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    Sports documentary
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    Heey guys,

    I am planning on shooting my first documentary (sports). I will follow one main athlete before and end it with the championships. But as this is my first documentary, I am looking for some story structure.
    1 This is the underdog hero. (showing where he lives, what he does on a normal day, what are his hobbies, what his goals are in the next couple of years)
    2 This is the championship. (showing awards, competitors, impact of the championship in the sport, this is the first championship of the sport btw)
    3 This is working up to the championship(training). (Normally the doc will end before the championship. (maybe I can do a fade out with rolling text - results of the championship).

    So I will def check out the competition and viewpoints of his family and friends and try to interview them as well and get their input on him and the championship. My main hero does not have a dramatic past that I can use. But I do want to add conflict and drama to the documentary to make it more interesting. I could search people who hate the sport and interview them.

    Any tips to help improve the baseline of my doc?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Polaroid22; 11-08-2018 at 08:14 AM.


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    Use his non-dramatic past. Find out how he managed to be a champion without any drama.

    What makes him different. Why is he a champion.
    Last edited by Publimix; 11-08-2018 at 06:06 AM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Publimix View Post
    Use his non-dramatic past. Find out how he managed to be a champion without any drama.
    Thanks for the reply! Yeah probably it will be I just kept at it, practicing, practicing. Drama would make things so much easier though: dead family, drug problems, kicked out of school, homeless, jobless, bullied to create a interesting story. Or these kind of stories are the ones I remember better atleast or are more enjoyable to watch as they have this shocking effect.
    Last edited by Polaroid22; 11-08-2018 at 07:27 AM.


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    What are you trying to show from an overall perspective? What is your message for the viewer? Just exposure to the sport, athlete or situation or a takaway life lesson etc...

    Also, what if the athlete or team does not make the championship? Sports are unpredictable at times.


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    Yeah there is no takaway life lesson planned at this point, not sure what in this case could be a phenominal life lesson. I am creating this doc because its the first time they are doing this, so its kind of recording history.
    Exposure to the sport is one, and the athlete for sure. I mostly will be filming lifestyle. So if the championchips fall into the water( breaking a leg or something). I will need to fix it in the edit, but if he makes the championships or not does not really matter. I will probably not be filming the championship anyway.
    I prob can interview other contestants and their take on their journey and how they into it. Might be some more drama to be found over there.


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    Senior Member Run&Gun's Avatar
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    My .02. Don't try to add or create drama and conflict where there aren't any. Don't manufacture it or take a mole hill and try to make it into a mountain.


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    Don't just interview his family and friends, but some of his competitors as well. See why they think he might succeed, what's good and bad about his training, etc. Show them together and build up some suspense about who is going to win. If it isn't your guy, at least it can be someone else whose name and face we have seen. Be sure to get reflections afterward from both the winners and losers (not necessarily in the moments right after the event - emotions run very strongly then - but maybe a day or a week later).

    - Greg


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    Thanks, ok skipping the drama "Run and Gun"! thx for the tips "Greg"!


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    Senior Member scorsesefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bassman2003 View Post
    What are you trying to show from an overall perspective? What is your message for the viewer? Just exposure to the sport, athlete or situation or a takaway life lesson etc...

    Also, what if the athlete or team does not make the championship? Sports are unpredictable at times.
    This. Saw a doc awhile ago about an under-dog boxer who fights for the championship. Well, he loses. In fact, he gets destroyed in, like, the first round if I remember correctly. The film fell apart at the end because the boxer didn't want to talk to the filmmaker after his loss. Make a backup plan just in case...


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    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    Also, keep a few other things in mind. I am midway through producing a feature documentary on what started out to be about a sport and a rather obscure sport at that, women's outrigger paddling. Most people don't even know this is a sport, it definitely is. A few thousand paddlers compete in Southern California, it's interesting and has it's own unique culture (Hawaiian and Tahitian/South Pacific sport that came to Southern California in the late 1950s). Then I drilled down deeper and thought that I am much more fascinated by the women who do this sport than the men. All coverage of the sport around the world pretty much focuses on the men, but in SoCal, I discovered that the sport is dominated by women. Why? As I went down that rabbit hole, I hung out with the sanctioning body staff, shooting b-roll and observing, building trust and relationships.

    Without access, you can't even see this sport, it's the opposite of a spectator sport, the races all take place off shore, the starts and most of the finishes. It's not Fox Sports or ESPN. No prize money, no publicity, no glory, they do it for the love of the sport. Most of the women we have been following spend tons of money to race in Europe, Brazil, Australia, Tahiti and Hawaii so what motivates them to do it? It's also a sport where the top paddlers are often in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, it's not a young women's sport because once women get in their 20s, having families and building careers, they can't put in the practice hours needed to become a top paddler. Another challenge, even though there is drama (one women paddler was attacked by a Great White off Oceanside this past Summer!) generally, it's super repetitive and becomes boring to watch (kind of like baseball?).

    So how to make a documentary about this? Easy. I decided that rather than make a documentary about the sport, I am telling the story of two women, who both happen to be paddlers, it's the main driving force behind their existence. But the film isn't about paddling, it's about the drama in both women's lives on the water and off and my C story is about the sport of paddling and all of the culture, lore and legacy. My hope is that in the era of #MeToo and strong women, their stories will reasonate with the buyers at Netlfix, Amazon and Hulu, possibly Apple. We've been filming them for a year and a half. One of our women has the BRCA1 gene (the Angelina Jolie Cancer Gene) which we knew midway through our filming, she wants to publicize this gene. Sadly, she has just been diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative Breast Cancer, so we are going to keep filming to follow her journey through fighting for her life through Cancer. She just started chemo, will go through that for three months, then in the Spring she will have a double mastectomy and hopefully her Cancer will be beaten in remission. She is determined to get back on the water and with her team on her boat as quickly as possible. There are two probable outcomes. She will hopefully beat the Cancer and we will have the joyful triumph of a hero athlete. Or the Cancer will spread to her Lymph Nodes (triple negative is a very aggressive form of Cancer that spreads quickly), and we will have a story that is a tragedy. Either way, she wants us to document her journey and story because she wants to inform, help and encourage other women.

    Our other paddler we have been following doesn't have Cancer but is fighting a different fight, one for her emotional and social journey through relationships. She's a single mother, 15 year old son. She and her husband divorced 12 years ago, largely due to her sport and dedication to it and we've followed her journey through relationships and trying to land in a healthy and fulfilling one. It's a journey that many women can relate to also.

    So take aways from my past few years of documentary filmmaking

    1. FIND your story. A lot of times, with documentaries, you think you are making a film about one thing and another thing intrudes or seeps into the life of your subject. Go with it. Explore it. Document it. Don't be afraid to shoot for longer than you thought you would, if you can. The film we are making is FAR from the story we thought we would tell when we began in the Winter of 2017. But it's been an incredible, amazing journey and I have grown close with many people in the paddling world. I have grown as a person in making this film. I think the best documentaries are the ones that change your life (the filmmaker) in telling the story.

    2. Dig! Dig around in the life of your subject. Share meals with them. Travel with them. go through experiences with them. For most documentaries, you can't be at arms length and tell a compelling story, you have to get INTO it. Not become part of the story (although there have been some great docs where the filmmaker did just that) or influence the story, but you have to be there. A lot, all of the time or you miss moments that will never happen again, are seminal in your subject's life experience and in their story.

    3. Most of the documentaries that work, the film isn't about what you think it will be about. I really liked Chicken People. At first glance, it's the story of a bunch of eccentrics who devote their lives to show chickens and raising them. Easy sell, right? Watch the film and you discover that the story isn't about showing chickens, it's about the redemption stories of each of the three main subjects lives. Their challenges and failures as well rounded, healthy human beings. One was an alcoholic. One was a social recluse who blew his only serious relationship. One was about a lost guy who wanted to be an entertainer/singer, it's actually quite a profound film.

    4. Sports documentaries are tough because there have been so many and so many well done ones. Think Hoop Dreams. Think all of the other great sports docs you've seen, what made them great stories? This is just my opinion, but underdog/hero/championship/training are about as generic as you can get and baseball is about as generic of a sport as you can get. Not that any of those are bad, but they are all so freaking obvious! Anybody could tell that story (not tell it well of course!). I think you need to scratch below the surface and FIND your story and I don't think you yet have a clue what that story will be. Even though as an artist you are supposed to tell the story your way and not be concerned about an audience, in the era we live in where "everyone is a filmmaker", you had better at least consider commercial viability. What is going to make your generic baseball story compelling? Engaging? Dramatic? If it's not any of those things, who is going to buy it? Do you care if anyone buys it/distributes it?

    5. The beauty of the documentary format is that it is purely a filmmakers/storytellers format, in a way, even more so than narrative film, which generally is pretty cut and dried without a ton of originality. I always say as a viewer, I can watch a documentary about ANYTHING and if the filmmaker is a great storyteller, I'm in. Like Chicken People. Or Shermans March. Or The Thin Blue Line. Or Jaco. So in a way, it doesn't matter that my film is about two women who are in a super obscure sport that most people don't even know exists or that your film will be about a very generic, stock in trade, Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey. Doesn't matter. All that matters is will you and I shoot, strategize and think of enough interesting, compelling, engaging concepts to tell the story in a REALLY INTERESTING WAY that grabs people's attention? It's like my film's Cancer story. There have been plenty of people with Cancer who have been in documentaries. So I have to tell my women's Cancer story in a compelling engaging way that you've never seen before. So instead of just fighting for her life, she's fighting because she wants to be a mother and have babies (she's just 31 and has been single for years), she just got a new boyfriend who adores her weeks before her Cancer diagnoses (will he stay with her and be supportive or be a terrible person and dump her?). She lives to paddle, it's her main life force so will she make it back onto the water? Will she not make it back and die? How is her struggle affecting her family? Friends? Teammates and club? Are they rallying behind her? Does that support help to kill Cancer cells into remission? We'll find out. You get my point.

    The documentary ending before the Championship? Why? Why wouldn't you film into the championship? Even if you cant shoot the game, shoot pre-game and post game and license some footage? Without the championship, it sounds like your commercial viability goes way down? Think abou the trailer for your film. No Champioships? That's counterintuitive to not cover in a sports documentary?
    Last edited by puredrifting; 11-12-2018 at 04:49 PM.
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