After many decades on the fringe of documentary, personal filmmaking is now muddying the waters of the genre in exciting ways, and up-ending documentary’s sacred tenets of truth-telling and objectivity. Despite persistent cultural prejudices against personal work, we can also see an equally powerful fascination with private lives and intimate subjects.
This weekend intensive draws on a growing, complex landscape of personal films, beginning from the premise that there is no single way to tell a personal story. We will spend two days unpacking a multitude of possible approaches to personal filmmaking, and tackling crucial questions around this thorny cousin of documentary film. Does ‘personal’ always mean autobiographical? How does a filmmaker avoid the pitfalls of narcissism—or indulge in it productively? What are the ethics of working with subjects (both people and stories) that are ‘close to home’? Is personal work incompatible with politics-with-a-capital-P filmmaking, and can personal films have wide-ranging social impact? How do we deal with personal archives, and what can we do creatively with them?
Participants will learn from three talented professional practitioners, artists, thinkers and filmmakers, using their past projects as key examples for discussion. Together we will explore key ideas that range from intimate filmmaking, autobiography, artisanal storytelling, ethics, private archives, social and political engagement and more. Through lectures, group discussions, short exercises and work-in-progress critique, participants will be encouraged to put this new knowledge into practice. Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo, currently in post-production on a feature-length documentary about her uncle (Memories of a Penitent Heart) will lead the workshop. Guest artists include the prolific Su Friedrich (Sink or Swim, The Ties that Bind, Gut Renovation) and Alan Berliner (Nobody’s Business, Intimate Stranger, First Cousin Once Removed).
This workshop is two full days; please only enroll if you can commit to the entire schedule.