One of the many organizations I have joined this year is the Documentary Organization of Canada. I came across this gem at Hot Docs Film Festival 2015.
DOC offers programming to emerging film professionals for a variety of roles.
Nickolas graduated from school with a BA' in English Lit. and Art History. Growing up as a photographer who developed b / w photos from film, he carried this love over to working on set in a variety of roles.
Laughing to himself, he says he never chose film as a career. Especially not documentary. He started working on feature film sets for drama and fiction. From PA'ing to grip, he tried out every role to get a good sense of the entire process.
"Start small and be excited about everything" - Nickolas.
On his spare time, he worked on dance films. His roommate at the time knew a group of dancers and Nickolas developed his cinematographic eye through fun experimentation.
After deciding that fiction film was not a long term career for him, he jumped ship to documentary filmmaking. Not only did he change subject matter, but he made the leap from film to digital.
My favourite part about De Pencier's talk was his philosophies, some of which I will share with you below:
"Rare link between subject and what you are reporting"
"Authentic subject = unobtrusive cameraman"
"Use what is there, the mechanics of production. The smaller the better"
"creatively owning camera is better"
"Ask yourself what can this camera do..."
"ethics of DOC filmmaking: good practice leading to stronger material"
"there is a difference between an authentic relationship in film and an expose film"
He then shared two of his personal mantras that I shall carry forward with me for life:
"never move until it improves on stillness"
"something human is more dear to me than all the world"
Nickolas ended his talk by addressing questions from the audience, one of which asked about the future of DOC filmmaking in terms of finding funding. He suggested that the current model of sponsorship may change in five years. Most DOC full length films attract a niche audience, meaning it is hard to make a solid living off of it. He has, though, and is living proof. Perhaps that generation is dying out slowly but it is good to see someone who is able to make it while still inhabiting the outskirts of the filmmaking industry. Further, as a filmmaking you might have to weigh in whether your sponsor has the same agenda as you or is looking to improve business through product placement and ads. This can affect the authenticity of your film and whether your film receives funding or not. It is always a delicate line to balance on.