June 21, 2015 at 8:46PM

12

Help me educate myself into a career in documentary film.

Long story short is that I have been working in a career I have no passion for now for ten years. Over the course of the last year I have made many life changes, many very positive. The one big lingering thing is what I do with my brain and body for eight hours a day. It dawned on me that I was wasting my life sitting at a desk doing something only to pay my bills, for things I actually never really wanted to begin with.
I up and sold almost all my worldly possessions and rented a little spot on a lake. Made life simple you know.
You are probably wondering why the hell is he telling us this story. Well this where you come in. At this point I know very little except the fact I won’t give up until I am working in film, preferably documentary films. Another thing I have in substitute of actually experience is time. I hope my employer is not reading this but I have being doing it so long the majority of my day is basically waiting, sitting, ruminating and literarily being bored out of mind.
So since it has been established I have a lot of time on my hands, well what I want to do with this time is learn. I am an information junkie and pick up things very quickly. Oh I forgot to tell you why I am posting on here again. Well I want to build a schedule or a road map per say of what to learn. I want to take a week or two or a month and learn a new subject, for example lighting for interviews. My issue is I don’t know what I don’t know. Yes I can just study everything but I thought the supper smart and helpful people from the community could help me out.
Let me know you thoughts are. What subjects I should research learn and practice with my small amount of gear I have now. Also let me know sub subjects you can think of. I will add them to my agenda and maybe you can even test me when I think I am done ha ha ha. I love the think of this thing as an organic document that I can add to over and over again.
Thank you in advance for all your help and being part of this journey. Shit I am excited and now I am supposed to go to sleep so I am not tired for my mind numbing job.

22 Comments

Documentaries are a very tough market to make a living in because obtaining proper funding is always a huge problem. I would suggest that you look at more practical video production markets where it's a little easier to earn a living. ( i.e. Weddings, Corporate, Educational, etc... )

June 21, 2015 at 10:38PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

Hello Guy you are probably right and I will most likely end up doing that. So same questions but for any kind of production work I should of said I guess.

June 22, 2015 at 7:09AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

For me it's absolutely key that you understand the fundamental basics of video production, before you try and do anything else. I would boil this down to a few key items...

- Camera and Lenses
- Audio Recording
- Lighting
- Basic Post Production

I am a big believer in learning by doing, so you need to own enough gear that you are able to teach yourself the key fundamentals of video production. I would not try and learn everything at once, as you will likely end up confusing yourself when trying to keep it all straight in your head. So I would start with your camera, and move on to audio once you've got a solid understanding of your camera down. Your camera can be almost anything as long as it has full manual control of it's settings.

You will have to give me some idea of your gear budget before I can suggest anything you might want to check out. You definitely don't have to spend a fortune, so even a used Nikon D5200 camera ( which sells used for around $400 ) would be a perfect starter camera.

Sample Nikon D5200 Videos on Vimeo
https://vimeo.com/groups/d5200/sort:likes/format:detail

Once you've got the fundamentals down ( realistically this can take a year to get up to speed with all of this ) and can produce a good shot under almost any conditions, then it will be time to look at the business side of things and what types potential markets are out there to make a living in video production.

June 22, 2015 at 5:47PM, Edited June 22, 5:50PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

Hi Guy, I agree with almost everything you've suggested. Your point about the cheap used camera is understood, but I think a Nikon camera is far down the list of entry level cameras I would suggest for a beginner. Very few people use Nikon for any type of professional video production. Again, your point about a cheap manual camera is well taken, but why not suggest a brand that he may actually encounter in a professional situation later in his career? Sony, Panasonic or Canon.

June 23, 2015 at 9:01AM

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Jesse Maxson
Videographer/Editor
81

Hello Guy,
This is perfect exactly what I was thinking when I posted .
Currently I juse bought a used gh3. No lense yet. Next week though. Then audio and lighting next month.

June 22, 2015 at 9:38PM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

A used GH3 is a great starter camera. I would recommend that you buy one of the Panasonic kit lenses with optical stabilization for hand-held work, and a used Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens for tighter shots. ( less than $200 used ) You will also need to pick up a good lens adapter to mount the Nikon lens. I would recommend buying the non-Speedbooster Nikon G adapter from Metabones, which costs about $130, and features step-less aperture control with all Nikon lenses.

June 23, 2015 at 9:35AM, Edited June 23, 9:35AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

It's very complicate but not impossible. You must believe in your dreams.

June 23, 2015 at 5:27AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7713

Thanks Raguel

June 23, 2015 at 9:05AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

>>>but I think a Nikon camera is far down the list of entry level cameras I would suggest for a beginner

It all depends on their budget. If you've only got $500 or less to work with, the Nikon D5200 is a great beginner's camera. It does not have the moire/aliasing problems that all of the Canon APS-C cameras have. It's a common lens mount so it's easy to find used lenses. It produces a detailed video image, and it has fairly good dynamic range.

I have a friend that shoots corporate video with a Sony EX-1 and a Nikon D5200, and he's had no issues with any of his clients. ( Dan has been producing corporate videos for 20+ years, and shooting them himself for the past 5 years )

June 23, 2015 at 9:31AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

Hello Guy,
I am looking at getting a kit lens. I think it was about 800.00. What I was told is a Pan 12-35 f2.8. Honestly if I could get something a little less awesome for 400-500 that would be way better for my budget.
When I bought the GH3 the guy gave me a Canon adapter. Would that would not work with Nikon correct?

June 23, 2015 at 3:52PM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

A Canon adapter will NOT work with a Nikon lens. While Canon makes excellent quality EF glass, the proper electronic adapters to mount them on the GH4 are priced around $400, which is why I recommended going with used Nikon AI-S lenses that have fully manual aperture control and their GH4 adapters cost much less. ( Canon EF lenses have electronic apertures )

June 23, 2015 at 7:05PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

For an affordable kit lens I would look at one of the following lenses...

Lumix 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens ( this is the Mark II lens, DO NOT buy the Mark I lens )
Lumix 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens ( it's a little old, but still a very good lens )
Lumix 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens ( it's the newest lens, and it's nice and wide )

All of the lenses above are sharp, have good optical stabilization, and are priced under $350. I started out with the 14-45mm lens, that I still own and occasionally use from time to time. ( my standard handheld lens is the 12-35mm f/2.8 that costs a lot more, but you don't need this when you are starting out )

June 23, 2015 at 7:01PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

I am sure it doesn't matter too much but I have a GH3 ha ha ha.
I think the Lumix 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens ( it's the newest lens, and it's nice and wide)
Looks perfect. I will get a better one once I know how to use the camera more. This allows me to now get some audio.

June 24, 2015 at 9:54AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

All of these kit lenses work for pretty much any of the Panasonic m4/3 cameras, including the GH3.

The Lumix 12-32mm would be my first pick amongst the lenses I listed. I really like shooting wide at times.

June 24, 2015 at 2:25PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31406

Documetary is a great way to learn storytelling visually, especially in regards to editing. You need to have a passion for it though, if you do at the end of the day you're doing something you love. As for making a living from it forget about it. I balance my own projects with both working in the industry and shooting stuff like weddings. There is a lot of money to made in the industry if the right doors open and you put a lot of hard work in (jobs such as grip, DIT, PM). but when it comes to creating anything for the purpose of engaging an audience and trying to get paid for it, it's so so tough. You need to garner a reputation and your own work becomes like a CV, use Youtube to engage an audience and if directing docs is what you want to do give yourself 10 years or maybe more to build up a substantial portfolio that will give you the skill set to get hired in such a position or to get funding for a doc project.

June 24, 2015 at 8:28AM

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Gino Lynch
filmmaker
146

Hello Gino,

Yeah I hear ya. I think I should of put "help me get into film in general". What I would love in a ideal world I love to work on docs. I live just outside Toronto so lots happening here so if I can even get grip work I would be happy. For now though I am going to try and learn as much as possible so I can get into the industry, even at a low level.

Currently I am a project manager and have run very large businesses in the past. So building something up small on my own while I grip would be the idea.

Thanks for the advice .

June 24, 2015 at 10:04AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

Jason,
Bad ass! Welcome to the dark side. Haha!

If you are just getting into film, you might shoot short docs on small businesses around you. Promo docs basically to help you get started, when I was in film school. I would just ask them for assignments/practice and most are receptive. You can do a couple so you understand what you need for future shoots, i.e. equipment/process of storytelling. There's enough paid/unpaid resources, but I think for storytelling, other than having the 3 act structure, it's about learning your process in building that story also.

June 24, 2015 at 10:51AM

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Tony
364

Thanks Tony. I like the dark side so far.
Once I have my camera up and running this weekend and suggestions on what to do.
First thing I will do is watch a bunch of tutorials about my camera the GH3.
Any things I should know. Like, white balance . Light and stuff like that. I will make a few short videos and post them. Everyone can tell me what I am doing right and wrong.

June 24, 2015 at 12:09PM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

One general skill that will help you immeasurably (and that is, sadly, often lacking in wannabe producers) is project management. It will give you an advantage in any field.

June 25, 2015 at 1:18PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
623

Hello Minor,
I would agree with you. It is part of my skill set tool belt, in some respects. I am a project manager in my day job now. I think there has so to be a lot of overlapping aspects. Saying that I am sure there are a lot that are not also. Thanks for the help.

June 26, 2015 at 8:49AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

Hey Jason, i'd recommend starting at a film coop and trying out all the different roles. Narrow down what you really like and be open to the ones you didn't expect. Also, if you have project management experience, why not leverage that in your transition? The role of a producer / production coordinator would easily overlap with that.

Having worked in docs and TV for 10 years here is what I find what makes people sink or swim. 1- Having a desire to learn. 2) Having great communication skills. 3) Working smart.
It's really that simple, after you find what you really want to do, focus on that and go to a production company, take internships and make your indispensable. People, not equipment, make everything spin around in this business. Be one of the good ones and you'll be fine.

June 25, 2015 at 2:21PM

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Lauchlan Ough
C.S.C Associate Member
74

Hello Lauchlan,

Do you mind sending me your email address? I am originally from Moncton myself. I even have a really good friend you guys know over there. Marc from Post Pro.

I just have a few questions if that is ok.

June 30, 2015 at 10:25AM

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jason macintyre
Student
171

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