The Doc Fix


Regularly updated articles on story structure and analysis; tips, thoughts and useful bits and pieces.

Do You Believe In Yourself?

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Many years ago, probably well into my twenties, I had a desire to direct drama. Of course, I'd been directing documentaries for a while. But it seemed to me that drama directing offered me something more.

I enjoyed watching drama for sure and loved working with actors when I had the chance (usually on low-ish budget docudrama). But my desire was to do more - direct big dramas, work with great talent, make a big film.

What I was lacking was self-belief.

Which, if you think about it, is a hard one to crack if you aren't actually doing it yet.

How can you have self-belief in something you want to do - where does that confidence come from?

In many ways, who knows? Mabye a little therapy would help, or at least self-reflection. A lot of it certainly comes from your inherent personality traits and how you've been brought up (think of all those British Prime Ministers from Eton and Oxford University).

But lacking a chance to have another childhood (and I am very happy with what my parents did), a key answer came down to understanding the skills of a director and then methodically becoming as confident as I could in them - internalising the skills until they felt natural.

There is a word for it - Talent Stacking (which I'll deal with specificially in another email).

It involved things like:

• camera movement
• working with actors
• CGI and visual effects
• editing
• framing (and other skills from art and design and cinematography)
• ideas pitching
• storytelling
• writing and so on
• the soft skills of networking (though essential, for me this came a little later)

Remember, in so many of these areas, I was pretty incompetent. But I was really interested in getting good at them and knew why I wanted the skills.

Of course, I couldn't become outstanding in all of those things. Still, at least I became aware of what each discipline involved. I could make intelligent decisions that supported the ideas that I needed to get across.

I took each to a pretty deep level, finding mentors, going on courses, spending time assisting others in the theatre, getting some acting training myself and so on. Some I took to an advanced level (if you look on YouTube, you'll see me working with a great technical director advising another director on prepping for a complex drama shoot).

And when I was prepping with John Mathieson (Riddley Scott's DoP - Gladiator - as well as Logan, the new Dr Strange and so on), I was able to talk to him about how we might shoot our documentary on a very comfortable, technical level.

But what became apparent, for me, was that storytelling was at the basis of it all. Not writing necessarily, but story.

Realising that creating a story didn't mean gathering up facts but understanding how to create a meaningful narrative.

If I had created a mind map, that should have been at the centre of everything.

That is why I set up The Doc Fix.

From wherever you are, you can have confidence in documentary storytelling if you can internalise certain fundamental skills. They are an interlocking set of steps that work together to give you the absolute confidence to tell any story.

From my over thirty or so years in documentary it's completely obvious what the skills of a great storyteller are. In my case it took a lot of time (many years), money and effort to build my skill set to reach my goals, but it also took me on some fascinating diversions.

I can guess you don't need such a long journey.

With these skills it means you can take an idea and know-how to develop it into a narrative. It will become a natural instinct, but one backed up by concrete knowledge.

It's simple, but not easy. Meaning you need focus and desire.

In The Doc Fix, I have boiled the program down to around 12 weeks of work and give you everything I think you need to achieve this apparently magical ability as a great documentary storyteller.

You'll have a community for support, all the information you need on an online portal and a weekly seminar where you can ask any question, and we can quickly resolve any sticking points.

I will do anything to make sure that you can achieve what you want for your storytelling career in documentary (including lessons and help in understanding how the process feels when you are in the thick of it - those vital mental skills).

They work wherever you are starting and for whatever style of documentary or TV programme interests you.

One interesting quirk of internalising a skill over a long period of time, is that you can sometimes forget the effort it took to get there; how it used to feel.

That's why I think on more than one occasion, students who've come through The Doc Fix say it's changed their life.

It's because the change happens so quickly.

I'm obviously delighted that they have achieved their dreams - or at least have the authentic self-confidence and skills to get there if they want it.

Go here to find out more, look at all the videos and read everything - take notes if you need to. And then, arrange an appointment to talk with me about your story problems, and we can see whether you are a good fit for what we do.

All the best - Nigel