Paul Watson. Documentary film making and more

A Coventry Conversations session

Paul Watson started off as a painter. But then turned to film making, and found his passion there. He reflects: ‘Paintings are flat. […] Film making is the ‘opera’ of art.’

Documentary film making is a big challenge. Here are some of Watson’s thoughts about how to approach it:

‘If you take on the battles, you can win’; Be brave.

‘Look on any street and you’ll find a person with a great story.’

Paul Watson started making films out of anger against the middle classes running TV; he considers himself a ‘working class guy’. Watson didn’t like the idea of professors: ‘Professor of Poverty? Poor people are experts of poverty’; ‘I don’t want celebrities to tell me about alcoholic people.’

Watson is accused of being the father of reality television; one of the first people to show ‘real people’ on TV. Documentary film making is about filming the body language of true people, he says.

He spent a year with four alcoholics. His thoughts about filming real-life stories:

‘These people are your family’; ‘It’s a huge privilege.’

Watson doesn’t like what today’s reality TV is about:

New reality TV is all about performance; They [Big Brother] don’t cause real debate; They want people to hook up and in the end they will.

To reality TV stars: ‘Why is your life so boring to show yourself and be guided by a robotic sound?

On approaching documentary film making:
When filming someone in their home: the boss / the mother of the home etc.:

‘They sit in certain territories. You don’t go in their area. Don’t invade her space. You have to create your own space.’

‘People are at ease with you when they have their own space.’

On meeting people to film: ‘Never question where you’re meeting.’ If you don’t know the place – research. Otherwise you can’t gain their trust.

‘You have to live with the people you’re filming and hope the direction they’re going is interesting.’

Some more quotes:

‘There are lots of ways you can affect people’s lives by making a film about them.’

‘Daily Mail calls me a manipulator. I call it editing.’

‘You shape your reality.’ These are all personal stuff. ‘They didn’t mind me filming them. These are my elements, my instruments.’

‘Everybody plays God in film making. Why is it wrong for an author to make account of what he sees?’; ‘Film making is an artificial way of showing life.’

On originality and ideas:

‘Everything is organic; there is no such thing as an original idea.’

‘Of course films are authored. You make an interpretation.’; ‘I go there and tell the story.’

Hydrogen + Oxygen -> H2o – Water.

Pictures + Pictures -> film; you find inner meaning from the collision of them.

‘Film making is like sex: once it’s beautiful, then you spend your life chasing the next orgasm.’

When playing a video and something got wrong: ‘You know you’re still in love with your films because you guard them like children.’

‘Never cut your own films – you need an editor you trust to argue with you.’

‘I’m nearly 70 and a manic idiot. I hate television. It’s all politically correct and dull.’

His words to young filmmakers:

‘It’s never been more important to learn how to make films. You’ve got to learn to look.’

‘This country needs some reality. It needs reality exposed to it. It’s our duty to do it.’

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