The quest to learn something

This past weekend we signed up for the San Francisco Film Society’s workshop on Producing and Directing Documentary films. The class was taught by award winning documentary filmmaker David L. Brown.

Why were we interested in a documentary class, you ask? We hoped the class would shed light on the few areas of Documentary filmmaking that are still a little dark for us. Namely the areas that bookend actual production: Fundraising and Distribution.

(now let us pause to praise ourselves)

We are absolutely golden on the latest and greatest production techniques. We can script and preproduce both television and commercial shoots. We light, we shoot, we’ve have camcorders and DSLR’s. We work with fantastic camera and sound people.  Thanks to some of the wonderful people we’ve worked with over the years, we’re feeling absolutely great about our post workflow (and we’ve got two fully equiped edit stations in our office… one that’s broadcast ready to rock and often does). We’re also fortunate to have a large cast of outstanding editors and graphics people in our peer group who are ready to help out when we need extra staff.

(self-promotion over)

The areas that we’re fuzzy about are how non-profit documentaries secure funding through fiscal sponsorship and grants. We know the basic concepts, but we haven’t done it, and therefore we’re thirsty for more knowledge. We’re also curious about the processes involved with dvd distribution, film festivals, and theatrical release. A class called “Producing and Directing” seemed like a perfect place to clear things up for us.

The workshop was held at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center in SF. It’s a building we were previously unaware of and will certainly be back to. If only the class was as cool as the building. It was more of a “filmmaking 101″ with an emphasis on documentary, which was a little disappointing.

Professor Brown did a good job of condensing the basics of filmmaking into a two day intensive, but the areas we were curious about received only a brief glance.

We spoke to him after it was all over and he did have a few helpful tips. He clued us into the fact that we could start a seperate entity from JADED for documentary work. That might allow us to donate JADED’s resources in kind, which would look good on a proposal. We’re going to consult a lawyer about that. He also mentioned that private donors with an interest in a film’s topic are a good source of seed funding to get the first days of production off the ground. That way we can shoot enough for a “sample clip” which is a mix between a trailer and just a short version of your doc that’s useful for generating funding. However, that advice is very similar to the “know rich people” advice that we hear most often when this topic is broached.

In the end, the name of the class was a little misleading, but we met a few interesting folks and it’s always good to meet people.

Apologies for the crappy cell phone pics. The quest continues.

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