On January 5, our Executive Director Mark Hackett joined a talented panel to discuss filmmaking and storytelling at Shoot & Splice, a monthly event in Memphis, TN that focuses on aspects of filmmaking. The first Shoot & Splice of 2016 focused on how documentaries raise awareness and create change, but the conversation quickly spread out into other aspects of filmmaking as well.
During introductions, we had the opportunity to present our new campaign: #Storytellers. If you haven't heard about it yet, you can watch it here:
Here's 3 key takeaways from the evening:
1. Community & Audience
Throughout the evening, the discussion frequently returned to how to build a community around a film and how to reach new audiences. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all answers, some common ideas from the panelists were:
- Know who your audience is before beginning the filmmaking process so you can tailor your project towards them.
- Growing organically into new communities and audiences is a good approach. Reaching out to new groups of people who have similar interests as you work on your project can help you build into a new community.
- Collaborate when you can. If you need help, guidance, or new ideas, don't be afraid to reach out to a filmmaker who is a little further along in their journey. Reach out for feedback even if you don't have an immediate need.
2. Pursuit of Originality
With the DSLR revolution and the affordability of creative programs, filmmaking has democratized over the past decade. While this means that documentary filmmaking has made an explosive comeback, especially at the local level, a potentially negative side effect is that it is harder to make something new and different. Here's some ways the panel suggested getting around this barrier:
- Take risks. See if you can get that shot you've been wanting to get, but feel like you don't have the know-how to accomplish. Rent a new piece of equipment to help you do it. If you fail, you've at least learned something that will get you closer to what you are hoping for.
- Find inspiration in the normal. Sure, those 9 videos you just watched on Vimeo look great, but they also all look very similar. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Examine what other filmmakers do, combine ideas and concepts, and try to make something better and new out of it.
- If you feel like you're being too formulaic, change up your process. Instead of asking your usual interview questions, just have an open conversation with the interviewee on camera. Move an indoor interview outside. Throw in an extra camera to add another angle. Get really creative with your b-roll.
3. Limited Resources
All of the panelists work with minimal resources, but still make and contribute to high-quality projects. The secret is packing light, but powerful. You don't need a van full of equipment to make something great. A solid camera, a few lenses, and a couple of different mounts will do.
Our standard out of studio setup is two cameras, 3 lenses, 2 tripods, 1 motion slider, 1 shoulder mount, and a recording mic. And it all fits in a single backpack.
We're shooting our 4th documentary film later this year, but right now we're raising the funds to do it. We're giving out some really cool rewards for people who back this project and we want you to join the 200+ people who have already given.
Operation Broken Silence is a nonprofit organization leading a global movement for peace and justice in Sudan through innovative programs. You can learn more about Sudan and our work there by exploring our website.