The documentary diaries

Working experiences of a non-fiction filmmaker

By Alan Rosenthal

The documentary diaries
Hardcover -
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781784993023
  • Publish Date: May 2016
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781784998011
  • Publish Date: Jun 2016
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9302-3
    • Pages: 288
    • Price: £85.00
    • Published Date: May 2016


    How do you make a successful documentary in an era of media turmoil, network disruption and increasing financial restrictions? This is the question Alan Rosenthal, distinguished international filmmaker and teacher, sets out to answer in The documentary diaries. Using seven of his recent releases as case studies - ranging from high-budget historical and political documentaries to shoestring observational films and hybrid docudramas - he explores with style and humour the challenges facing the contemporary documentarian, and demonstrates how they can be overcome.

    Numerous aspects of film production are examined, notably proposal and script writing, fund raising, managing co-productions, dealing with commissioning editors and choosing distributors. Additional mini-chapters provide extra perspective on key topics, and the book is completed by a wealth of supplementary material, including excerpts from script drafts, variations on proposals and discussions of marketing strategies.

    The documentary diaries offers piercing insights into the world of documentary filmmaking, and will be essential reading for students and professionals alike.


    'Alan Rosenthal doesn't make personal documentaries. Instead he writes autobiographical accounts of creating them; and he does so unashamedly in the guise of teacher, guide and practical theoretician. The documentary diaries is the latest in a unique series of memoirs-come-handbooks: a "how-to" guide grounded in the realities of documentary production from the moment of personal inspiration to the aftermath of audience reception. Rosenthal is one of the few practitioners able to reflect on his filmmaking experience to such good effect.'
    Brian Winston, University of Lincoln

    'Rosenthal's often wry reflections on a life in documentary film-making mix well-grounded insights into the challenges of the genre with sharp practical advice for those keen to try their hand.'
    John Corner, University of Leeds

    ''Why hadn't I understood that you don't choose documentary subjects, they choose you?' Alan Rosenthal states, unequivocally, in his recent book The Documentary Diaries (p. 23). It is a nugget of advice typical of the book as a whole and delivered in the easy going, rhetorical way that will be familiar to those who have followed Rosenthal's written work on documentary to date, in particularly his previous practical guides referenced below. For the pearl of wisdom is not found just in the idea, but in Rosenthal's articulation of it, and the characterisation of the documentary subject as a 'sly bastard of an idea' that 'comes up from behind and bashes you behind the ear' as you are 'sneaking along in your usual doze' (p. 23) tells us something about both creativity and the person doing the creating.'
    Richard Wallace, University of Warwick, Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies


    1. Learning the ropes
    2. Married to the Marimba
    Production notes: budgets
    3. Stalin's Last Purge
    Production notes: writing narration
    4. Inspiration
    5. Adolf Eichmann: The Secret Memoirs
    Production notes: the production contract
    6. The Brink of Peace
    Production notes: writing the proposal
    7. The First Fagin
    8. Pitch perfect
    9. Beyond the Velvet Curtain
    10. Best advice
    11. Hopes and Dreams
    Production notes: the family film
    Appendix: Production details


    Alan Rosenthal is Adjunct Professor of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a documentary film-maker

    The documentary diaries

    By Alan Rosenthal

    Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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