Start your film or documentary project with this question

– Posted in: Producing Film / Video Productions

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What do you want from your filmmaking efforts?

  • Personal Acknowledgement
  • Creative Expression
  • Social Change
  • Bigger Opportunities
  • New Knowledge
  • Social Interaction

Knowing what you want from your film or documentary project will help define your path and set the trajectory of your success.  In this post, I’ll help you understand the process of turning ideas into films!

Seriously!  As you’ll come to see, this answer will guide future decisions in a way that will save you a lot of time and money.

People who would never thought of making a film ten years ago are now writing scripts, shooting scenes, directing actors and having a great time bringing their ideas to life.

Yes, it’s hard work. But, it’s also tremendously worth it.

[bctt tweet=”When you’re on the right path, the process (and all that hard work) is much more fun!”]

There’s never been a better time to try filmmaking. 

  • Equipment is relatively inexpensive
  • Training opportunities are abundant
  • Collaborating is getting easier every day
  • Exposure opportunities are plentiful
  • Funding channels are more available than ever

Today, people are making films for many different reasons. Some are making them for the sheer fun of it, others have a cause in mind, and still others see their filmmaking efforts as a stepping-stone. But each of these is motivated by something personal.

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Filmmaking for Fun

These folks love watching movies and have always dreamed of making their own blockbuster.

They talk about scenes, actors and moments from their favorite films. Filmmaking with their friends is a party. They love getting together to re-enact scenes, or shoot new scenes inspired by the copious movies they love.

Not only is being on-set a ton of fun, screening it with a large group of friends and friends of friends is a blast. There’s nothing like watching and hearing the audience gasp, laugh and cringe at all the right times. This is a great way for a “movie fan” to begin learning about the process of filmmaking.  If the filmmaker is serious about a career in film or getting a project into a good festival, these early efforts point to the inevitable “I’ll make the next one even better.”

What does a “movie fan-filmmaker” want from his efforts? 

Filmmaking for a Cause

Some filmmakers are more serious and see filmmaking as an opportunity to address important issues. These filmmakers are motivated to give voice to an important cause. They believe a film will give it the exposure it deserves.

This genre of filmmaking is growing rapidly. The time has never been better for “cause filmmakers” to find funding and exposure opportunities. I’ve recently seen some small documentaries that were excellent partly do to the fact that they were small. These documentaries had wonderful insights and captured intimate moments in ways only personal films can.

[bctt tweet=”The passion of the filmmaker is personal and gave the film its power.”]

What does a “cause-filmmaker” want from her efforts? 

FYI – You don’t need huge distribution to make these films profitable.

The Technical Filmmaker

A lot of people who have technical skills are getting into filmmaking as a way to satisfy their inner geek. I say “geek” in the best sense of the word. I began filmmaking with a large slant in this direction. These filmmakers tend to focus on cinematography, sound and new ways of making gadgets do things better. To these people, the actors and the story are almost secondary to the exploration and experimentation. They are about mastering the tools.

What does a “technical-filmmaker” want from her efforts? 

FYI – These filmmakers tend to be very methodical and can drive filmmakers who are more focused on performance crazy. Just remember, it’s always about balance.

The Actor Filmmaker

And then there are those who have trained to be in front of the camera. They want opportunities to practice their craft, so they become filmmakers and create opportunities for themselves and others to work on great character roles and once in a lifetime performances. Quite different from the technical-filmmaker, the actor-filmmaker is less interested and less patient with the nuances of technology.

What does an “actor-filmmaker” want from her efforts?

The Writer Filmmaker

Writers are also coming out from behind their computer screens and becoming filmmakers. It’s obvious but worth noting that these filmmakers are focused on story, plot and dialogue. They too are looking for opportunities to give their work life and move it from script to screen.

What does a “writer-filmmaker” want from his efforts?

As you can imagine, there are even more types including the “artist filmmaker”, the “adventure-filmmaker” and more.  All types want to make a film, but each of these filmmakers want something unique from their efforts.

  • What kind of filmmaker are you?
  • What do you want from your efforts?
  • How are you going to take advantage of these times?
  • What is your next step?

Bird’s Eye View

Before you can know what the next step is, you need to know where you are at now; what skills do you have, what skills do you still need?  And ideally, we need to have a clear vision of what our end goal is. Discerning this information means we need to raise ourselves out of the project’s details and see things anew.  We need to develop a certain amount of detachment. As they say, “You can’t see the forest through the trees.”

We can ask ourselves:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my areas of weakness?

As we all know, filmmaking is a collaborative effort. We can’t do everything all the time.  The more we want to grow, the more we have to let go and bring others in to complement our strengths.

Here’s a chart that will help you see how your own and your crew members’ strengths might be leveraged best during the making of your film or documentary project.

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Do you have strengths as an organizer, a writer or are you a technical person?  Do you have artistic capabilities?  Do you see yourself as a leader?

We don’t need to embody all of these strengths, but we do need to collect them if we want to make a good film on-time and on-budget.

I constantly consult new filmmakers when they are making their current projects. I always start by asking two things:

  • What do you want the finished project to do for you?
  • At what stage of preparation are you at?

Regardless of where they are in the journey, they almost always tell me “about the project elements” and jump around explaining how these relate to the idea. Notice the subtle but important difference?

This is the cause of most “overwhelm” and “failure to do” quitting.

This is when I need to most patience in my job. As their mentor, I need to gently steer them back to the original question and help them see they have gotten off the path. They’re seeing trees, but the path has disappeared. Once they see this, and only when they see it, can I help them define their next step.

  • Where are you?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • What’s your next step?

If you’re serious about launching an important project, I’m available as a consultant and as a coach. But most of you don’t need this kind of personal attention right now. It’s either too early in your journey or you’re not working on a high-level project important enough to merit the services and expense of a coach.

If this is you, your next step might be to keep reading my blog posts.  Maybe you’ll get your hands on a good book or watch some YouTube tutorials floating around out there. Maybe your next step is a workshop, film school or a conversation with a mentor. The exact step is different for everyone but defining that step always constitutes the same process.

Evaluate where you’re at and define where you want to go.

The rest is a never-ending practice of asking the right questions and being open to learn. It’s work but it’s fun!

  • What do you think of this approach?
  • Do you have any other tips?

Please don’t be shy, help us all engage and grow by leaving a comment. I truly value your opinion and feel my efforts are validated when you interact.  We all learn more by sharing and asking questions.