Would I learn more from working on documentaries or narrative?

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  • #215065

      I’ll be attending film school next spring but I’m not sure which pathway I’d want to take if I want to better my cinematography and overall sense of composition and lighting, documentary or narrative film/TV?

      While both have their merits, I’m particularly drawn to the precision and controlled environment and nature of narrative filmmaking. On the other hand, I also appreciate the spontaneity and real-life immersion that documentary work offers.

      Any guidance, tips or recommendations anyone can provide regarding the pros and cons of each pathway would be greatly appreciated.

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    • #215074
      Sean Buffini

        Since you’re asking here, you’re probably aware that Roger Deakins himself initially went the route of documentary filmmaking. I believe he speaks about some of his documentary experiences in the first few episodes of the Team Deakin’s Podcast but I do not recall which particular episodes.

        My two cents: I’d recommend trying both if there is no barrier preventing it. School is a place for discovery after all. If for some reason you’re forced to make a decision between the two, focus on whichever one interests you more. Whichever makes you more excited. The sense of composition and lighting will come naturally with experience doing either, just as long as you don’t fall out of love with what you’re doing.

        Obviously there is a difference between finding a frame with available light in documentary vs crafting a frame and shaping light in narrative. However, in my opinion, once you understand one, the knowledge transfers easily to the other.

        There are other things that in my opinion will make a much bigger impact on which you prefer. Maybe you’ll prefer the pace and team work of narrative or maybe you’ll prefer the workflow and independence of documentary. Either way, you’ll learn the craft as long as you enjoy what you’re doing.

        Hope this helps!

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