The difference between directing a Doc and a film

Our final decision has been made. ‘A bit about Frank’ it is! As I transition back into being a film director as opposed to a documentary director I will explore the difference between the two roles. Fortunately for me I have directed on both fronts making me relatively experienced and adaptable. In my second year I directed a short film entitled ‘Rendezvous’ which I won the best director award for, which reinstates my capabilities. With every project I aim to be and produce more, demanding more from myself and my team that surrounds me.

On set of Rendezvous directing (left)

The famous film director Martin Scorsese speaks about the difference between documentary and narrative. He said ‘documentary is recorded, (film) interprets and is dramatic fiction’ he also went on to say ‘the line is blurred between the two and I go off impulse’ (AFI Docs, Martin Scorsese, 2010). From this I gather that even though these two types of mediums are very different they also have their similarities. It is interesting that he mentioned that the ‘line is blurred’ between the art forms because this could suggest that directing a documentary is similar to directing a film. Ultimately I feel like Martin Scorsese is saying that film is film, if it is engaging and it is has a true narrative audiences will gravitate towards it. In say this I feel the two harbour a different set of challenges. For example in film an actor may over play a role making the character unbelievable. The director would have to step and describe what he wants and needs from the actor. In documentary you could have a dull subject that you have to inspire to bring out the true narrative within them, making your job difficult. Either way, both roles are very rewarding when the production is true and fruitful.

‘In general, the main reason feature films get made is to entertain the audience; to give people an escape. Documentaries are meant to inform; to confront people with reality: and sometimes to promote a point of view’ (Video university, 2012) This quote sums up well the general difference between film and documentaries. The theme of escapism stands out for me in this text, film gives you the chance to go anywhere that the imagination can stretch meaning that the characters involved are at times larger than life. This reflects in the method of directing a film, in comparison to a documentary. A documentary confronts the reality of a story, meaning that ‘subject directing’ is minimal as this would conflict with the truth. The director for a documentary may control some of the locations, prompt certain emotions, and determine the way the narrative is revealed but other than that from my understanding it is up to the subjects to pioneer and direct the narrative. Making documentary film making exciting, and unpredictable at times.



 AFI Docs. (2010). Documentary VS Narrative . Available: Last accessed 17.03.16.

V.N. (2012). What’s the Difference between Documentary and Feature film. Available: Last accessed 17.03.16.


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