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Old January 14th, 2009, 03:39 PM   #1
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Best workflow for creating documentary?

I'm planning for shooting my first documentary, but it is difficult to collecting money, and talk with broadcasters. So I need money before shooting and producing my documentary. Is it better to go to a broadcaster, or produce it on own supervision and sell them at DVD and licenses to broadcasters? Whats the best way?
When a broadcaster pays my project, who have the rights, and can I put my doc on sale dvd at my homepage?

Whats your workflow for producing and creating your documentary's?
Jos de Waard is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2009, 06:09 PM   #2
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The best way, if it's your first documentary, is to start shooting. If you sit around and hope that someone is going to pay you to do it on your first time, you will almost certainly not go anywhere.

Get your feet wet, see if it's really something you're going to love (you probably think you love it but you gotta get some real life experience before you know), and if you're naturally talented and put the elbow grease in, and make a good product, then I would start shopping that around.

It might take more than one project to get you there, so I'd recommend starting with small subjects first - 10 minute shorts, until you master those, then go longer. It's amazing how hard it is to fill a 30 or 60 minute documentary with meaningful, quality material.

Bottom line, don't worry about the money until you actually have a product that people will want to buy. I'd recommend that you get going and start making stuff.
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Old January 16th, 2009, 08:02 AM   #3
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Kind of a broad question and you could get a wide range of answers. What's your documentary about? The great thing about documentaries is that you don't really need money to do it, so much as drive and creativity.
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Old January 21st, 2009, 03:19 PM   #4
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Shoot first. Sell later. Only raise money if you need it for something crucial to the story you're trying to tell (like traveling to talk to a crucial, fascinating subject).

Don't waste your time playing the fund-raising game. It's an endless trap that steals time away from what you should be doing: making your movie as best you can with whatever resources you have at your disposal.

If you're in this just to make money, forget it. Go get a job as a camera operator with a television news crew instead.
Documentary for the masses!
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Old January 25th, 2009, 02:54 PM   #5
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Hi Jos

1. Make sure your story is really interesting. MAKE SURE that it is really something so interesting that it is worth watching for someone that would not be interested otherwise. Is it funny ? Is it surprising ? Is it unusual ? Bottom line: what does the story make this film stand out ? This is the raw material. If youre story is dull, the film will be dull.

2. Start with something short, max 10 min. A shorter film is always more incisive. If you have a great 10 min film, you might come back and develop it more later on.

3. If you have some money, rent some basic "prosumer"' shooting kit: SONY Z1, tripod, microphone, boom. Unless your story makes sense with lower end equipment, that is a minimum. Usually colleges and cultural centers do have the Z1. It's almost a standard now. Steal one from an institution you know. Make sure you have good sound: without sound the picture is worth nothing.

4. Once your film is finished, edited, send it to festivals. There are millions of festivals everywhere.

5. Another option is television channels, such as Channel 4, with programs such as 3 min wonder. 4Talent - Opportunities - Talent Schemes - 3 Minute Wonder It's a good opportunity to see if what you can do competes with the others.

6. Focus on making something good, like a good business card, something that shows you have talent and inspiration. Don't think in terms of money, no one sells his/her first film to a broadcaster unless you come out of a film school or your have original footage of bin laden...

That's a good way to get started. Once you gain experience, you will discover the joys of shooting a teaser to collect money, look for a production company, for a broadcaster, go to pitching sessions etc..

I hope this helps.

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Old February 2nd, 2009, 02:58 PM   #6
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Great advice.

I am in the middle of shooting my first documentary as well, and my experience is exactly along the line of the above.

At first I spent months writing grant proposals and waiting for the outcome, talked to producers, broadcast companies, etc, but then it dawned on me that if I wait until someone gives me money for equipment/travel..., the movie will never be done in my life time. So I started renting prosumer equipment while I saved enough $$ to purchase my own professional gear. I also told all my friends/family members what exciting new project I am working on, and some of them were so excited (they couldn't believe someone they knew made a movie!) that they wanted to be part of it, and threw in some of the gear (like the editing system, Mac Pro, Final Cut ...). This saved me tons of money and made them happy as they feel that they are part of it (so I show them footage, ask them for advice, how they like it, etc).

After a few months, my project is now well underway and I am happy with the progress. Had I waited for outside support (either through grants or financial assistance of a broadcast company), I would have lost my enthusiasm a long time ago.

What's even better is that after having purchased gear over a few months WHILE I was already shooting with prosumer gear, I now realize that I don't need _anyone_ for financial assistance because I can do it on my own. This motivates me even more because I know when the movie is done, it will be MY project and I will hold all rights.

One related item: Virtually every interview subject that I asked expected a honorarium. This came quite as a shock, because added up, the total costs for the honoraria was a few thousand $$ (you do the math, about $300-$400/interview; some famous people charge thousands of $$ for an interview; you might need between 10-20 interview subjects). So I explain everyone that since this project is funded 100% by myself, I cannot pay a honorarium, but will be happy to send them a check AFTER I found a commercial release of the movie. Everyone was happy with that arrangement and I even put it into the interview release form so the know they can expect some money after I start making money. Seems to be a fair arrangement for everyone.

Be careful with music/soundtrack when you start editing your movie as this might cost you more than anything else when you start with the copyright clearance, and get a clearance expert involved in the project at an early stage.

So the bottom line is rent/borrow some equipment, start shooting your movie NOW and worry about the "business aspect" of the project later.

Good luck in your endeavor and post progress updates if you can!
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