What Does a Documentary Producer Do?

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A documentary producer has a difficult job because he has to do a lot of legal work to get releases for everything that appears in the film. Learn about the editing process of documentary fillmmaking with filmmaking tips from a director and filmmaker in this free video on making movies.

Part of the Video Series: Filmmaking Basics
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name's Jared Drake and I'm going to talk to you about what a documentary producer does. A documentary producer, in my opinion, probably has one of the most difficult and painful jobs in film making. Documentaries...it is so much legal work. You have to have releases for everybody, everything that appears in the film. If you reference images, you got to get those cleared. If somebody walks across a frame and their face is featured, you have to get that cleared. And what's really tough about it is when you're out on location or you're at an event, shooting an event, you don't know what's going to pop up so you got to be on the ball, you got to have your butt covered because when you go to sell your documentary, if you don't have all the releases, and you can't show the distributor, "Oh, hey. Look, everything is covered in the movie. Everything from extras that are somehow featured in it to the images we use to the music. If you can't prove all that, they're not going to buy your movie. Also, what's difficult about being a documentary producer is all of the footage that you have. You have hours and hours and hours...hundreds of hours of footage, if not thousands, when you start the editing process. And it takes so much time and so much patience to go through that and carve out the story. You really have to be committed to the story you're telling. You have to be committed to the subject matter, to wanting to see this get made and tell the best story possible. It's a very, very big task to tackle a documentary film. The producer's mainly in charge of making sure the director has subjects that he wants, has locations tied down, gets the music that he or she wants. You know, also bring their creative energies to the project -- their creative thoughts, what they want to see changed in the edit. Really be somebody there that's there to support the director and what he or she needs throughout the process, and give their creative input along the way.


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