CADY McCLAIN

Director, Producer, Artist

How to Make a Documentary Part 1

Posted on: February 4, 2016
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Director Lesli Linka Glatter” from “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct”

So many people have an idea for what would make a good doc, but not that many people act on it. If you are one of those people considering getting into the field of documentary films, here’s some advice from the frontline!

First, you need to have an idea that inspires you so much, you are willing to spend a full year or more of your life on it. That’s really important. You are going to eat, sleep, and dream about your subject. Even worse, your wife or husband and all your friends are going to hear about it ad nasuem because it’s pretty much going to become an obsession. So choose wisely what subject you are going to spend endless amounts of time with.

Finola Hughes directing a film

Director Finola Hughes on set, from “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct”

For me it was women directors, partly because I am one and was feeling like an endangered species. Women directors have been up until recently practically invisible. Now, in part because of the EEOC’s investigation into charges of discrimination against women filmmakers in Hollywood, there is a lot more media attention on the subject.

Although there are some important changes starting to happen, it is the larger, overall understanding of what women are capable of that is still stuck in the past. For example, just the other day I was talking to a very nice fellow, telling him about my project.

He said, “Oh, I didn’t know women directed movies. How cool!”

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 1.06.41 PMI reminded him that a woman won the Oscar for directing a few years ago, thinking he must’ve recalled that historic moment.

He said, “Oh right. What was her name? She’s the only one that directs movies, right?”

I am positive he is not the only person who thinks this.

I think it’s fair to say that most people have no idea how many women are out there fighting for respect and a place in creative leadership positions. Positions not only in the film and television industry, but in finance, tech, the sciences, and academia. Women worldwide are still dealing with a pervasive idea that we are limited in our capabilities based on our gender.

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Director Leah Meyerhoff from “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct”

This is the perception that I, and many others, are trying to change. People like directors Lesli Linka Glatter, Leah Meyerhoff, and Sarah Gavron all care about making sure other women in the directing field have opportunities they they themselves have had to fight tirelessly to achieve. I’ve had the privilege to interview them and can tell you, they really are doing everything they can to help change the landscape of bias and transform it into opportunity for women.

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Director Sarah Gavron from “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct”

When I think about the years of time these women (and women like them) have spent working to make it in their field, women who could just focus on themselves and their careers but who still do everything they can to help others, it inspires me.

I know I can spend at least a year or more of my life on a documentary about these women. I know that my film, no matter it’s level of success, will ultimately be an effort full of integrity and passion, meant to help uplift all people, but especially those of the female gender. For me, that feels like something worthy of my time here on the planet.

What do YOU feel passionate about changing in this world? Think about it. Are you willing to spend a year of your life thinking about it? Then I bet it would make a really interesting documentary.

Next up: figuring out HOW TO TELL YOUR STORY.

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