The School of Documentary Film is a five-month intensive programme run by tutors from both Croatia and abroad who will provide the participants with basic and advanced skills needed to film their own documentary.
In contrast to the traditional manner of teaching film, which broke the process up into distinct stages and procedures, Restart’s School approaches filmmaking holistically. The programme as a whole is organised as an organic system which introduces the participants to the skills they need to make a documentary film: the basics of shooting, footage and sound editing, production, dramaturgy and directing, allowing them to become “complete auteurs”.
The School of Documentary Film is built around 5 basic film exercises, each one building upon the previous. Carrying out and developing those exercises is based on working in groups and pairs, as well as individually. The progress made through these basic film exercises is complemented by a series of smaller exercises aimed at developing the participants’ technical skills, their perception and creativity.
5 MAIN EXERCISES AT THE SCHOOL OF DOCUMENTARY FILM:
Exercise 1 – PORTRAIT (2 days)
The participants work in pairs. Each participant presents his or her partner to the others by means of whichever film technique they choose and the specified duration of the film is 3 minutes maximum. Should the participant decide to depict their partner in more than one shot, the shots are then “edited” with the camera. Camera-sourced sound is used. The participants and course tutors go through the recorded materials jointly in class.
The goal of the exercise is to make the participants get to know each other and to introduce them to the basics of film. By analysing the material they record, the participants gain preliminary understanding of the fundamentals of camera operating, editing, the art of interviewing, film planning etc.
Exercise 2 – FILM IN 5 SHOTS (2 days)
The participants work in pairs. Each pair shoots one film in 5 shots on any topic other than a person. The specified duration of the film is 3 minutes maximum. The shots need to be “edited” with the camera. The participants and course tutors go through the recorded materials jointly in class. The goal of the exercise is to apply the previously acquired knowledge on planning, storyline preparation and shot framing through a topic of their choosing.
Exercise 3 – SILENT DOCUMENTARY (2 weeks)
Each participant independently shoots a silent film (a film which can be viewed without sound) on a topic of their choice. The specified duration is 3 minutes maximum. The shot material is then examined in class together with the participants. The participants are required to edit their materials at home. The following class, the participants work in pairs: they record and edit sound for each other’s films.
The goal of the exercise is to demonstrate that picture and sound can operate separately in film.
Exercise 4 – PERSON, OBJECT, SPACE (3 weeks)
The exercise is carried out in two stages. In the first phase, each participant brings video and sound material to class. The materials help them present the topic of their film and the way in which they will approach it (general mood, shot duration, sound type etc.). They can choose a person, an object, or a space as their topic.
The aim of the first phase of the exercise is to raise awareness of the importance of choosing the topic but also the significance of how it will be represented in film. The participants try to master the basics of preparing a film and apply the skills they had previously acquired.
In the second phase, each participant makes a film of up to 5 minutes about the chosen person, object or space using the method they had set out in the first phase of the exercise. The aim of the second phase is to combine all the acquired skills on a single subject.
Exercise 5 – SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM (10 days)
The exercise is divided into several stages, which may intertwine. In the initial phase, each participant presents video and sound material which helps them portray their topic and the way in which they will approach it (general mood, shot duration, sound type etc.).
In the second phase, each participant writes a short synopsis for their film in Croatian and English which they will use in their communication with Croatian and foreign tutors and lecturers, in their group work and in one-on-one meetings.
In the third stage, each participant makes their own film. They regularly bring recorded material to class, where the group comments on it and thus keeps track of the film’s progress. After the third stage, each tutor assumes responsibility for supervising the work of 3-4 participants and begins continuously monitoring their progress and helping them with production.
In the fourth phase, each participant edits their film, regularly meeting with their tutor and the professionals holding their video and sound editing classes. At this stage, the participants largely carry their work out independently, occasionally meeting with the rest of the group.
At the end of the School of Documentary Film, a public screening of each of the participants’ fifth exercises is organised at a Zagreb cinema. Exceptionally, one of the earlier exercises may be screened in lieu of the fifth exercise.
The goal of the exercise is to combine all the acquired skills in working on a single topic and to master all the segments involved in the production of a film. In addition to this, one of the aims of the exercise is for the participants to gain experience in contextualising and presenting their own material but also offering constructive critical analysis of their own work, as well as their peers’ films.