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How do I get a documentary crew?

by Andrew Diaz
(West Point, Ny)

Question: I have a great idea for a documentary which I believe will be extremely popular. Basically I want a film crew who will shoot the film, and they can have 50% of all the proceeds that come out of the film. Is that even a feasible option to give? If so, to whom should i give that option, and how should i present it?


It will be a rather large scale and strenuous film, as it will cover ground through 49 states.

Answer: This is a great question. And the answer depends a lot on YOU. What skills do you bring to the table? Are you willing to raise money for the project or are you expecting the crew to work for free until it is produced and sold?

Here's the reality. Documentaries take a LOT of work and rarely do they make a profit. So either the filmmaker must be so passionate about the project that they are willing to work for free to get the film made (knowing that they probably will never make a profit) or funding will need to be raised in advance, usually in the form of grants or donations.

If you can somehow convince the filmmakers that this story is worth making and get them to work for free, more power to you. But why would they only accept 50% if they are doing all the work? Your idea alone is not valuable in and off itself. People have great ideas every day. The VALUE is the idea coupled with what YOU bring to the table. If you are not a filmmaker yourself, then you will need to have business skills and the ability to bring money into the project. Your idea alone is not valuable. What's valuable is your connections, your ability to raise capital and/or your ability to make a film.

So if you have a great idea for a documentary, here are your options:

  1. Film it yourself and keep 100% of the profits

  2. Pay a crew to make the film for you (you raise money from investors or donations or pay out of your own pocket) and then you keep any profits left over at the end.

  3. Convince the filmmakers to work for free in exchange for 50% of the profits -- highly unlikely scenario unless you're dealing with a college student or someone just looking for experience. This scenario usually only works if you already have a stellar track record of producing successful/profitable films or if you're doing the bulk of the work and just asking for some free help here and there in exchange for deferred payment (And even that requires a high level of trust between you and the person you're asking to work for free).

I answered this question for someone else where I go into a bit more detail about how to find a crew. You can read that post here.

How Can I Find Collaborators To Help With My Documentary?


Other articles that may help:

How To Pitch Your Documentary Idea for Funding

How Documentary Funding Works

How To Sell Your Documentary
http://www.videouniversity.com/articles/selling-your-great-documentary

Good luck!

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