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A Subscriber Question on Documentary Filmmaking

These questions on documentary filmmaking are from a subscriber to my monthly filmmaking ezine, “The Director’s Chair.” Please leave your answers and comments below.
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Peter gave me permission to write a small article, not containing information, but instead, asking for it. Within the next 3 years, I want to make a documentary that turns the world on its heels. I, along with a plethora of other people have questions about documentary filmmaking.

I am going to ask the questions that seem elementary… the questions most people won’t ask to avoid embarrassment or to seem under-educated. This ezine is meant to improve the knowledge of filmmakers.

If you are a documentarian that has experience in the field, and can answer these questions, I’m sure we can all learn from them.

1. What are some good steps to learning the basic ‘rules’ of documentary style filming?

2. How do you secure locations (legally) to be shot?

3. Since 9/11, there are very strict rules on filming without permission (USA), what is the best way to show people’s likeliness without legal ramification? (ie, crowd shots, b-roll, etc.)

4. How can you get the film seen, without having an uncle that works for the Cannes Film Festival? What steps need to be taken to mass produce? (ie, why is Michael Moore the only one who has documentaries in Tinseltown?)

5. How can one secure investors?

6. Pulling in favors is a huge part of filmmaking in the early years, but what about people that don’t owe you favors? How much (if any) should those interviewed be paid?

7. As the world moves further and further into HDland, is documentary style filming suppose to change?

These questions can truly only be answered by someone who has lived it. Please consider writing to us with your answers. Experience always overrides speculation. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Jordan Mederich

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