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Are You Directing A Personal Documentary?


Directing Personal Documentaries With Universal Appeal, $27

"Directing Personal Documentaries" e-course, $37.97

You want your personal documentary to have universal appeal so you can attract funders and large audiences.  Click the play button below to learn how to frame your personal story for a wide audience.

Note: This video e-course is available for immediate online viewing. Out of respect for the environment, we create web-based courses rather than the physical DVD pictured here.


“By picking up a camera I found a way to survive the life I was enduring. I used the camera as a weapon, a shield, and a way to illuminate how I was feeling.”

— Jonathan Couette, director of Tarnation

When the filmmaker’s canvas is small (your life!), you have to work especially hard to convince the audience that your personal issue is not your sole concern. In this insightful two-part video e-course, UC Berkeley editing instructor Karen Everett explains how to keep your audience on the edge of their seats rather than rolling their eyes.

Featuring case-studies from award-winning personal documentaries, “Directing Personal Documentaries With Universal Appeal” reveals dozens of specific strategies that will show you how to:

  • Exercise emotional restraint (My Architect, First Person Plural)
  • Contrive a quest (Supersize Me, King Corn, This Film Will Not be Rated)
  • Use the camera as an instigator, not a weapon, when filming friends, relatives, and associates (Tarnation)
  • Find a wider context with reporting, statistics, historical facts, interviews, experts (Supersize Me, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes)
  • Court audience empathy with a personal tragedy (Tongues Untied, My Sexy Crazy Cancer, Silverlake Life)
  • Suffer being the “fall guy” (Sherman’s March)
  • Use self-deprecating humor (Bowling for Columbine, Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter)
  • Employ animation to convey inner states such as dreams, hallucinations, memory (Waltz With Brashir)
  • Match a style of narration best suited to your project: direct camera address, voiceover from interviews, written and recorded narration (Fields of Fuel, The Devil Never Sleeps, Fahrenheit 9/11)
  • Reveal family secrets in a way that heals rather than inflames the past (Tell Them Who Your Are, My Father the Genius)

“When filmmakers use the self-authorial voice… in the ‘I’ form…that immediately brings with it a stigma of self-indulgence. There’s something strange about that.”

— Robb Moss, Harvard Film Professor

Click here to purchase “Directing Personal Documentaries With Universal Appeal” for $37.97, and avoid the stigma of self-indulgence:

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