Forums » Producing

How do you ask someone if you can make a documentary about them?

    • 14 posts
    August 11, 2022 4:27 AM PDT

    An important part of our unwritten history are documentaries made about the simple people who have an inspiring story that no one has told before. Such is the example of people who have survived through tragedies such as wars or tyranny. There are also stories, true stories that should be told to the public. For starters, I saw that youtube is a good choice for documentaries and it is used by other filmmakers too. I am not a professional filmmaker and I am barely starting but I believe this could be something that would very much passionate me and others. I would want to tell the story of that high school teacher that taught math during her career or of that doctor that managed to cure many patients in spite of the unpredictable times that we live in. There are many topics that I could choose from and many people in my area that have great stories to tell. The only problem is that I have absolutely no idea how to ask them to be a part of my documentary film. How do I ask someone if I can make a documentary about them? What if they don’t agree?

    • 201 posts
    August 11, 2022 4:33 AM PDT

    The approach that worked best for me was to reach out to that person and be open and honest with them, without any type of flattery. If you are making a documentary about one person, it helps to talk with that person a few times before starting working on the documentary so they get comfortable around you because you are asking them to open up and tell personal details from their lives.

    • 61 posts
    August 11, 2022 4:40 AM PDT

    Who do you want to ask? Is it a stranger? Is it someone you know? Are they young? Are they old? Do they use social media or phone? Are they still working or retired?  For each of these questions there is a different answer. 

    If I were to shoot a documentary about a teacher that has retired, I would need to get to that person's house because it would be very difficult to reach any other way. For that, I would need to know where that person lives. On the other side, if I were to make a documentary about a teacher who is a few months away from retirement, my quest would be easier - I could reach out to that person at school. 

    If I were to shoot a documentary about a person in his 40s, I could probably reach out through social media. In this case, I can easily send a friendly message explaining that I am shooting a documentary and I would like that person to be in it.