How to approach someone to be the subject of a documentary
I have a particular person/talent in mind for my documentary. I haven't seen much (or really any media) about individuals with his job or talent and I think this person would be the ideal way to showcase such a story.
I want to do this project only because I find the idea exciting and want to know what's involved in the behind-the-scenes of this method of creation and performance.
In short I feel compelled to find and tell the story. I think it embodies this criteria very well:
"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."
~Robert Bresson, French Film Director
I have never made a documentary. I have some hands-on knowledge of cameras as well as productions for film and television but never as the producer and creator and director.
I'm working on doing my own background research of the field the person works in and any other information I think will help me approach this project right now. This will help hone my idea more fully so I can apply to various funding sources if/when I am ready to make this happen. I want to as well-informed about the subject (and making a film) as I can before I even begin with the knowledge that I will always have to learn more!
This project will involve travelling with the talent (hopefully) and I will need help with camera, audio, lighting (at a minimum).
What I'd like is some advice on how to approach this person whom I don't know and have never met, to pitch his involvement? I haven't found a wealth of information on this topic or him personally and so part of the story won't be developed until I have that information.
Since I have never made a film and they have a busy and demanding schedule, it seems like a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum. I want a well planned project to pitch but I really do need to engage with him and let the story reveal itself to a certain extent.
Does my approach sound reasonable. Should I try to find a crew for this production before speaking to him or would I speak to him and then take it from there?
Any tips and advice appreciated.
Answer | Desktop Documentaries
Thanks for your question Briana. Without knowing exactly the person or situation, I can only offer general guidance.
If the person you are trying to contact is a "celebrity" or a person with a high profile, it will be more difficult to engage with them especially if you've never done a film before. You'll need to establish your credibility in some way for them to take you seriously. So you'll need to dig deep and think about your assets. Have you accomplished anything in the past that would show your level of professionalism? (even if it's not a film).
If you are a complete newbie, it may serve you well to first recruit a filmmaker who has more experience that you could use to help build your credibility with this celebrity/person.
Here's an article that helps explain how to find filmmakers for your documentary
Or if you can't find a filmmaker, even getting respected individuals from your community to join your "board of advisors" would help raise your credentials for the project.Click here to learn the importance of building a fundraising team
If you're not yet asking for an interview and you just want to get to know the person -- make initial contact -- send them a friendly "short and sweet" email saying you're exploring the idea of a documentary, that you are fascinated with their life/job and would they have just 10 minutes to speak with you and give you some feedback on an idea you have. If this is a normal person, they will be flattered that you find their life interesting, and you expressing intrigue in their life may be enough for them to respond.
Do you know anyone that knows anyone with a connection with the person? Any kind of personal introduction is always better than a "cold call" or "cold email". Again, use whatever assets and personal connections you have (even if that's excitement for the project) to connect and get their attention.
Did that help answer your question? Just remember, where there's a will, there's a way!
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