“Inquisitive, intelligent, cerebral, determined, focused, deep, inquiring, confident, articulate, thought-provoking and so on are common character traits that can be referred to documentary filmmakers all over the world. Whether their work in documentary filmmaking is a probing, investigative piece on a political issue or an emotional touching story of a powerful personal journey or even a tribute piece toward a cultural movement or moment in history documentary filmmakers of all styles, tastes and approaches have and develop an ethos that carries them forward in their work. This ethos may be innate in the individual documentarian as he or she begins their filmmaking pursuits or it can be a developed characteristic over time that is necessitated in the wonderfully, precarious journey of documentary filmmaking. Whatever it may be, it’s an adventure, as it should be, and we strive to tell stories that impact and enquire.
Even if the choice to direct and produce documentary films becomes a person’s career goal often is the case that these filmmakers become a certain person in order to complete project after project. Here, the question still lies whether life imitates art or art imitates life. Do documentary filmmakers develop a kind of characteristic about themselves that help render them to storylines, facts, truths and realities guided by the camera? Or are they simply born with a destiny of such character traits needed for creating such films? Key character traits aligned with a growing number of documentary filmmakers are: the ability to communicate very well for direction on camera and attracting needed interviewees, a deep sense of focus that guides them in research, principal photography and digging for facts and perspectives on a given topic, an inquisitive and inquiring nature to understand more fully varying subject matter, the motivation to pursue thought-provoking points-of-views, and the confidence to pursue a story-driven narrative through the ventures needed for the pursuit. These character traits run parallel with the nature of building and constructing a documentary film project from conception to fruition.
It will be argued that documentary filmmakers tend to be liberal-minded, social entrepreneurs bent on ridding inequality, injustice, oppression, and misinformation found too often in the world. Although liberalism and the platform created to voice such principles and ideals of the Left may be a heavy influence for a lot of budding and accomplished independent filmmakers, however, upon closer inspection more and more individuals of all political persuasions have entered and mingled into the world of documentary film production. Freedom, information, knowledge, education, and facts are important elements in principle and values for documentary filmmakers and their team of creative cohorts but the means to express them and the ideology to progress them can be as much conservative as liberal. Moreover, documentary films have over time catered to political soundbites, ideologies, dogma, philosophies, and ideas from all parties, classes, platforms, and divides–to the effective use of adding to a discussion on a given topic and subject matter.
In defining the ethos and character of the documentary filmmaker it is important to note that personality is not the foci. For personality defines one’s identity in their given milieu and its what makes each individual unique and different in their interactions in the world. Ethos and character is the driving force in their personhood that makes for a documentary filmmaker–whether he or she is starting out on their journey or has experience in this genre of filmmaking for years. The character trait of a documentary filmmaker is shaped and molded by work ethic, creative visions for accomplishment–even hardship and tragedy. In other words, it takes a certain person to be a documentary filmmaker.
With the rapid movement that information is taking to span its reach for a global audiences via the internet and the kinds of ways technology is shifting how industries and the people of a given trade are working documentarians have evolved into certain persons. These personhoods of today’s documentary filmmaker are not entirely distinct from journalists, nonfiction writers, and independent filmmakers of other genres–for example. However, documentarians do take a little of the kind of ethos it takes for those others to complete the work that they are involved in. One could spend hours listing the comparable adjectives and distinct character traits that group in the world’s supply of documentary filmmakers.
However, once you come across us documentary filmmakers you’ll get the feel of what inspires us, motivates us, drives us, energises us, and continuously push us forward–the thing that defines us in general.”