Two months ago, I started on a journey to make my own documentary. But, there was one problem: I never made one before. And to be honest, I had no idea where to start. Based on all the blogging, I did about digital nomads, I wrote a concept for the film. I still needed equipment, though. You know, a camera, microphone :) So I tried crowdfunding and by building my own website, I did it without Kickstarter!
After a month I can tell you the results for now:
The majority of donations went through PayPal, with less than 1/4 via Stripe. This maybe shows how the mainstream still really trusts PayPal.
The majority donated $10, then $50 and then $100:
I got donations from 22 different countries. The second most donors were from my own country, South Korea.
After launching my crowdfunding campaign, the next challenge I faced with was equipment. I had to get all the equipment for filming by myself. Since I’ll travel all over the world with this by myself, it should be something small to carry easily. And since it’s my first experience filming, it should be something relatively easy to take great footage with.
I got no idea where to start. It was hard to read lots of equipment reviews with all the technical terms, and I realized there is a countless amount of equipment in the filming industry. Cameras and microphones recommended by professional filmmaker were very expensive, sometimes it costs about $10,000 for one camera, which is my total amount of donations! That wasn’t going to work.
And I had to research not only cameras and microphones, but also a lot of accessories I’ve never heard of, such as shoe mounts or steadicams to make sure the picture was not shakey.
I knew it would be impossible to be fully equipped like a professional, but still I wanted to find out the best combination to get as good results as much as I can. This felt like looking for a needle in a haystack:
I started asking around people who were experienced and I wrote down my budget, but also what/whom/how/when/where I was going to film. I narrowed down the range with watching YouTube videos and writing down the pros and cons of each equipment.
Just watching online wasn’t enough, so I wanted to personally try some candidates on my list. I found a camera rental shop in Seoul, and started renting cameras and microphones day by day. It cost about $40-50 per renting one camera for a day, and I was very satisfied with that I could test all equipment I was curious about. I even got very specific recommendation and explanation about equipment from the staff at the rental shop, and it helped me a lot to choose my equipment with my very limited budget.
When I got the best picture I could find, with great audio too. I decided my mind and ordered all the equipment which will be with me this entire year for my documentary:
- Camera: Sony HDR CX900 with 64GB memory card, tripod + camera bag: $1547
- Second camera (for wide shots): Sony HDR MV1 with 64GB memory card and extra battery: $350
- Microphone (for interviews): Sony UWP-D11 wireless microphone: $540
- Microphone (for environment): Rode NTG-2 shotgun microphone: $254
- Storage: WD passport external hard drive 1TB*2: $176
- Storage: HGST touro mobile external hard drive 1TB: $62
- Light: Reflector: $17
- Total: $2,946
Studying and fun
I have been back in Seoul, South Korea to get prepared before hitting the road again. While staying here I got in touch with lots of people who work in the TV and film industry, and they gave me lots of advice. I got a book from one of them named “Grammar of the Shot” by Roy Thompson, and read it over again and again. I started digging basic knowledge I need, and I got to know about cameras, lights, sounds, shots, storyline and stuff I never heard of before like pans, tilts, overlapping action.
Also to get a better idea of how documentaries were made, I decided to watch one every day. I could watch various documentaries for free online with Documentary Addict, and it became one of my favorite websites.
I couldn’t make this without all the kind words, encouragement and support from lots of people all over the world. It was such an amazing experience. Every time I got an email or a tweet with interests in this project and encouragement, I got excited and thought how I can make this documentary better for all the people who help me.
— co.lab (@colabPH) March 2, 2015
— Alana Zivanovic (@AlanaZivanovic) March 2, 2015
— Happy Mikkelson (@happyrailfail) February 12, 2015
I’m a newbie. In most things. But I learn fast. When I started all of this a few months ago, I had $0, I had no equipment, and no idea of how to make a documentary. And now all of that is slowly changing. It’s a cliche, but the internet makes it possible for me to do all of this without me being an expert in it. And I think that’s so cool.
It turns out that once you start one by one and look on the internet and get friends’ help, there is not that many things actually impossible to do. You might just get scared because it looks very difficult and complex, but the real problem is your scary, hesitation and excuses, not the goal what you aim to.
You will even enjoy that you get to know new things, and you will be surprised that lots of people will love and support what you are doing. So if you want to make a website, produce a movie, write a book, or whatever it is. The internet can help you do it :)
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