A tough question was asked at last week’s Sheffield International Documentary Festival. The top auteurs were asked “would you volunteer to be the subject of an observational documentary on you and your work?”

They all said no. This is seen as a matter of trust. People say that factual TV is in crisis if even the best practicioners would not trust their colleagues, how can the rest of us?

I don’t think this is a matter of trust. The people who make documentaries know that the film and the writer/director’s vision is more important than caring about the people at the core of their story. If were to make a film about a series of people looking for love, it is more important to tell the audience a useful story than to make sure the individuals involved are happy. Documentary makers know this. They will only get involved with a film if they get something out of being featured in it.

If the people you’d like to feature in your fly-on-the-wall documentary don’t want to be involved, you might as well create a fictionalised drama based on your research.


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