In looking back over my first 9 rules, I realize I sometimes sound as cranky and negative about personal docs as some of their fiercest critics, and I don't mean to be. I prefer to think of it as tough love, or like being hardest on those you love most.
The awful truth is, I think personal documentaries are the realm where the most exciting, innovative and powerful work in all of cinema is happening these days. It's why I'm currently working on a sequel to 51 Birch Street, and why I find it so hard to resist getting involved when truly special projects like Esther's come along. If I've focused more on the potential pitfalls of turning the lens of a camera around on your life, it's only because I want to be blown away if I see your film on the big screen.
On that front, I hope my last rule will leave you with a wee bit of encouragement.
Rule #10: Trust your story.
Trust that your story is unique, even though you might fret it's just about your boring old family.
Trust that your story is universal, so long as you tell it as specifically as you can.
Trust that your story is compelling, and approach it with a rigorous eye for its inherent drama.
Trust your story and stop worrying so much about how you're coming across, or whether you'll be rewarded or crucified by critics.
For all I've written about how audiences come to first-person docs with a built-in resistance, it's not like they can't be quickly won over. When the lights go out, everyone is hoping for a story they can get deeply absorbed in and make a profound connection with.
So trust your story, and knock us all out with that personal documentary of yours.