Sorry for the lack of updates on the ongoing saga of my documentary filmmaking, but I’ve been swamped! Our film “Worst in Show” has basically wrapped shooting and it took a ton of time and effort to get to that point so, I slacked on this column. But shooting really couldn’t be going any better nor could this whole process so my partner and I are really, really excited about the film. It’s kind of morphed into something neither one of us saw coming and that’s a pretty cool feeling.
In the theme of slacking, I thought rather than do the bio thing, I’d answer some questions I got in emails. Hopefully they can give some insight into the process. Also, there’s less than 48 hours left to contribute to our film so if you have even $5, it would all add up! Click away! Just as an FYI, 10% of the money we recive is going to go to area animal shelters selcted by the people we interviewed for the film. But, Indie Go-Go will take another 10% if we don’t reach our goal by Friday. If we reach it, they only take 5%.
On with the questions….
I’ve been following your Indie Go-Go campaign and it’s been doing pretty well. Quick question- what helped the most for you getting people to donate? Twitter, facebook, personal friends, family? Good luck with your documentary. It seems like it will be really funny!!
To be honest, I’m pretty surprised at how much my random facebook and twitter friends have not helped me. At all. I got very few retweets on Twitter (I have over 800 followers) and got maaaaybe 5-6 contributions from facebook friends. Granted, maybe I annoyed the s**t out of them and they were planning to give but got sick of my groveling or maybe (and I suspect this is the case) “followers” and “friends” mean nothing in terms of sharing of information. Like, if I wanted to ask someone a question or specifically address people, I’d get a response but it just felt douchey to me to post a link to my Indie Go-Go site on EVERY friends facebook page. I did it to a few of them though. Not even this column helped really. Let’s just say, of all the contributions I received there were two names I didn’t recognize. One of them ended up being an extremely cool guy and a buddy of Film Threat’s own Mark Bell so that leaves one random dude who thought our idea was good enough to throw some money at it. I guess I’m not as jaded as I should be, but that surprised me. Not that I expected everyone to chip in, but with 1300 plus cyber-buddies even $1 each would have ruled. Anyway…
The bulk of my money came from good friends and family and the other huge chunk came from people I knew and met over the years at festivals. I have a half-written post on just that subject so stay tuned for it. But yeah, social networking didn’t help me very much financially, but alot of people who follow me are aware of the project and that helps create buzz. Or I hope it does because it sure as hell didn’t help me raise much money!
How do you get ideas for your movies? Do you think that’s the hardest part about making them? I like using my camera but I can never find anything I want to make a whole movie out of. It’s really hard for me to come up with anything and then I get too nervous to do anything when I get an idea.
Honestly, my partner in crime John Beck usually picks the best ideas. He’s got his finger on the pulse of oddness from working at a local newspaper and he always finds the best stuff. The idea for the ugly dog contest was both of ours and the reason it came around isn’t at all glamourous or all that thrilling. Basically, neither of us have time or money to travel so we needed something compelling right in our own backyard. John had covered the ugly dog contest for a local newspaper and knew how cinematic it could be and how all these people have great stories plus, they’re kinda weird. We tend to be drawn to kind of strange people with funny hobbies or jobs and this just fit. John also knew some people at the fair where the event is held so we had an in with them. They were pretty easy to work with and have tried their best to help us out even when other stuff has gotten in the way.
I don’t know much about where you live or what your budgetary type stuff is but for me, I just read the local papers frequently. I really like off the wall funny stuff or kind of fringe characters so I am always intrigued by that sort of thing. Weirdness or odd people always seem to catch my eye so (and not to sound all metaphysical, but) open yourself up to discovering the types of stories you’d like to tell. Maybe you’re really into space travel so finding someone nearby who has a crazy obsession with the third moon of Jupiter might be cool. Maybe you’re a green hearted environmentalist and you’ve noticed something screwy going on with the trees in your area. You have to know what story you want to tell and then just be open to finding it.
Like…a few years back I was at a mini-golf/video arcade and saw these guys in sweat pants, head bands and wrist bands who were drenched in sweat from playing this Dance-Dance Revolution Game for hours on end. Who were these guys? What the hell was wrong with them that they’d spend all their time and money on this game? Why not go dance for real and maybe meet a chick? I struck up a conversation with them and soon realized they really weren’t all that interesting. I wanted them to be but they weren’t. But I went home and google searched other fanatics of the game and found a message board where they would all meet and throw down on DDR near where I lived. I went to one of the “throw downs” and it sucked. It was a bunch of dudes playing a game. What I thought would be an awesome doc turned out to be a really bad idea.
Another example: I recently shot about 20 hours of footage on marijuana growers in Northern California. As we entered the harvest season, I found at least five other documentaries covering exactly what I was covering were already out there or coming soon. Then, I decided I would try and align the growing process with the attempt to legalize marijuana. That second part proved to take way, way more time and energy than I had so I ended up scrapping the whole project.
My advice to a first time documentary filmmaker would be: keep it simple. Look around and see if there’s a place for the story you want to tell. Has it been done too many times? What are your restrictions in terms of time and money? Do you need help with camera, sound or editing? Who can help you? Form a team and go after the story. My other bit of advice is- and this seems cliche but it’s not- do it the “right” way. Get releases signed (you can find them on the internet or email me and I’ll send you ours as an example) and be cool with people. Don’t shoot them looking bad or saying things they may regret later. That’s dirty pool. Obviously, if the story is about 2 people bickering, that’s part of the story. But you don’t want to be an instigator, you want to be a documentor. At least, I do. Making fun of people is low-rent and if you put it out there, you’ll have to live with the consequences. Good luck with your film!
Got more questions? The floor is open and I’d love to also do some question and answer entries so if you have anything you want to know, feel free to email me at UglyDogDoc[at]gmail.com
Also, please contribute to our new film at http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Ugly-Dog-Doc