That was about 2 years ago when I decided to make a documentary about digital nomads/remote work.
- Let’s stop selling the digital nomad lifestyle as a miracle cure and instead expose its reality
- From nothing to something: the results of crowdfunding of my documentary
- Here’s How I Got Top-Notch Interviewees for My Documentary on Remote Work
The entire production process took much longer than I thought. The shooting process was tough at times, but meeting all the amazing interviewees was such an unforgettable experience in my life and made it worth it. Having friends like Manuel (my director of photography) and Marina (my interviewer) made me the luckiest person in the world. Marina did interviews from Bay Area while I was interviewing/filming in South East Asia and Europe, and Manuel took lots of beautiful shots from many places. It took about a year for the entire shooting process to be finished.
The tricky part was after that. I’ve heard from many people that the real hard part is post-production, not the actual shooting of the film (I would say the post-production process was like 10 times harder than the actual shooting, at least for me). In my case, it was way worse as I didn’t have a producer/production company that helps me with all the production work, and I was almost only one person who did every single thing in the production (If there is anyone who is planning making a film independently, I strongly recommend you to get a decent producer as your top priority).
I thought how could I use all my footage and amazing interviews to their maximum potential. I decided to take the documentary to film festivals to help us reach the maximum goal, instead of posting it as a public video about digital nomads on YouTube.
Doing that meant I had to go to “pro” level though. I needed to hire a professional editor and other experts, instead of doing it by myself with my amateur editing skills. Because of my limited (crowdfunded) budget that had already run out , I took on freelancing contracts for a few months to get the budget for building a post-production team.
Building a scenario
I met an amazing story writer, Zosia (I mean, we ‘met’ over the Skype. And still we haven’t seen each other in real life :D) who helped me write the scenario. Building a storyline was very tough, but with Zosia’s help we could go through it. We tried so hard in order to make this film to cover the diverse demographics and different aspects of digital nomadism.
Instead of focusing completely on individual digital nomads, we tried to emphasize the remote companies in the story. Because I think that getting remote working adopted by companies and organizations is a key for the mainstream to begin to live location independently, or at least having that choice. I knew there were lots of amazing nomad entrepreneurs, but not everyone can be an entrepreneur and not everyone should be an entrepreneur. At least for now and for the next at least a decade, still many people will belong to a company/organization. I didn’t want to add another video saying “quit your job and live in your dream!”, as we already have those enough in this world and I don’t think it’s telling the truth.
For the last part of the film, Zosia and me tried to leave questions about the dark sides and issues on current direction of digital nomadism. I’ve seen many people who put in their head in the sand and try to ignore them. For example, issues like taxation, visas and others.
Even though I wanted to discuss those issues more in the film, I didn’t go too deep. Because the main audience of this film is the mainstream and many of them even don’t know what digital nomad is. It might look like everyone lives and works remotely when you look from inside of the bubble of nomads, but it’s really not. For the people who already work and live in this way, I believe that there will be more deep contents talking about the dark sides in the near future from others.
Editing, editing and endless editing
After finishing up the scenario, the editing started. Woosuk (my editor) who edited the final film and directed all of the post-production process with me, he was my life saver. We met in Jeju island in May, and we talked and worked together almost everyday over Skype while I stayed in Amsterdam during the summer. We watched more than 10 times each of more than 10 different rough cuts of the film, edited every single frame, and stayed up several nights with caffeine drinks. I believe that I couldn’t finish the film without his hard work and absolute support. Without him, I’d be nowhere.
Graphics, sound and others
Budsom made all the motion graphics and title design of the film. I used to send a bunch of silly random doodling of what I thought and she made them into fancy and cute graphic works!
Budsom, our designer made this motion graphic for the film to show how digital nomads📱💻 work remotely✈️🚀 pic.twitter.com/FnUlts1zEB
— One Way Ticket (@nomadocumentary) October 14, 2016
Ingyeong was the one who was in charge of the sound mixing. There were many issues with sound especially from interviews taken in the outside. Woosuk and me almost gave up for some of interviews as the quality of sound was pretty bad. And somehow Ingyeong saved almost all of them, and it was a miracle. I didn’t know the importance of good sound mixing before I worked with her. Before and after of sound mixing, the film sounds completely different, but even the look is different as it’s somehow affected by the audio. I’m so grateful to work with her.
One night, Woosuk and me were rushing off editing to submit our rough cut to SXSW 2017. Ingyeong was in a pretty far place from us, and we had to resolve some urgent sound issues before the deadline. She stayed up all night with us, and fixed the issues with chatting real time via IM. That was a crazy and unforgettable night.
With directing the post-production, I updated the website, announced the official trailer, took down my videos from several places that used my contents for their marketing purpose without any permission (it was unbelievable that I was faced with this issues many, many times! Even one of them were a Korean public service broadcasting), double-checked copyright issues with my lawyer, added subtitles, prepared online pre-release for my backers, prepared for film festivals, and organized a first screening in Seoul for all my backers from Korea.
It’s been almost two years since I started. It’s been a journey of a lifetime. I feel so grateful I’ve been able to work on this project with the support of people from all over the world who wanted to see this film happen. Now it’s almost there and I feel odd. It’s crazy to see I’m so close to the end of a project that’s been the main focus of my life for every waking second for 2 years. I’m also excited to see how the world will react if this documentary comes out. How will it influence the digital nomad and remote work scene? Will it get more people to consider remote work? I can’t wait to see.
But for now…Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And hope to see you early next year when we can watch the final documentary somewhere in the world together :)