Masterclass by BILL NICHOLS

(Application form)


Are the beginning scenes of a documentary just a way to get the ball rolling? Are they secondary to the core of the film that slowly unfolds and gains in complexity and intensity? Or are they absolutely crucial to the overall success? Beginnings, as Roland Barthes and many others have argued, set more than the scene: they establish the fundamental issue, the basic mystery or need that the film will address and resolve. The beginning hovers over the entire film in the form of an ending that has yet to happen. The ending must return to the beginning and resolve it. This master class will use a variety of examples of documentary films to examine opening scenes and how they relate to the overall success of the film.

Bill Nichols (bio) 

Bill Nichols edited Movies and Methods, vols. 1 e 2, works that helped establish film studies as an academic discipline. He has since published a dozen books, over 100 articles and lectured widely in many countries. He consults regularly with documentary filmmakers. His Representing Reality (Indiana University Press, 1992) launched the contemporary study of documentary film, and Introduction to Documentary (IUP, 3rd edition, 2017) has become the most widely used introductory textbook in the field. His general introduction to film, Engaging Cinema, is the first introduction to film studies that integrates a study of film's formal qualities with its enormous social significance.  His Speaking Truths with Film: Evidence, Ethics, Politics in Documentary (University of California Press, 2016) touches on key issues in documentary film. He has served on film festival juries in many countries and writes about film and other topics on his blog, billnichols.net.