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Old June 17th, 2010, 03:27 AM   #1
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Pre Production techniques?

Could someone please explain the purposes of pre production regarding documentry making ?


Samuel Gamlin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 17th, 2010, 06:26 AM   #2
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Research, planning & coordination.
You always need to to some type of planning/scheduling, secure some location permits/insurances if needed, hire extra crew or equipment, etc.
Many docs don't have a typical script, but some basic idea is sketched.
Pre-production saves you time and money plus avoid some potential complications.
Romuald Martin
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 07:59 AM   #3
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You should also HAVE your story before you shoot it. Know WHAT people are going to say. Don't go into interviews with people cold. Do your research on them.

Pre-Interview. That way, you have a good idea of what they're GOING to say before you waste a bunch of production time. Once you've got your story, then figure out what you're going to put on screen.

Shoot your interviews FIRST, then figure out what coverage you need to tell your story; Maps, graphics, panned and zoomed stills, (a la Ken Burns,) b-roll etc.

Good luck!
Daniel G. Trout
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 11:44 AM   #4
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Even to get a documentary commissioned by a broadcaster you need to do a fair amount of research so they know what the story is, the people who will be appearing on screen and how it's going to be sold to the audience.

Of course it can change during the shoot, but at least you have a starting point and are on top of the subject matter and know what is important.
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 04:28 PM   #5
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Hi Samuel,

I am actually in pre-production for a documentary I'm producing. There are some very good books out there and some very good online resources. Depending on your subject matter it could be better to look into local resources for knowledge.

As far as what you need to do really depends on a lot of factors. What is your subject matter? Will it be a historical documentary or one that is captured realtime? What is your target audience? What distribution channels do you want to target? Is there a time sensitive nature to your subject?

Typically I like to first write out an outline. For my current project it will be told in the typical three acts which will be shot over the course of a year. I've got my general thesis spelled out at the top followed by each segment description, what the main shots will be, and who the main subjects will be for that segment. I've got 5 other people helping me work on various pre-production details most of which are research into key facts about each segment. Remember, your documentary has to be credible so double check facts that you will be presenting. I've also got someone helping me research and prepare grant applications.

Once I've got a little more research done I'll prepare a treatment which I will use to apply for grants as well as present to possible "big" name people who I would ideally get to interview.

I will most likely have to start shooting some interviews and footage soon as my story needs to have a segment in each season and I'd like to finish before I get too old. So I would like to start shooting some of the winter segments by January. I also have one expert who may take a teaching position at a university back east, and if he does get the appointment I don't want to have to fly to the east coast to get the interview (not that I would be able to afford it). So, I may also start getting his shots within the next month or two. This is an example of where your pre-production planning can save you.

I tend to pick up cutaways and b-roll while I'm doing the interviews or shooting each segment. Because I've got a completed outline and treatment done, I have a good idea of how each segment will flow. That dictates the minimum b-roll I'll need. But, I'm always looking for additional shots that will help tell the story better. Again, pre-production activities allow you to get to this point.

As Daniel said, for sit down interviews do a pre-interview. You get a lot of really good insight into the person and it will allow you to organize your interview in a way that makes sense and illustrates the point you are trying to make. It will also save you a lot of time in post. You'll have the points you need covered and it allows you to keep the interview on track.

If you are going to seek funding for your project you will most likely have to stick a little closer to the typical production tasks but if you are doing this all on your own you may be able to change how you do things a little. But in any case, the keys are to know what your thesis is, do your research both for facts and for your interview subjects, plan out each shoot as if you were planning your shots on a narrative film, keep your eyes open for interesting visuals that will help your editing, and most importantly have fun while making your movie.

Making a documentary doesn't mean going out and shooting a bunch of footage and then going into the editing suite trying to piece together your movie. Pre-production is just as important in documentaries as dramatic narrative films. It will ensure that you have a complete and credible story, and save you a lot of time which translates into money.

Garrett Low

Last edited by Garrett Low; November 4th, 2010 at 10:28 AM.
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