I remember my first 500k cheque.
It was 2006 and I was 24. Prior to that, i used to do a lot of church work. i loved the fact that you could impact a lot of people using audiovisuals. i would stitch photos together, add music and a very powerful voice over and make a lot of people commit into doing stuff for the church. It was fun for me and there was the satisfaction of doing God’s work. It felt very powerful. A friend of the church who used to watch our programmes called my Pastor and asked for the person behind their media. This was a millionaire who owned a big factory in Calabar. She wanted to make a video to impress her investors and some government officials. I had never done any video for money. I didn’t even have a bank account or a company name and letter head but i thought it was quite the challenge. I met her and thoroughly understood what she wanted. she needed a larger than life representation of her organization to woo more investors. She was going to fly me across three states to cover the whole thing. In my head i thought…hmmm. maybe i would make like a whooping 100k from this. that would be awesome since people were paid very little for film/Tv work then. She asked me to send a quote. I planned the doc the best way I could and realized…holy shit, i don’t know jack about making documentaries at this scale. i stopped picking her calls. i was scared. i didn’t like to fail. She insisted that i send the quote. Apparently, she assumed i was a professional. I decided to scare her away with Money. I wrote a quote of 500k for just the shoot and post production work hoping that will scare her away since i was a nobody to be quoting that much. She told me to come pick my cheque the next day. I realized… holy shit this is where the money is…I was so happy i kept the cheque for a week just starring at it. the rest as they say is history.
But not everytime, Money. I have been privileged to make documentaries to raise awareness about all manner of social ills, raise money internationally and get people to rethink their choices.
One of the beauty of making documentaries is that you have the power to tell the story the way you want. You have the power over most of your choices as compared to a feature film where there are so many people involved. Whether you intend to make it for money or not, documentaries can help take an audience on a real journey and trigger the right kind of emotions. They don’t have to suspend their disbelief to enjoy it as we do in feature films. Whatever they watch is the truth or the appearance of it. I have attached some of my documentaries at the end of the post
MAKING DOCUMENTARIES FOR MONEY
There’s a lot of money in documentary film making and You don’t even have to be a professional filmmaker to get started. you just need to have a reason for making one. A lot of NGOs want to cover some of their work. A lot of billionaires want to be profiled and a lot of companies could use a little propaganda video…lol (don’t be evil :-p)
Usually this will go two routes; First, you may have to make the doc with your own money and hopefully sell TV rights. that’s common abroad but not here so its a difficult route. The other option would be to write proposals to companies, NGOs, Government about something you would love to do for them. It has to be something that represents their interest well. In this age of social media, most organizations want to get in on the action. You can write a good proposal indicating your plan. Here are some bright ideas for your proposals.
- ALWAYS PRESENT VISUALLY. it always works. rather than the boring Microsoft Word write-up, get your idea together and give a graphics person or someone good with powerpoint if you no get money. Do a cover page maybe with a photo or an illustration that quickly sells the idea. For instance, if i wanna make something for Ministry of education on Almajiris. I’ll take a cool cover photo of one of them in a strategic location that sells my point. if i wanted to do a documentary of a person, I could do a larger than life illustration for them. Once your client sees the idea on the cover, they will take better interest in reading your proposals.
- EXPRESS YOUR IDEA CLEARLY IN THE SIMPLEST WAY POSSIBLE. You want to talk about Almajiris, talk about why its important and back it up with statistics. don’t do more than a page. highlight the problem…why it is a problem and why its important for people to hear about it. If you are profiling someone, Highlight what makes the person special and why people need to see it.
- EXPLAIN YOU PLAN AND HOW YOU INTEND TO IMPLEMENT IT: This is where you have to appear smart. you want to cover Almajiris and you don’t speak Hausa, how will you achieve that. You want to go to a village without electricity, how will you film there. This will make your clients believe you have thought it through and it will save them a lot of stress. In this industry, its important to be smart…or appear smart even if you haven’t figured everything out. You are not working for producers in film. These clients will usually be novices who know nothing so you must explain everything.
- FINALLY INCLUDE YOUR BUDGET: We broke down budgeting in an earlier post. Make sure you include your budget in your proposal. I always advice you do a first page with a summary of the overall budget before the break down. Most people want to see the total before the breakdown. And incase the budget is too high, they will get to appreciate it better when they see the breakdown afterwards . Here’s a sample budget i did when pitching to cover the Lagos countdown two years ago. don’t worry, we didn’t get the job…else i’ld have been flying my private Jet now…lol
So remember, whether its for money or not, the idea is still the same. Documentaries can take you everywhere and help you create great impact. check out some of my old work.
By the way….where are your video pitches for our documentary Project