I’m going to share with you my story of how I created a documentary where I ate nothing but fast food while trying to lose weight and why I gave it away for free on YouTube. First, I would like to share five important filmmaking points I learned along the way.
Ask yourself: If you were to die next year, what would you want to have created this year to leave behind in your legacy?
1) Shoot now. Talk later.
So many of us wait around too long to plot and plan our films. We think if I only had this. If I only had that. You waste so much precious time doing all this. All you need is a camera, an idea and the ability to get up off your butt. I wasted months dwelling over perfection and setbacks I had before shooting my documentary until I decided to knock the wall down with bare hands. I wasn’t going to wait for the sledgehammer and I wasn’t going to wait to think about the consequences.
2) Don’t get too fancy. Make something real, something worth talking about.
Don’t waste loads of time trying to be too fancy with equipment and things that seem cool but are just filler. At times, I would have this awesome idea but tell myself that it wasn’t something I could shoot now. I’d have to wait on it. How many times have you postponed a project for no real reason but your mind playing tricks on you.
We think we don’t have enough money, skills, talent, power, friends, etc. The list goes on and on. Let me tell you, you have it in you to make the film you want to make.
You just need to rid your mind of the derailing thoughts. Be you. Get out. Move. The world will thank you that you did later.
3) Opportunities exist now more than ever before for filmmakers
There’s so much opportunity now more than ever before to get your work seen. I agree, it’s not easy. I agree, throwing something up online, and wishing, isn’t the best strategy. Still, when was there ever a time in history where you could publish something with the click of a button, and create an opportunity to possibly be seen by every single person in the world, without asking for anyone’s permission?
4) Turn off the computer and shut your eyes
Step away from the world. Step away from the clutter. Don’t be so inundated all the time with mind cluttering bits of news. Everyone wants your attention, but as a filmmaker you need to become a person who demands attention one day. The only way to do this is to take back all the attention you’ve been giving to everything else and give it back to yourself, your thoughts and your passions.
The film you want to make no matter how short, no matter how long will come out of you and come to fruition if you take back your energy.
5) Create an opportunity
Stop thinking like a video production company and become your own network, your own show, your own media company, your own brand. Imagine a major production company came to you and told you that they’re selecting you to direct the next film, or create the next TV show, etc. How would you feel? What would you do?
You’d run and tell all your friends, I’m being chosen.
I want you to choose yourself. Stop and imagine as if whatever it is you want to create, someone actually came up to you and said, “We want you to make this for us and you have complete autonomy. Here’s your deadline.” Imagine like you were hired to create your baby. It changes the whole story.
Now go out and do it.
That is the new way of the world of the internet.
How my journey started
My brother planted a seed in my brain. He mentioned one day, what if you were to eat McDonald’s all month and actually lost weight. We joked about it and were like “What? No way!” But wait a second… what if i could make it happen… And the journey began.
Don’t think too hard. Don’t complicate things.
I believe several months passed by while this idea hovered in my mind. At first, my brother would do it and I would shoot him but he got busy and we lived too far from each other. For a while I let it linger and forgot about it.
Time passed, as I contemplated hard, how I’d make this happen. I had no one to really follow me around on camera. Fear set in. What if I made a fool of myself. What if I hurt myself. I feared I couldn’t make it happen logistically or practically.
I had no real background in health or fitness, but then I thought maybe that could actually help me. If I made this happen, what story would this tell about our society and all the things we’ve been told about health.
I finally decided that no matter what happened as a result of this fast food experiment I’d benefit from at least having taken such a journey.
I decided that I’d do whatever I could to make this film happen. My wife was in school full time and I was working full time. So I decided to just grab a camera and shoot myself.
Getting off the ground is harder than flying and how money almost stopped me from moving forward
After I made up mind to proceed, I realized I didn’t have health insurance.
I called a few doctors to ask for free bloodwork and testing who were all like
“Yeah what you’re doing is great but I can’t really help you.”
So much for doctors.
I called up some blood centers and asked how much it would be to get bloodwork done without insurance and it turns out it was up there in like the $700 range.
I was like “Oh sh*t!” How am I going to get my bloodwork done. How am I going to talk to doctors. How am I going to get all the tests I needed for the movie. I started panicking. I started saying to myself that this movie could simply not be made by myself and current situation.
Then I stopped and thought about it and said, Well, f*ck it.
I don’t have health insurance. I can’t change that right now. Am I really just going to call everything quits because of that stupid reason. I sat down and brainstormed and thought, how can I just make this film, my way, with the resources I had available.
I accepted the situation and asked myself: well, since I can’t do the whole doctor spiel, what are the least informationals I needed to have the experiment validated in some sort of scientific way.
1. Blood work – before and after.â€¨
2. Weight and measurements – before and after. (I can do this myself with a camera)
That’s when I began searching online for “cheap bloodwork” and BOOM! I found a $99 special for a blood test that would cover everything! It’s amazing how much the universe lends itself to you when you make up your mind to do something and never allow people’s opinions around you and other silly complications to overtake you.
Interestingly, the fine print on the website said that people from New Jersey would not be allowed to participate. Seriously? So my friend and I grabbed our camera, drove out to Pennsylvania (where it was allowed) and prayed.
Shoot now, figure it out in editing
That’s it. That’s what I’d do. I don’t care who didn’t like it. I’ll shoot myself and have the bare basics of the informationals I needed. I don’t need a lazy doctor to take my records. We’re in a world of real time, social media, people to people. Why couldn’t I just do it all myself and just be genuine and honest with people on camera.
In the long run, whoever doesn’t like your film won’t like it anyway. Having a Canon 7D over a 5D won’t make a difference. Getting this situation over that situation won’t matter. Be honest with yourself. Do your best and let go of the rest.
I decided to shoot it using the limitations, myself on camera, simply taking people through what I was doing on camera and had no clue how I’d make this work later.
At first thought, I said to myself, people just watching me for 70 minutes in a documentary with no interviews, special stars, formal doctors – how would that work. I did not allow this to deter me. I shot what I could with passion and while being genuine and decided to fix whatever I could in the editing room. If it worked I’d accept it and if it did not I’d accept that as well.
Don’t listen to people
If you stop and listen to people you’re killing yourself. You could be stripping yourself away from what you really want to do and from what can give your film success.
When we got to the office, my friend started shooting me and the woman told him to stop and that we wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures inside. My friend responded “I’m not taking pictures” and continued to shoot me anyway.
At first, I got nervous and upset. I was thinking like man, I got over the roadblock of getting doctors, paying high prices for bloodwork and we drove hours all the way here and this lady is not even going to let me get the shots I needed of my own bloodwork. Are you f-ing kidding me?
But when my ballsy friend continued shooting in front of her face and she never said anything about it I thought Wow: How easy is it to just shift a situation to your benefit if you don’t panic, but relax, say and do the right things.
I was not going to allow the nonsensical thoughts of some woman that truly meant nothing to the film prevent me from getting one of the most important aspects of the film on camera.
The bottom line is, don’t take it sitting down. Stand up, mentally. Shift the situation and GET WHAT YOU NEED.
Be confident about what you’re setting out to do
When I was editing and looking for help with the film I even had a musician who first gave me permission to use his song that was in the Creative Commons but then denied me once he heard the word “fast food.” He said he was against Fast Food corporations. He never saw the film and had no idea that this documentary was really about health, but he crawled into the myths and stories he told himself.
I even had a recent acquaintance criticize me over it shockingly based on the same misunderstanding. I say to you, if people criticize you then you should know you’re on the right track.
If your idea scares people – that’s a good sign. If you fear making what you’re thinking about – that’s a good sign.
Believe in yourself and believe in what you’re creating.
Day job, shooting and lifestyle changes
Like everyone else, I had to shoot and still maintain a day job. At the time, I was teaching so my schedule was flexible enough that I could take time out to shoot something here and there. I would be able to get to a fast food joint like Burger King, McDonalds and Taco Bell throughout the day. The hardest part for me was the actual attempt to lose weight. I had to try shifting my lifestyle to wake up earlier and do some form of physical activity which wasn’t my norm at the time. It’s amazing what you’re willing to do when it’s your own film on the line.
Why I chose YouTube over film festivals
After finishing the editing, I started wondering, “what am I really going to do with this film.” Like most filmmakers, reality sets in. We think once we finish a film, the magical fairy is going swoop down in the middle of the night, give you a kiss, take your film and give you a million dollars for it.
Oh no. It doesn’t work that way.
I had four options:
1) Give the film away online for anyone to watch.
2) Try building an audience over the course of several months and ask them to buy it on a dead technology called DVD.
3) Spend a few hundred dollars, submit to film festivals and wait months to hear back. If I got rejected, spend a few more hundred and submit to the crappy film festivals, get accepted, go on an ego trip and come back home.
4) Rent out a local theatre for a couple of thousand dollars and get 30 friends to see my film inside a hot tiny theatre who could’ve watched it in their underwear online on their laptops, phones or tablets.
So I started looking through film festivals. I missed so many. So many were too expensive, but the worse thing of all was that most of them said that the movie could not have premiered anywhere before submission up until you either get a rejection or the after the festival, if you got accepted.
I thought to myself, so I have to let my movie sit on my hard drive for almost a half a year, no one can watch it, and along with that, have a strong possibility that my film wouldn’t even get into the festival. I also have to pay them money to wait.
It’s like you went out and spent all your money on this brand new car, and just when you’re ready to take it out for that first spin around the city, someone tells you to cover it up, keep it in the garage until they come back from a 6 month trip to Hawaii. They also ask you to pay them a storage fee.
This just didn’t make sense or seem fair to me.
Even if I got in, I’d still be left to do my own promotion so I thought why not just get the film out there and let whoever wants to see it see it and then do whatever promoting I could starting from day 1 not day 156.
For me, just like most filmmakers, people come first, money is second. Someone actually watching your film is a top priority. A single human being watching your film and saying “cool” is all a filmmaker needs to make another one. YouTube gives you that opportunity more than anything else.
During the time of this article, the documentary has over 2000 views within 3 months. Hey, that’s not tons, I know, but for me it’s 2000 more people who got to see the film than 0 if I waited out a film festival.
Results of the Fast Food experiment
As for the results of my experiment I’d rather you just saw the documentary yourself. Enjoy the film and please share a link with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
When I’m not making videos I write about personal development at Lessonsdadnevertaughtyou.com