Intentional Influence

There were several areas of the filmmaking process which the researchers did intend to influence. It seems that the researchers viewed these guidelines as necessary paramiters of the project.

The Bio-documentary

From the outset, Sol Worth made clear that he would be working with Bio-Documentaries, a method of documentary filmmaking he had developed. As he described the method,

A Bio-Documentary is a film made by a person to show how he feels about himself and his world. It is a subjective way of showing what the objective world that a person sees is “really” like. In part, this kind of film bears the same relation to documentary film that a self-portrait has to a portrait or a [biography to an] autobiography. In addition, because of the specific way that this kind of film is made, it often captures feelings and reveals values, attitudes, and concerns that lie beyond the concious control of the maker (1).

The Navajo students were not given the opportunity, for example, to make films about fictional occurrences. One transcript shows a conversation between Worth and the students where he explains what was appropriate to film. He said,

“…one of the things about movies, all kinds of movies is that you have to, it has to happen. It has to be there…you actually have to find people doing something in order to photograph it. So one of the things that we’re going to have to work on is you know, how can we express your idea in things that actually are here” (2).

He also explained to Maxine Tsosie that

It isn’t just taking snapshots, or taking pictures just sort of you take a picture here, you take a picture there and a picture there. You sort of have to want to say something about it in pictures. Do you understand that? (3).

Personal Films

Worth also impressed upon his students the idea that the subject matter of a film should be personal. In his field notes, he wrote, “I am sure, however…I will make a great effort to try to get these people to make films about something that they feel personally about” (4).  He asked Maxine,

What are YOU interested in? You yourself, the heck with anybody else. What are you really like…something you are really interested in…what do you like to do?” (5).

Similarly, he told the students,

“I am so proud of you. All of you have learned to use the camera. I want all of you to have every minute in your head why am I doing this. What do I want to show. No that is not important, but if it is important to you then it will be important to me” (6).

Time frame

Worth remarked in to Richard Chalfen that “what I can’t get them to understand is that a movie takes time to make” (7). He explained to his students that,

“you will shoot more film than you will want to show…I suggest that you make a film from 10 minutes to 20 minutes long. You could shoot 200 feet of film to get your final film. You might take a lot of this that looks nice, but then it doesn’t look right when you go to edit it (8).


The researchers were concerned with teaching some technicalities, such as smooth cutting and connections between shots. Worth commented to Chalfen,

“I feel that you were pushing too hard for it today, but I don’t think it matters, but maybe this will point out to you how hard it is to influence someone. That it’s not so easy to explain to someone what smooth cutting is (9).

During an interview with Mike Anderson, Chalfen explained that the

important thing is to realize the connections between the shots…to know why one shot follows another, cause you want other people to understand why (10).