Dated: 2 October 2003

As a documentary filmmaker, do you know your audience, what interests them and how to reach out to them? Do you have a clear objective and structure in your documentary? How and what are some of the challenges facing documentary makers today?

These questions and other aspects of documentary production --- the pitching, marketing and distribution process, fund-raising, co-productions, the emergence of new documentary genres --- sparked off the lively public lecture by internationally-renowned writer-director-producer Mr Alan Rosenthal on Monday, 29 September.

Mr Rosenthal (biography attached) was in Singapore for the Media Masterclass Series, a MDA (Media Development Authority) initiative under the Media 21 blueprint to bring world-class talents in the international media industry to Singapore to share their craft, skills and experience with local practitioners through lectures and workshops.

Mr Rosenthal, the man behind the award winning film Out of the Ashes, shared his vast experiences as a director and producer of many documentaries for the BBC, CBC, NBC, PBS, Israel TV and Channel 4 in the UK, with some 200 media practitioners and students.

Recounting some of the hits and misses in his career, he emphasised how the documentary filmmaker today had to look beyond the creative aspects of production and be an active marketer, distributor and fund-raiser too. The documentary filmmaker, he added, also has to constantly keep pace with new and emerging documentary forms, styles and equipment in order to win over sceptics who prefer to fund commercial and feature films.

Using illustrations from his works including one currently under way -- Stalin's Last Crime -- for European TV, Mr Rosenthal spoke about the various filming techniques used in docu-dramas, history films, the personal and family documentary.

The director also showed extracts from selected documentaries to highlight how the apt use of sound, humour and rhythm can provide a thematic link in conveying key messages in a documentary. Responding to participants' query, he briefly touched on the differences between reality TV programmes, feature films and documentary productions in terms of audience reach, research, scripting and commercial viability.

Following the public lecture, Mr Rosenthal conducted a three-day workshop from 30 September to 2 October for 25 participants to explore in greater detail the ins and outs of documentary production, from concept, research to completion, in various genres.

The MDA's Director of Industry Development Mr Seto Lok Yin hopes Mr Rosenthal's lecture and workshops will challenge and inspire our local documentary producers. He said, "I am glad that we are able to tap the expertise of a successful director and producer like Mr Alan Rosenthal to help sharpen the skills of our Singapore documentary filmmakers. Singapore's TV industry has demonstrated strength in the documentary genre. Hence, we should continue to further develop this area to be among the best in the world. It is our hope that more "Made-by-Singapore" documentaries are shown on TV screens world-wide."

The MDA has lined up plans to invite other veteran specialists to speak at future Media Masterclasses in the coming months.




ALAN ROSENTHAL was born in England, studied law at Oxford, and has made more than fifty films, primarily in the United States, Canada and Israel.

As a writer, director and producer, he has produced documentaries for the BBC, CBC, PBS, NBC, Israel TV, Dutch TV, ABC, 13/WNET, and Channel 4, UK. He was Producer-Director on the last two segments of Abba Eban's Heritage: Civilisation and the Jews, with his film Out of the Ashes winning a Christopher Award, a Peabody Journalism Award and an Emmy.

Some of his recent documentaries include On the Brink of Peace for WNET/13 NY, The Hunt for the Treasures of God for Israel TV, and Eichmann's Secret Memoirs for NDR (Germany), DB (Denmark), Hungarian TV and Israel TV. On the Brink of Peace has been shown at various film festivals and won a silver medal at the US International Film and Video Festival. Mr Rosenthal is currently finishing Stalin's Last Crime, a feature documentary on the last ten years of Stalin for European TV.

In addition, he has also received awards at the NY International Film and TV Festival, Red Ribbon American Film Festival and a Special Award International Documentary Association.

Mr Rosenthal has taught at the British, Australian and Mexican National Film Schools, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, European Film School (Denmark), Stanford California, and has been a visiting lecturer at Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic. He is currently Professor of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He is also the author of a number of well-received books, including "Writing and Directing Documentary and Video Films" (2002), "Jerusalem, "Take One: A Memoir" (2000), "Why Docudrama?" (1998), "Writing Docudrama: Dramatising Reality for Film and TV" (1994), and "New Challenges for Documentary" (1988).

Mr Rosenthal is a member of the Directors' Guild of America and the Writers' Guild of America.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023