Both Jeff Hinman and myself had long wanted to make a documentary film, we just hadn’t done anything about it. I think the only real difference between those who dream about doing something and those who actually do it is some form of motivation, a little push in the right direction. For us, the motivation was talking about our ambition, and then, deciding to push each other towards actually making a film. It was encouraging to speak candidly with someone else who was harboring the same passion for the genre, it felt a little less daunting to tackle this ambition with someone else to brainstorm and trouble shoot with. While this method may not work for everyone, I think it is exactly the right conditions that I needed to be ready to dive in and make a film.
Jeff H. has been an editor for over 20 years; I have been a Copywriter/Producer for the past 12. After working together on TV spots and trailers for the entertainment industry, and realizing that our individual talents would be very complimentary to partnering up on the project, we decided it was time to look for a documentary subject that interested us. In the meantime, we decided to give ourselves a sort of classroom environment to learn more about the genre by watching docs during our lunch breaks; critiquing them and breaking them down to their most basic components, trying to figure out what makes a great documentary. The more we watched the more we became emboldened to the idea that, while many of the films we were watching were wonderful, they did not seem to be particularly unattainable in production quality or scope. Even some of the most lauded and enjoyable documentaries were, in fact, very simply put together. We quickly came to the conclusion that content is king, that if your subject matter was good enough and properly presented people would want to watch your film, and we believed we had the ability to deliver a quality documentary film given the right subject.
Unfortunately this is where we stalled. It sounded easy enough, just find an interesting subject with a story to tell and tell it in a way that would enthrall an audience. Was it too much to ask for a topic to just drop into our laps? And then one did.
At this point I realized a couple of things – First, if you’re having trouble getting going or staying motivated, find a production partner. This simple step alone has helped keep me motivated to make forward progress on the project rather than just talking about it. I think we help keep each other motivated, which, in the world of documentaries is important. There are a million stop/starts and ups and downs, and having someone to hand off to is vital. Second, you can brainstorm and search all you want but when the right subject comes along make sure you are paying attention!
Once we decided to make this film there were still dozens of questions we had, questions like – What was our film about, did we know enough to shoot it, what were we going to shoot it on, who was our intended audience and how in the world were we going to pay for it?
We knew very little about traditional documentary funding other than to know it seemed daunting. We ultimately craved the opportunity to make a film on our own terms, we had passion but we needed some dollars. Enter Kickstarter, a micro-funding or crowd-funding site that offers people the opportunity to help artistic endeavors get off the ground while earning rewards from the filmmakers such as copies of the finished movie, autographed photos and various meet and greet opportunities with the stars of the project. We knew that the Kickstarter model made a ton of sense for our film, Bert has a lot of built in fans and this would give them the opportunity of essentially helping to produce a documentary film about him while contributing as little as 5 bucks. Additionally this would provide fans of documentary films an opportunity to help fund a project by two new, yet passionate, directors.
In order to get the project rolling we knew we needed to show potential contributors what we brought to the table in terms of talent, so we set out to produce, shoot and edit our teaser trailer. It was important to make it entertaining but ultimately to show what the film was going to be about and how we as filmmakers would tackle the challenge. To do this we interviewed Bert along with a number of other Stand-up comics. As we interviewed Bert it only solidified in our mind the choice to make a film about him, he’s brilliant and hilarious and more people need to get to know him. Bert Kreischer has an instant likability and a sincerity that you don’t find with many people you meet. He does not ever seem to be telling you anything but the truth and doing so in the funniest way possible. Seriously, it’s a good thing we were using lav mics and a tri-pod the first interview we did with him because I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling out of my eyes and my chest hurt because I couldn’t catch my breath. If you meet him ask him to tell you the bear story.
We’re still in the very early stages of this project but if there is one thing I have learned that I would share with anyone else looking to make a documentary, it’s that you can’t let yourself be too intimidated to try, just dive in. If you have a passion for it don’t get bogged down with reasons why you can’t do it. Making a documentary is not some mystical process; it can be done if you’re willing to put in the work. Maybe read a few books, watch a lot of documentaries and then find a topic and start shooting. Whatever happens, happens, but don’t sit on the sidelines wishing you had.
Jeff Hinman and Jeff Johnson have worked together in the entertainment industry for over 5 years. Jeff Hinman has been an editor for over 20 years and Jeff Johnson a producer for 12. They both have a passion for documentaries, both have a lot of experience they bring to this project, and both love eating from gourmet food trucks.