As anyone active in politics is aware, media consolidation is has reduced the breadth and depth of the information we receive about the important issues that confront us. These days, most news is “broken” by working men and women who discover something they think is important. Media professionals rarely invest time or resources in old-fashioned reporting. Media corporations in the press of the 24 hour news cycle won’t pay for it.
I really like documentary filmmakers. Having met several hundred face to face over the years, I have come to believe that the vast majority of them are just “good citizens” who find themselves suddenly driven to reveal an important truth to the world at large. Their decision to pick up a camera is often the start of an incredible personal and professional journey. It is hard to admit that it doesn’t always end well.
A good documentary feature ﬁlm, well marketed, is a great professional and ﬁnancial investment. Documentary production budgets are usually low, ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to under ten million dollars. Most documentaries that end up in theaters or on television have production budgets under ﬁve million dollars and the vast majority are under three million. Most documentaries don’t cost much, but well made documentaries can and do make good money.
The Critical First Step One of the most important things you can do to insure your project’s ultimate success is simply to deﬁne your documentary and its objectives. To help you do this, start by answering the questions outlined below.
In order to bake a cake you need a list of ingredients. In order to make a documentary feature ﬁlm you need to make a list of what, and who, you need. This begins by deﬁning the ﬁlm you want to watch.
The easiest way to make a production schedule for your documentary is to use a dedicated scheduling application like EP Scheduling. It lets you specify the shooting days, the people, locations, props, tools and other resources you will need. EP Scheduling application is the industry standard for scheduling ﬁlms. Instructions for learning how to use the application can be found in the manuals that ship with it.
A budget is never your enemy. Budgets are always your very best friends. Even if you are making a documentary you think you can’t afford, like millions of documentary ﬁlmmakers before you, taking time to calculate and manage your costs will let you reduce the size of your “indulgence” without preventing you from shooting your ﬁlm.
One of the key concepts producers must master is the notion that a ﬁlm isn’t ﬁnished until it reaches its audience. Marketing and promotion begin when you begin pitching the ﬁlm to people prior to production, and it continues until long after a ﬁlm is released. Documentaries can generate revenues for years if they are adequately marketed and promoted.
If you are like most ﬁlmmakers, you are going to try to avoid thinking about the distribution of your ﬁlm as long as possible. You are going to think that distribution is what your sales agent or distributor is paid to think about. Those folks, when you acquire them, may even tell you that you shouldn’t concern yourself with distribution.
The strange thing about producing your documentary is that the actual production is the most straight forward part of the process.