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Documentary Market

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Wes WaddellDocumentary Market
by on Dec 15, 2008 at 7:16:14 pm

Ah the great wide world of filmmaking, the sky's the limit, or at least so it seems. Some time ago, (i think its been almost a year and a half) i was approached to edit a documentary. Seeing as i was a fourth quarter student i eagerly said yes and my life as i knew it disappeared. For the next year i secluded to my editing bay, working 18-20 hours days with school interspersed. Finally the day had come when we were exporting the finished piece, and making preparations for our big debut. Nothing could stop us from doing what we intended to do, which was to make a feature length documentary, and on top of that a successful one. At this point we (my-self, the director, and our third team member) had formed a production company (legit with the state and such) and had sunk more than $80,000 into this film, our baby. So needless to say we wanted a return on our investment. This is where things bottlenecked.

It just so happens that i live in a market with little if any "real" people. When i say "real" i mean people that know what they are talking about, people who have experience in the film industry, people to know. The lack of knowledgeable people left us few options so we looked to the west.

It took about two months to find a Rep that we could afford and that we felt comfortable handing the last steps of the production over to. This month marks the half-way point in our agreement with our rep. and its a little disappointing.

What im trying to ask is there anybody out there? Seriously. I know that the state of the economy has left film Buyers cautious and reluctant to purchase films, but i dont have the resources to keep shopping the film around. Any suggestions on how to proceed?

The film its' self is a 73min documentary based on a unit in the 300th MP Company during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We have a web-site set up so theres that. I'll be the first to admit that its rough, real rough but its not about how wonderful it looks, its about the lives the soldiers lead while in war. How they interact with the natives, how they handle them selves under pressure (fire) and witnessing the drastic change that happens when civilians BECOME soldiers.

This said, i acknowledge that this might not be the time for another "war" doc so i need someone to be honest. Should i continue to shop the film now, or should i put it on a shelve for a couple years and wait for the market to come around?

Any insight into my problem will be greatly appreciated

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David Roth WeissRe: Documentary Market
by on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:02:48 am

[Wes Waddell] " acknowledge that this might not be the time for another "war" doc"


Been there, done that... RUSH TO WAR, a feature-length doco I edited, hardly saw the light of day, and it wasn't a bad film. It's just that there are innumerable Iraq war docos competing for the very limited funds and broadcast time slots available.

How does yours differ? How is it better than the rest? How can a seller differentiate your project from the rest of the current (and not so current) crop? These are just a few of the questions that any buyer needs to know, and you need to be able to answer these in mere seconds, and preferably with a dynamite log-line that simply blows them away, otherwise your project simply gets lost in the shuffle.

After nearly eight years of war it's very tough to be highly original and very tough to sell war in an over-saturated market. You really should quit spending money on the project immediately, other than some specialized festival entries and perhaps some screenings, and do your best to parlay your investment of time and money into future work.

Good luck,

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.

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Bob ZelinRe: Documentary Market
by on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:38:31 am

Wes -
I can only insult you here. You are very very innocent. Every year, there are countless movies that are made with decent budgets. It's almost impossible to sell them. There are also countless bands making great music, producing their own amazing CD's - and no one buys them. Selling your movie is 90% of the battle. The creative aspect of producing and editing the movie is the "fun part". The business part is hell. Having contacts that actually can GIVE YOU MONEY is what this business is all about. There are countless successful movie makers - with a track record, and a reputation - that constantly stuggle to sell their latest work. What makes you so special. Even if you had BIG STARS that were narrating your movie -why would a distributor pick up your film. EVEN IF ITS GREAT - there are lots of great films out there (maybe not as great as yours - but you know what - the money people DONT CARE).

Making these contacts is what this business is all about. Knowing how to sell yourself - doing anything like corporate video, wedding videos, TV commercials (both regional and national), and doing feature film work - from shorts, docs, and creative features - is HELL. Selling yourself is EVERYTHING - just becuase your film is good does not mean that you will find a buyer for it. Do you actually think that Quinten Tarrentino can make a cold call to Pfiser Pharmaceuticals, and say that he wants to make their next corporate video - they would hang up on him.

Sorry - that's real life. Start hitting the film festival market.

Bob Zelin

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walter biscardiRe: Documentary Market
by on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:13:10 am

One of the best ways to get recognized and maybe pick up some backing is to enter it into as many film festivals as possible. Get recognized or even win a few of them and you start to get more doors opened up for larger and more prestigious film festivals. is the easiest way to enter film festivals.

Other than that, sinking your own money into a documentary with no rep lined up before hand is a very tough row to hoe. We're editing four feature length documentaries in 2009, but they are fully financed and already slated for both independent film release and broadcast television release. That's a VERY rare circumstance and my client is just an amazing guy to have everything lined up like he does.

In your case, I would just put that film out there to as many festivals as possible and hope to get the right person to notice it somewhere along the way. Might even pursue a PBS special route as well.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!


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Mike CohenRe: Documentary Market
by on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:02:44 pm

As the others have inferred - no offense intended, but the trailer does not make me want to see this movie. It actually looks pretty boring.

Since there have been so many docs made with footage shot by soldiers, and some with pretty big budgets and known filmmakers, I think you need an angle that has not been seen before. At this point in the war, when a lot of the general non-military public believe the war to have been a big mistake and not very successful (not my opinion) I don't know how many people care about the Iraqi people.

Good luck.


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Wes WaddellRe: Documentary Market
by on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:59:00 pm

I would like to thank all of you for your timely and honest answers. Its a slippery slope when dealing with footage like this, and the right thing to do isn't always the one you'd like but it was worth a shot. Thanks again to everyone that posted.

Wes Waddell
Director of Video Development

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