During a FYC Fest documentary roundtable, Variety‘s Matt Donnelley discussed the state of documentary filmmaking with panelists including “Time” director Garrett Bradley, “Boys State” director Amanda McBaine, “Rebuilding Paradise” director Ron Howard, “The Dissident” director Bryan Fogel, “Welcome to Chechnya” director David France and “Crip Camp” director Nicole Newnham.
“So much of filmmaking, regardless of the genre, is about us understanding ourselves as human beings and as a culture,” Bradley said. “Filmmaking and the camera is an investigation of what happens when that occurs. And so it feels like a natural inclination that documentary filmmaking is doing the same thing, but in a more direct way.”
This storytelling aspect of documentary filmmaking, much like in any other medium, allows viewers to invest in the information being relayed to them. And though many successful documentaries found their footing in prior decades, the reason for an influx in documentary-style projects can be traced back to streaming.
Films and shows have experienced a diversification of form as streaming sites increased demand for new original content, and documentaries widely benefited due to their straightforward telling of true events.
“There’s such a history of artistic documentary filmmaking, but I think that the lack of funding for that kind of filmmaking, or the lack of outlet for it has put documentaries in a box for a long time,” Newnham said. “And so the advent of the streamers and the funding that’s come in, I think, and people’s growing awareness of the artistry of the form has opened up a lot of possibilities for people to express things in different ways.”