Taking the first step to make a documentary
I hear occasionally from filmmakers who want to know how to make a documentary. The first thing I tell them is that you have to have an idea. And that’s where some of them get stumped. What’s your passion, I ask them? Many are new to this idea, that they can have a passion. They have a degree, they have a camera, they have hope. But alas, they are not inspired. And I remember back when I was looking for my next project and I read Bob Hemenway’s wonderful book, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. Who was this brave woman, I wondered? Where did she get that voice of hers, accusing her arrogant peers of being “malicious snots”, scaring her ex-husband by sprinkling voodoo dust around his home. And I wondered, who did she think she was – and more importantly, how could I capture that courageous spirit on film and tape? I puzzled by the very few holes in Bob’s story that left me with unanswered questions. I knew I had to do my own research because unless I thoroughly understood Zora, I couldn’t write her story. And so, with these loose ends in hand, I launched my film.
So you want to make a documentary film? Then first, find your passion. Read a book about where you live. Research in the library. Read the newspaper. Watch TV and ask yourself what you’d like to see up there other than what’s there. Then you can start your own documentary film.