How To Assess Documentary Projects
Although most charities are able to assess the key elements of a proposal in terms of whether the documentary is likely to enhance the organisation, many charities may not have the specialisation to assess the documentary process and may need to consult with an industry expert in order to evaluate a proposal in terms of its aims, process and budget. Documentary Australia can recommend readers and advisors. The following section is an introduction to the language and process of documentary production as a resource for further information.
A charity needs to assess whether the objectives of the documentary meet the charity's aims. The submission is an opportunity for the applicant to address the shared aims very directly and to point out the ways in which the documentary can enhance and extend the objectives of the charity. Meeting face to face and putting all the ideas on the table from the start will only benefit the program and clearly determine roles, responsibilities, obligations and whether the vision is indeed a shared one.
Documentary filmmakers in general care about our society. Through telling a story to a broad audience they contribute to our community. Well made documentaries have the ability to entertain as well as the power to educate, inform, empower, raise awareness and create meaningful social change.
'A well made documentary offers the visual specificity, immediacy and emotional weight which for some people makes all the difference between an academically interesting subject, and a profound, unforgettable, human experience.' - Shannon Kelley, Associate Director of the Sundance Documentary Program
ASSESSMENT of a documentary proposal can be done in collaboration with a specialist or consultant. Documentary Australia, through its website and seminars, introduces foundations and charities to the particularities of documentary production.
The following points are expanded in a resources section including explanations of synopses, treatments and budgets.
Read Guide to Assessing a Project - What is a Treatment, How to Read a Budget
See the following questions asked by Documentary Australia Foundation of filmmakers to guide you in assessing a project:
- Why is this film suitable for philanthropic support?
- Why make this film now? Why is the subject important?
- Why a documentary rather than utilising other mediums?
- What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film?
- What is the intended audience for this work? (Local community, educational, national broadcast etc)
- Does the project include a distinct plan for outreach and promotion?
- How will you measure its impact? (raising awareness, educational impact, attitude shifts, policy reform, audience endorsement)
- Who are the filmmakers responsible for the project and how qualified are they to undertake and complete the film?
- What is the time frame of the project?
- Who has the rights to the story? What is the agreement between them?
- Is this a realistic budget for achieving the film's aims? What funding have you received to date? How do you plan to fund the project and what is its full budget?
- Do the filmmakers have access to the people and locations they propose to film? Is this in writing?
- Assessment of the schedule - how feasible is the plan to achieve the stated goals?
- How do the filmmakers envisage working in collaboration with the charity?
NEXT: Guides for Evaluating Projects