As his book on the history of factual film is published, the former Storyville editor reveals his favourite docs and books
When 71-year-old Nick Fraser first encountered documentaries in the 1960s, he admits he found them “not very interesting”. That changed, partly because of a cultural shift – Fraser cites DA Pennebaker in the US and Nick Broomfield here as pioneers – and Fraser played his own part as well. From the late 1990s, for 17 years, he was editor of the BBC strand Storyville and worked on films such as Man on Wire and One Day in September, which both won Oscars. Fraser’s new book, Say What Happened: A Story of Documentaries, traces the history of documentary film-making.
Shortly after finishing the first draft, Fraser was giving a talk in London and had just shown a clip of one of his favourite Storyville docs, the 2007 film The English Surgeon, about the British neurologist Henry Marsh, when he had to sit down; his thinking was muddled, he couldn’t speak. Fraser had, extraordinarily, had a stroke just as he was talking about the otherworldly impact of brain injuries. The book was finished in his recovery, which is going well. He lives in west London and is creative director of the documentary streaming service and production house Docsville.