Welcome from the Academic Board *
DOC NOMADS was created because we thought there was a need for an international documentary film Masters. And we felt that there was an opportunity to start something new in this field.
Filmmaking has become very democratic. Equipment is cheap and easy to get, the same goes for editing software, and we can all put our films on the Internet. Some people say “There’s no need for a school anymore.” And if so, it would just amount to learning the profession techniques and methods to obtain a quick and efficient result.
But documentary filmmaking is more than a profession. It’s also an attitude towards the world and a vision of it. It’s a profile that will influence your social life and way of thinking.
Even if it is about reality, a true Documentary film - we use the term Author Documentary - is unique and personal, and therefore the filmmaker should obtain a whole array of social skills. He or she needs to develop empathy, reflection, responsibility and ethics.
Every director should aim at a distinctive style, signature, and vision. Most places and subjects in this world have already been filmed and shown. So when we hear about a place, an immediate image pops up on our mind's-eye. And when we film there, we want to capture those very images to show that we’re real professionals. Our first challenge as documentary filmmakers is not to reproduce those predictable images, to be aware of clichés, and to search for a surprising, unusual reality.
But perhaps an even bigger challenge is to develop other ways of storytelling. To cope with the inflation of conventional audio-visual semantics. To make sure our films are not just illustration of actuality, not just illustrated radio. Especially in documentary film we repeatedly see an unconscious use of image and sound. We need to develop a bold cinematographic language in creative non-fiction, as documentary filmmaking is a form of art.
More than in feature film, you should have a basic knowledge of production and legal aspects, such as contracts and author rights, so that you can negotiate with partners and broadcasters, so that you can work with television and not for television. Documentary filmmakers can only be independent if they are not dependent on one partner, one broadcaster, or one national film fund. So they have to work on an international level. Feature filmmakers are often national celebrities; documentary filmmakers are more international, but also more invisible.
DocNomads is the first Erasmus Mundus in the Arts. Very often a new course is no more than a slight adaptation or shuffle of existing programs. But from the very start, we insisted on creating a distinctive curriculum and adopting a characteristic instructional approach – selecting only one class per edition and focusing on practice with personal coaching.
WHY in Lisbon, Budapest and Brussels?
The advantage of our three countries is that they are very complementary. East, West, and Southern Europe, with three totally different cultures and film backgrounds. Three small countries that are aware of being small. Our students stay roughly six months in each country - a short time, but long enough to meet people and build up a network connecting to neighbour European countries.
You’ve probably noticed that nowadays Europe is going through a financial, social, and political storm and that the Union is facing a great challenge. It’s dramatic, but at the same time, for you, it’s an interesting moment to operate in this part of the world.
DocNomads works in three countries and in three institutions, but there is one staff and one philosophy. If accepted to DocNomads, we ask you not only to focus on the program, but also to make use from day one of the possibilities of the three institutions, their faculty, the guest instructors, and the cities’ ecosystems. The unofficial DocNomads school is in a certain sense even more significant than the official one.
Our students come from different nations with different cultural backgrounds. What seems good, right and beautiful to one might look wrong or terrible to the other. But it will not take much time to get used to each other. We do hope you will create a special dynamic in the group. You will help each other in your practical tasks and probably also outside the University. You might even work together after DocNomads. And who knows, with us...
* Text adapted from the opening speech to the First Edition, in 10th September 2012, by Rob Rombout on behalf of the Academic Board.