Frederick Wiseman: 11 Doc Lessons

 Realscreen is a useful source for information on what is going on in – that’s what they call it – non-fiction. Normally it is short news, sometimes however longer articles of fine quality like the one from May 1st by Kevin Ritchie that I would recommend you to read because it conveyes an old master’s wise words – Frederick Wiseman being interviewed at Hot Docs by CBC journalist Piya Chattopadhyay, to the left on the photo with his producer and distributor Karen Konicek to the right. Lessons on how to stay independent, quite an inspiration.

Here are the headlines of what the reporter calls ”11 Doc Lessons”, read them all, link below:

1. A good idea can come anytime, anyplace.

2. In Jackson Heights is about the “new face of America.” (In Jackson Heights is a new film project that Wiseman pitched at the Hot Docs).

3. Wiseman gets permission by asking for it.

4. Raising money is the most “demeaning” part of making a movie. 5. His shoots generally last four to six weeks.

6. Half of documentary filmmaking has nothing to do with filmmaking.

7. The filmmaker’s point of view exists between literal and abstract levels.

8. He never does research.

9. He never cuts a film to meet the needs of a broadcaster.

10. Self-distributing his films on DVDs has been successful.

11. The key to longevity in film is a good producer.

Words to all of us, who run around teaching what to do and what not to do, and how to pitch and how not to pitch from the man who has given us ”the other side of America”.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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