Do I Need Release Forms For My Documentary? by Kevin Knoblock

(Watch the video interview here)




Kevin Knoblock has been a documentary filmmaker for more than 20 years.  Among his documentaries are Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration and Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60.


Kevin Knoblock has written, produced and directed hundreds of hours of syndicated television, written and produced multiple hours of one-hour cable documentaries, and written, produced and directed feature length film documentaries, including BORDER WAR (Winner, Best Documentary 2006, American Film Renaissance) and BROKEN PROMISES: THE UNITED NATIONS AT 60 (2005 WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival Special Jury Remi Prize winner).

In 2009 and 2010, Knoblock wrote, produced and directed the feature documentary NINE DAYS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD about Pope John Paul II’s historic trip to Poland, the beginning of the Solidarity movement and the collapse of Soviet Communism. NINE DAYS premiered in April, 2010 in the US and in June, 2010 in Warsaw, Krakow and Rome. NINE DAYS went on to win two 2011 Telly Awards and a Special Jury Gold Remi Award for Best Documentary at the 2011 WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.

Other titles as writer/producer/director include the feature-length documentaries AMERICA AT RISK, A CITY UPON A HILL, and RONALD REAGAN: RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY, winner of the 2011 Hudson Institute Film Festival. RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY premiered at The Kennedy Center in February of 2009.

Knoblock also served as Executive Producer of the feature-length documentary PERFECT VALOR (Best Documentary at the 2009 G.I. Film Festival, Best Documentary at the 2010 Beaufort International Film Festival, and Winner of the 2010 Norman Hatch Award, The Marines highest combat journalism award).

Television work includes multiple cable documentaries for A&E, History, TLC, and Discovery and writing and directing at the broadcast stations KCBS and KABC, where he received multiple Emmy nominations.
At Paramount Television, he worked for 9 years as a staff director on “Entertainment Tonight”. Knoblock contributed to over 2800 ET programs and wrote and directed over 1200 segments.

Knoblock attended San Diego State University, where he received a BS in Film and Television. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America.




Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine was widely criticized for transposing dates and deceptively editing footage. Moore was accused of deliberately misleading viewers to make his points about gun violence in America. In his defense, Moore met the criticism head-on, point by point, and denied any deceptions.

In the documentary Catfish, a young man discovers his online hook-up isn’t who she says she is. Catfish is a compelling and hugely entertaining look at identity and social networking, but some questioned if it was real. Documentary director Morgan Spurlock was quoted as saying “It was the best fake documentary I have ever seen.”

Speaking of Spurlock, his own hit film Super Size Me came under criticism not for its serious topic of fast food and obesity in America, but for Spurlock’s methods. In the film, he eats for 30 days entirely at McDonald’s, a diet that Spurlock claims had severe effects on his physical and mental health.

The film’s detractors claim Spurlock consumed 5000 calories a day and didn’t exercise, and would have gained weight no matter the source of the over-eating.

What’s the lesson here? Bowling for Columbine and Searching for Sugarman both won Oscars for Best Documentary. Super Size Me won the Grand Jury Prize for Spurlock at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Catfish spawned an MTV series.

And Nanook of the North was selected as one of the first 25 films marked for preservation by the Library of Congress, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Is it an acceptable technique for writers and directors of non-fiction films to, as Flaherty maintained, distort the facts in search of a larger truth?

I’m not saying that any of these filmmakers are guilty of anything, other than making movies that were wildly successful.

Creative works should be judged by the standards of their medium. Fact-based dramas like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty are held to a standard, and if they take liberties with the facts they are held accountable.

Non-fiction works should be held to even higher standards. For writers of documentary films, truth trumps everything.