Not in LA?  The Documentary Insider works with Filmmakers all over the World

 

 

 Spring 2015 Los Angeles Workshop

Be your own Story Producer

May 29, 2015

Spots extremely limited 

Sign up now! 


 

What is required to Direct a Documentary?

 What does a documentary director really do?

Hire the right people? Get funding for the project? Keep the subject coming back? 

Well, most likely yes to all of these.  But a strong producer can keep the money rolling, as well as communicate with the subjects.  A strong editor can help with your post team.  Once you have your shooter in place....what is it that's happening with the director? 

It is about the VISION.  Sure, there's that beginning spark, but as the story unfolds, as the decisions need to be made:

Directing your Documentary

I am sitting in my edit room, waiting for the producer to bring a hard drive.  The FCP "Writing Audio and Video" dialogue box is telling me two minutes more before the Quicktime of my first roughcut  the first feature doc I myself have DIRECTED will be finished. 

As I've been doing this project, I have been struck again and again at how much value ME doing this project brings my workshop artists and blog readers and fellow documentarians.  But what exactly have I learned?

Directing your Documentary

 I am sitting in my edit room, waiting for the producer to bring a hard drive.  The FCP "Writing Audio and Video" dialogue box is telling me two minutes more before the Quicktime of my first roughcut  the first feature doc I myself have DIRECTED will be finished. 

As I've been doing this project, I have been struck again and again at how much value ME doing this project brings my workshop artists and blog readers and fellow documentarians.  But what exactly have I learned?

"How Can I Know My Story Ahead of Time? It's a DOCUMENTARY!"

 I was lucky to guest teach this week back at Syracuse University (I taught their students here in Los Angeles this past spring, but hopped into three classes when I was back there this fall)

And I was most able to talk about what I talk about in the workshop in a sophomore level class of Military Professionals now learning documentary filmmaking. (SU has a special program for them) 

Polysemy and Synecdoche

 Okay so first - apologies all round for not enough posts lately - standard bromides apply- we just moved, the new class just started - now that's out of the way. 

 

So I went to the ITVS seminar at WestDoc.  Richard Saiz, from ITVS (the organization that gives more "no strings attached" money to documentaries than any other organization in the world - at least I think that's what he said) came to tell us What It Takes to get ITVS to give you $200,000 to make your movie.  

Here are some quick facts:

How Considering Yourself a Distributor can solve your Doc Block

I went the the first day of Westdoc today. 

I saw some great panels - but my favorite was the DIY, Alternative distribution panel. 

I typically work with people as they are developing their ideas for how they want to make their documentary - working with them to find the organic compelling structure that exists in their story - but another thing I find I do with my filmmakers is coach them. 

The Documentary Insider going to WESTDOC

Hey there Documentary Insiders -

I went to WestDoc last year, and this year I will be covering the conference for all my Documentary Insider Readers and workshop students! I think there will be lots of cool relevant subjects there. Last year, WestDoc is where I met Adam Chapnick - which resulted in one of my favorite posts of 2009.

So - another bonus to Documentary Insider readers, WestDoc is offering my readers a discount - just use the code CTW2010 to get a 10% discount on the conference if you sign up by Sept 1.

Who should go? Well, one of the nice things about WestDoc is that you get a chance to sit with executives from different channels to pitch your shows. If you have a show idea - then that would be ideal. Last year I went to one session that jerked loose the ideas that I'd developed a few years earlier - then met a guy at the WestDoc cocktail party from a production company hungry for ideas (I knew how to pitch him cause I'd just been to the earlier session) I ended up producing a demo with the guy and his company. In the end the network didn't take it - but WestDoc man - it might be a good fit for where you are at right now - or it might be something you'll just want to read my articles about ; - )

BTW - I will be starting a 12 week Doc School in September. I will have one class in the evening (Wednesdays) and one class during a week day. Each class is limited to six participants, so if you know anyone who'd like to get their doc started, sorted and wonderful by November - please pass the word along! If you want to reserve a spot, the best way right now is to call (323)202-5645 or to email me at  steph@thedocumentaryinsider.com.

The SPAGHETTI Trap

You know the saying: Throw spaghetti at the wall, and see what sticks. That in and of itself is not bad when you are making a doc. But if it's your only approach, you will limit yourself.

I do not believe you need every element locked down before you start shooting, but I do think the best is to really think about what you want to say, and who you want to say it to.  Are you following a character more or working to illustrate an issue? The best documentaries do both, but in my experience, the filmmakers usually start with one or the other.

So here is my experience of the Spaghetti Trap:

It started with filmmakers whose approach began with an issue. Their take on filmmaking was "Go shoot everything  you can or who ever you can about this subject" Period. Once they started on the hunt to get this one or that person to speak on camera, they were consumed by the hunt. Once they started the shoot, driving around from state to state in a van, they were consumed by the shoot.

Distribution and Your Part of the Long Tail

As we make our films, we can start to feel our audience (at least we should) but then when we finish, suddenly we are subject to an audience of one – the distributor who thinks they can take our film and sell it. Of course now (depending on our model), we'll ideally want a theatrical release, but we (I suspect) imagine that if we don’t get that – AT LEAST there will be some long tail for us – some long term niche that we will fit in and hopefully get some recompense/audience for all the hard work we put in. Right?

Notes for Beginners

I was just in another forum where I was asked to give advice for beginning documentarians.

For some of you this will be a review - but hopefully helpful non the less.

As a veteran, award winning editor, I've seen too many independent (read - self financed and beginning) filmmakers shoot and shoot and shoot and not give much thought to their story beyond the initial idea.   

In response, I've started a workshop and we really hash out a lot in there that has really been helpful to my students.    

Syndicate content