Explore the power of the long interview in building a compelling documentary

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The interview is the foundation for most documentaries. Acclaimed feature documentaries like The Fog of War, Finding Vivian Maier, and Citizenfour, as well as shows like 60 Minutes and Frontline are all examples of the power of interviews in helping to build a compelling narrative.

These extensive interviews with one person, sometimes amounting to several hours and often taking place over multiple occasions and locations, provide on-camera footage, allow you to glean background material, help you identify and focus the story, generate ideas for your B-roll, and lead you to find likely supporting interviews.  Learn how doing the “pre-interview” can fuel the research and information-gathering stage, yield the material necessary to develop your documentary, help you “cast” your main character(s), and determine an interview subject’s viability to be front-and-center or whether the person should be included at all. The interview is your most important tool in developing the heart of your documentary.

Each student will conduct one lengthy interview, choose the on-camera portions, and learn how to pull the story out of it.  Your entire interview will be filmed for critique.

Image Credit:  Kara Birnbaum

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Instructor: Mimi Edmunds

Mimi Edmunds has worked in non-fiction storytelling for three decades. Her experience spans broadcast journalism, including CBS, 60 Minutes, PBS, Discovery Network, and independent production. She worked as a broadcast journalist with CBS for 15 years, including eleven at 60 Minutes, and at CBS's documentary unit, she then worked at PBS, the Discovery Network, in Maryland, Washington, and Arizona. Her films have won Emmy nominations and Cable awards. She currently works on independent productions. She has taught at the Workshops every summer since 1986, including workshops in Oaxaca, Mexico and Havana, Cuba. Several of her films have won awards for cinematography and production. She also wrote and produced for PBS' newsmagazine ARIZONA ILLUSTRATED from 1999 until 2002. She has taught documentary filmmaking and broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Emerson, and internationally. She is on Maine Media's MFA Committee.