#1. – How & why did you first get interested in documentary filmmaking?
I started out making videos for large churches as my day job. Most of those were interviews with B-Roll, not always telling a story but similar in style to documentaries. I worked for a while in narrative filmmaking, producing an indie TV sitcom series and a few short films.
I had just moved away from a larger city and a more active filmmaking community, and was looking for stories to tell through film. I was having a lot of trouble finding actors and crew for narrative projects. But there were stories around me. So, almost on a whim I decided to do a short, guerrilla shoot for a 3-minute documentary. I was curious if this project might evolve into something larger.
That short film told me a few things: First, I could tell compelling stories through documentary films. Second, My experiences at work naturally lent themselves to documentary filmmaking. Third, I could expand this short project into a larger one.
#2. – What was your first experience making a documentary film like?
I didn’t do much pre production, just threw gear together, and had a rough plan. I just kept thinking that it could all be a waste of time. I was very limited in gear and in what I could do. I was capturing a competitive event, and I could not be a distraction. (Especially because I may not have gotten permission to be shooting at all.) I decided to enter the film in the Rode short film competition, which gave me a deadline to work toward. It had its problems, but the short told a complete story, and I liked it. And it showed me that I could tell a much larger story.
#3. – What have you learned about making a doc film that you wished you’d known before?
Just like fictional projects, you can tell a story through documentary with the resources you have. What are the stories around you? What do you have access to? What can you do? Be creative. Focus on the possible. Find those projects. And do them.
#4. – What’s a big challenge or hurdle you’ve had to overcome in leading a #doclife?
Like many, I’m a part-time filmmaker. I placed unrealistic expectations on my project and timeline. Doing a one-man-band project, and carrying the entire load can be hard. There were two things that kept me going. I was passionate about the project. And I had obligations to my crowd funding participants. But I delivered the film 4 months later than I had hoped.
I also suffer from periodic “imposter-syndrome”. Some days I wake up and wonder what I was thinking. I’m no filmmaker. People are going to laugh at this movie. It’s never going to amount to anything. I’ve wasted all this time and money. Author Jon Acuff calls it critics math- One person with a critical comment can outweigh lots of positive comments.
I actually have a note on my phone titled “Who am I to do this?” There I’ve written down all of the reasons I can do this. When I have doubts, I can remind myself of these things. First, no one else can tell these stories. I don’t mean there are not talented filmmakers out there, but no one else is positioned to learn about these stories or positioned to tell them. If they are worth telling, then I am the one that must do it. Second, a random stranger’s opinion on the internet cannot be the deciding voice in whether my work is good or not. Third, I am a filmmaker. I have experience, education, talent, and resources that allow me to start a project and bring it to completion.
#5. – Share a current or most recent project with us.
#6. How do you get into this project? / Why were you drawn to make this film?
My kids were involved in this activity. After a couple of years I realized how much it had impacted their lives. And I saw the pattern of ups and downs they, and other students, went through. I wanted to capture the roller-coaster of speech & debate participation, with the thrills of winning and anguish of losing. I thought this was a compelling story, especially because a lot of time people don’t think highly of future generations. But my experience has been the opposite, and I wanted to show that.
#7. What would you like to say to any #doclifer who starting out on their film or who is perhaps struggling to complete their film?
Don’t give up! You’re making you’re film. It will get started when you begin it. It will be as good as you can make it. It will get done when you finish it. It will be seen when you promote it.
You have the green light! You don’t have to ask a studio for permission. You can start pre production today.
Thank you to Scott Link for sharing his #doclife with our community.
In the spirit of connectivity and togetherness of the documentary filmmaking world we are bringing you stories from #doclifers – doc filmmakers like you and I – from around the world.
If you’re interested in contributing your story to #Doclifer Stories, we’d love to hear from you.