5 Ways A Documentary Consultant Can Help You - Raindance

When there’s a problem with your documentary do you just give up or struggle through alone? Well help is at hand through the services of the often under-used documentary consultant. Whereas it’s common practice in drama film production to call in a script editor to help improve a screenplay, in documentary filmmaking it’s rarer to call in help for a film that’s not quite working. Here The Documentary Consultant, Col Spector outlines the 5 main ways that a one or two hour consultancy session (on Skype or in person) might be just what you need:

1.Checking whether your initial idea really works

Too often people waste loads of money and squander wonderful opportunities by rushing in and filming a “documentary” that will never be watched by an audience. This can often be avoided by checking early on in the creative process to discover whether it’s likely that the film really has the potential to fly.

2. Improving an idea that’s not quite working

If your idea isn’t working a good documentary consultant may be able to help you turn it around. What I do with filmmakers, both professional and non-professional, is go through a set of questions with them in order to drill down to the heart of their idea, whilst offering a few creative suggestions along the way. I know that the process is over when I see that the filmmaker is lit up and thrilled by their idea.

3. Advising on what to film and how to film it

If you’re new to filmmaking or would just like some more creative input then a documentary consultant can help advise you on the best way to go out and shoot your film. The way I do this myself is to once again come back to the initial list of questions that I asked the documentary-maker to answer, and then use their answers to discover the most appropriate way to shoot it, aswell as discovering what, who and where to film. I then also spend time working on the structure of the film in order to check that it has the best chance of making an emotional connection with its intended audience.

4. Raising the bar on what you can achieve

Documentary-making is a real craft and can take time to develop the skills to master so I think it’s good from time to time to check in with someone who can listen to what you want to achieve and can give you clear guidance about how to achieve it.  A documentary consultant with years of practical filmmaking experience behind them can, in just an hour or two, really help you leap-frog you career. It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to be surprised by how much was achieved in so short a period of time.

5. Improving your edit

Though it’s always better to get everything right before you go out to film sometimes an edit that doesn’t work can be got to work with a few judicious suggestions and tweaks. There’s a saying about the editing process that “your film isn’t coming into being until your favourite shot is on the cutting room floor” – so I’m the guy who might suggest removing a whole character from a film in order to improve its dramatic arc.

To see how Col Spector could help you with your film and to read some testimonials from filmmakers who have used his service go to www.thedocumentaryconsultant.com



BA (Hons) Film & TV London College of Printing, Raindance MA in Film . Col is an award-winning writer/director who started in non-fiction at the BBC and now works primarily in fiction: writing and directing feature films for the cinema. He also runs his own documentary consultancy business. You can learn from Col in person at the Raindance Documentary Foundation Certificate.