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The 15 Best Documentaries About Making a Film

Written by on February 25, 2015 

The Making of Fanny and Alexander

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It wasn’t enough for Ingmar Bergman to simply create his 5 hour-plus masterpiece Fanny and Alexander; the Swedish director also helmed a behind-the-scenes documentary on its creation. Taking on a verite approach, Arne Carlsson captured the footage while on set, but it was Bergman who eventually put it all together, interspersing title cards describing the stories behind the specific scenes. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you’re not an enthusiast of the director, one can witness the deep connection with his actors he fosters, as well as a glimpse of his long-standing relationship to cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who favored minimal light. All in all, it’s quite remarkable to see how some of the film’s most iconic scenes came to be. – Jordan R. [Watch on Blu-ray]

Making The Shining

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For his Stephen King adaptation of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick tasked none other than his 17-year-old daughter Vivian Kubrick to create a making-of documentary for the BBC. While much of today’s behind-the-scenes peeks can feel incredibly overproduced, thanks to the connection between filmmakers we get an intimate look at Kubrick crafting one of his best films. Considering how rare it is to get such a look behind the curtains from the precise director, Making the Shining is an essential viewing for cinephiles, in which you’ll also witness one of the best sections, featuring Jack Nicholson deep in preparation for his iconic “Here’s Johnny!” scene. – Jordan R. [Watch here]

Overnight

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For anyone confused and disgusted by the popularity of the sociopathic Pulp Fiction knock-off, The Boondock Saints, there’s Overnight, a rise and fall story wherein you hope the fall kills the person. Using footage collected over the course of the making-of process, Overnight reveals how Boston bartender-turned-filmmaker Troy Duffy had success fall into his lap, only to squander it, and then step on anyone who ever cared about him to get back on top. Produced and directed by the very people who got stepped on, the documentary serves as the ultimate revenge against Duffy’s trespasses by portraying him as a repugnant egomaniac stupid enough to insult his benefactor, Miramax powerhouse Harvey Weinstein. As Overnight proves, the completion and unlikely success of The Boondock Saints were flukes that, as far as Duffy’s bad reputation is concerned, will never happen again. – Amanda W. [Watch on DVD]

The Shark Is Still Working

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The birth of the blockbuster gets documented in this highly entertaining film from Erik Hollander. Structured both as a love letter to Steven Spielberg‘s classic as well as a comprehensive look at both its production and influence, the rapidly-paced documentary is exhaustive in its reach. Featuring interviews with nearly everyone involved, we learn how Spielberg started the trend of not shooting his last shot, the creation of the iconic theme, how limiting the release led to a worldwide phenomenon, and much more. One particularly timely segment discusses how the lack of functionality of the shark caused them to have to conjure more compelling ways of instilling fear. Whereas today visual effects would be applied, the idea of using barrels came about during the production because the shark wasn’t working. While you’ve likely seen Jaws countless times, in between viewings, make sure to give this a watch. – Jordan R. [Watch on Blu-ray]

That Moment

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Capturing 128 hours worth of footage during the 80-plus day production of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s earlier works, 1999’s Magnolia, director Mark Rance eventually cut things down to 72-minute documentary. Taking an intimate look at the process of creating a film he now says he’d edit down, we can see the ambitious undertaking unfold. From PTA’s initial nervousness about the material to the final production meeting to candid moments with Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman on set, all the way to the press junket and beyond, it’s a fascinating watch. A section towards the end with his then-girlfriend Fiona Apple is also a must-see for any PTA fan. – Jordan R. [Watch here or on Blu-ray]

What’s your favorite documentary about filmmaking?

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