Ask the Documentary Doctor

Dear Doc Doctor:

Is a short film the obligatory starting point of a filmmaking career? If so, what can I do with it when it’s finished? It doesn’t seem to make financial sense to make a short.

The Medium is the Maker

Affordable Options for Unique Visuals

Filmmakers are often touted for their “vision”—their singular sense of how a movie should look, sound, and feel. But every film starts on paper, with a screenplay or even just an idea for a character or a mood. A director must partner with a cinematographer, a production designer, and others to translate that idea into a compelling, visually sophisticated narrative.

The Nuances of Film Editing

Shaping a Story After the Wrap

The word “edit” has a bad reputation. To lay folk, the word brings to mind overindulgence, censorship, and the property neighbored by “File” and “View.” But people in film know better.

Getting Coverage

How to Win the Hearts and Minds of the Press

One of the great truths of media is that there is no such thing as bad press, but how to get even bad press can be a mysterious process for filmmakers without giant, studio publicity machines behind them. There are filmmakers who seem to produce very little work, but are constantly finding their way into articles, while other good works are passed over.

Publicity from Day One

Getting Your Film Noticed at Festivals

Whether it’s Sundance or Seattle, Outfest or Newfest, film festivals are a powerful marketing platform for independent films. But many filmmakers, especially first-time filmmakers, do not fully take advantage of these opportunities created by festivals. Too often filmmakers make the mistake of thinking that the real work in making a film is, well, making the film.

Building a Killer Press Kit

The press kit is the most important tool for any filmmaker seeking media coverage, but many independent film press kits are either overstuffed with irrelevant information or seriously lacking vital data.

Pitching to PBS

Independent programs on popular PBS strands

Ever wanted to pitch an idea to one of the PBS strands but didn’t know how? Well The Independent has put together this rundown of the programs that keep their doors open for ideas from indie producers.

American Experience—accepts pitches

Unlocking the Secrets of the Screening Committee

For almost every independent film its first exhibition space will be a festival screening room.

How to think about test screenings

Be careful when and how you show unfinished work, the Documentary Doc advises

Dear Doc Doctor: I have a fifteen minute cut of a one-hour documentary, and the editor and I are not sure about the main storyline and characters. Should I have a test screening? How many should I have?

Should I script my documentary?

You'd be better off taking up meditation, the Documentary Doctor says

Dear Doc Doctor:

I’m shooting abroad and want to make sure I don’t miss anything since I can’t go back to reshoot. Is there a way I can know the “story” or “script” of my documentary in advance?

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