Tip #1101: Breaking into Documentaries at 40

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1101: Breaking into Documentaries at 40

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

You don’t need to be young to be successful, but you do need a plan.

Jia Wertz (Image courtesy of NoFilmSchool.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jia Wertz, first appeared in NoFilmSchool.com. This is a summary.

Filmmaking can be a tough industry to break into. And in Jia’s case, she thought it would be especially difficult in her 40’s. But just one year later, she has a documentary short screening at several film festivals and streaming on Amazon, a feature documentary that is in post- production, and a third in the planning stages.

Here are her key thoughts that she learned along the way.

  • Learn Everything You Possibly Can. I invested in a 6-week documentary filmmaking workshop, made connections with students and faculty, and attended every extra-curricular activity the program offered including elective evening courses, masterclasses, and additional shoots, and took every opportunity to ask questions and learn as much as possible.
  • Have a Rock-Solid Plan. Pick a subject or a topic you are very passionate about. Filming a documentary takes far too much time, money and resources for you to delve into something you won’t want to be working on for the next couple of years (or more).
  • Make Connections. Connect with professors, faculty, other filmmakers, festival programmers, and anyone else you come across in the industry, even other participants on Zoom calls. Getting involved in the community is key to keeping the momentum going, and getting organic word-of-mouth marketing for your film.
  • Be Smart About Your Film Festival Strategy. Treat it as a marketing campaign.
  • Lean Into the Transferable Skills You Already Have. I had absolutely no filmmaking skills last year. But I did have marketing and PR skills, extensive photography experience, and decades of experience managing large numbers of people. These skills were 100% transferable to filmmaking. Take advantage of whichever skills you have that can apply to the industry. You would be surprised at how many business skills—and not just creative skills—are required.
  • Market Yourself and Your Film. She provides a list of six techniques she’s found effective.
  • Ask for Referrals and Recommendations. Of course, when asking for referrals or anything else, think about what you can offer as well. Make yourself a resource for the people you are reaching out to. This will go a long way in building a long-lasting connection.


The article provides more details and links to learn more.

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