In Indonesia I was commissioned by the Ministry of Education to provide three, 4-day trainings for people with some background in filmmaking. Yes, four days is a ridiculously short time - especially with the expectation of creating completed pieces by the end of each training. My first response was "No, it's not possible". But then I negotiated for more equipment for the students and decided to go for it. In each city I had 50 students, and in two cities the students varied dramatically from high school students to college professors, from hands-on filmmakers to critics. In Denpensar, Bali, it was more of a uniform audience of makers.
What fun it all was! But also incredibly intense. The trainings were called "Back to Basics - Lived Reality Documentary Filmmaking." In a culture of top-down, highly directed and often overly narrated storytelling, my mission was to strip down the production work and encourage character-centric, experiential storytelling.
On the first day, the students were asked to shoot one complete scene of a hotel worker, kitchen staff, cleaner, gardner, etc..., with all the required coverage and cut-aways. They were asked to pay careful attention to their visual storytelling, scene completeness, use of lens focal lengths, camera positioning, framing and composition.
And, perhaps most importantly, they were requested to keep an invisible wall between themselves and the subject - meaning not to engage or direct who they are filming.
As you will see it is really hard for this group of Indonesian students not to direct and to engage with their subjects. They are used to a very top-down production style. Over the next two days we practiced intensely and hammered home further lessons on lived-reality documentary principles. To see an example of the results of the training go here: vimeo.com/61362822
But first, here is an example of what was made as a result of this first exercise that shows the approach they came to the training with.