Are you struggling with your documentary film?
Are you about to risk a load of favours and all your savings on making a documentary that may struggle to get picked up by a film festival or distributor?
Maybe its time to take your documentary film idea (or rough-cut) off for a little 1 or 2 hour oil change and sevice via Skype before your film becomes unroadworthy. Here filmmaker Col Spector pitches his 5 reasons why he thinks that the documentary consultant should be as ubiquitous in the world of documentary making as the script editor is in drama film production.
• You’ll Get Years of Experience Thrown In
For a documentary to truly connect with an audience many things have to align – and these don’t just happen randomly through artistic instinct. If you want to be a violinist you don’t just go out and buy a violin and then get a booking from Carnegie Hall. Through working with the right documentary consultant you can piggy back off their years of knowledge and experience to discover not just whether you do indeed have a great idea for a film that is likely to connect with an audience, but if you do then what the best way is to direct that film. And if there are problems with you initial idea the documentary consultant can help you make your idea stronger.
• You’ll Get Loads of Creative Ideas
For me, script editors are the unsung heroes of drama filmmaking who can have a huge input when they are brought in to give a screenplay a creative refresh. I believe that the same thing applies to the documentary consultant who will work with you on your idea and give you a ton of creative ideas. However this should never be prescriptive – a good documentary consultant should always make suggestions that come out of your world view and what you want to say as a filmmaker. Strangely documentary consultants are used far less than drama script editors are, and I really don’t know why. A talented documentary consultant can in the space of an hour or two literally turn around an idea from half-baked to perfectly cooked.
• You’ll Learn To Make Friends With Structure
I’ve had consultations with film school graduates who told me that they had learned more about the really important aspects of documentary making from one consultation with me than they had over two years at film school. The films they’d made at film school never saw the light of the day but after working with me their ideas had actually found a way to connect emotionally with an audience. And yet many first or second time filmmakers truly believe that rules, or structure, are the enemy of creativity. However in my experience having made many critically acclaimed documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 and having worked with over 250 filmmakers on their film ideas I can assure you that a thorough understanding of documentary structure can truly liberate you creatively. At heart documentary making really is structure, structure, structure – but never in a bad way. A real understanding of structure can give you the tools to truly realise your creative vision and enable you to produce a successful and distinctive film. The rules that I use in every consultation are the same ones that I’ve always used when developing my own documentary ideas and they’re so indispensable to me that I never leave home without them. I think that what you learn from a gifted documentary consultant you’ll be able to use forever.
• You’ll Save Lots of Money
I’ve been involved in selecting documentaries for film festivals and I have to say – the majority of documentary films I see are barely watchable and I really think would struggle to find an audience. Two hour’s consultation might cost you £150 – not bad value when you think what you film would have cost you in time and money if it fails to reach an audience. I challenge anyone to find a better value service on offer.
• You’ll Hopefully Leave Inspired
When filmmakers first come to me (on Skype or in person) they often have a sense of anxiety about them. They’re definitely not lit up about their film. And then when they finish the session something has shifted – there is a newfound lightness about them and sense of confidence. And they are really excited about their film. I personally get a thrill out of seeing that transformation and the knowledge that they’re now ready to go out and make the best possible film.