documentary filmmaking

Lynn Novick on the power of documentaries and working with Ken Burns

(Credit: Florentine Films/Stephanie Berger)

Can something as apparently ephemeral as a TV programme be genuinely cathartic and help to bring a measure of healing, perhaps even closure, to a national tragedy? That was the hope behind the making of The Vietnam War, the acclaimed documentary made by Ken Burns and his long-time collaborator Lynn Novick.

Last month, PBS America began showing the 18-hour directors’ cut in the UK. This followed the British premiere of the 10-hour version by BBC Four last autumn and its repeat over Christmas.

Blue Planet II producers describe extreme lengths crew went to for the show

(Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Professional skill, time, money and the latest camera technologies are all vital to making landmark natural-history shows. Less well known, when it comes to seeking unique footage of life deep in the world’s oceans, is how programme-makers put their health on the line.

The lengths that these men and women go to in the cause of producing iconic TV was explained in detail during an RTS event, “Diving beneath the waves – the making of Blue Planet II”.

Bumble announces new grant scheme for aspiring female filmmakers

The initiative will give five female filmmakers in the UK and Ireland a £20,000 grant to make their own short films, each focused on female empowerment, equality and kindness.

In partnership with Women in Film & TV, the five entrants will receive guidance and bespoke mentoring over the production period.

"I don’t know if what I did was brave": Blue Planet II producers discuss extreme lengths taken for show

(Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Sarah Conner, an assistant producer on the landmark show that generated record ratings for BBC One, revealed how she had knelt on the bottom of the ocean for eight-hours at a time. There in the dark depths diving rebreathers in sub-zero temperatures she would direct cameraman Hugh Miller.  

Levison Wood's tips for budding explorers

Levison Wood crossing the Caucuses (Credit: Simon Buxton)

You can’t just get up one morning and decide to be an explorer.

Well, you can, but you’re not going to get on television with that attitude. You’ve got to jump through lots of hoops to get there and it’s not just a case of how many countries you’ve been to. You don’t have to join the Army to get into TV, but I think it’s good to have some level of expertise or niche knowledge. Once you’re an expert in anything, in any industry, people will come to you. That’s where you want to be.

Tea Break Tips - Storytelling Through Editing

Bonnie Rae Brickman is a New York-born film and TV editor with over 25 years’ experience, much of it in news and documentary. Her work has been honoured with four Emmy Awards and screened at film festivals worldwide. Bonnie currently teaches editing on the Ethnographic & Documentary Film MA programme at University College London. She shares tips on the art of telling stories through editing.