DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING GE AR .
lenses, but there’s a balance. Close-ups are wonderful, but you can also have a safe vantage point from which to cover the story, and do it justice on a telephoto lens, without risk of getting shot.” In natural history filmmaking, the pre-production stage is a similarly exhaustive aspect of capturing content. You’re not documenting humans, but animals, and their behaviour can be unpredictable – not only in terms of safeguarding, but ensuring you’ve got the right tools to tell their story. Tania Esteban, an assistant producer for the BBC, explains her pre-production procedure:
of a child after pointing the camera at her, when covering unrest in Cambodia. The youngster raised her arms, because that’s what they had been told to do when someone pointed a gun at them. Again, it boils down to making a judgement call, and that was hers in that situation. But I’m sure some could argue that getting the shot would have created huge awareness.” PREPARATION AND GEAR No matter how resilient you might be, capturing these stories can take a heavy toll. “Pre-production is your best opportunity to create a safety net; to assess the situation and understand how you can prepare mentally and physically,” says Iannacone. “I always advise fellow documentary filmmakers to have a ‘point person’ – whether family, friend or colleague, who knows where you are at all times, so they can check in. Equally, you need to keep mental health safe; take the time to decompress, and know when this is possible. These situations are taxing and oftentimes overwhelming.” She continues: “When it comes to physical safety, you need to ensure you’re protected – such as taking necessary precautions against disease with antibiotics and vaccines – but also that you’ve got the right equipment to facilitate the job you’re tasked with carefully. It’s risk for reward, because as filmmakers, once we’re in that environment, we always want to push the envelope – it’s easy to get carried away. James Nachtwey, one of the most famous war photographers, says the best place to be is exactly in the middle of the action. I do have friends that shoot in conflict areas on 25mm
“I start by researching – gathering scientific papers and building a rapport with specialists to learn about the life, history and uniqueness of a particular animal. Then, I work out the risks versus payoffs, as well as what visuals we’ll be able to capture from their behaviour. I collaborate closely with the production coordinator to formulate the logistics and location elements, which is where the exciting part comes in: working with the cinematographers and camera talent to decide what kit is needed. For example, if we’re filming a very shy bird that’s only active during the morning, we would choose a Red Gemini
CREATING IKIGAI A Japanese torii (above) symbolises the transition from the mundane to the sacred
43. DECEMBER 2021
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