter does not hesitate in pointing out its positive and negative sides. “In terms of making documentaries in India, the negative side is that they are unable to reach many. On the other hand, the plus point is that technology has raised the level of documentary film-making in last few years.”

He says, “Indian film-makers should concentrate on issues which are least covered like dispute in Jammu and Kashmir.” He also points outs that the film-makers’ approach is very static which needs to be changed.

To bring those changes, Peter gives a word of advice to the young film-makers. “Youngsters should see many documentaries and get themselves adapted to latest software that can help them in editing and making their story look more beautiful.”

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