DOCUMENTARY CAMPUS: DAY 1, PART 2
Finding your Story, with Tom Roberts
Tom Roberts is a world-renowned and multi award-winning director who, in recent years, has also undertaken the role of executive producer on many successful films.
The fundamental message of his lecture was, how to find and tell your story.
“The rules of storytelling exist to be broken. The principles of storytelling exist to be respected.”
Once more we were all put on the spot and asked to tell our film’s story in 30 seconds. This is a really tough challenge but we left the session confident that in Paa Joe: Dead not Buried we have a truly unique and exciting story.
Tom spoke to us about his personal experiences of filmmaking and the instinctive approaches that are imperative for a documentary filmmaker to have in order for them to nurture the story from their subjects/characters. You can have a location, or a “precinct”, but you need instinct to find the story within it. You can have a character, a protagonist, but without instinct you will not find the truth behind their lives. And you can only tell the truth that you, as a filmmaker, see and find. You can never, ever make a film that deals with the “truth” that your character wants to project. That’s they’re persona, not the truth.
Tom is an insightful man and an incredibly good storyteller, not only through the medium of film but verbally too. His lecture was itself one big story, with arches, curves and changing tempos.
We ended the night with pizza, beer and a screening of a film produced and directed by his wife, Pamela Gordon. Wasted is a film that follows 10 days in the life of Whitechapel resident, Stacey. The majority of the film is set in Tower House, a doss house with a history dating back to the 1900s. The colloquialisms may have changed over the course of a century but the residents and their habits are timeless and universal.
There is one quote that from Tom that really struck a cord with us today, and that was…
“[documentary is the] use of concrete reality to make a timeless film”.
Wasted is a true embodiment of this notion.