Dogwoof Directors’ Tips for Filmmakers

With such an acclaimed range of films in our catalogue, it’s fair to say we have worked with a great number of talented documentarians. We sat down with some of them and asked for their tips for young filmmakers starting out in the industry:

Use the technology available to you

“Get your hands dirty, go and get some work done, it’s such a malleable form - distribution has been democratised,” says Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land), alluding to the wealth of affordable equipment now available to those starting out. Fenton Bailey (Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures), concurrs, instructing young filmmakers to “ make it on your iPhone, distribute it on YouTube.”

Don’t personalise rejection

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are both adamant in their message: “Don’t take no for an answer, people have never said yes to what we wanted at any point in our careers, no is the beginning of yes...rejection is gonna happen forever.” A similar sentiment is shared by Gabriela Coperthwaite (Blackfish), “Sometimes it takes four nos, just be persistent.”

Understand your film

For Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini (Dina), a grasp of the core idea underlying your film is essential duing the process of getting your film made. Sickles states, “It’s going to be difficult, even when it sells it’s going to be difficult…you personally need to have an understanding as to why the film needs to be made and you need to protect that as much as you can.” Santini adds, “Ask yourself why you want to make the movie…it’s really important to understand the intention of the movie.”

Be original

Goran Olsson (Concerning Violence) understands the trap that young documentarians can fall into, “it’s very easy to mimic in order to get a hold of the thing and understand that process,” however, he implores those starting out to have a novel approach, stating, “The only thing interesting to the world is unique images.”

Be thorough and persistent

For Lisa Immordino Vreeland, director of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, it’s essential to make your research as comprehensive as possible: Try to uncover every stone out there, make connections, be curious about everything and look for every detail. Make sure that the research is correct, double checking everything.” Meanwhile, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg (Weiner) insist on persistence, “Just stick with it, despite things not necessarily going your way.”

Just do it

By far the most resounding message across the range of the directors was to just go and make something. Emmanuel Gras (Makala) instructs young filmmakers to “just do it...if you know how to deal with a camera you have to do it by yourself.” This is a sentiment echoed by Nick Broomfield (Whitney: Can I Be Me?) in saying, “Just go and make the film, don’t humiliate yourself in pitching, it’ll put you off you making a film - go and borrow a camera and make a film.” In agreement is Jason Becker (Not Dead Yet), who implores people to “just go for it, don’t be afraid to tackle a huge subject, you’ll learn everything as you go along - just dive in!”

The interviews can be found in full on YouTube.