Documentarians Lucy Walker and Steve James on their Process to Capture Life
Lucy Walker and Steve James are two established documentarians, with many films on their resume, and a talent to capture moments of life that inevitably will make you wonder while watching: ‘How did they do it?’. I discovered Steve James’ work through Lucy Walker, who is one of my favorite contemporary filmmaker/storyteller, with work as diverse as the Devil’s Playground, Blindsight, Sundance Winner and Academy Awards Nominee Wasteland or, her latest HBO documentary, the Crash Reel. (If you don’t know any work from these two filmmakers, no panic, after watching the video below, you will have a good idea of what they do, and you’ll probably want to catch up with everything they’ve made and has been mentioned.)
Both documentarians went to film school, at different times and places, had mutual respect for one another and finally met while touring on festivals, only to realize they had been influenced by the same mentor: Barbara Kopple. In an organic conversation, Walker and James engage in explaining how they came around doing documentaries, finding strategies to decide what subject they would tackle, and how to make it happen. They both have different ways of working, (Walker can wait months to convince a subject to be on camera, while James prefers a more fast paced dynamic etc.) but end up with equally raw material and people opening up in ways we can hardly dream of in real life .
Documentaries have been through a positive revolution in the recent years, and Walker and James are part of the group of storytellers pushing the envelope and coming back with amazing stories that take you on powerful journeys. If you wonder how to get financing for a documentary, you can watch the size reel Lucy Walker shot for Wasteland and went to Cannes with to convince investors when the project was just a wish, here.
If you are into documentaries and maybe thinking about doing one (or more yourself) you might be surprise to hear some of the anecdotes Walker and James share, about having technical issues during a key scene, being only a two person film crew and filming as if there were three cameras, getting people to open up etc.
A must watch in my book. Enjoy:
Other Vimeo Conferences that Made it in mentorless (because they are awesome!):
- How DANIELS Pitched their Music Video to Manchester Orchestra
- “Don’t Worry About Your Gear”: How Does Filmmaker Casey Neistat Does It.
- How Failure Can Impact Your Creativity: a Conversation with Ted Hope and Ed Burns
- Eliot Rausch on Dealing with Personal and Creative Pressure After Winning the Vimeo Grand Prize