Pre-production for a Documentary

Pre-production for a Documentary

You have this idea for a documentary film, the subject is interesting, and you are willing to spend your time, money and resources to make it. But before you can start filming you must research your idea and create an outline for your project. An outline is like a wish list of things that you want to include in your film; subjects, people and places. Before you can start let’s decide who your audience is? who is possibly going to see and also be interested in watching your film? Sometimes a film is targeted at a certain age group, demographic, be it a local audience or national audience or are you looking for a world-wide audience?

Film Festivals have a selection criterion based on the running time of a film so if your world-wide audience is going to be reached through film festival screenings, you’ll need to consider the length of the film in order to be selected.

Now that your audience is sorted, you’ll need to research interesting people who can be contacted for interview in your film. Not everyone likes to be filmed so you’ll need backups. Also, not every interview goes well and they may end up not being included in the final edit, so again you need backups.

Change of direction? Your research can lead you to a more interesting direction, don’t be afraid to explore but be aware that this new direction may not fit well with the rest of your project and cannot be included in the final film.

Make this your mantra, Research and Research again. Continuously research your subject and the subjects in your film and the direction that your filming takes you. You may uncover some little-known facts and through this expand knowledge in your subject.

My Documentary Idea

TITLE – Cinema Memories (Working title)

Documentary Outline film ONE.

Investigation into the Dementia friendly screenings at the Dukes. What I would like to do is to film the audience at a live screening or series of screenings, as scheduled by the Dukes, with follow up interviews with selected dementia sufferers and their carers. Looking to add to these with interviews away from the Dukes, following up on the cinema experience and to see what their memories are of going to the cinema, in their youth or their earliest memory.

Seeking interviews with health professionals and academic researchers and get an idea on camera of what dementia is and what could be happening at these screenings.

Apart from memory loss what are the other health conditions that Dementia sufferers experience, what do they experience when going to Cinema is it a reconnection to earlier memories of cinema going or is something else happening? Are Dementia sufferers living in a past time? do they believe that the screening of an old film is a current release, do they know what year it is? Does it make them happy or ultimately does it make them sad that they have lost so much? What part does the venue play in the cinema going experience, is it that the Dukes is an older independent cinema that belongs to an earlier age that makes the audience feel more at home, would a modern multi-plex work just as well?

During the follow-up interviews look for b-roll opportunities. Street scenes of Lancaster City particularly on market days and possibly around Christmas may present an opportunity to explore local life around the Dukes. Look at filming in the countryside maybe the lakes although find a credible link to do so as I do not want any B-roll to just be random landscapes maybe look for a link from a dementia sufferers past, maybe they lived there and have fond memories of the location – make sure you ask them about happy memories of local locations or indeed bad memories.

This is going to be an emotional roller coaster of a film be careful not to concentrate on one of the other, seek balance.

I’m really looking for a small group of individuals that appear in the first film that can form a core to the follow-up films.

Include a small amount of travelling footage especially to the lakes, emphasise we are on a journey of discovery.

Think about using a narrator to voice over some of the sequences but where possible use professional, authoritative voices to explain screen visuals.

Decide who is your audience before editing, is it for the academic panel, the public, medical professionals, or a mix of these – do I need several edits? Will I be targeting the film festival circuit? I think the answer to that is YES, let’s get this film out there to a world-wide audience. A film on Dementia I watched recently was funded by the Canadian Film Council and is currently available to view on Netflix – is this a possibility for my film, is there funding? Should I approach the Alzheimer’s Society for assistance either financially or for the follow-up films? What other sources of funding are there?