018 Develop your fundraising strategy

  1. Write your mission statements
  2. Get a fiscal sponsor
  3. Create a trailer
  4. Start applying for grants- this is a long game, so if you think you’re going to film this next month and edit it the month after, forget about this for now
    1. It takes a lot of time, and you have to apply several times before you really have a chance
    2. There are benefits beyond money, like connections to distributors, film festivals, and labs
  5. Build your community
    1. Create a spreadsheet of your entire circle of influence and start talking to people
      1. In-person request for help is always going to be the best way to get support, and widen your sphere
      2. Make sure you keep notes on all your meetings and follow up
    2. Create an “advisory board” of friends and mentors
    3. Create a social media plan (figure out best sites to post on) and post regularly
    4. Find newspapers, magazine, website related to your topic- submit articles for publication (build awareness and credibility)
  6. Develop your pitch
    1. Short and sweet (20-30 sec) makes them ask, oh that’s interesting, tell me more
    2. Be passionate
    3.  Pitch 10 times a day
  7. Events – 
    1. Build community, raise awareness
    2. 2 ways to raise money here: get sponsors (put logos on stuff), have an auction
    3. Online events during covid- no overhead, people can attend from anywhere in the world


Where to find them?

  • In your head
  • Address book
  • Family
  • Local newspaper: look for ppl w/ interest in the topic area; business & society columns
  • Brainstorming party
  • Net: websites, blogs, social networks

How to approach?

  • One-to-one direct, in-person ask
  • Fundraising houseparty
  • Direct mail
    • Personal letter from you to a few people you know, or by avid supporter who will write their friends
    • Mass mail appeal sent to a list you’ve acquired 
  • Email

How to approach them?

  1. one-on-one
  2. Fundraising House Party
  3. Crowdfunding
    1. Before you do this you must have already done the work of building your community and email list, so if you’re a first-time filmmaker…
    2. Go to seedandspark.com and watch their fundraising class!!!!


Where to find

  • Professional journals
  • Conferences
  • ITVS
  • VFW, Knights of Columbus, Lion’s Club, Rotary International


National sources

  • Natl endowment for the arts
  • Natl endowment for the humanities
  • Corp for public broadcasting
  • Misc (e..g. Forestry, IRS)


  • State arts agencies
  • State humanities councils
  • State tourism board


  • local/regional arts council
  • Commerce & growth associations
  • City tourism board

016 Building your documentary audience

HotDocs 2018 Documentary Audience Research study https://telefilm.ca/wp-content/uploads/hotdocs2018-doc-audience-report-en.pdf
Peter Broderick blog about Distribber http://peterbroderick.com/distributionbulletins/distributionbulletins.html
How to develop your audience

DON’T assume you know who your audience is. Do some research.

  1. Make a list of topics/keywords related to your film
  1. Research what exists
    1. Other films, news stories, books, blogs, reddit groups, twitter chats, businesses, influencers
    2. Create a spreadsheet/ organize findings
    3. Make list of types of content that gets shared, the way people communicate, what topics people are talking about or asking about
    4. Make list of conferences or other events
    5. Bonus is that you learn even more about your topic!!!
    6. Here’s where you’ll find the groups/influencers who you will reach out to to spread the word about your film
    7. Follow unexpected leads to find things you hadn’t thought of- add to list of keywords

Create a composite sketch of your audience with 3-5 examples

  • Beliefs and mindset are most important aspect- not age or sex
  • Go out and talk to people who match your sketched and make sure they really are interested

Develop a relationship with your audience

  • Share your WHY
  • Engage in-person as much as possible
  • Start building your email list
    • Make sure you’re offering value
  • Ask audience for their feedback/ideas
    • send your list a survey asking them about their lives and interests. Ask them what intrigues them about your documentary project and what topics they’d like to see covered.
    • Bring them back to your site by giving them ways to participate
    • Blog: about filmmaking process, about characters/themes; expand narrative beyond the film by working with/connecting to grassroots orgs that work on the social issues your doc covers; post content from film

Write articles that can be shared by people/groups/orgs

014 Getting a great interview

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voice of Vanilla at www.tinyurl.com/vovdoc

Since many of you will be visiting family, I thought I’d talk about interviewing, so that some of you can practice on your family members. Consider this your winter break homework.

This is an especially great exercise to do with older family members who may have great stories locked away that you never knew. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to preserve memories of loved ones. You can totally just use your phone if you don’t have a camera, and just have fun with this.

So here are things to think about with interviews…

Sound- be aware of your environment. Listen for heaters turning on and off or refrigerators. If you’re near a busy street, try to move to a room furthest away from the street. It’s best to always listen through headphones, because it’s easy to realize what is being picked up by the microphone.

Lighting- have a light to the front, and slightly to the side, that way it lights up their eyes so you can see a little light reflecting from them- that’s called eyeshine and without it eyes can look dull and flat. It’s also nice to have a light above and behind the person to shine on their shoulders and hair. It adds depth to the shot. 

Composition- if you just have 1 camera I would frame the shot from just above the hips to just above the top of the head. Following the rule of thirds, their eyes should be off to one side of the frame, looking toward the other side of the frame. I’ll post an example on the blog and facebook page if you have absolutely no idea what I’m saying here. Also, if you can, make sure the subject is not backed up to a wall. Having depth behind the subject will make for a more interesting shot, especially if it is at an angle to the wall or facing the corner. Ideally the background is interesting, but not cluttered. If all you have is a plain wall, try shining a small light on it to give it a splash of brightness.

Once your shot is ready, and your subject is comfortably seated, it’s good to have a little conversation with them to help them relax. Being in front of the camera is super scary for most people, so I like to let them know that they’re going to be looking at me (not the camera) and we’re just going to be having a conversation. They can pause and think, just like they would normally. 

I also let them know that I will not be responding to them verbally while they talk- do not make noises while your interviewee is talking. We’re used to saying “uh-huh, ok, hmmm” while people are talking, but you don’t want that recorded in your audio. Just nod your head and react with your eyes, ok? Also, DO NOT start talking as soon as they finish a thought. There are 2 reasons this is important. 1) it’s going to be difficult to edit if you start talking right after the person finishes and 2) they may have some great facial expressions or interesting insights that come to them if you just give them time to sit in the moment. 

Now, you may have prepared questions ahead of time, which is a really good idea, especially if there is some specific information you want to get because it is REALLY easy to forget things while your interviewing. So write down the important questions, and make sure you review them throughout the interview. HOWEVER, do not just focus on the questions.

012 All about festivals

Just got back from Baltimore Next Media Web Fest where my web series Girl Aspiring won Best Documentary Web Series and I got a cool glowing trophy. I’m feeling inspired, and motivated, and generally pumped about filmmaking. So today we’re going to talk about film festivals.

First- attend a film festival and see what’s out there

  • Go to smaller one where you can actually talk to the creators

So now you have some idea of what goes on at a festival. Now how do you submit yours…

  • Filmfreeway.com
  • LOTS of festivals, and you don’t want to waste money submitting to ones that just don’t match your project
  • Unfortunately search feature on film freeway isn’t awesome, so this will initially take some time
  • Organize favorites w/ heart icon
  • Read description; look at categories; double check rules (time limits)
  • Email organizers if you still have questions
  • Other things to check: is it online or is there an actual event? Is it Oscar qualifying?
    •  Can you attend? I prefer events I can attend, because that’s the real benefit

Benefits of attending film fests

  • Meet other creators (can lead to future opportunities)
  • Build community & credibility 
  • Build following
  • LEARN!
  • Be inspired
  • Forward momentum (get out of the vacuum)


  • Bring swag, or at least some marketing materials- definitely have a business card
  • Go to lots of screenings!
  • Go to parties, mixers, GET TO KNOW PEOPLE
  • Connect & follow up

Warning: You will be rejected by many festivals. Lots of films/ limited spots.

  • You can always reapply as long as you’re not a douchebag
  • Organizing festivals is a lot of work…be nice to organizers


All you need to do is learn camera basics, lighting basics, and sound basics.