A couple of years back I was taking a digital documentary course at The University of Windsor, and as a final project was tasked to (brace yourself) create a documentary.
I had two awesome ideas that would have focused on local businesses, the history of the city, and the people who are doing awesome things for it.
Unfortunately these ideas never came to fruition (maybe someday!) so I had a weekend to come up with a new idea and to produce some content for it. All for those sweet sweet marks.
In my head I had been writing a documentary for a little over a year, but had yet to talk to anyone about it, or even put anything on paper. The idea of making this one freaked me out for a lot of reasons, and I kept telling myself that once my skills improved I would be in a better position to actually start it.
But here I was with three days to come up with something, and no other ideas. Maybe it wasn't the ideal time I was hoping for, but really, is it ever? So I called a friend and offered pizza and beer in exchange for a couple of hours of camera operating, and got to work.
On Monday I skipped class to finish editing the intro, and went to the prof's office hours that afternoon. She wasn't thrilled that I had missed class, but when I told her that I was working on the project she's all "you made a documentary in a weekend?" Such skepticism.
So I showed the intro to her and the classmate who was also in her office at the time. The feedback was good, and I was given the go-ahead to finish the project.
The subject matter is definitely something that deserves more than twelve minutes of coverage, but as that was the maximum length for the project, I just did what I could.
While I'm not in love with the way it turned out, and wasn't even while production was going on, I started to look at this as sort of a rough draft. It's a plan for how a larger, better version of this story could go. I still revisit the idea in my head every so often, mentally planning shots and editing sequences. Eventually, I do want to make a full-scale version of this film.
But to do so, I need backing. I need interview subjects, gear, and locations. I need money.
So once a year or so I submit this rough draft to a local film festival. This accomplishes a couple of things.
This is an uncomfortable film for me to show, but if I want to continue with the project I'll have to get used to it. So small, intimate settings help me to do that gradually. This also helps me to get feedback - what people liked and didn't, what they want to see more of and what isn't important to the story.
It also helps me to find some of that earlier-mentioned backing. After most screenings I've had a person or two come tell me how great it was to hear someone talking about this issue, and how they can relate to it. I ask if they'd be interested in being interviewed for the larger version of the film, and often they say yes. Or if not, they offer help in some other way, which I will never turn down.
Seeing the effect this film has had one some people (despite the fact that it isn't all that good), has helped me to continue planning for it. I know the next version won't be made in a weekend, and sometimes it can be difficult to look at something that will take so long to actually see completed. But feedback from an audience helps more than anything else.
So, if you're interested, this Friday, September 16th, come out to Ford City for the next public screening of my short documentary Trigger Warning. Presented as part of Mess Fest 2016, it will be screened alongside other local films in a free event that is open to all ages.
So far I haven't said anything regarding what the film is about. And I still don't think I'll say very much. In the broadest sense, it deals with mental health, which I know is a hot topic these days. It isn't going to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy at the end, but I think it paints a realistic picture that has the potential to start a conversation and hopefully spark some understanding.