60 – ‘Directing the Documentary’ with Michael Rabiger

February 9, 2018

If there ever was a Bible for documentary filmmaking, for my money, it would have to be Michael Rabiger‘s Directing the Documentary.  The amount of books, online courses, podcasts, and How-to Youtube videos that are out there for the indie filmmaker who does narrative is probably in the cajillions.  However, the amount of materials available for the indie filmmaker who is doing documentary work, pales in comparison. Which is what makes Rabiger’s Directing the Documentary all the more important and impressive.

This book literally has everything you could ever want in a book about documentary filmmaking: all phases of documentary filmmaking, the history of the documentary cinema, vocations associated with documentary, the various ways of storytelling, fundraising… you name it, it’s there.  And it’s all delivered in a fun, practical, at-times philosophical approach that is quite unique to Rabiger’s vision.

And we are honoured to have a discussion with Michael Rabiger not only about his book, but also about:

  • his early career in documentary with the BBC
  • how he ended up relocating to America in order to continue working in the industry
  • tips and suggestions for documentary filmmakers on story ideas
  • what’s new in the 6th edition of Directing the Documentary


Additional Notes

5 Essential Books for the Documentary Filmmaker

In the opening segment for the show, I gave my 5 Essential Books for the Documentary Filmmaker.  See all titles listed below!



Directing the Documentary  by Michael Rabiger

What more can I say about this book?  It is THE BIBLE OF DOC FILMMAKERS.  Do not wait. Do not pass go.  Do not collect your $200.  Instead use a part of what would have been your $200 and BUY THIS BOOK NOW.  You’ll be able to make your money back… and hopefully more than $200 later on!  (Okay, I know, I’m going a bit overboard here, but seriously, this book..!)



In the Blink of an Eye  by Walter Murch

This is kind of The Bible of film editing.  Am I using the phrase ‘The Bible’ maybe a little too much? Okay, how about The Koran?  Or how about the Bhagavad Gita??  Seriously, this straight-forward, no nonsense approach to film editing is the best.  Walter Murch IS THE BEST.




The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing  by Michael Ondaatje

Expand upon your In the Blink of an Eye love but moving to this beautiful work of art.  Lots of photos, diagrams, philosophical ramblings a la The Murch, etc.  I give this one away as gifts to colleagues.  Oh, and Walter Murch IS THE BEST.




Shaking the Money Tree  by Morrie Warshawski

We had Morrie on the programme way back in episode #15 .  Morrie is the guru of documentary film funding.  His foundations-based approach to getting your mission statement, your core values, and your vision statement are the keys to your film funding success.  It’s all broken down nicely in Morrie’s book.



The Total Money Makeover  by Dave Ramsey

I know, I know.  I’m praising the likes of the D.R.  I get it, I’d probably be turned off to this suggestion as well.  Like, why on earth would a podcast about doc filmmaking and doc living be talking about the D.R.?  Well, finances, that is why.  And you need to get right with it.  Especially if you’re going to be living a doc life and especially since you’re going to be asking people for money!




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