Hi everyone, I'm Jenn. I've worked as a runner and assistant on short films but I have a passion for documentaries and just want some advice on how to carry on and succeed!
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Your question is too general to get more than a very broad and unhelpful answer, like "Never Give In, Never, Never, Never."
If you have specific issues with a project, it's more useful to address those.
But with documentaries, the general rule of thumb is that to make them as your main occupation is never easy and rarely financially rewarding. So the only reason to do it is that you really, really like to make documentary films.
Or you have a subject you really really want to make a documentary about.
jenniffer, if you're just getting started on the rather long and arduous road of filmmaking, here's a couple places to start:
1) watch a LOT of documentary films, not only modern-day ones but especially some of the older docs. if you google "top-ten documentaries", you'll find a lot of lists from which you can begin watching. there are a lot of different styles of documentary, so pay attention to whichever style suits your personality best.
2) read Michael Rabiger's "Directing the Documentary". there's quite a few doc books out there now (one by Hampe, another by Rosenthal), but Rabiger's is the best by far. a local library might have it, but most bookstores won't.
3) find a subject that you are absolutely passionate about. don't pick a subject that you think OTHER PEOPLE will find interesting – it has to be interesting and compelling to you, enough so that after three years of shooting, and two years of editing, you will still persevere with it.
4) Go to a local community college (or whatever they have in the UK) and take some cheap camera and editing courses. you don't have to become a pro at either, but you do have to understand the basics of proper technique.
5) Good luck!
Hi Everyone, I just joined D-Word. I am a director/editor living in NYC and am now working on my first feature length documentary, which I am co-directing with a good friend of mine. Since I've known the filmmaking and specifically documentary filmmaking process only through the work I do in the cutting room, I am sure we're going to have lots of questions in the coming months. We are super excited about the project and truly believe in the importance of it. The film is about a Navajo family's journey to understand their children's rare genetic disorder, which forces them to live and die in the shadows. In their quest for knowledge they uncover the disease's connection to the dark past of American colonialism.
Welcome, Maya. Good luck with the film, sounds like a powerful one.
In reply to Maya Stark's post on Fri 19 Dec 2008 :
Is the disease best described as an allergy to light? (Just curious, because the wife of Helmut Kohl, Germany's chancellor who reigned during reunification and until 1998, could not stand light – it caused her excruciating pain – and committed suicide because of it. I'd never heard of this before.)
Thank you Doug :)
Jo-Anne, the disease is called Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP). It is not an allergy to light or sunlight. Although some people would describe it as an allergy, it is a major misconception. It means your skin is incapable of repairing itself from UV radiation because of an enzyme deficiency, which means even if you're out in the sun for a few minutes you can develop skin cancer. The family we are following has the Neurodegenerative variant of XP.
Hi all. Just realizing I don't think I ever introduced myself here, so figured I'd take the opportunity. After slaving in the commercial world and working in production for several series' and a couple doc features, finally got the nerve to get my own project off the ground. With a small grant from a non-profit, covering equipment costs, and an entire crew backing out one by one as they realized the reality of where we were shooting (a year in an Argentine shantytown) I managed to survive the shoot as a one-man-band, juggling between camera & logistics.
For those interested, a trailer can be seen here:
Currently, I'm working on getting a distribution sales rep, submitting to festivals, etc. And as that's moving forward, prepping things to get a couple other projects off the ground.
Glad to be a part of the community and looking forward to help when I can. It's truly a breath of fresh air to see a group of people all in the same fight, willing to share info to help those of like mind. Unfortunately, all too uncommon in the production world.
Welcome, Ethan, and thanks for finally introducing yourself. We should follow up on this in the Marketing and Distribution topic, but you'll find that sales reps generally won't be interested in taking you on until you get a premiere at one of the top festivals (Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca, etc).
I am looking to make documentaries on wildlife and habitat conservation issues in India. Would like to link up with like minded people. I have an identified project and would like to execute it in March 08 if everything goes ok.
In reply to Baldev Rayat's post on Wed 17 Dec 2008 :
Merry Christmas! I would like to get some input from you on sound recording for documentaries...if you don't mind. What would be the best equipment to use for a documentary where I need to capture sound outdoors? Is it best to get one where it is integrated with the camera or better to get an external recorder? If so which one?
Thanks ever so much for your help,
Regards, (my email – firstname.lastname@example.org)
Record to the camera for ease of editing, especially if you are just beginning. Less equipment to handle. Unless of course, you just want wild sound, then you can use a digital recorder like the Zoom H2 or H4. Input with a good mic like a Schoeps. If you have the budget then a Sound Device 702
Welcome, Prabha. So you know, all questions should be posted in the Mentoring topic. This is just for introductions.
Well, here I am, on the D-word at the urging of my friend, Tanner Wolfe. I own a film production company called Dusk Films. I am transforming it into a non-profit. Exciting times. I hope to contribute to the site as much as possible and I hope to learn from all of you as well. I love community stuff and I love film.
Welcome, Aaron. You're gonna want to sign up for full membership to get the full benefit of the topics here.
My friend Doug Block has been urging me to join d-word for years! I am happy to finally be here. I have always enjoyed the community of documentary film makers when I have been at film festivals. So now I guess I have that community on tap.
I am amongst other things, a documentary film maker. Having made films about OTHER people I am currently making two films which include MYSELF.
I was trained as an ethnographer – one who uses their own self as an instrument of understanding the world view of others. Although I tell my own story on stage – in a performance called Two Men Talking – the enterprise or telling my story on film is one of the most challenging I've ever undertaken.
Perhaps there are those of you out there in the same boat.
either on the stage or in the boat. I find it difficult when I have a foot in each, though elastic underwear has made this almost achievable.
Welcome at last, Murray, but you're only halfway here. You now need to sign up as a full member to gain access to all the discussion topics.
Murray is a being a bit humble, as usual. He made a terrific feature documentary called "Paternal Instinct" that I'm proud to say I co-produced. And he was nominated for an Academy Award (with Roger Weisberg) for the short, "Why Can't We Be A Family Again?" And he's a total sweetheart of a homo sapien.
Welcome, Murray! I saw "Paternal Instinct" a couple of years ago and was completely blown away – it's still one of my favorite films ever!
Hi All, just joined the d-word this week, not sure why it took so long! I run a fledgling documentary production company, and am obsessed with all things documentary. Currently working on finishing a feature length doc 2 years in the making, about a kibbutz in Israel. I'm looking forward to learning and contributing at the d-word.
Welcome, Ben. Do share more about your film in the Members Films topic. I had a chance to see the rough cut and am only sorry that timing did not work out to screen it at Docs In Progress.
Hi Erica, I will do that. Didn't have enough time to work on it to submit it again for January, but we are hoping to re-submit for the March screening. By the way, the new Docs In Progress website is great!