Filmmaker Question (Caleb from Australia):
I finished University last year with a Bachelor of Communication (journalism and politics), and I'm now studying for my masters. Recently, I have been wanting to go into documentary making, instead of academia. What I plan on doing is making documentaries by myself. Is this feasible?
In other words, I'll be doing all the shooting, interviewing, voice-over, editing, etc without the aid of anyone. I'm all fine with everything, but is it unprofessional shooting the camera on a tripod by yourself while doing interviews? When I did study journalism, I did group work, so I'm not sure.
Also, I am thinking of doing it with a very good consumer camcorder, not a professional camcorder, whilst interviewing people (sitting down in offices, etc) with clip-on mics (that attach to the shirts) to help with the audio. Is this acceptable? I'm not wanting to make "home-made" like documentaries that look amateurish. All I'll be really doing is interviewing people, so I don't think I need lots of grand landscape shots all the time.
Also, for funding, what are the chances, or the stats, on people actually getting funding? And how much funding do they get, roughly, or within the usual varied limits?
Thanks for your time.
The short answer is "YES!" You can most certainly produce a documentary all by yourself. Of course, there are limitations, but it's certainly doable. Especially now with such easy and low cost video options. You'll have to teach yourself a lot of skills (shooting, lighting, editing, etc).. but if you're disciplined and are willing to learn, you can do it.
You asked the question: "Is it unprofessional shooting the camera on a tripod by yourself while doing interviews?"
This is an interesting question because I have certainly conducted hundreds of video interviews by myself as a one-person crew and I have also done hundreds of interviews with a crew. I can definitely say, if I have a choice, my personal preference is to have a camera person with me because I can fully concentrate on the interview while not having to worry about audio and/or if the shot is lined up properly.
However, on a tight budget, you may need to conduct the interview yourself. You can still get a very good interview this way, it's just harder on you because you're not only trying to connect with the interviewee and ask good questions, you're also having to worry about "is my audio good", "what's going on in the background?". If the interview subject is moving, you'll have to readjust the camera angle so the person doesn't go out of frame.
If I MUST be a one person crew, I'll often forego the tripod and shoot the interview hand-held.. more spontaneous style.. that way I can quickly adjust if the person moves.
If you want to avoid looking amateurish, take special care to get good lighting and good audio. Those two things separate the pro from the amateur.
You also asked about funding. The more experience you have, the more people are willing to fund your project. Learn more about that here:
Articles and resources you may find helpful:
Read Brian's excellent overview of how he shot his documentary "Answering The Call": Documentary Gear List With The Canon 70D and Canon Rebel T5i (VIDEO)
Joseph East outlines his gear list shooting solo for his documentary "I Will Dance". Shooting Solo: A Low-Budget Filmmaker's Equipment List
Bob Krist, National Geographic freelance photojournalist, shares his Gear Kit For a One-Man Documentary Film Crew.
What are your recommendations and tips for shooting solo? Please share your experiences and advice below...