Memorable films go beyond the neutrality of merely reflecting the actual. Rather, they see the world they present in an engaged and critical light. A documentary idea begins in the ideation stage that is based on a conviction of some sort. You then conduct research to decide how and what to film. Some films seem researched and premeditated, while others appear to spring fully armed from the moment. But this is seldom so, for even seasoned filmmakers can seldom rely on spontaneous inspiration. For one thing, the pace and intensity of filming usually take all of one’s attention, a point Werner Herzog once made when questioned after a screening about “the intellectual challenge during shooting.” He replied caustically ...

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