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By Don R. Lewis | June 18, 2010

It’s often been said that film critics are merely people who, when faced with the fact they lack the talent, wherewithal or intelligence to make films, take it upon themselves to tear down other peoples work. Rather than get caught in that condemnation, I took it upon myself to make movies for the sole purpose of avoiding that pigeonhole. Just kidding. I LOVE movies and as a kid I always wanted to make them. However, as a guy pushing forty years old, technology to make movies on a tight budget didn’t really evolve until the last few years. Kids these days will never realize the price and pain involved with shooting and editing a movie on film because of the digital age we now reside in. And trust me, kids… there was all sorts of things that could go wrong and for me, that was enough to never even try. Sad, but true.

That’s not the only excuse I have mind you. I’m a busy person who has had a 9-5 job for more than half of my life and I also have rather severe issues with being creative. In short, I spend so much time wrapped up in the planning and creating of a screenplay, I never seem to finish them. While I did manage to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in screenwriting, after I completed it, I found myself pretty apathetic in terms of writing any more. This apathy was increased tenfold when I started making my own documentary films.

For me, shooting a documentary fits in perfectly with my lifestyle right now both in terms of time and mental state. I can find a story locally that is fascinating to me and then go about documenting it and making a film. I don’t have time to command a huge crew of actors, catering, grips and the like so I can just go out and do a doc with the barest of crew. It’s not only fun it’s really rewarding. It’s also been pretty educational both in terms of attending film festivals as a filmmaker rather than a panelist, juror or journalist and has given me a much bigger grasp of what it takes to make a film.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been on-board here at Film Threat for close to ten years. I have a BA in screenwriting from Cal State Northridge as well as associates degrees in screenwriting and film production from College of Marin and I’m a few thesis pages away from earning my Masters in Cinema Studies from San Francisco State. My filmmaking partner John Beck and I made two short documentaries called “Stringers” and “Drag King” and those played film festivals in Austin, Chicago, San Jose, New Orleans, Birmingham and Beverly Hills. We even won some awards for them. I recently produced my first feature called “The Violent Kind” which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

After Mark and I chatted on the Film Threat podcasts about my experiences making our latest documentary we decided some kind of blogging could be cool and informative so… here we are. My goal is to lay out my experiences- both good and bad- and encourage discussions on how to get started making your own documentaries. 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]

I hope these entries are helpful and inspiring because for any aspiring filmmaker, documentaries are a great way to learn the craft of visual storytelling.

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