Ove Rishøj Jensen • Owner of Paradiddle Pictures and co-founder of DocCelerator
“People start shooting too early: you could label it as FOMO filmmaking”
by Marta Bałaga
- We get the low-down on the new editions of the DocCelerator workshops, which will take place online in February, April and May
Since its launch in May 2020, Ove Rishøj Jensen and Geoffrey Smith have hosted 16 editions of DocCelerator, a series of online documentary workshops, currently getting ready to unspool in the spring. For two days, participants will discuss their new projects and learn a set of tools necessary for structuring documentary stories – which, as Paradiddle Pictures owner and DocCelerator co-founder Jensen tells Cineuropa, many still find extremely challenging.
The dates for the spring 2022 DocCelerator workshops are as follows: DocCeleratorStory from 24-25 February, with the deadline for applications set as 26 January; DocCeleratorRoughCut from 6-7 April, deadline for applications 9 March; and DocCeleratorStory from 16-17 May, deadline for applications 19 April. You can find more information here.
Cineuropa: You have been doing it for a while, but why did you even think that this kind of initiative would be useful for documentary filmmakers?
Ove Rishøj Jensen: I have been working in the documentary field for the last 15 years, but to a certain extent, DocCelerator came as a response to the pandemic. We could see that although people couldn’t meet physically, there was still this need to discuss their projects with others. It’s such an essential part of developing documentaries. When you are making these films, you often work in very small teams. Usually, it all starts with just one man or one woman, coming across a certain idea and deciding to explore it. There is a need to be part of a community. We wanted to build a structure that allows people to meet and discuss, and just test their ideas a little.
You decided to stick to the online format, but are you noticing the so-called “Zoom fatigue” already?
It would be nice to be together, of course, but there are advantages to doing it online. When we say it takes two days, it actually does – you are not spending any additional time on travelling, for example. It’s manageable to set aside this kind of time in our working schedules, and people make a lot of progress in these two days. They sit down, focus on one project and don’t have to spend a lot of money. What you invest is your participation fee and your time. That’s it.
We encourage people to make some essential decisions during the workshop – most of all, to figure out what the actual focus of their project is. What is the story about? Later, when they go further into development and reach the stage of production, they will hopefully have a much clearer idea about what to shoot.
Were you surprised by some of the questions raised during the workshop in the past?
I would say that this format is a direct response to something we noticed in the industry, and when I say “we”, I mean Geoffrey Smith and me. There is this lack of focus on stories that many documentary filmmakers have. They need to be able to sit down and say what is the subject and the theme of their film. When it comes to documentaries, people tend to come from so many different backgrounds. They can be architects or artists, and sometimes, there is this lack of understanding about what storytelling is. Also, people start shooting too early. I see it happening all the time, either as a consultant or as a producer. They pick up a camera and go: “We will follow this person for a year, and then we will have a story.” It doesn’t work like that! They just end up with way too much material. You need to have a basic understanding of the dramatic structure you are working with, of your characters’ involvements. So many filmmakers end up with up to 200 hours of material, and the harsh truth is that usually, it’s just research.
Talk about tough love!
I am still practising how to tell people this in a polite way. You could label it as “FOMO filmmaking”. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you realise that even though you have shot all of this material, it’s just a first step. We invite our participants to take part in four exercises, helping them pinpoint what the story really is. That’s the essence of DocCelerator, so we will keep doing that. So far, we have done 16 editions, and the atmosphere has been very positive. People sign up because they want our input; they want to get something out of it. We don’t need to agree on everything – these are not our films. It’s just important that the filmmakers themselves can make up their minds afterwards. At the end of the day, they are the ones making all of the decisions.
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