Have you ever been in the middle of telling a story and realized you don't remember the punchline? I was telling someone about how lucky I'd been this last term about seeing great documentary filmmakers talk about their work, and I was detailing some of the highlights:
Frederick Wiseman analyzing his editing choices in a talk at the Walter Reade Theater; D.A. Pennebaker, at The New School, discussing shooting the performances in Monterey Pop; Peter Davis discussing the controversy over "The Selling of the Pentagon"; Richard Leacock at IFC Center showing some rarely-seen films and telling all the stories that went with them.... (At this last event, my impression was that half the documentary filmmakers in New York were in attendance: Michael Moore stood by the back door; Albert Maysles rushed in late and Pennebaker, as he walked to the stage, made a crack about his wind-blown hair.)
While I was telling these stories, I began to wonder what the point was. I don't really believe standing in the same room with some of the greats lets any magic rub off of them and onto you, so it wasn't about that. Was it about the fact that they were all still working, and at as high a level as ever? (I believe they all have films in progress or about to come out.)
After some consideration, I think the point was this: seeing the real people who made the films talk about them made me demystify the way these films were created. Films are made out of choices at the camera and at the editing station; and these choices come out of the experiences and ideas of the people who make them. No more, no less.