Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 14/35 - Pre-Production Plan


Making a Short Documentary


Lesson Info

Pre-Production Plan

Let's talk a little bit about the questions that you would want answered in advance. So you've got to get on the phone with people beforehand. This emailing, texting thing just is not going to cut it. You've got to get into one of those nice rambling conversations where you're finding out a few things. Some of it is the logistics. So you're asking that million and one questions about so what is really happening now? You gotta be asking questions like, well, what will I be able to see? Because people don't think visually. So you've got to really be clear in the way you're asking those questions. What will I be able to see? What is your day like? Why don't you give me a run through? What time do you get up? How do you get there? What do you do when you're there? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You need to find out what days of the week are the most active. If I can only go and shoot for a couple of days because that's what my schedule allows or timing wise, whatever, so which two days? ...

In the next three weeks, tell me what's on your schedule. You've got to be so specific. I can't tell you how many times you're on the phone and you think you're asking one thing, and then you show up and you're like, how come you didn't tell me that you work from home? I thought you were actually going somewhere. You don't actually handle any clients any more? You just manage people through phone calls? Those kinds of things that if you are not super specific in your pre-production, you will have some unpleasant surprises potentially. You want happy surprises. You don't want the kind of surprises where you realize, how many times have you heard this? You should have been here three days ago. It was awesome. I mean, it happens all the time. It doesn't do you a damn bit of good what happened three days ago. So pre-production is asking a lot of questions that seem really obvious, but they are far less obvious than you would expect. So it is the actual what you're doing and what will I see you doing. What does it look like? For client work, it's so great to get some iPhone pictures of somebody's office or that sort of thing. We're always mining for also, well, if we're going to tell the boxing story is a good example. So we have a main character, we're going to tell a story about this former marine who's now running a boxing gym. Well, that's great, but I'm always thinking about so who are you most impacting? So let's talk about well who else might we meet while we're there? Who are the most compelling kids in your program? Who is somebody that has come out the other side and can really testify to the success of what you do? 'Cause your emotional hook is always in that. It's in the person being served in client work, right? It's not the doctor, it's the patient. So the pre-production is mining, mining, mining for what is your universe and who is really interesting and compelling and who can carry this story around you? And then it's that next layer of questioning about those people. Do you think they'd be comfortable on camera? Are they shy? What do they look like? How available are they? All of those things that are just like the nuts and bolts of pre-planning, so you don't show up and it's gonna be a crap shoot. Or if they're underage. Or if they're underage, right? It's a whole 'nother layer of questioning and permissions and you know. If you have to go into a school, it's about getting permissions in advance. If it's a health care setting, HIPPA laws can be massively difficult to overcome. Forget about filming in an emergency room at this point. So permissions in advance, you want your shoots to go as smoothly as possible. You're not leaving it up to chance. So the more you do that, now it's an interesting one, because at this point I have people on my staff, I love having someone else do a pre-interview, because then when I go in to interview, it's fresh. So when people tell you their stories, you only get to light a match once. When you say to somebody, remember that story you told me? Now that the camera's rolling, could you tell it to me again? It's never as good. It's flat, it's almost rehearsed, you're not as interested because you now have already been around the block with the person. There's a crackling freshness about that first interview. So if you have the luxury of collaborating, it sure is nice having someone else do some of that pre-vetting and then give you some notes about what kinds of things you should mine for, because here are the compelling things in this person's interview. What if you don't have that luxury? If you don't have that luxury, you do want to take some notes about the well told stories and some of the kind of catchphrases, because then in an interview you might say, hey, when we were on the phone, you used a great phrase. Can you say that and tell me what that meant? Remind me what the context was. So you're going to try to gear them in that way, but I feel like that's also why you want to do the interview first. And people often ask that. Do you do your interview first, or do you wait until somebody's comfortable with you? And I love doing an interview first. It is that time, also they're very meditative interviews. And again, back to people want to be listened to. If you are there and you are just all ears and eyes, and you're patient and attentive, I can't remember anybody I've interviewed who didn't want to share a story. I mean, some people are less articulate than others, but we all have stories. And so if we feel somebody's interested in us, then it's amazing how our mouths can start to move. And also, I want to add once again, this kind of work is unnatural in many ways. It's kind of weird. It's not normal to say tell me your story, but wait a second, let me put a mic up your shirt and set up lights and cameras, right? So there's an art to finessing this, and for some people, it might be a very uncomfortable thing to have to do. You might be the most outgoing gregarious person, but this doesn't feel right, because the way you like to have conversations with people is not with all this paraphernalia and these, not restrictions, but you really do need to be mindful of that. How many times do we show up and you may be really excited, you start to talk to the subject, then you go wait a second, because you realize they're starting to deliver gold, and you have nothing set up, right? Now, that's the natural human way you would do it. Hey, how are you doing? You start them to get in conversation with you, and then you start to open up, right? So you have to find this way of, this funky kind of way of operating where it's like I get permission to come into your life, I reel you in a little bit, and then I say, OK, stop now, and I'm going to set up the super structure of the interview, and then it's like, OK now, give me your heart and soul, right? It's hard enough to do that even without the gear. So it's something to be mindful of if you feel this is something that doesn't come naturally to you, it's something you need to be cognizant of so that you don't miss that gold, you don't miss those great anecdotes or tidbits when you get the person to start to speak. Right. And then also determining how much is a formal interview and how much you just need to loosen up and let that camera roll but just make sure you're holding steady. Because if they're in a groove, and it's comfortable, and you can make a situation work, then you do. Oh, yeah. She's famous for doing really long interviews, and as the camera person, you're like, OK, enough already. My back hurts. Anyway, but it's amazing. She'll be like what appears to be she's ended it and thank you and all that, and I'm ready. Shut the camera off or do my room tone, and then she'll say, by the way, blah blah blah, and then the next thing you know, the best sound bites come. So again, Julie's exceptional. It's years of experience, but I hope these are little tidbits of information that get your mind going about how you would integrate that into who you are and what would be comfortable for you in your working method.

Class Description

There are stories happening around you all the time. How do you capture them and turn them into something meaningful to share with the world? Award winning documentarians and photojournalists Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur join CreativeLive to break down the technical and creative choices that go into crafting a short documentary. Whether you’re looking to create shareable videos on social platforms or hoping to gather funding for a more long term project, this class will be your quick guide into making great stories. Together they’ll show you:

  • How to “mine” for your story - what is worth pursuing?
  • How to get started translating your idea into reality
  • How to research your subject and optimize your shooting schedule
  • Funding support and techniques from writing pitches to reaching out to partners
  • Production logistics to get you moving, including gear choices, audio musts, and approaching people to be in your project
  • Interview tactics and b-roll coverage
  • Post production workflows to create a polished piece
  • How to generate multiple end products like trailers, social media videos, and even still photos
The only thing standing between you and telling a story through video is the knowledge to get there. Join Ed and Julie as they simplify the process and help you to begin creating mini-documentaries for clients or even just for yourself.


a Creativelive Student

OUSTANDIING COURSE, congratulations creative live for bring Julie and Ed in teach about documentary filmmaking. I have watched and bought a fair few courses on this subject and not one of them comes close to this. You can see the amount of work Julie and Ed have done to make this course amazing. The best bits for me are the real teaching opportunities when Ed and Julie are making their violin documentary. I have never seen this before in any course. Thanks Ed and Julie for an amazing course and letting us see inside there work that you do and sharing all your experience with us. I've never really written any feedback for most courses, so this must be a good one :)

a Creativelive Student

Ed & Julie provide so much insight & knowledge into the documentary making process. This is a high-level class that gives you a wonderful overview of what goes into making a powerful and interesting documentary film. It was so helpful to watch them work on an actual short film from start to finish, and to hear their workflow. You'll need to learn the technical nitty gritty elsewhere, but this course will help you dive into how to tell stories on video. I particularly loved the segment on doing interviews, and Julie is an absolute pro at this! Also really nice to see Ed & Julie working/teaching together and how their different skills complement each other. It was a pleasure to learn from them!

user 1399904409596125

Great class! I pre-purchased it and I'm glad I did. Great information, great pieces of work shared, and I especially liked how they showed from start to finish the piece "Resonant" . which I enjoyed watching. I'm a professional photographer (since 1985) who has for the last five years been transitioning in film making and I got some great tips from watching this.