Tom Shepard and Thomas White discuss viewer-friendly documentaries

Caught in the midst of cricket frenzy in the country, American documentary film maker Tom Shepard and Thomas White editor of Documentary magazine, the quarterly publication of the International Documentary Association (IDA) couldn't stop gauging the magnitude of cricket in India. Comparing it with the craziness of the Super bowl in America, Thomas White says, “cricket is even bigger. Super bowl is the most watched TV programme in America, but the cricket world cup was something else. It is whole socio cultural thing in India.”

Tom and Thomas were in Kolkata at the peak of the madness the entire country was indulging in. The two are in the country at the invitation of the U.S. Consulate General to discuss documentary film making with students and film-makers.

So can cricket make it to a documentary film? “The game needs no publicity. The sport as such is widely talked about, but it's people's madness that can be a topic. However, between organised sports and a disaster from natural calamity, it is natural calamity and how they bring people together will interest people more,” says Tom. He says that he might not understand the game in its totality but what interest him is the diplomacy involved with the game.

“I didn't understand cricket until someone explained it to me,” he says.

Tom Shepard was a Science Talent Search finalist in 1987. He has directed and produced documentaries for over 12 years. His film Scout's Honour won the Audience Award for Best Documentary and Freedom of Expression Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

Talking about the purpose of their visit to India the two says that they are looking at engaging in serious conversation and also make an attempt to use documentaries as a tool to discuss issues in India.

However, they feel, only a few are seriously interested in documentaries and the work involved. But the two Americans have seen similar issues with the topic of documentary film making—lack of funds and proper infrastructure.

Tom suggests that, the best way to tackle these issues is by making a documentary as entertaining as a feature film keeping in mind the audience and the modern tools of film making. Thoams says, “experimental and innovative formats need to be brought in to change the perception.”

As regulars at international film festivals, Tom and Thomas say that the topics for documentaries can vary from socio cultural issue to narratine personal stories.

The other new genres of documentary film-making that is gaining popularity are science, nature and wildlife. New breed of documentary film makers are also looking at fictional and non-fiction storylines, inform the duo as they conclude.