Michael Moore’s 13 Rules for Making Documentary Films
During his keynote at the Toronto International Film Festival’s sixth annual Doc Conference, Michael Moore shared his advice to documentary filmmakers, beginning with the notion that they shouldn’t be called documentarians at all. “We are not documentarians, we are filmmakers,” he told the crowd at the start of his 13-point manifesto.
1. My number one guiding principle in making documentary films is essentially the “Fight Club” Rule.
What is the first rule of “Fight Club”? The first rule of “Fight Club” is: “Don’t talk about ‘Fight Club.'” The first rule of documentaries is: Don’t make a documentary — make a MOVIE. Stop making documentaries. Start making movies. You’ve chosen this art form — the cinema, this incredible, wonderful art form, to tell your story. You didn’t have to do that.
If you want to make a political speech, you can join a party, you can hold a rally. If you want to give a sermon, you can go to the seminary, you can be a preacher. If you want to give a lecture, you can be a teacher. But you’ve not chosen any of those professions. You have chosen to be filmmakers and to use the form of Cinema. So make a MOVIE. This word “documentarian” — I am here today to declare that word dead. That word is never to be used again. We are not documentarians, we are filmmakers. Scorsese does not call himself a “fictionatarian.” So why do we make up a word for ourselves? We do not need to ghettoize ourselves. We are already in the ghetto. We do not need to build a bigger ghetto. You are filmmakers. Make a film, make a movie. People love going to the movies. It’s a great American/Canadian tradition, going to the movies. Why wouldn’t you want to make a *movie*? Because if you made a *movie*, people might actually go see your documentary!