Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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Documentary Filmmaking: Conversation with Martin Smith, Documentary Film Producer; 1/27/03 by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Martin Smith, who is an award-winning documentary producer with over twenty-five years experience in television. In 1998 he created Rain Media, an independent production company specializing in high-quality, high-profile television programs for an international audience.

  1. Background ... influence of parents ... a visual learner ... film school ... the sixties ... personal documentaries
  2. Documentary Filmmaking ... storytelling ... role of producer in documentary film ... interest in storytelling
  3. Public Television vs. Commercial Television ... public TV's commitment to serious work ... commercial TV's disinterest in the harder stories ... concern over ratings ... reluctance to commit resources to new stories
  4. Eclectic Filmmaking ... "Medicating Kids" ... "Dot Con" ... "The American Game"
  5. Components and Process of Filmmaking ... research ... illustrating the story ... modern technology ... interviewing
  6. Documenting the Islamic World ... multi-part body of work ... addressing the questions ... emasculation of a culture ... pan-Islamic movement ... interviews of "Saudi Time Bomb?"
  7. Documentary: "In Search of Al Qaeda" ... deciding to film the research process ... Pakistan's tribal zones ... where to find al Qaeda ... interview with Musharraf ... interview with bin Laden supporter ... bin Laden's self-presentation ... U.S. missteps
  8. Conclusion ... advice for students

Note: The thumbnail images on the following pages identifying Martin Smith's documentaries are courtesy of the Rain Media website, except the image from "In Search of Al Qaeda," which is a composite of images from the Frontline website for the documentary.

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