Documentary Production Stories

Docs In Progress is on the lookout for people and institutions that would make good stories for our first-time filmmakers to document for their production projects. If you think you have such a story, read through what we’re looking for, and see if it might be a good fit:

(1) Preference is given to stories within 10 miles of Docs In Progress headquarters.  We originally started our focus on Silver Spring, but now consider projects in other parts of Montgomery County and Washington DC. Metro or walking accessibility is a plus, but not always a requirement.

(2) These are first and foremost considered learning exercises for our students to gain skills in documentary storytelling.  While we appreciate the interest and cooperation of people and organizations being profiled, these productions are NOT considered works-for-hire.  Support and direction can be given in the pre-production phase, but ultimately our students are the directors.  There should be no expectation of editorial authority from those profiled and we cannot make changes to the videos once they are completed by the students.  It is also important to remember these projects are being made by first-timers. While we are pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the finished films (and are happy to provide links and embed code so the completed videos can be featured on other websites), these videos should not be considered in the same way that a video produced by an experienced professional would be.

(3) The story should be visually interesting.  While there are a lot of wonderful stories from our community, this is a video production class, and our students need to learn how to integrate interesting visuals into their pieces.  The best projects have combined interviews with visuals of something going on (for example, an artist at work, a dance performance, food being cooked, or interactions between the person profiled and others around them).

(4) The scope of the video has to be realistic. Our students are producing 3-5 minute pieces drawn from no more than an hour of footage which must be filmed within a very short window of time.  While there are great stories out there which deal with big issues or long-term happenings in the community, these are not often the best fit for our production classes.  In the case of nonprofit organizations, we’ve found the best pieces often tend to be about a specific program or a profile piece about a program participant or leader rather than the organization as a whole.

(5) The timing must be in sync with the class schedule.  Because we are teaching our students how to make a documentary from soup to nuts, they often only have a day or two for filming before they move on to learning how to edit their pieces.  While we often get contacted by people and institutions who want our students to document a particular event, if it doesn’t fit in to the production timeframe of our class or camp, it unfortunately would not be a good fit.

(6) Access is essential.  The organization would need to allow our students access to film at a time which is mutually convenient (but within the window of filming opportunity noted above).  Generally the production teams are made up of three individuals and would not need more than two or three hours to shoot (including set-up time). Very often they are working professionals so stories which can be filmed on weekends or evenings are preferable.

(7) Permissions are essential. While these are learning exercises, we do feature the completed works online and quite a few of them at annual community film festivals.  Therefore, we must have written releases from those who appear in the video signed either at or prior to the filming day.  We generally provide our own releases (or can accept a copy of an organization’s existing documents if you have blanket releases for program participants).  We cannot edit out or blur out individuals at a later time.  Please also note that any filming of minors will require permission from parents either through our release forms (which we can send in advance of the filming date) or through yours (if you have a blanket release form for filming/photography).

To see some examples of past community stories, visit our YouTube page.

If you think that your story meets all of these parameters, we’d love to talk to you.  Please contact Docs In Progress Educational Programs Manager Andrea Passafiume at andrea AT docsinprogress DOT org or 301-789-2797.