Don’t wait to start your documentary until

“all the funding is in place.”

You may be one of the chosen few with that luxury,

but for most “waiting” will mean “never starting.” Get a camera

and get started. You’ll find a way to get funding later, especially

when you have something to show funders.

Don’t call up established filmmakers and expect

them to help you raise money for your film.

It’s presumptuous. And while some generous filmmakers

will offer a tidbit of advice or two, raising money is something

every documentary filmmaker must learn about for themselves.

Don’t say, “I’ll shoot that scene next time.” If

it’s important, shoot it now.

I can’t count all the times I put off shooting something

important because I thought I could get it later, only to have it

go away and I never got it. People and events can change suddenly,

so get it when you think of it.

Have a plan and a concept of what you want to accomplish

on the shoot, but be ready to throw it away when reality takes you

in a different direction.

People with no plan are lost on a shoot. People with

an ironclad plan often miss what’s really happening before them

and don’t get anything real. The surprises are what make documentary

filmmaking worth doing.

Don’t be discouraged by the “gatekeepers,” but

don’t be blind to their criticism, either.

Broadcasters and foundations may turn you down repeatedly.

Don’t let them make you give up on your film. (Many, many times

they will do an about face when you succeed and tell you how much

they always loved your project.) But that doesn’t mean that you

can’t learn something from rejection. Find out as honestly as possible

why you were turned down and take it very seriously. You may not

accept their reasoning—they may not “get it”—but usually there is

at least a germ of truth that you need to hear. The most self-confident

filmmakers are the ones who know they don’t know everything.