My College Creative Project – A Failed Documentary AKA ” How not to make a documentary”

In this post I am going to share with you how I dumped 3 grand+ and probably near thousand of hours in a failed project that had no economical or any useful value whatsoever for anyone.

I feel you will learn some insane strategies that can help you in future entrepreneurial projects. I don’t give a shit that much about the money because at that time in my life I had plenty but the hours and headaches that this project gave me were just ………..insane at the very least. There was a lot of self image damage on this one.

If you are going to learn one key thing right now is that if you do not approach a creative project correctly it will mess your brain and you will suffer. It all comes down to systematic use of right knowledge and involving people with the right attitude and skill set. Planning and execution is all it is.

To be continued………………


A. How it all started

To complete my bachelor’s I had to complete a creative project. At the time I decided to make a documentary about weight loss. I though it would be  cool. There are a few things that motivated me to do such a project. I had done body transformations in the past so I had no difficulty myself changing my appearance quickly and at the time my appearance was not optimum so I could benefit personally. Also family members were fat, they kind of integrated poor American lifestyle habits after we immigrated to USA.  They could benefit from losing pounds. Another thing that motivated me was watching several movies that really annoyed me as they were much like infomercials and focused on sensationalism rather than good content. Like a moron I was like I am going to make a better film. I am referring to  Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and Supersize Me. Both movies were shown in school by teachers and praised as some kind of great works. In my opinion they were not because in Fat and Sick… the dude never exercised and in Super Size Me the dude blamed the obesity problems to McDonald’s alone. Both movies completely took out exercise which is obviously the most important factor in health. They also ignored deeply examining habits regarding eating and types of foods. There are millions of studies showing that something simple as walking for an hour a day can get rid of a lot of illnesses. By the way going green as shown in Fat Sick and Nearly Dead is amazing life style change as it makes the body alkaline and that alone makes one disease free overtime.

B. Project Approval and Dream Shatter

There I am running around different departments in school signing paperwork with intention of making a documentary about weight loss. It was hilarious everyone was looking at me as if I was out of my mind and if I was crazy. I get all the paper work signed in and than I meet the adviser. This is where things didn’t go well. My vision of making a 60-80 minute film and sending it to a film festival didn’t  resonate and the adviser distracted me.

All I wanted to do is record several different transformation of myself with different variations and then have my mother and brother lose weight using simple programs. The adviser wanted something else. He wanted complete word by word script of the project and he convinced me that there was no way I could make a full movie with duration of 60 to 75 minutes and that I should make a film with duration of 10 to 15 minutes. Like a moron I changed my mind and did exactly as told (huge mistake). It just kind of seemed and felt that if I went with intention of making full movie I would be in trouble. It also seemed a lot of people I knew really started releasing the hate vibe and the get distracted vibe.The vibe you get from people when you want to make something cool and dummies don’t want to be involved due to introverted personality types…..

Key lessons here: ONE:If you have a vision of something you want to make happen get the right people involved and completely remove interactions with backstabbers or the can’t happen/too hard to happen people. Involve people that have done something similar successfully ( Better –> involve people that have done something 10x greater). TWO: Don’t be malleable, instead be persistent and manipulate others so that they don’t manipulate you. Creative ideas and vision I feel come from the spirit and if you do not follow the spirit’s vision the fire and emotion will cease in you and so everything  will become utter pointless. You will be just like everyone else.

C. Going ahead with failed project

When I told my brother that I am changing the project and what we are going to do my brother  immediately wanted to not get involved in the project because he thought it was a waste of time. In fact when he as involved in the project later he wasn’t his true self. I don’t blame him I didn’t feel like doing it either. 10-15 minute video he taught it was a joke so did I. He was damn right. The little dude was sharper than me believe it or not, he wasn’t malleable little chicken like I was. At this point the motivation was lost for making the film but I had to meet deadlines to complete the project and it was the last semester. I needed the freaking thing to graduate. Isn’t academia great?

So there I am trying to turn 60-80 minute film scene layout into 10 minute script. It was just not working and I spent several weeks trying to craft 10 minute version that seemed dumber and dumber every time I worked on it. I eventually created the short 12 page script version  and submitted it for approval and it was approved. On the back of my head though I new I was going to film a lot more so that I could make a longer version of the film but I did not have a systematic lay out of what I had to film.

The disaster begins.

D. Purchasing video making equipment and planning the whole thing.

At the time I am not going to lie even though I had taken several courses in film making/photography and script writing I definitely didn’t have all the right knowledge when it came to actually producing/making a quality film. Getting advice from amateurs here was a major mistake. My knowledge in the department of equipment knowledge, planning and people management was flawed.

After reading blogs, a book or two and watching whole bunch of reviews I ended up buying expensive consumer/prosumer sony camera for the project. This was huge mistake consumer and prosumer camera can’t be used for professional use they lack the proper tools and features and  they start having problems right away. Consumer products have horrible repair services. When the first camera failed I think from the day I sent it out  for repair to the day I got it back more than 2 months had passed and they could not repair the camera. The sad thing was I later found out after purchasing a second consumer camera and finishing the project that Sony makes pro shoulder cameras with good directional microphone that cost slightly more than a grand. On all the consumer gear sound was a major issue and it prevailed through out the filming.

I failed on the planning and organization big time. What I did was note times when the school gym and other filming locations didn’t have visitors and decided to organize key scenes at those places when there weren’t any people. Like a moron I didn’t get any posters or tape or anything to make sure visitors would not disturb while filming.

Thirdly I failed in involving proper people in the filming process. This is where interesting things started happening and I literally later started reading quantum physics because of weird phenomenons, no joke by the way.

Fourth…. I didn’t look for funding for the project. Do not shoot a documentary with your own money. It is too damn costly. Simple google search reveals 100s of organizations and ways to fund a documentary project. It is easy to acquire crazy funding.

The Filming – oh my dear. weird stuff. totally explainable you know.

Even though on repeated basis  the filming locations didn’t have visitors at the time we had planned to film that immediately changed and all the places we used to film became full with people as if everyone was under some kind hypnosis. This is not a joke. Also random events started conflicting with the filming. Somehow on the shooting days especially after the first shooting people started bombarding the places and doing things.

We swapped the shooting times but that didn’t help, people started showing up at the different times. Like a moron instead of asking people not to use the places at particular times and putting posters I just decided to shoot randomly. Big mistake. Also some of the people started starring at us like zombies on the shooting days and it was really weird. Some of them purposely did things to screw up shots and scenes.

In the filming we used several different camera people until at some point I got really angry and had my brother and my father only film. Imagine how desperate I was to use my father from whom every other word is negativity and can’t be done or it’s bad or they are screwing kind of thing. If there was a job that my dad would dominate it would be to discourage people and make them feel like sh*t in that there is no better than him. So what happened is all the different camera people had mini mental issues of some sort like lack of motivation, unable to focus, not listening and such. It seemed that their issues directly translated up on the equipment used, the camera and audio equipment. I know this is totally weird and creepy and I am not making it up. For example, the one camera person would never focus and would never listen to direction and do random stuff. What happened is the camera after that stopped focusing properly and did random weird lens/zoom actions and also several of the functions on the camera that that person used started malfunctioning on repeated basis. This was permanent damage by the way once the camera started doing these it never stopped. In fact SONY could not repair it and deemed the repair to be more costly than the camera currently was worth. This happened with several other pieces of audio equipment which were more expensive than the camera.

So at the end of the day we ended up using 4 different cameras  2 borrowed from the filmmakers 2 my own and whole bunch of audio equipment. 1/3 to 2/3 of the footage was useless at the end due various problems, audio, image, composition and others. Total fail. We pretty much shot it as if we were going to make 60 a minute film and ended up with 10-20 minutes of footage that wasn’t even that great. All the equipment used could have easily been replaced with $1200-1500 entry level pro shoulder video camera from any camera manufacture that has on board shotgun microphone. Yep!

Putting it all together and getting rid of it.

God bless all the video editors out there. If one video edits and works on a project that doesn’t have the majority of its pieces it can be a total disaster as mine was. I frankly do not know how many edits I did on the project and how many hundreds of hours went there but at some point it was so frustrating and slow that I went and bough an SSD to be able to edit it fast and just get rid of it. I just wanted to put it behind and forget about the whole damn experience. It was rewarding and learning experience when you consider that some of the evaluators of the project and script probably didn’t read or go pass the first several minutes yet they were determined that it had to be done in a certain way.

This is the joke final video –>

Key lessons to take away.

For creative projects and endeavors involve only right mined people with adequate experience.

Do not run away from your vision or adopt the vision of others.

Remove association and interactions with people with wrong attitude, negativity and small little minds.

Use crowd funding if possible and minimize dumping hard earned dollars unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Find someone who has completed a bigger project than yours and have them mentor you.



Categories: Blog, Entrepreneurship


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