Making-of documentaries
August 16, 2017 11:28 AM   Subscribe

The other night, I was scrolling through my Hulu looking for things to watch, and I found The Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds from Showtime. Serendipitously, I'd just been talking to my wife about what a genius Brian Wilson is, and you know how, in writing workshops, they say to "show, don't tell"? Well, this one really showed. I'd like to find some others that are similar.

What I liked so much was that it was technical. Wilson was interviewed at his piano, and he'd demonstrate his thought process from a particular song. The sound mixer would isolate particular instrumental tracks. And there was a part where Al Jardine showed how he changed the chord progression to "Sloop John B" slightly when suggesting it to Wilson so that Wilson would find it more appealing. As someone who plays music, but not well, that really stuck out to me as the difference between someone who's actually creative and myself.

So now I'm looking for other technical "making-of" things. So much of what I've found has been New Yorker-style character studies where the creative person is able to create based on their inherent creativity, and the actual creative choices are downplayed or omitted entirely. (Think of "The Social Network", where the plot revolves around Zuck's social quirks, and the actual programming that built the software is a 30 second montage of Jesse Eisenberg mumbling while typing.)

Another example of what I'm looking for is from a tour I took once of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The docent pointed out that the mortar in the exterior masonry is two different colors, so as to emphasize horizontality. That's a good example, because it's showing a creative decision about a small detail and explaining how it fits into the whole and why.

Although I'm not particularly talented at anything, I am pretty knowledgeable. I can read music and play the guitar, bass, and piano. I can write code. I know how to play with exposures on a camera. And so on. The more technical, the better. If it's not something I already know how to do, it'd be fun to learn!

Subject is not important. My examples are from music and architecture, but I'm looking for everything: music, art, science, sports, business. If someone made a creative decision, and someone else then made a making-of documentary about that decision, hit me. I'm open to written works and podcasts as well, but documentaries are best for me because I'm currently unemployed and home all day.

I've heard of "Every Frame a Painting", but I haven't yet watched it.
posted by kevinbelt to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Magia Russica, an excellent documentary about Russian animation under Soviet rule. Fascinating and gorgeous.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:43 AM on August 16, 2017

I should add that I have access to all major streaming services.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:32 PM on August 16, 2017

There's the Classic Album series where they cover the making of a classic album and then sit at the control board and highlight the tracks from the master tapes.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:05 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not sure if this fits, but I learned a lot about the world of voiceover acting from the documentary I Know That Voice, a combination of people you've heard of (Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria) and people you have not, talking about what the business and the craft of this profession is. This one is also sort of lateral but also fascinating: GET LAMP about the people who created the first real text adventures. Not a lot of actual code, but definitely about the mechanics, ideas and marketing and not just "hey games are cool) by MeFi's own jscott.
posted by jessamyn at 2:05 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend "Ghost Army," concerning American GIs who put their theatrical design and construction experience to use by creating fake army units to fool the Germans.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2017

Paul Verhoeven's "Tricked" on Netflix is kinda neat in the "making a movie" sense.
posted by rhizome at 5:17 PM on August 16, 2017

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 covers the year-long process of building a concert grand piano, from the selection of wood to the final home of the instrument. Utterly fascinating. The googles suggest that it's currently available on Amazon streaming.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:48 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

This doesn't precisely fit your description but it might be very enjoyable to you. The War Room, by D.A. Pennebaker, follows the Clinton '92 campaign. No exposition. No talking heads. No point 'n scan on still photos with voiceovers. [btw, those are all attributes of Ken Burns documentaries, which is why I can't stand Ken Burns documentaries.] He just throws you into the middle and lets you ride along and he had direct access to Clinton.

It's often cited as one of the best documentaries, and I firmly agree.
posted by janey47 at 8:41 PM on August 16, 2017

I don't know if you can access it, but pretty much all of BBC4's music documentaries (and others on there) fit this category. One I watched recently that's particularly apropos is Sergeant Pepper's Musical Revolution with Howard Goodall...and I don't even really like the Beatles (shhh).
posted by london explorer girl at 4:37 AM on August 17, 2017

The September Issue is about the creative decision making behind the 2007 Vogue magazine of that month. Grace Coddington vs Anna Wintour high fashion drama results in the creation of arguably the most important fashion magazine issue of the year. So much fun to watch even if fashion and magazines are not of interest - the personalities and processes make the film interesting.
posted by danabanana at 5:43 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Let me second Ghost Army, which I read about here last night, and watched on Amazon Prime streaming this morning. It's fascinating and very moving.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:58 AM on August 20, 2017

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