Sask Film Pool members interested in documentary filmmaking were treated to an evening with Hot Docs Distribution Manager Julian Carrington Jan. 22. The small but enthusiastic crowd was the first to take part in a brand new workshop called DocIgnite – Building a sustainable career in documentary filmmaking.
“Regina has some great emerging documentary filmmakers,” says Julian, who has gained an international reputation for helping documentary filmmakers find their audience in the marketplace. “Some of the best advice I can give is to know your skillset and know your worth. Build a network with other likeminded peers, focus on your passions and strengths, and build your brand identity, so you know what kind of stories you want to tell. When you’re pitching your story ideas, or asking for grant money, or trying to get a foothold in the marketplace, you have to be professional, and often that means establishing a legitimate business and brand, including a social media presence. You have to inhabit those spaces in a confident way, and represent them in a way that feels true to who you are.”
Julian says in an ideal world, filmmakers would pursue their art full-time, but most of us need a side gig. “We have to end the stigma of filmmakers who need to do other things to pay the bills. There’s nothing wrong with doing freelance writing or wedding photography or commercials to tide you over before your doc makes it to market. My advice is to stay open because a lot of good stories will always reveal themselves when you least expect them. A great case in point is documentary filmmaker Doug Block who’s getting quite a bit of buzz lately for his film 112 Weddings. It’s a unique look at married couples, and how they view the mystery of marriage. All of the early wedding footage was taken by Doug from his time as a wedding videographer.”
Julian says filmmaking is all about assessing risk. “You have to be aware of what you’re putting out there versus what you’re getting in return from both a financial and emotional perspective. Decide how much you need to live on, work your side gig when you need to, and when the opportunity presents, pursue your love of storytelling and documentary filmmaking with everything you’ve got.”
Hi last bit of sage advice? Reputation is everything. “Always under promise and over deliver. That means delivering your project on time and on budget. A good reputation can open doors for you in the documentary world, and a bad reputation can close doors.”
The three-hour DocIgnite workshop also featured a question-and-answer session with Tobi Lampard, the Program Officer for Creative Saskatchewan, an organization that helps fund creative projects like documentary films. “If there’s a market attached to your project (i.e., you plan to sell it for distribution), Creative Saskatchewan has everything from pre-development to development grants available. I encourage people to give us a call and check out our website to find out how we can help.”
The DocIgnites workshop is part of an overarching program called Hot Docs Canadian Storytellers Project, which is generously funded by Netflix.