The details below are provided for emerging filmmakers, and also for those among you in the wider public who are not aware of the multiple tasks required to produce a documentary film. Hence, you might not appreciate how films require financing, whether through government, corporate or personal funds. The fact, however, remains that serious art production, regardless of art media, is not limited to particular artistic abilities, the development of which require a lot of hard work and sacrifice by creators. Art production also is conducted as a business whose financial accountability is evident in the completed project. Documentary storytellers, furthermore, generally recognize a moral accountability to their portrayal of subjects.
The professional strength that I brought to Everett Soop's film story was grounded in many years of journalism experience, with highly developed interview skills. Based on respect for Everett, I then sought excellent cinematographers and editors, and a story consultant, to ensure a top quality production to honour Everett and his legacy, and produce a story of long term value. Metaphorically, I was both creator and midwife in giving life to this film, through tasks such as:
- Respectfully involving Everett, as film subject, in all development and production stages;
- Choosing a director of photography (who also took on a role as co-producer);
- Write and pitch `film proposal' to get letters of support from Canadian broadcasters;
- Travel on development trip to research Everett's art & writings, family & community;
- Do thorough market research that my film was unique, to satisfy broadcasters and funders;
- Also solicit several letters of support from various end users, again to satisfy financiers;
- Prepare `story treatment' acceptable to the leading broadcaster who supported the film;
- Research a long list of costs, and prepare a `locked budget' required by financiers;
- Find an experienced and interested distributor (actually two, Canadian and American);
- Never give up sending out film proposals through four years, to raise needed money;
- Arrange all legal licences & permissions, and also Errors & Omissions insurance;
- Be my own production manager and production assistant to organize everything;
- Direct two film shoots, after hiring crew, & scheduling all on-camera subject interviews;
- For post-production, choose offline editor, and work with her during a 10-week edit;
- Also hire transcriber, story consultant, voice-over narrator, sound editor & online editor;
- Select music, & acquire two permissions for each composition: lyrics & specific recording;
- Write the voice-over narration, and arrange studio space for chosen narrator to record it;
- Pay all the bills; in post-production, continually request promised funding to do so;
- Do all publicity when budget was too limited to hire a publicist;
- Become my own sales agent, to arrange film festival invitations & future TV sales;
- Continue to be proactive to generate ongoing sales across various sectors & home use.
Producing this film today might not be possible, nor other documentaries pertinent to the issues of our time. Read A Film Industry in Transition, a new section later in 2012, to know the causes and understand why new types of funding support are needed.