Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Cameras and Camcorders › Other Camcorders › Making a documentary, total n00b ;) › a couple legal issues you
a couple legal issues you don’t seem to have thought much about…
1: you can’t legally use a Student liscense version of any software to make money. it’s in the EULA for the software. I’ve got a lot of great Adobe stuff that i just had to upgrade to standard liscenses because i started doing freelance. Student prices are great, but legally, you’re not going to get anywhere using them for commercial use. you can argue that this is for personal/educational use, but your plans on distribution and your last comment “It’d be a group effort to raise the funds. We would probably formalize ourselves as a company” pretty much goes directly against that.
2: i’m sure tons of people bring their handy-cams in to film at the event. that doesn’t mean it’s legal to make a documentary that way. you need to be careful to cover your butts as often as possible about getting permission from the convention, from individuals you interview, from companies who’s products you show, from companies who’s booths you show and any other media (pictures, video, etc) you reproduce intentionally or not. if you don’t at least get a basic wavier you’re setting yourself up for a major legal risk by getting sued by one company who didn’t know you’re filming them or didn’t like what you had to say. freedom of speech doesn’t get you too far when you’re profiting off of this. you can say and do anything you want, if you have the wavier saying you have their permission to do so.
legal issues aside (and i’m sure there are more that i couldn’t think of off hand)
making a documentary isn’t easy. especially if you say “We’re a bunch of stupid kids that want to do something big”. you need to make sure you plan the crap out of this before you go in there and make sure you know what you’re going to shoot and how you’re going to shoot it. think of angles, topics, people you want to talk to, everything because if you get there and just start shooting, you’ll come home with tapes of random stuff and your final documentary will look like you took a bunch of random shots and stuck them together.
also, if you’re really thinking that the problem with “Sony camcorders I’ve seen so far is they like to stick to their own proprietary media” you have a lot more to learn than just buying a bunch of equipment. almost every prosumer camera out there uses Mini DV tapes and most have a firewire/ilink/ieee 1394 port on them to connect to your computer. make sure you take some serious time to get familiar with your equipment and storytelling abilities before you try this. otherwise, you’re doomed before you step foot in that convention hall.
that’s another part, storytelling. it’s a good idea to read up on storytelling before you plan this out. a good documentary tells a story that brings the viewer through the experience. it acknowledges that some viewers have no idea what’s going on and others do and makes sure both are pleased. it explains things and describes things using visuals, narration and on-camera hosts (if applicable). you can find a lot of great books out there on storytelling that will help you get ready for this.
the majority of my work has been 6-8 min short stories about a person or a few people and making one of those can be hard enough (there’s a lot of information to distill down). you’re going to have to worry about the other extreme: information overload. be aware of your audience. don’t throw so much at them that you lose them.
there’s a lot more that i could tell you about the planning and story side of this. equipment-wise you’ve gotten a lot of great advice already. you have a really cool opportunity here. plan like crazy before hand so when the time comes, you can come up with an awesome product.