The Hoffman Collection

Hoffman on his “Documentaries in the early days…”

There was a time not so long ago but it seems like a long time ago, when everything that you saw on television was new to you. During the late 1960s, audiences looked with fascination at how a house was built, how the garbage was collected, what a stockbroker or a fireman did on the job. Audiences stuck with 30-60 minute TV programs on each of these subjects because they had never seen them before.

Most people had never been recorded and so they didn’t really know what they looked and sounded like on film. I took my 49 pound 16mm camera outfitted with my special homemade shoulder brace and went into the streets to do something called “man on the street interviews,” a technique where you approached people, ask questions, then carefully edited the results. Editing was (and still is) very important because many people either had much nothing to say or too much to say. Man on the street interviews are still widely used on TV and YouTube videos today. but I don't find them credible. editing can make anything sound like something else.

During the early 1970s there was a PBS series called The American Dream Machine that presented short films about real people. These documentaries were surprisingly interesting because they depended on the people in front of the camera to be dramatic, to hold the audience. These ordinary/extraordinary people as I called them sometimes became known to millions of viewers who went out of their way to see them.

I made shows for The American Dream Machine. One was called The Piano Movers, a short film about guys who move grand pianos into and out of small apartments in New York City. In this film, I employed a technique that I have used many times - live the with the workers while they were working using sync sound to add drama in unusual ways. Not the standard off camera interview but something captured in the moment. That style I find very successful in the YouTube video world.

To see some of David's documentaries, click here.

Questions? Suggestions? Please send an email to David Hoffman.

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