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   Book Review
   Producing with Passion:
   Making Films That Change the World
   Author: Dorothy Fadiman & Tony Levelle
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Pages: 261pgs.
   Topic: Producing documentaries

   MSRP: $22.95

   Special Pricing:  Click Here
   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Expected Release: June 2008
   ISBN No.: 9781932907445
   Review Date: March 1, 2008
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan
Final Score:

I, for one, really enjoy watching documentaries. While some people think they are boring, I find them fascinating and incredibly informative. I have never even considered making a documentary, but I must confess that after reading this book, it is a tempting prospect, if only for the chance to learn more about something that interests me.

Documentaries are an entirely different beast of filmmaking; things are much less predictable, because (depending on the kind of documentary you do) the film itself can change based on the research you do and the people you talk to. This is a deterrent to some, and a source of creativity and excitement for others. In Producing with Passion, Dorothy Fadiman and Tony Levelle guide the reader through the sometimes unpredictable, but ultimately rewarding world of documentary filmmaking. It covers doing research and conducting interviews to finding the “real” story you’re trying to tell, it’s all here.

In and of themselves, the chapters are well laid-out, with an overview at the beginning of each one, and summarizing key points at the end. At the beginning of the book, they follow a logical progression: Ch. 2 tells how to focus your topic, Ch. 3 deals with research, Ch. 4- putting together a “team”, and so on. However, topics covered in chapters 4-8 seem to repeat themselves and/or show up in an odd order.

Chapter 4 discusses how to assemble a community of support to help with the documentary, including core and interest groups; later, Chapter 8 goes into greater detail about exactly what a core group is, how to attract them, and how they can help. While this information is helpful, it is separated by four chapters of other topics! For another example, Chapter 5 talks about how to “plan” an unscripted documentary; this topic would be better placed if it followed Chapters 2 and 3, because the kind of documentary you choose to make is often a result of the focus of your topic and the research you do. Finally, Chapters 6 and 7 deal with (respectively) putting together a proposal and raising funds for the film. These two topics are very logical together; however, because many of the principles involved in writing a proposal are based on the organizational steps mentioned in Chapters 2, 3, and 5, I would suggest placing these two chapters after Chapter 5.

For my suggestion, the chapters would flow better from one topic to another if they were placed in the following order: Ch. 2 (focusing your topic), Ch. 3 (research), Ch. 5 (how to plan an unscripted documentary), Ch. 6 (putting together a proposal), Ch. 7 (ways to get funding), Ch. 4 (assembling a support team), and Ch. 8 (your “core group”).

Depth of Information
The amount of information in this book is insightful and incredibly helpful. The authors go into great detail when explaining the purpose of proposals, treatments, and core/interest groups. They also give excellent ideas, references, and suggestions for how to do effective research, draft a proposal, attract funding, and much more. Because this is a book on how to make a documentary (and not a feature film), there is not a lot of technical information beyond the basics: lighting, audio, camera shots, editing, etc. The information given on these topics is sufficient for what you’ll need when making a documentary.

One of the most valuable things in this book, however, is the voice of experience that has come with making dozens of documentaries over the years. This experience is evident throughout the entire book: how to assemble a production team that you can really work with; how to conduct interviews that advance the story you’re trying to tell; how to shoot in the field, in different locations; how to make sure you have the right documentation, especially if you’re filming overseas (a very important, but tricky process!); and how to assemble and edit your footage so that your true story comes out. All of these are valuable things, learned from experience and trial-and-error.

Interestingly enough, one of my favorite chapters (Ch. 5) deals with one of the elusive and tricky concepts in documentary filmmaking: how to try to find the balance between maintaining a structured documentary, while at the same time being flexible enough to let it take you somewhere you might not expect. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen is the riveting and touching documentary Finding Angela Shelton (reviewed by MFM in our first issue). At first, the director’s goal was to make a film about women in America, by interviewing women who shared her same name. However, in the course of interviewing these women, Angela discovered that over half of them had suffered some form of physical or sexual abuse (including herself). What originally began as a film about women in general, eventually became a landmark documentary about healing and victory over abuse. These are the places our films can take us, if we allow them.

Interest Level
While I was reading this book, I found that I was catching the authors’ excitement as they talked about the places they’d gone and the different things they’d learned and found along the way, whether it was in their own neighborhoods or across the world in Ethiopia. If you are interested in making a documentary (or even if you want to learn more about how they’re made), Fadiman and Levelle will draw you into the fascinating process

If you are an aspiring documentary filmmaker, this book is a resource you’ll find helpful with each film you make. The amount you can learn from the authors’ experiences make this book one that you can read repeatedly and gain new insight each time.

Value vs. Cost
At just under $23, this book is an excellent value, for the amount of information and insight it provides.

Overall Comment
While there may be a lot of books that tell you the mechanics of how to make a documentary, this book is different in that it tells you how to find the real story inside. It is clear throughout the book that both Fadiman and Levelle are not only very passionate about documentary filmmaking, but have a lot of experience to go along with it. While the first part of the book contains great information, the chapter order is awkward and seems redundant in places. This can easily be fixed by switching the places of a few chapters. The amount of information in this book is incredibly helpful, because it is based on a tremendous amount of experience. It is well-written, engaging, and enjoyable to read. Whether you already have a documentary or two under your belt, or are thinking about making one, Producing with Passion is a book that you can return to for fresh insight and help, which makes it a great purchase for the price.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           
A powerhouse in management, Kari Ann Morgan successfully produced a feature length film before coming to work at Microfilmmaker as Assistant Editor. In addition to writing for the magazine, she's been successfully working with various distributors to get microfilmmakers the chance for theatrical distribution.

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