Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr., is the co-author of “The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception” as well as the award-winning director of the documentary “The Woman Who Wasn’t There,” which premiered on Investigation Discovery on April 17th, 2012. Visit TheWomanWhoWasntThere.com.
So you want to make a documentary, huh? Well, prepare for a ride with more detours and roadblocks than The Amazing Race. Unlike that show, however, no roadmap and definitely no million-dollar prize awaits at the finish line.
Making a documentary — especially a good one — is far more complex than it appears. You might not guess that because a savvy filmmaker never lets the audience see the excruciatingly painstaking behind-the-scenes process. I’ve heard seasoned veterans call documentaries “the quickest way to the poorhouse” and “the most rewarding experience of my life” in the same sentence.
I have had the stamina to direct three documentaries — I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Nonetheless, I will offer advice, in no particular order, to those who are determined to join the ranks of Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens), Ross Kauffman (Born Into Brothels) and yours truly (The Woman Who Wasn’t There).
If you’re interested in watching a few noteworthy documentaries, head to this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival. The festival takes place from April 26 to May 3, 2012. For film recommendations, check out CBS Los Angeles’ “What to see at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival.”
Allow a story to find you
Search for a story you’re passionate about and allow yourself to become obsessed with it. The Woman Who Wasn’t There started as an advocacy film about World Trade Center Survivors but turned into an exposé about false identity, deceit and betrayal.
Don’t micromanage – find a great producer
Dismiss your inner control freak. A good producer opens doors, eliminates obstacles, sources funding and sustains your vision throughout the process.
Set aside two to five years
I began my latest film in 2006; I finished it in 2012. In that time, my lead character, Tania Head, went from being the President of The World Trade Center Survivors’ Network and one of the most beloved figures in the 9/11 annals to a widely despised persona non grata. A compelling arc of events never happens overnight — a story worthy of a film (and a book) develops over years.
Never take ‘no’ for an answer
“No” means “maybe.” And “maybe” is just a step away from “yes.” Adopting this way of thinking (in your professional life) can be a most valuable asset.
Be a bamboo
Everything that you plan out will change. The film I began five years ago bears little resemblance to the finished product. It is the nature of the beast.
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Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr., is the co-author of “The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception,” which published in April 2012.