Author: Michael Rabiger

Michael Rabiger

Michael Rabiger has directed or edited over 35 films. He is the founder the Documentary Center at Columbia College, Chicago and served as chair of its Film/Video Department before being named Professor Emeritus in 2005. Rabiger has received the Preservation and Scholarship Award by the International Documentary Association in Los Angeles as well as the 2005 Genius Career Achievement Award by the Chicago International Documentary Festival. He is currently writing a biography of Thomas Hardy.

Posts by Michael Rabiger:

Figure 3-1  “Irish” Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) boxing opponents are nothing compared to the battles his family puts him through.

Defining Conflict


Conflict is essential to drama, but can be defined in different ways and take many different forms. Conflict can come from external factors, from within a character, or arise from a combination of forces. Person versus person (external conflict) Person versus environment or social institution (external conflict) Person versus a task they are compelled to…


The Director’s Point of View: From Concerned Observer to Storyteller


The kindly angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987, below) keep Berliners under empathic observation. Cinema itself is like one of these angels, following and observing characters as it does while they live their lives. Let’s call this perspective that of the Concerned Observer because he is involved, invisible, and weightless like a spirit….


Directing the Documentary – Keys to Directing People


The word “directing” suggests ordering people around, and is particularly misleading for documentary since you guide or lead the process, rather than command it. Your job is to know what motivates people, what psychological blocs you must remove, and what subtle pressures you can exert to catalyze behavior, or uncover hidden narratives. As leadership, this…


Testing For Documentary Values – Six Vital Questions


To distinguish a documentary from other nonfiction forms, or to check whether you have strayed beyond the pale, see how you answer these six vital questions: 1. Does it depict actuality— that is, real people in a world that exists, or did exist? 2. Does the film arise from a belief of some kind? Documentaries…

“Hitchcock’s rule” in Wright’s Atonement . The size of the letter in the frame reflects its importance in the scene.

Directing – Shot Size and Selection


COMMON SHOT SIZES A creative variable crucial to the director’s visual vocabulary and storytelling toolbox is shot size, which refers to the size of the subject in your frame. You can alter it in two ways: by changing the proximity of the camera to your subject (moving closer or farther) or through optics (changing the…

13-3 Shallow Frams

Deep Frames, Shallow Frames


Shots that accentuate the illusion of depth are referred to as deep frames, while shots that flatten the space along the z-axis are called flat frames. Each type of shot has its own expressive value. The several compositional techniques used to control the perception of depth in the frame are called depth cues. Relative size…

directing actors

Why You Should Maybe Not Show Actors Their Work


When a group intends to function as a repertory company, as Fassbinder’s did in his early films, the cycle of performance and critical viewing can get actors past the stage of horrid fascination with their own image, and working instead on the places where their resistances and growth lie. This is a long process. It…

on set

Maximizing Actors’ Performances


As soon as the cast is off book and reasonably confident, cover rehearsals with a handheld video camera using documentary techniques. However, read the whole of this section and consider the status and insecurities of your cast before deciding whether it can be fruitful to show them any of the results. You, however, can benefit…

Drama versus propoganda

Transforming Your Story: From Propaganda to Drama


   Drama and propaganda handle human duality differently: drama sees the sea battle like a live organism while propaganda puts its characters through token situations that illustrate a foregone conclusion.  Propagandists do not explore their subject so much as manipulate the spectator into accepting a predetermined view. The dramatist, valuing the integrity and organic nature…

Script Topics

Film Subjects that Student Filmmakers Should Avoid


There are many film subjects that students should avoid.  These come to mind because they are being pumped up by the media or they lend themselves to moral propaganda. You’d be wise to avoid: Worlds you haven’t experienced or cannot closely research. Any ongoing, inhibiting problem in your own life (see a therapist—you are unlikely to…

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