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Making a Documentary – Shooting Period Reenactments & More – Who Killed Hazel Drew

– Posted in: Unfolding Documentary

Shooting Period Reenactment - John Holser Productions -Wagon

In this post I share insights into shooting period reenactment footage while making of the documentary “Who Killed Hazel Drew – The Sand Lake Murder that Inspired Twin Peaks.”

Below is one in a series of candid behind the scenes videos where I revisit shooting locations and decision making as well as some of the anxiety that goes into filmmaking.

If you’re an aspiring filmmaker or just like the subject, I invite you to sign up for project updates and take this journey with me.

Hazel Drew was found face down in a pond in 1908. That makes this makes this a “period film.”

Fun right?

Well… period films are the kind everybody with experience advises you to avoid and rightfully so. Especially if you’re new to filmmaking or if you have a small budget. Making a good independent film on a very small, self financed budget is very, very difficult – maybe impossible.

Thankfully, I’ve got two things working in my favor, I’ve got experience and I’m not making a dialogue driven dramatic film. I’m making a documentary and that means I have much less reenactment shooting to do.

In a documentary I’ve got interviews, old newspapers, photos and archival footage I can insert. This means in a ninety minute film I might shoot thirty minutes of reenactment footage, apposed to the full ninety minutes.

Shooting Period Reenactment - Cannon 300

Sound and Shooting Period Reenactments

Sound is always a huge factor when shooting on location. Not to mention that if actors need to speak believable, conversational dialogue the shoot difficulty just increased exponentially.

In this documentary I purposely choose not to have dialogue. Tho I might have just a little. I think I’ve devised a narrative thread that will allow for dialogue between the detectives that will help the story and be relatively easy to do.  We’ll see.

A well done, dramatic film with full dialogue would be not be possible on the budget I’m working with.

Raising Funds to Shoot more Reenactments

In the video below you’ll see that we shot with horses, wagons and buggies. It was tough but in my opinion it was well worth it. The film comes alive by incorporating period reenactment footage.

I began thinking I would be doing very little of this, but now that I’m editing – I want more!

The project will be better with more.

This means I’ve got to raise some money – sigh 🙁

I don’t like asking for money. Most of the filmmakers and artists I know have a hard time with this. That said it’s necessary and I believe it’s possible to do it in a way that everbody benefits. That’s the way I’m going to approach it.

I will be doing a crowd funding campaign and I’ve just finished a “Sponsor Proposal” designed to attract one or more local business. I’m motivated because the amount of period reenactment footage I get to use in the film  will be directly based on how fundraising goes.

I’m a film and video-maker as a vocation and while I love the art, I’m not willing to make a film unless I can it will sustain me and others working on it. This means I’ve got to approach it like a business. I’ve got to approach it on four fronts. I’ve got to:

  1. keep costs down
  2. build an audience
  3. raise funds
  4. make sales

While this process is basic operating procedure for entrepreneurs, it can be a foreign concept for filmmakers and artists.

I’ll be sharing more about budgeting, audience building, raising funds and making sales in upcoming posts.

I hope to hear from you. Please comment below, ask a question or just send some encouragement my way.

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