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Shooting Documentary Short Films

Lesson 16 of 16

How to Find Work in the Industry

Griffin Hammond

Shooting Documentary Short Films

Griffin Hammond

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Lesson Info

16. How to Find Work in the Industry

Lesson Info

How to Find Work in the Industry

I just want talk briefly about kind of my career trajectory and how I don't know maybe like it was only like five or six years ago that I actually, like bought a dslr for the first time. We went from standard definition hd, and I feel like I've had this long career and I really haven't like it's pretty quick er that I like picked up some skills and made a career out of it. So I want to talk about kind of my career path and how you khun you could do that to, um I think any of us this's what we want to do, you can you can do it, we'll talk about how how you could find work and then and then we take a bunch of questions, so I actually want to start with a story that I've not ever told publicly I'm embarrassed by it, but it's, I think, will be helpful for you to hear is the fact that I failed out of film school, just like woody allen. Same school woody allen failed out of you. I started at film school, I went to film school right out of college and I was eighteen when I wasn't ready for sc...

hool and I didn't go to class. And I learned a cool a few cool things actually did most of my learning outside of the classroom did a lot of learning on the web, and I loved video, but I just wasn't going to class, and so I did really poorly, and they told me not to come back, so I'm literally a film school dropout, which is great because this seminar landed on no film school and the website, but it's it's fitting, but I say this because and I tell this to people who are considering going to film school because I have been to film school and I've also not graduated from film school. I have the experience of film school, and I went to a community college and I went to a public for your university, and I could tell you that you can do this from anywhere you can do this in film school, you can you can learn great lessons there, just make sure you go to class, but if you're not in a film school, whatever school you go to there's a like minded community of people that want to do this stuff and you can learn a lot from working with other people, and I'm kind of a loner sometimes. You know, I'm a one man band and maybe some of my values that I can go in and shoot something myself and added something, but I can learn a lot from working with people, especially at a college level, and I found that even at a four year university at illinois state university it's, not film school, but I went to the television program and I feel like most of what I do today has a lot more to do with the television program at issue than it did at the film school and why you and I'm probably taking for granted that I picked up some great lessons then why you? I'm glad that I did that. I probably learned a lot from failing out, but but news is important news fits into documentary if it weren't for going to illinois state university and and getting excited about documentaries because of dr mchale, who was into drama and he's also very much into documentaries. I picked all of that up, I think having that that breath of experience helped me, but my point is you do not need film school, you might really benefit from it, but you don't need it. You can learn so much of what I talked about today online, I mean that's I'm self taught from the internet, mostly because I'm I was curious about it what I do is I work on something and then I hit a ceiling of what I don't know how to do you google it and that's how I learned how to do time lapses and and hyper lapses only I should show you hyper lapsing who knows what hyper lapse thing is it's a technique I've been using a lot of work now, but it's, this is the first time I did it it's just the idea of a time lapse then moves over great distances, and this one test shot taught me a lot one it taught me like a good proof of concept, it worked. It also taught me about motion blur in time lapses you saw my more recent time lapse is the people that moved there, they're blurring around. I didn't really get that at first I didn't know about shutter speeds and motion blur, and I mean, this was only like a year ago or something so it's like I'm always learning, adding mohr to my arsenal and I hope that's what you're taking out of today's class, that I'm trying to share the building blocks that I have, but it's really up to you to find out what you're interested in, find out what you can do now, and how you can augment that and keep building on it, and whether you are in a full time job right now, and you just want to do this on the side is a freelancer you can or whether you're at a point right now, we're trying to figure out where you wanna go to college don't freak out if you don't get into film school because you can do this anywhere and that's that's, like the start of my career was going to illinois state university and the way that I've I've built it on that is, I don't know, I look around people around may filmmakers around me and I think, man, these people have so much ambition and they know what they want and they know they have to go to hollywood, become a p and move up the chain, let there be a tractor, and they'll make it. I have no idea what I wanted, teo, I just know I want to make a suraj documentary on I really enjoyed doing it. I learned so much because of it. Um and I know that when opportunities like this come along, when asked me to teach a class for creative live like that could be a lot of fun, I'll probably learn a lot from that let me do that every opportunity that's come my way, it's, just like that could be fun. What can I get out of that? Let me take it so I feel like I am a completely unambitious person. I have no idea where I don't make it a career to go, but my mantra has just been do your best work, keep learning and put your work out there. I mean that's like like I said, the return on investment of sriracha is just let me make sure people see that thing because if people know that I made that opportunities will come my way and even on a much smaller scale when I was a freelancer, I mean, I was I was working a corporate job doing video. Actually, I wasn't even working video first, so too, and it was like running a twitter account for state farm years ago, and I got in the door is an intern right out of college. Uh, someone recommended me for it. I've always loved it when people recommend me and I take those opportunities, and it wasn't the job I necessarily thought my career would always be, but it was like a social media job let me do that. Once I got in the door, I said not only kind of your computer stuff, but like chewed video, so I shot some videos for him. And they liked him and then my job became all video I was traveling all over the country shooting video for state farm and then I was doing freelance on the side and with freelance it was great because once I started marketing myself, I started like telling my friends like make little videos and reels and say like, hey, I'm available for hire I come to your wedding and people around me just went like, oh, I've always liked your videos I didn't know you were for hire and that changed everything like it's one thing to make work that you're proud of and share it with your friends but let your friends know that this is what you want because they will come to you when they something comes across your desk someone says, hey, do you know a good video person? And if they think of like, well, my friend is a full time job he's happy like they're not going to contact you, but just letting people know that this is what you want to do don't call you like that has been my whole career so far is just make things I'm proud of make things I'm happy with, make sure some people see it and be nice to people on they'll call you they will call you an opportunity's come across their desk and that's what this industry is it's just I mean, every job every job when I looked to my right my resume is just a recommendation someone said hey, you might be good for this job I worked for youtube for a while that was a friend who said you should work at youtube I'll put in a good word for you the suraj documentary led me to this job at bloomberg, which I wasn't looking for uh I just feel like you got it if this is what you love, you have to do it you could find a way to do it on this side of you know don't go broke making on ly indy documentaries for a living and I mean like take a job and it doesn't have to be the perfect job out of college but just like make some money you can live okay show them what you can do maybe it'll turn into something else and keep doing what you love make passion projects those of the ones that will lead to cool opportunities so I hope today you have some building blocks at your feet now and you could pick him up and you run with them and I know so many of you watching and I know many of you in this room are just so much more talented than me in other ways that I like there's just things I could never do and there's things that you can do that I can't so run with it make great documentaries and short documentaries they do really well a festival so why don't we look to questions now's a great time for questions anything that's been on your mind please let's let's get some questions from the online and studio audience yeah yeah b roll before or after interviews best practice way structured the shoot yesterday you know what I thought was a strategic way I mean I could have done it a few different ways and I like to be adaptable but the plan was let's talk to george first because I think that in my ideal version of this film george is the main character um I also I'm not sure knowing george if I'm going to get really great sound by tell him I don't know him I haven't really talked in that much he seems kind of quiet so let's start with him see what we get and whatever we get or don't get I could have steve fill in the gaps maybe maybe I can ask steve more about george that was my plan let's do george then steve and then I usually do b roll after because I know after I've heard what they talked about if I learned some things in the interview surely doing this interview not just to get everything I know I wanted but hopefully they said some cool things I know I didn't know I wanted and now I know that thing about that old machine like I know I need the old b roll to go with that like I know what I need now but I do take whatever opportunities they can you're also like when we started the day steve walked us through the factory and I just shot a bunch of b roll it's not even the best b roll but I just shot a bunch of him like walking around showing us stuff like here he is just going through eyes giving us a tour I have all this footage of him walking around I like transition shots a lot like moving between spaces you know when he's standing around talking it's not that interesting, but if he's walking just like establishes some movement, I could use that in the piece to be like looking showed us all around so I'm I mean really with the role I'm just looking for inspiration so anytime I see something that's like that's cool, I should get it right now that's the fun of it, you know? So, uh if you tell your friends I'm for hire, how do you know how much to charge? Yeah that's that's just something you have to figure out on your own and I'll tell you how much I used to charge in a minute but, um I feel like it's you keep pricing yourself up until people stop hiring you because you're probably worth more than you think your time is valuable and I I don't really do freelance anymore because I have this full time job in new york and takes up a lot of my time. But when I was doing freelance as a full time thing, I was charging a hundred dollars an hour. I feel like now that I live in new york probably charge two hundred dollars an hour because it's new york and the mark it's different than in rural illinois, but I started maybe a twenty dollars an hour and kept pushing up a kind of just kind of went like, when will people stop hiring me? But I also feel like I kept learning and I kept getting better. I mean, my work five years ago is not my work today, and so I just tried teo price myself accordingly, so per hour. Does that include the editing or just your filming? I'ii charge the same for shooting and editing, and I think whoever you are, if you want to freelance, think about it as an hourly thing and not as a per project thing, because I think easier to price yourself when it's ours, because if if you know what, you're worth hourly. Which you can all figure out to figure out what is going to take to get me out of bed to do this thing it's fifty dollars an hour if it's fifty dollars an hour then someone says hey, how much is going to cost for me to do this corporate video where you do all these interviews and you asking much questions and you figure out okay, well, I think it's gonna take two hours, shoot the interviews and probably take me another hour to shoot b roll and then it's going to take me eight hours dead it and now I know, you know, maybe it's fourteen hours times fifty it's seven hundred dollar project you tell him that, um, but you just got to figure out what you're worth. Um and you don't need to take a lot of free work, you know, is a lot of people will say, how would you do this for your riel e? You know, maybe you need to do that for your first project. Um, you know, with weddings, I think it's a good way to get into a wedding is like you don't even, like offer a friend of free wedding there, your friend, you go do free wedding for them, but then after your first free one, you have something to show and if you did a great job of their wedding, they have friends get married I think weddings are actually really good way that's how I got into all of this so start doing weddings, bonds in high school and there's a lot of work there because there's a lot of people getting married, but they're tough jobs and I've kind of gotten out of it because they're hard, they're fun, they're beautiful, they're emotional. They're lovely it's like the best thing to shoot ever because it's the happiest day it's beautiful when you get sets like that and costumes like that and people that are in love it's it's amazing, but unlike a lot of other freelance work, they need you to be there on a specific day and you have to plan it a year in advance and there's no way you could get out of it, you know, it's uh, where's the corporate videos like I could show up this saturday I could show up whenever it's okay, but it's a good wayto get your foot in the door. I think intel of this software. So today I've been using final cut ten, which I am sure there are some people out there scoffing at me for using the suffer uh, even people that I know that don't edit when they're like curiously asking about what I do and they tell me, he's finally ten they're like, oh, that's, that one that everyone hates isn't on. I understand why people hated I spent the first forty eight hours using it, hating it because it is very different than other editing software, but I wanted to learn I thought it could do some interesting things for me, and I actually think I'm a pretty fast editor and final cut. It's a very clean keyboard shortcut driven if you want it to be editing program, I could do a lot with the keyboard. I like anything on a track pad. I don't even have a mouse. I learned it on a laptop, so I have a little trackpad on my mac, and I love it. Uh, but it there's there's a valued all of it. I mean, if there's one thing I really want to take away from today is that you can do this with any tools they're tools I like. And if you want to model yourself after me and use all the stuff that I used, but you're gonna find stuff that works best for you. If you're comfortable that dobie ethan used premiered it's, great software, but it all does this stuff like you have that we're in a world now where the stuff is cheap final gets three hundred dollars, which is amazing for reading software when he used to be like twenty five hundred dollars uh cameras are getting cheaper you have all of this stuff just that's why I say start with what you have and learn mohr google, google it and uh and then figure out what you need next. All right, griffin, we're actually going to wrap up with some online questions here before we head out. I want to get this one that had thirty four votes, another really popular question, and I know you talked a little bit about some of your failures and talked about film school, but this question specifically griffin, what was the biggest unexpected setback you had as a first time short documentary filmmaker? Yes, oh yeah, my first time was with the with the structure documentary and I knew going in that not everything would work out and it's it's not a narrative I don't have control of everything uh, I'm at the mercy of real people and if they want to be involved in this project or not and david tran said no at first he just said I said, hey, can I make a documentary about you? He said, no thanks I don't need that kind of setback but I knew that that's what this project would be and to some extent I set up kickstarter and other things just to create a mo mentum that was unstoppable like it would be really easy for me to say, man, this is hard work I don't want to do this let's quit and I've done that on some projects some videos that just wasn't feeling that's why you got to pick something that you're passionate about for eight months or however long you need to do it um but I knew that I'd have to push forward now I have an audience on kickstarter that it's like I have to make something and so I just wasn't willing to take no for an answer, and so I kind of said, hey, I mean, I put on my nice female voice, I think nice goes a long way in this industry and I just I was very clear, I think it's b communicate your expectations clearly to people that hey, look, this isn't gonna be so bad I'm just one guy I'm doing this because I love your product and I'm excited about suraj it's not because I'm trying to make money or like exploit you and that started a dialogue it wasn't an immediate yes, but it was like, okay, tell me more, who are you? What is this, um and there were other setbacks like that along the way, I mean, there's people just they just said no to being in the film, and you have to find other ways to tell that story just keep going. All right? Well, we'll wrap up with this final question. Now we just want to know, what are your final thoughts? Your final words of wisdom, as we said, we have people who are watching with all different backgrounds, a lot of people just getting started, people who've been doing it for a while any final words of wisdom for our aspiring filmmakers out there? Well, I am I am just constantly inspired by what I see out there. I mean, the techniques that people are coming up with, like, hyper lapsing and there's there's so much you can learn from on you two just go follow some people and be inspired by the work you see, I didn't really get a chance to mention it today too much, but like I mean, there's, some kind of document I just can't do like errol morris is a wonderful documentarian, beautiful filmmaker, and he does this thing here's this film called fog of war, and instead of doing that I line, look off the camera sort of thing that I always do, I stick to that he thought, wouldn't it be great if people could just look right into the camera and just naturally talk to the audience? So he invented was a thing called the terror tron is really just a teleprompter, but the idea is that he sits here, is camera looking at him and his face is on the teleprompter, and that the person he's interviewing is looking at so he's looking right into the lens of the camera and you get to watch robert mcnamara, the former secretary of defense, just talking right to you is an audience, and to me that completely breaks the rule. I'm not that created, I'm like, I'm gonna stick to the rules, people look off camera, but it's just it's, it's, it's cool like I just know that people are going, you all are going to come up with something so much more than I could even think of in this class today. So that's, why? I just wanted teo share what I've learned just as a jumping off point like, don't do what I do just golf and try something new, and I think experimentation in this industry is will get you everywhere you're going to create a trademark for yourself, you won't create a style that is all you and you know, I just I see people all the time you were like I watched one of your youtube videos and then now I'm making a documentary and I just think it's so cool, so keep going you got this that's a good spot to wrap things up now that everybody has enjoyed this course, where can people find you after this? I know people are going to want to get in touch with you some questions that we couldn't get to during the live course where can people find you? Yeah, I mean, I try to be a pretty responsive s oh, I would love to answer your questions and you could find me on twitter at griffin you can find me on youtube I put tutorial videos I am pretty responsive on twitter, but if everyone asks me a question right now, it'll be a while I think sometime, you know, we're gonna have some fun after this I'm going to respond to twitter yeah, I look forward to those questions I do want to help us much of a can cool. All right, well, thank you so much. Let's. Everybody give griffin having a huge all right, well, I'm gonna wrap things up, griffin just again giving a huge thank you to everybody out there who've been watching big thank you to our team here who've been with us throughout this we had some great student interactions and volunteers thanks to the crew for making this all happen now and again, I just want to thank everybody out there for watching. We had a great time here with griffin, and now I think it's a good time. Once we're wrapped up, go watch that suraj documentary. We were just talking about it. People in the chat room were saying, I want to go watch it all right, now that we're wrapping up, you have permission to go check it out, go enjoy it, it's been a lot of fun, having you all here once again. This has been a course with griffin hand. We've been talking about documentary filmmaking, thanks so much for watching again. My name is chris jennings, and we will see you next time, but that's a wrap.

Class Description

Today’s media landscape is largely made up of regular folks who know how to spot a good story and use basic gear to document the world around them. Find out how you can join their ranks and make compelling, marketable shorts in Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 

Griffin made a name for himself with the ode to an iconic hot sauce, Sriracha. In this class, he’ll teach you how to identify, shoot, and share documentary-style video. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize and tell a good story
  • Capture high-caliber footage with low-budget gear 
  • Incorporate all the essentials for online and TV news
  • Produce corporate work clients love
  • Find your audience and monetize your work

Griffin will share tips on lighting, framing, and interviewing subjects so you walk away with lots of usable footage. You’ll watch as Griffin shares clips from a one-day shoot and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to turnaround a complete documentary-style short on a deadline.

You’ll also learn a handful of helpful editing techniques and get insights on the ethical and legal responsibilities of documentary filmmaking.

If you want to learn how to tell meaningful stories that look great and sell, while working on a shoestring budget, don’t miss Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 


Bruce Gruenbaum

First off, if you have not watched Sriracha, go and do that. The techniques that Griffin used in it are pretty incredible. This course expands on those techniques and what really surprised me about this course is how simple the setup is that he uses to make some absolutely amazing documentaries. The quality of what you can produce with the most basic of equipment is really mind-boggling. Some of the most interesting stuff was about B-Roll and how to use it to create a visually interesting presentation. The idea of a lot of small clips that show specific information is invaluable. The techniques he uses to create shots like the one where the camera was placed on top of a cart and pushed down an aisle was amazing. More than anything else, the ideas and tips I came away with have helped me find ways of making my own videos much more interesting.

a Creativelive Student

Griffin is a great storyteller and I was hoping to learn a LOT from this class. But I didn't. I'm an experienced corporate video editor/shooter who's always dreamed of doing a documentary. About half of the class is the very basics of video production (b-roll, rule of thirds, good audio) and the other half is interesting content that seems to cut off just as it becomes engaging. I'm not sure why Creative Live edited it that way other than to extend the number of segments? Although the next segment doesn't seem to pick up where the previous left off. I've never felt that way before about CL, but it seems like every segment is cut right as it gets to things I'm interested in. It did have some great information about revenue streams for a short form documentary, but I was left wanting to learn more. If you're just starting out... this is a great resource to learn the basics of non-fiction filming. If you already work professionally in the field I would pass.

Tim Greig

This is brilliant. Griffin is such a generous, self-deprecating filmmaker you just can't help but love him. He goes into great detail on just how he makes his documentaries and other work and is so inspiring, mostly because he is a one-man band and produces such interesting and wonderful videos. Thank you Griffin and CreativeLive for offering this.