In Fiction the Director is God. In Documentary, God is the Director.

I’m at SOURCES 2 screenwriting workshop near Stuttgart. Eight days immersion with a group of Finns, Russians, Germans, Spanish, Austrians, Iranians, Irish, Swedish, a Norwegian… Coming from the Scottish Documentary Institute and supported by Creative Scotland, Sonja Henrici and I are the only filmmakers from Britain.

I am here because I feel quite overwhelmed by my experiences at Strathcarron Hospice, and want to make the very best film I can. As filmmaker in residence, I have already filmed with patients, and discovered the amazing singing talents. With great pride I showed my sample five minutes. "Ah yes," said Arash Riahi, the outrageously successful tutor. "You love your characters and you want to show them to the audience straight away. It is sweet. Or do you want to make a film?"

Oh. Ah. So the learning begins. And it is exhilarating. As we go through the nine (nine!) structural models of dramaturgy, I recognize there is one that fits the experiences of the hospice patients. As I begin to shape my material to the stages of this structure, I realize how satisfying it can be to take the time to establish each stage of the process. This is what allows the audience to feel completely involved. We plot characters’ likely progress and chart storytelling at several simultaneous levels – what is happening in the outside world, their inner process, the use of landscape and environment, and more. Because this is an ensemble film, each character does not do every single one of the story moments that take the story to the end, but each contributes to the complete dramaturgy. I have created a large page with my film characters in green, red, and blue, showing their crises and thresholds and different sorts of resolutions. Film in a box.

But – "in fiction the director is God. In documentary, God is the director." That uncertainty is why I love documentary. I will not script my patients and ask them to do things to fulfill my ideas written in red and green pens. But understanding the structure of the storytelling means I will recognize their real experiences when I am filming them as representing one stage in my red and green page. So I will make sure I have each sequence I need to tell their stories. Each sequence that the editor needs. Now all I need is God to smile.


Originally posted at

Get updates

Get notified when 'Seven Songs for a Long Life' is showing in your area or becomes available on DVD and online.

You give us permission to email you occasionally when we've got actual news to share, and we'll make sure all emails will be relevant to you. We promise SDI Productions won't share your details with anybody else.

This website needs to set cookies to work properly. See SDI's Cookie and Privacy policies for details.

Spread the word

Get a personal link to refer your friends and colleagues. Simply sign in here:

Or copy this non-personal link:

Share on Facebook

Share this website:

Send a private message:

Like our Facebook page:

Share on Twitter

Mention @:

Don't forget to follow us:

Even more

Share on Google+:

Share on LinkedIn:

Pin it on Pinterest:

Share on Tumblr, Reddit, and The intimate story behind our changing relationship with death – with great songs! Digg

MyLastSongWhen posting on social media about #MyLastSong, don't forget the hashtag.

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.

©2015 SDI Productions. All rights reserved. This website uses cookies and respects your privacy.

Website created and edited by Film & Campaign using NationBuilder, based on artwork by Joakim Karlsson.