Six months ago, a collection of 21 documentaries and interviews on filmmaking were presented as a resource for filmmakers and film lovers to enjoy and develop their art. Due to a few of those videos being disabled at the request of their owners, a new collection has been organized and extended: 40 Must-See Documentaries and Interviews on Filmmaking.
Like a career in filmmaking, education is an on-going journey. Whether accomplished at an academic institution or at your home, knowledge makes its availability as long as you seek it. Here are
21 40 filmmaking related documentaries and interviews readily available for both your enjoyment and evolution as a filmmaker.
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
Directed, produced, written, and starring the filmmaker himself, Martin Scorsese’s Personal Journey is very much our own journey as viewers through a rich and often overlooked history of American cinema. From D.W. Griffith, F.W. Murnau, and Eric von Stroheim, to Samuel Fuller, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick, A Personal Journey is full of detailed descriptions and explanations on filmmaking and filmmakers, with footage of films and interviews that entice and enchant. Explore the directors who have innovated the medium, the process of production, and the stories and messages written by the camera as a pen.
Cinematographer Style presents 110 of the world’s top cinematographers as they each discuss how they began to work in the film industry and how they developed while sharing insight on style and the technical aspects of their profession. Watch Vittorio Storaro poetically discuss cinematography, Gordon Willis explain that style comes only from the inside, or Roger Deakins weigh in on how one’s choice of shooting effects the viewer’s reaction. It is necessary to note that each cinematographer emphasizes the person’s control over their tools and technology, and that it is the vast experiences that one brings to the set that informs each individual on how to work as a cinematographer.
The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing explores the one thing that filmmakers from Andrei Tarkovsky to Orson Welles all agree on: what distinguishes cinema from the other art forms is editing. The documentary explores the history of film editing, the process, and the manner in which it evokes emotions in the viewer. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese along with editors like the aforementioned’s own Sally Menke and Thelma Schoonmaker illustrate the innovations in editing that began with D.W. Griffith while investigating the reasons behind a cut and the importance of the relationship between each image.
The Making of Taxi Driver
In these 70+ minutes, we are given a unique glimpse into the workings of a film from one of the most creative eras in U.S. cinema. Beginning with the origins of the project and moving into a behind the scenes overview of the actors, shooting, editing, and more, The Making of Taxi Driver offers a detailed look into Taxi Driver. The documentary reveals how Martin Scorsese’s approach to filmmaking is meticulous and yet openminded, and fortunately, interviews with Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader, director of photography Michael Chapman, editor Tom Rolf, actors Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, and other collaborators add to the rich examination of the film.
Pure Cinema: Analysis of the Hitchcock Style
Hitchcock came in and invented another kind of film language, one that was interior. Martin Scorsese’s introduction to this study of Alfred Hitchcock and his approach to filmmaking hits the heart of what makes Hitchcock a master filmmaker, his ability to elevate the presentation of a story into an absorbing cinematic experience. Film has its own unique elements that are able to transport the viewer unlike the other arts, and it is through a concentration of this understanding that Hitchcock was able to give rise to his now classic films. Pure Cinema: Analysis of the Hitchcock Style is an essential 43+ minute watch, a video collection blending excerpts from Hitchcock’s films and interviews with filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, and others to reveal the genius behind Hitchcock’s approach to filmmaking.
A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes
A breathtaking 200 minute journey through the life of a film pioneer, A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes is an essential documentary on the art of cinema and the unforgettable filmmaker John Cassavetes. The documentary is formed by interviews with those who shared a personal and working relationship with the film director, as well as excerpts from his films, rare photographs and archival footage, and the director’s own narrated words. It also details the filmmaker’s focus on emotion, his creative and collaborative filmmaking process, the way he guided the special performances from his actors, and his deep acknowledgement of the meaning and purpose behind his films: to portray human life, how people behave, interact…live.
In Search of Terrence Malick
A necessary watch for those interested in the mysterious filmmaker, In Search of Terrence Malick explores the career of Terrence Malick from his first feature film, Badlands, to his second made five years later, Days of Heaven. Through actors Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, art director Jack Fisk, film editor Billy Weber, and Professor Dreyfus we discover more about Malick’s directing style and the command he holds on his films. As Martin Sheen says, “He’s a screen poet, there was no other way to describe it.”
The Making of The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is an enrapturing experimentation in pure cinema, and the 28+ minute The Making of The Tree of Life is as captivating. The presentation offers a portrayal of each stage in the process of making The Tree of Life and includes interviews with Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and other collaborators who give a more personal look into the film.
Joachim Trier: Filming the More Sensuous, the More Tactile
Essential advice for filmmaking from Oslo, August 31 director Joachim Trier. Film is visual storytelling, and thus, there lies inside the image the essence of the story, and although sound plays an important part in the making of a great film, without the visual there is nothing. For all filmmakers, it is your visual style that will grab the audience and maintain it, your sense of approaching a cinematic story—the most personal thing you do as a filmmaker is where you put your camera, how you perceive things, how you see them. Another tip, watch movies, all kinds…it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants that you will see further.
A Look Inside: The Godfather
A Look Inside: The Godfather may easily hold a place among the most cherished documentaries about film and the filmmaking process. The 73 minute presentation is an in-depth look into the production of The Godfather Trilogy and offers a treasure trove of insight for filmmakers and film lovers alike. With memorable scenes from all three films, the documentary presents behind the scenes footage from every stage of production and interviews with Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Andy Garcia, and others while capturing director Francis Ford Coppola as he reflects on the world behind The Godfather—from his filmmaking approach to the relationships he shared with his collaborators.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse presents the production history of Francis Ford Coppola’s award winning film with behind the scenes footage and a narration provided by the director’s wife, Eleanor Coppola. The documentary reveals the monumental struggles undertaken by Francis Ford Coppola and his collaborators in order to achieve what is now considered a classic film. Filmmaking as an art is a form that demands much effort and determination, and Hearts of Darkness shows how true this is and at all levels of production. The independent filmmaker as well as the Hollywood director can struggle as equally as each other to achieve their visions. The lesson here is that strength of character is as important for a filmmaker as his or her artistic talents.
The Magic of Editing: The Rule of 6 with Walter Murch
Walter Murch has waved his magical editing skills on a number of classic films. Apocalypse Now earned him editing and sound mix Oscar nominations, leading to a win in sound mix, while The English Patient brought home the little gold man for both categories. He was also honored with an editing nomination for Cold Mountain, which he edited using Final Cut Pro. Being a leading figure in the world of filmmaking, there is much wisdom to absorb from Murch, and in this video, he shares an insightful look into the art of editing.
Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho
The Master of Suspense is also a master of style, and this 90+ minute documentary certainly proves why Alfred Hitchcock is an unforgettable filmmaker. His understanding and control of film can be likened to those artists who have mastered their respective art forms. Thus, The Making of Psycho is a genuine opportunity for those seeking the best insight into filmmaking. Involving interviews with the collaborators of Psycho, such as actor Janet Leigh and screenwriter Joseph Stefano, give us an intimate look into the entire process of making the film. We go from one stage of the production to another, learning from what seems to be a masterclass in film production. Most importantly, The Making of Psycho is as detailed as Hitchcock’s own films. It sheds light on the writing of the script, the filmmaker’s directing style, and even the particularities of specific scenes and devices, such as the famous shower scene and the symbolism behind the wardrobe.
Room to Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker
Learn how David Lynch brings his vision to the screen with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage focusing on the process of filmmaking, from idea to post-production. While sharing his beginnings as a filmmaker coming from the world of painting and his understanding of film as art, Lynch speaks about each stage of production and his view of technological advances opening the doors to storytellers, as long as the technology is used right. The video plays out to be like a 20 minute film school course, with David Lynch as the professor. Simple, straight to the point, and incredibly insightful.
Mysteries of Love: David Lynch and Blue Velvet
Mysteries of Love is a documentary on David Lynch’s modern classic Blue Velvet. Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, we find clips from the film immersed with intriguing footage and photographs from the production and exciting interviews with David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, and others. Certainly, Mysteries of Love leaves one wanting more documentaries of its kind.
Quentin Tarantino: Hollywood’s Boy Wonder
Quentin Tarantino: Hollywood’s Boy Wonder takes you into the world of the filmmaker who went from working at a video rental store to becoming a Sundance favorite with Reservoir Dogs and then a Palme d’Or winner with Pulp Fiction. The documentary is comprised by telling interviews with Terry Gilliam, Samuel L. Jackson, and others, though much of the screen time is spent with Quentin Tarantino himself, who shares his thoughts on his past, his then early film career, and his approach to filmmaking. An important lesson to take from the documentary is that success does not happen overnight. From his first attempt at film with My Best Friend’s Birthday to Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino struggled to get his film career started. When speaking of Hollywood, he says, In this town you can die of encouragement, and explains how for 3 years, he was always two weeks away from having a budget. As the documentary shows, even when an additional 2 years passed by, Tarantino kept working at it, which is the crucial lesson to take from his film career.
Christopher Doyle: Masterclass in Cinematography
“What happens in Western cinema is ‘Look at this! You’re so stupid you don’t know what we’re trying to tell you. Let me tell you something.’ And we say, ‘Hey, discover this,’” declares Christopher Doyle in this awesome 9 minute journey with the cinematographer of visually stunning films like In the Mood for Love and Hero.
Robert Bresson: The Ideal Would Be to Show Nothing At All
Jean-Luc Godard famously said, Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished because this film is really the world in an hour and a half. In this excerpt from a 1966 French television broadcast with an introduction by Godard, the master film director Robert Bresson speaks about this film, Au Hasard Balthazar, and his theories on filmmaking. Robert Bresson touches on the importance of mystery in a film. A trap many filmmakers fall into is the focus on “telling” versus “storytelling.” It is the use of film’s unique language and subtext that materializes cinema’s golden rule of “Show, Don’t Tell.”
Cinéastes de notre temps: Robert Bresson - Without A Trace (Ni vu, ni connu)
A rare and revealing visit with the elusive master filmmaker, Without a Trace (Ni vu, ni connu) by the French series Cinéastes de notre temps presents an hour long interview with Robert Bresson. Regarded by some of cinema’s beloved directors—Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky just to name a few—as the one to exemplify film as art, Bresson discusses a wide range of topics at his country home while taking a break from shooting Au hasard Balthazar. He describes in-depth his approach to filmmaking while sharing the inspiration behind his films and his thoughts on the state of the then contemporary cinema. In capturing such a unique filmmaker and providing unparalleled insight into his work and ideas, Without a Trace is a genuine experience into the world of Robert Bresson.
Cinéastes de notre temps: Josef von Sternberg - From Silence Comes Another (D’Un Silence L’Autre)
film director Josef von Sternberg takes the viewer on a fantastic filmmaking journey in this presentation of Cinéastes de notre temps. Film is all about drawing the audience into the visual storytelling, to make the viewer a part of the moving pictures. Through this capturing of the audience, Sternberg presents a powerful cinematic truth: the audience members must investigate their own emotions rather than the emotions of the actor. As with all arts, there is a give and take between the viewer and the work; however, the work must be able to facilitate this process. This is a must-see window into the world of film director Josef von Sternberg. A conversationalist who speaks in an alluring way, there are many gems to be found here.
David Fincher on the Responsibilities of Storytelling in Film
The director explains his approach to filmmaking, how he portrays what the audience needs to know through a precise communication of information. As filmmakers, we need to know where the story is and how to show it, and David Fincher in this video on his film The Game gives us an exceptional perspective on this responsibility of every director—the responsibility towards the audience to present an engaging visual story.
Bergman and Fårö Island: Interview with Ingmar Bergman
This BBC presentation, Bergman and Fårö Island, of an interview with Ingmar Bergman is a wonderful window into the great director—I’d say one of the greatest—who brought with his vision and style a filmography that considered not only the human experience but also the cinematic experience. only a privileged few have met and talked at length with the man himself. This interview, in which he speaks of his life, films, and his approach to filmmaking, represents in many ways that privilege—time with Ingmar Bergman.
On Sven Nykvist: With One Eye He Cries
A poet of light, Ingmar Bergman turned to Sven Nykvist for his openness to filmmaking. His efficient use of available light and experimenting style was alluring and led to a great collaboration between the two filmmakers. Nykvist was a daring filmmaker, which related to the intuitiveness both he and Bergman shared. This daring, however, never opposed the performances of actors for he mixed the importance of aesthetics with the importance of capturing the genuine and human performances of actors. A pioneer of the expressive qualities of light, Sven Nykvist, cinema’s Rembrandt, is a filmmaker to admire and study, and this short documentary With One Eye He Cries is a great way to enter the world of the celebrated cinematographer.
The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey, so its fans will tell you, is awesome, amazing, astonishing, astounding—and that doesn’t even exhaust their list of “A” adjectives. But however emphatically they’re spoken, those words don’t tell you much. I fear they sometimes even put off potential 2001-lovers—or at least those who would enjoy a screening or three—who fear themselves unequal to the imposing labor of appreciation ahead. You’ll learn more meaningful things about Kubrick’s film in 2001: The Making of a Myth (made in 2001), a 45-minute documentary on its conception, its production, and its undiminished resonance in our cultural imagination.
Le Samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Work of Art
Footage and interviews with Alain Delon and Jean-Pierre Melville on the gangster masterpiece Le Samouraï. Take a glimpse at Delon describe the craftsmanship of Melville. Watch, listen, and absorb the great Jean-Pierre Melville explain his beginnings as a filmmaker, his love for cinema, and his thoughts and process on the art of cinema.
The Dinosaur and the Baby: Fritz Lang and Jean-Luc Godard
The Dinosaur and the Baby centers on a conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Fritz Lang, two great directors in film history. Lang not only mastered the silent film with the most expensive one ever made, the sci-fiction, German expressionist Metropolis, he continued a life’s career that many lost when the invention of sound came to filmmaking. His first talking picture M is a landmark in the art and a precursor to the film noir genre. As for Godard, he revolutionized the language of cinema by challenging the processes by which films were made and, with the Nouvelle Vague, pushed forward André Bazin’s auteur theory. The conversation, documented in 1967, is full of different subjects—for example, they speak about filmmaking, shed light on how they film, touch on the politics of the industry, and try to define the film director.
François Truffaut: The Man Who Loved Cinema
A 77 minute documentary that explores the life and works of the celebrated French filmmaker, François Truffaut. Even before his early death at the age of 52, Truffaut became an example to follow for independent filmmakers. His low-budget and autobiographical debut film, The 400 Blows, marked the beginning of the French New Wave and led the way for innovation in filmmaking. Inspired by the Italian Neo-Realists, Truffaut and the French New Wave filmmakers took on the issues of production value and budget by seeking alternatives to production methods…they used all that was available to them in order to express their cinematic and artistic visions. The in-depth exploration presented by François Truffaut: The Man Who Loved Cinema makes the documentary a great watch.
Andrei Tarkovsky: A Poet in the Cinema
Andrei Tarkovsky: A Poet in the Cinema portrays an intimate view into the personality and life of Andrei Tarkovsky as he discusses the nature of art, spirituality, solitude, and filmmaking amongst many other subjects. Directed by Donatella Baglivo, who also directed the documentary Andrei Tarkovsky in Nostalghia, the film should not be missed as Tarkovsky’s contemplations lead one to feel the film to be a course in both philosophy and filmmaking, absorbing the viewer through meditations that are simple and yet profound. With excerpts from his own films to footage of him in discussion while walking through a forest or winning the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, the documentary becomes an essential view within the masterful collection of films Andrei Tarkovsky left to mesmerize the world. A wonderful film, a fantastic way to immerse oneself in cinema, A Poet in the Cinema rests in film history like a treasure waiting to be discovered.
Andrei Tarkovsky in Nostalghia
Donatella Baglivo’s Andrei Tarkovsky in Nostalghia is a fascinating and insightful rare documentary on Andrei Tarkovsky during the filming of Nostalghia. The documentary includes interviews with the master filmmaker, crew, and cast. “What is a film,” Tarkovsky asks himself and answers, “It’s a mosaic made of time.” Within these 90+ minutes lies an artist at work, what goes behind the process and his creative thought, how he directs his mise-en-scène and collaborators, but most importantly, it captures a time in the life of a great filmmaker whose idea of cinema was precisely that, to capture and sculpt time.
Unique Vision: Steve McQueen and 12 Years a Slave
Specificity of vision or the filmmaker’s style as a foundation supports all the building blocks that together form the film, and director Steve McQueen truly represents those filmmakers who bring their unique visions to the screen. From Hunger to Shame and 12 Years a Slave, each film is clearly a Steve McQueen film. Film directors such as Robert Bresson, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Andrei Tarkovsky have this aura that make them unforgettable filmmakers and their works timeless. These are the filmmakers who make their mark on cinema by their mere presence rather than by force, and Steve McQueen stands among them. Unique Vision: Steve McQueen and 12 Years a Slave sheds light on the creative process in the making of 12 Years a Slave, one of the most important films of 2013 and one that will resonate for years to come.
Wim Wenders’ Room 666
In his documentary film Room 666, Wim Wenders proposes a question to a group of filmmakers: “Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?” With only a camera, audio recorder, and a hotel room, filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, and Michelangelo Antonioni answer the question about cinema’s future…in the year 1982.
Auteur Theories: Nicolas Winding Refn
Auteur Theories: Nicolas Winding Refn is an in-depth study on the filmmaking style, themes, process, and life of the intriguing Nicolas Winding Refn. Since Drive, Refn has received well-deserved international acclaim. This is because the world has finally caught on, acknowledging the talents of the Pusher film director. From denying his acceptance to film school in order to successfully direct his first feature film in his 20s, to hitting rock-bottom, bankruptcy mid-way through his career, and finally, climbing back to the top with acclaim and achievements, one can learn much from Refn’s life. Determination and patience are two qualities that are essential for every filmmaker. Most importantly, knowing yourself and thus understanding your artistic voice will never lead you astray.
Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy
Reading the language of cinema would be for Martin Scorsese like reading the lines of a poem. Unique elements and characteristics of a poem create significance for the reader—syntax or the arrangement of words, figures of speech like metaphors. For the language of cinema, a wide shot informs differently than a close up while a track in shot using a long lens versus a wide creates a different effect. It is important to see that a film is made of a choice of shots and cuts that communicate a story through which ideas and emotions are expressed. Film language has its own vocabulary and for Martin Scorsese this language is just as valid as the language of literature.
Filmmaking with Joel and Ethan Coen
A window into the filmmaking approach and style of Joel and Ethan Coen, this BBC documentary created during the production of O Brother, Where Art Thou? offers a glimpse into the film world of a masterful directing duo. George Clooney, Roger Deakins, and other known contributors to the films of the Coen brothers provide superb insight to these personalities while the reclusive brothers themselves give us a rare and personal look into the making of their films. Learn about the genius behind Fargo, Barton Fink, and other Coen classics.
Harris Savides: Beauty in Film
A visual poet, a fashion photographer turned respected cinematographer, Harris Savides graced the art of filmmaking with a unique sensibility towards visual storytelling. His was a search for beauty in film through a search for simplicity, and by way of this search the engaging of the audience with the cinematic frame was achieved. In Harris Savides on Beauty, Savides shares the insight he has garnered through years in his profession.
In the Mood for Doyle
An intimate view into the world of one of cinema’s great cinematographers, In the Mood for Doyle is a documentary on Christopher Doyle. Throughout the film, Doyle provides many gems for film lovers and filmmakers. Filmed in DV and Super8, this documentary is a kind of wild and stylized road movie—from Bangkok to Hong Kong, via New York. The camera follows this eccentric and outrageous artist as he gives us his thoughts on his past and present work.
Paul Thomas Anderson, a Character in Search for a Story
John Horn of The Los Angeles Times interviews The Master director, Paul Thomas Anderson. From finding a character in search for a story to shooting The Master on a “Cadillac” of a camera, Anderson shares his understanding of film language and the process behind the many stages of filmmaking. While not caring about what kind of alcohol is in his glass, the filmmaker also displays his knowledge of history as he branches out to discuss John Huston, post-WWII, Scientology, and yoga. For a director who creates surprising and touching films, Paul Thomas Anderson proves to be grounded in his approach to filming his dense stories on the nature of man. He brings an incredible amount of insight to this interview, making a view enticing to those wanting to learn more about cinema.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Filmmaker’s Report
In this 30 minute interview with Nuri Bilge Ceylan, we get a personal view into the artistry behind the Turkish film director’s approach to filmmaking. He digs into the themes of Distant while sharing his influences, filmmaker’s style, and ideas on cinema. An individual is the sum of all his or her experiences, and with this concept, Ceylan pursues the story of his films by reflecting on his personal life, conversations with friends, and the inspiration that art brings to him, from films to literature and photography. Among the enriching insight Ceylan shares, he also propels the use of resourceful filmmaking.
Double Shot of John Cassavetes: Documentaries on the Father of American Independent Cinema
This “double shot” of John Cassavetes through Cinéastes de notre temps & To Risk Everything to Express It All reveals the many sides of the man, the easy-going and fun friend, the philosophical thinker, the profound artist and filmmaker. In Cinéastes de notre temps, we spend one-on-one time with the great conversationalist Cassavetes, making the documentary both personal and engaging. He expresses his feelings on the Hollywood system and how and what it is to make films independently, while making marvelous claims about art and cinema. In To Risk Everything to Express It All, we spend time with those who worked and loved John Cassavetes, from his family to his friends and collaborators. Exceptional insight abounds this documentary.