Real World Resources


5 Films by Frederick Wiseman (Transcribed and edited by Barry Keith Grant)
Grant has done us all a service. Just reading through Wiseman's films gets you thinking about pacing and structure.

Adventures in a TV Nation by Michael Moore and Kathleen Glynn
TV Nation was bonafide Must See TV in the early nineties and this behind the scenes account of making a radical TV show with a big budget is great. Watching it as a young teenager with my family, we'd all look around the room during commercials and exclaim "How the hell did they manage to get this on the air?!"

A New History of Documentary Film by Jack C. Ellis and Betsy A. McLane
A newer well-written history of documentary film, with whole chapters on political documentary.

Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger
Rabiger's no-nonsense approach cuts through the fog with clear chapters covering everything from understanding microphones and lighting to ordering your questions to produce the best interview. The more recent editions have delved more into theory and Rabiger's lucid writing succinctly elucidates a long stream of issues, problems, and possible solutions. Highly Recommended.

Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction by Patricia Aufderheide
This little book may be Very Short, but it packs a nice wallop in exploring both the history and the debates within documentary, especially around issues of advocacy, propaganda, and scholarship. On my second reading, I'm mesmerized by the thorougness and clarity.

Documentary Filmmakers Speak by Liz Stubbs
I think every ten years or so, they put out a book of documentary filmmakers being interviewed. These books are like my crack. From Maysles to Kopple, there's thirteen hits of the pipe in this book. You'll agree, disagree, wince, and learn. (Another interview book is 1971's Documentary Explorations 15 Interviews with Film-Makers by G. Roy Levin).

Hand-Held Visions: The Impossible Possibilities of Community Media by DeeDee Halleck
Part autobiography, part manifesto, part guide; DeeDee's life has helped define video activism and her words should be read carefully, studied, and shared.

In the Blink of an Eye: a Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch
Murch primarily edits fiction film, but his insights into editing are for everyone.

The Mad Hot Adventures of an Unlikely Documentary Filmmaker by Amy Sewell
She made Mad Hot Ballroom and this is part diary, part guide. Emotional, honest, and encouraging, I kind of grunted when I looked at the cover, but knew I was buying it after two pages. She writes as a first timer, learning as she goes along, so assumptions are challenged, notes are detailed, and when she's bummed, she says she was bummed.

Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos : A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing Documentaries of Real Events by Barry Hampe
I finally bought this book. Hampe offers great advice for budding documentarians about the perils of the work. Structured and encouraging, a really good find. I have the old edition, but it's been re-released and has a website: If I meet him, I will get him a beer.

Memories of Underdevelopment: The Revolutionary Films of Cuba Edited by Michael Myerson
Catalog, scripts, essays, posters and stills, this 1973 book captures a wide variety of Cuban radical film, fiction narrative (docudrama) and straight documentary. The great cover is the icon for the theory section.

Reel Change: A Guide to Social Issue Films edited by Patricia Peyton
Published in 1979, this directory of older docs is broken down by subject and has list of distributors and the like. Much of the contact stuff is presumably long out of date, but there's still a lot of interesting information in here, if it can be a little dry at times.

Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited by Deirdre Boyle
I'm still in the beginning of this well-written history of early political video makers. Two things of note: there doesn't seem to be any connection drawn between pioneering video groups like the Videofreex and earlier, and concurrent, film-based media makers, such as Newsreel, and, second, that first opportunity with CBS is a cringe-worthy affair. What could have been?

The Video Activist Handbook by Thomas Harding
A little out of date technology-wise, and intended more for "campaign" videos (thought not electoral) and witness video, nonetheless this is a solid book for activists out of the indymedia mold.

Video Production Handbook by Gerald Millerson
This book is just what it says: Millerson explains everything from focal length to defining interlaced. Rock solid. Highly Recommended.


Grit TV with Laura Flanders runs documentary shorts daily and weekly feature doc promotion. Grit doesn't have money (yet), but it's the quickest way to share your shorts with a sizeable broadcast audience.

Bullfrog Films puts out a bunch of environmental (and environmental-ish) videos.

Artmattan Productions distributes films from throughout the African Diaspora, documentary and fiction.


The Allied Media Conference An annual conference in Bowling Green, Ohio.

The Grassroots Media Conference

Community Specific

Your local Public Access station A lot of public access stations will offer free or cheap classes on video production, editing, and related skills, as well as lending out equipment, mentoring new people, and providing free community airtime.

Your local Indymedia Have a local indymedia? Independent Media Centers are all over the world and many have video groups you can join and meet other political video makers in your community. Not sure if you have one in your community? Check the list on the right hand side of their webpage. Don't have one? They were all started by people like you.

Schools and other Educational Programs

UC Berkeley's 2-Year Graduate Program
The University of Florida's Documentary Institute
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Rockport College
Hunter College's Film and Media Department
Syracuse University's Documentary Film and History M.A. Program

Film Festivals

Hot Docs: Canada's Huge Documentary Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Annually in Durham, North Carolina in the Spring
The New York International Documentary Festival Have these even been happening lately?
Human rights Watch Internation Film Festival In a bunch of cities and I recall it being either all docs or doc heavy.