Secondary Research – Directing the Documentary

Following on from my research into the documentary genre that can be found in my previous post from my 360MC module,  Documentary Research. I have looked into books that talk about directing. Here is the book that made the biggest impression on me.

Michael Rabiger – Directing the Documentary


“Becoming a documentary director is like taking over any new job: suddenly you must try to look competent in a new capacity and a new world. Discomfort and occasionally terror go with the experience; as with all the truly worthwhile new experiences” . To me becoming a documentary director is very difficult because you are dealing with such strong issues and problems, I believe that to work in this particular role you must be very think skinned as you will be dealing with difficult situations and will become uncomfortable in the process, however it all pays of when you see how your film is affecting the audience, the impact it has on them and how they react to it. It is truly rewarding because I feel that you are giving back, you are giving back to people who share similar issues that are discussed in the documentary you are making.

“Documentary is that rare medium in which the common person takes on large, important issues and shakes up society. Directing documentaries involves handling a modicum of power, and this brings ethical issues and moral responsibilities” To become a documentary director, you must be responsible, reliable and truthful. There are many things that can go wrong while making a documentary, for example, misrepresenting the subject and their story, presenting the wrong facts, A lot can go wrong so as the director you must make sure that the documentary is truthful and accurate before sharing the documentary to the world.

“To direct well takes a highly evolved triple consciousness” As a documentary director I need to be aware of all the aspects of the world I am filming, Becoming a documentary director is almost a spiritual journey as your emotions and feelings towards something may change, as you delve deeper into the subject/issue you will evolve as you learn about this “world”. Research is essential if you want to take on the role as a documentary director.

“A good director is has a lively fascination with the cause and effect behind the way real people live; has a mind that searches tirelessly for links and explanations….an loves delving into other peoples stories” Call me nosy but I love finding out about people lives, their experiences and in general, the human condition. I think it’s because I love to get inspired by peoples personal stories therefore I wish to inspire people by sharing these stories. I am a very patient person and will persevere until I find the truth.

“Directing frequently changes perfectly normal people into manic – depressives who suffer extremes of hope and despair in pursuit of the Holy Grail”  From this I gathered that directing is an extremely difficult role. In relation to this quote I am sad to say that I have experienced this while working on my FMP as the director. I wanted everything to go perfectly according to my vision therefore you could say I turned into a “manic depressive”

I used to think that the director was the most important person on the set, but after studying media I found that the director is not, sure they have a big say in the overall vision of the film, but they cannot make a film without a crew that specialises in different areas, reading this book has confirmed this. I share many characteristics to what makes a good director according to this book. The authors have discussed the pros and cons for being a director which I appreciate as not a lot of books point out the negative side to being a director. Reading this book has been extremely helpful towards my professional career as it covers all parts of directing, For example, directing the documentary, directing for tv/film, working with actors etc. It will be very beneficial towards my career plans.


Rabiger, M. (2004). Directing the documentary. 4th ed. USA: Focal Press.


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