DIY – The Process

DIY! Do It Yourself!

This is a recollection of ideas that may help other independent filmmakers. It’s just one version, so ask others filmmakers about their experiences. My formal educational background did not include filmmaking, so needless to say, I’ve learned a lot. I have had a lot of help from others and the project couldn’t have been done without them. I’m very thankful to all the people who have helped me, guided me, and answered my many questions. Thank you!

Filmmaking is quite the process. I’ve been working on Considering Democracy for about four years. While, I am one person, in the digital age, one person’s reach can be – what’s the word? – amplified. It is, however, a lot of work and it can’t be done totally alone.


Here are important things to remember, or keep in mind:

Compose your shots. Learn the basic Rule of 3rds and use it.

Get a decent camera and know its strengths and weaknesses. For example, know how it will capture an image in low light.

Know your systems of audio acquisition before you begin shooting. There is only so much that can be done in post.

Make sure that you are legal. Register your business with the Secretary of State. Have and use your release forms.

Have a plan for getting steady shots. Practice handheld techniques or get something to stabilize the shot. I traveled with a monopod, but I often didn’t use it (it looked similar to a gun sticking out the top of my back pack) instead I used whatever was around; the top of a chair, a window ledge, a table. Nobody wants to look at shaky images for over 5 seconds. Image stabilization in post will make the footage look blurry.

Have a plan of how the story will be structured. Some sort of emotional arc will need to be built into the story line. (Knowing this ahead of time would have probably saved me a couple of years.)

What I used overseas

Panasonic AGEZ50 (small three chip minidv camera,) 3 extra batteries, 35 tapes, variety of electric converters, Azden DX-580 dynamic microphone, XLR-1/4, converted to 1/8 to the camera.

This next part may make audio people aghast, but I think that I ended up using airplane earphones, but did always use headphones when taking interviews. I took the following picture on a hike on the Annapurna Trail in Nepal . I took the basic camera equipment in a small backpack. (I’m usually not so messy, but I was up at an altitude of 14,000 feet. Being in an atmosphere with significantly less oxygen can make a person a bit silly.)

Side note – Horrible things happen

Unexpected things can and most likely will happen at some point during production. After making it successfully around the world with my equipment in working order, I was trying to get some pickup shots of the globe floating down a stream.

The camera, tripod and all, fell into the stream. It was fully submerged for about one second and no longer works. So, I also used the following equipment:

Sony HVR-Z1U in DV mode (That a friend let me borrow, assuming that I did not shoot outdoors.)

Sony digital 8 (older consumer model)