Documentary craft

Never forget to lie, 
directed by Marian Marzynski

Marzynski is in great form.  It is a pleasure to see him conducing Q&A after the screening of his latest at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews n Warsaw.  At 76 Marz is energetic, sharp and focused.  His way of handling unfocused questions is kind yet decisive.  A total command of the audience.   Quite inspirational.  

A few things jump out when he discusses making documentary films.  His method of opening  people up is to explain to them the limitations of his interest in what they are about to disclose on camera.  When recalling an event they are asked to focus on the very moment of that event and not to bring into their relation any extra knowledge of the people or things that belong to the event. Otherwise “a chase of thoughts” ruins the power of a testimonial.   

Paraphrasing, it is asking them to be as they were when the event was happening.  To forget judgment, comments, information or any knowledge acquired afterwards.  Just to feel.  Feel the past as it is now.  

He also stresses the importance of casting in making a documentary.  Casting meaning selecting the right people who would successfully help to carry the story forward.  An important element in "casting" is of course the ability to establish rapport.  In “Never forget to lie” Marz does it by presenting himself to his “actors” not as a director but a fellow Holocaust survivor.   

When asked about the interplay of narration and images he emphasizes that the images always come first.  A narration only provides that which is not possible to communicate through the images. 



Hello Siemek friends and colleagues,

I am still struggling to properly articulate a documentary about Marek Siemek.

Would anyone talk to me about the above diagram? 

Is it correct?

Is it too simplistic?  (I know the intellect should come to play there as well)

Do you recall anything from your memories of Siemek that would chime with this model of human perception?

Your feedback (either here or via email - pawel@directing.com) would be greatly appreciated.  




Siemek and Velazquez

Professor Marek Siemek treated Las Meninas by Velazquez as a profound philosophical statement.  That's the fact from his lectures about the Fichte's theory of seeing.  During those lectures Siemek analysed the paining in detail.

One day walking through the hallways of the department of philosophy at Warsaw University, startled, he stopped in his tracks:  a contemporary version of the Velazquez composition suddenly appeared in front of him.

That's from the film I am currently producing.

What happened when Siemek entered "the painting"?  

Who will replace the royal couple reflected in the back mirror in the Velazquez's painting?

To find out you need to wait till the movie is finished.

For now there are a few offline (cropped) screenshots from the scene:

Prof. Siemek is played by Stanisław Elsner-Załuski
Cinematography by Piotr Rejmer
(We have shot it in 4K and no reframing has been done yet)


Spirited informality

Doña Isabel de Porcel by Goya

Lydia Buaman, a painter friend of mine, in her October newsletter analyzing the above painting pointed out several elements that create the feeling of "spirited informality." Somehow the phrase "spirited informality" stuck in my mind as an important hint in creating screen reality.

Too often cinema narration, composition and framing are uptight and stiff, devoid of much spirit. While it is easy to see the directorial rigidity in space manipulation or editing, it is less obvious on the level of the progression of a story. Another words, hipster fast and nervous energy of film images frequently covers a conservative and banal overall outlook at the events told.

BZW: Lydia often gives talks at the National Gallery in London.  
I highly recommend you seek her out.


Kurosawa notes:

John Ford to Kurosawa:
-You love rain
Kurosawa to Ford:
- You really watched my films. 

Akira Kurosawa to an actress: 
-“Too sharp.  The sharper you play, the less power you got.” 

“Sensei does not have time for accidents.” - that’s from Chris Marker’s commentary in his documentary about Kurosawa. 

Kurosawa “When closing your eyes to evil, you will always be afraid.  Keeping them open you will understand that there is nothing to fear”. 

I wonder if the "closing eyes" insight came before or after Kurosawa's suicide attempt.