Monday, 28 November 2011

22 The Subject is 90%

image by porah /
Even when we´re in development, or in production on a doc project, we´re on the alert for the next big idea. That means talking to people.  Checking film festival programs. Reading a lot of publications. Watching what´s on the tube. Finally, and most important, what catches the team´s attention. 

little margie productions has for the most part concentrated on Finnish culture: architecture, music and design. The projects sort of fell into our lap. “marihuanaland” was a big switch. We liked the change of direction and are on the look-out for what´s next. The following are some categories that we and any film team should consider.

  1. Human Rights: a big audience and grant application pleaser (the George Soros Foundation). “Pink Saris” is a good example: the story of a young Indian girl who is married off against her will.  She escapes from her cruel in-laws and becomes a champion for beleaguered women in the same boat.
  2. Kids (especially if they are poor).  Kids can be a nightmare for a director. It´s better to frame the story around an adult who can take direction and help to get them to do what you want.
  3. Love & Sex: one doc filmmaker did a series in which she traveled around and told different people about her dysfunctional love life. And they told her their stories. It was a big hit.
  4. Food: from distant lands, esoteric menus and restaurants (El Bulli), home-grown, regional, ethnic, absolutely anything, including some stuff that would make most people throw up if the actually had to eat it.
  5. Music: all categories, (except conductors, composers and classical - they can be a hard-sell). It helps if the subject is famous (and died young). But there are often horrendous copyright fees to contend with. 

It was Ansel Adams who said that the subject was 90%. That might apply to documentaries too. I´m not certain. But at least it´s a starting point.

Lesson 26 Choose a subject that excites the team but stay objective

Next week: 23 StarStruck 

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