Just as there are many definitions of truth, so, too, are there many forms of vérité. Some styles are diametrically opposed, yet still fall under the vérité banner. For example, some, like Drew, take pains to be as unobtrusive as possible when filming, never directing what happens in front of the camera. Others use the camera’s presence to provoke their subjects to reveal themselves before the lens.
Vérité editing styles also vary widely. Some, like Drew, edit the footage with a sense of dramatic logic, often including limited narration to tell the story. Others convey filmed situations with little or no explanatory narration, giving viewers a more raw experience.
In 2012, Drew wrote an essay that he titled, “Vérité 101: The Good, the Bad and the Promising.” He looked back over a lifetime of filmmaking, a lifetime of experimenting, and came up with certain rules:
- — Use your medium for what it can do unique and best.
- — Leave to other media what they do uniquely and best. Do not ask a newspaper to excel at photographic storytelling. Do not ask candid filmmaking to thrive on facts or exposition.
- — Do your best not to change the reality you are capturing — with your presence, behavior or apparatus.
- — Do expect candid filmmaking to speak in visual terms that can touch the emotions as well as the mind.
“For American cinéma vérité,” he wrote, “that means focusing on stories that convey experience, a feeling of being there with characters, in the logic of drama that exists wherever people are born, strive, fall in love, produce, reproduce, and die.
“For candid photography, it means getting with your characters, looking into them, seeing events through them.
“In the editing, because we are dealing with character and feeling and the sense, there is a demand for a certain amount of artistry. And that opens the way for storytelling power that can go right through the roof.
“Promising is the fact that people can now walk into a corner store and walk out with cameras better than those used to film “Primary” — people and stores by the millions. That makes it possible — almost inevitable — that talents will be able to rise up and create advances in filmmaking we haven’t yet dreamed of.”