Amen Jafri - Documentary Filmmaker and Coach, Creator of The Secret Lives of Public Servants


(Rodrigo Diaz Ricci) #21

Good point. Thanks for the answer!


(Anna Bateman) #22

How do you find subjects for your documentaries?


(Anna Bateman) #23

And can you tell us about your sold out premiere? (congrats, by the way!!)


(Amen J.) #24

So first off, you and your crew are the best publicity for the project, so everywhere you go, talk about your project and what you’re doing (keeping in mind, create an elevator pitch to focus on what is especially compelling about the project). What I personally found was no one in the press really cared when I sent out a press release on the crowdfunding campaign. Which makes sense, I didn’t offer anything compelling for them to care about. Once the episodes were ready to go, I launched a screening party two weeks ahead of time and I sent out another press release on that to U.S., Canadian and local journalists…I crafted a press list in Excel and I listed all the names of people who would care about this story (because they write about web series, docs, the public service, etc.) and that’s what I found got me attention. But also before that I was always talking up the series and then of course doing social media. I do think traditional media is still important, especially for my audience, which skews a bit older.


(Jaime Lancaster) #25

Gotcha! What would you recommend for people finding sponsors for projects about social justice like LGBT representation or women in film or mental illness awareness? Those aren’t really moneymaking industries exactly so what kinds of places could they reach out to?


(Amen J.) #26

That would have been probably smarter! No, I straight up said $1000 to sponsor each episode haha. And then after that I was just open to whatever they had to offer.


(Meg Carroway) #27

Makes sense! What would you say has been the most successful marketing thing you’ve done? Generating interest around your screening? Something else? Would you have done anything differently, looking back?


(Amen J.) #28

A lot of them were people recommended to me by friends and family, people I had worked with in the past. And then when I realized I had largely only women and not a whole lot of people of colour, I had to do some call-outs on social media and I did my own research online, seeing if anyone had been profiled in the media before. But at the end of the day I interviewed people and tried to get a sense if they would be interesting camera, if what they did would be visually dynamic, if they were available to film, etc.


(Bri Castellini) #29

So looking at your experience, you would recommend having an idea of what would go with what amount? Anything you can divulge about what price points seemed fair for different things?


(Anna Bateman) #30

I was actually gonna ask about this next! How do you get around documentary subjects who aren’t great on camera? Not include them? Have them record ADR later?


(Amen J.) #31

Thank you! Yes, it was everything I wanted it to be! It was a lot of work. So the one in 2014 I hooked up with Impact Hub Ottawa, a co-working community space and to be honest they did a lot of the leg work, but they also took all my ticket sales, which was unfortunate. Because it was a topic that people in this city talk about a lot, it got a lot attention and people were excited about the discussion. For TSLOPS, we also had a sold out premiere. I got a few sponsors for beer, some food and a few giveaways for people who showed up at the event as their “secret life” persona (this was about a week before Halloween). I had a volunteer host to do the Q&A after the screening and I really wanted to be something engaging, part of the community discussion, not just watch and leave. I wanted guests to feel appreciated, to feel excited about the whole thing and make it an experience. I also hosted it again at Impact Hub and I was able to piggyback on their audience too, to attract more attendees.


(Ollie R) #32

Oh cool I was thinking about trying my hand at a documentary soon. Do you have any tips for cheap storage? Even narrative filmmaking takes up a lot of hard drive space but you get like an eighth of the footage a documentarian gets.


(Amen J.) #33

What about community centres and mental health associations? They would probably be interested in partnering with you and it would help them with their marketing efforts too.


(Anna Bateman) #34

Bummer about the ticket sales, but cool!! I’ve been poking around ideas for screenings recently so that’s really helpful. How did you get the beer and food sponsorships?


(Amen J.) #35

I’m pretty happy with the marketing and interest around Secret Lives. I think next time around (and I really want to do a second season), I would avoid putting any of my own funds into this. Which means I am not guaranteed the next project, but it is really stressful doing that…I would also prefer to avoid crowdfunding again, unless I had a team on board to help me!


(Jaime Lancaster) #36

Would those be good places to try and get fiscal sponsorship from, though? Cuz honestly what we need more than anything is money :confused: Partnering for marketing efforts would be great, but we need to make the thing first and could use some start up capital to do that!


(Amen J.) #37

Perhaps if I’d established a relationship first with the business owner and simply gotten a better sense of their needs, then I could have tailored the ask more strategically. Instead I just emailed them directly, because I was a bit short on time.


(Meg Carroway) #38

So what options are you looking at for funding a second season, especially since you mentioned you just quit your day job?


(Bri Castellini) #39

I’m glad you brought this up, Meg, cuz I was just gonna ask: what went into that decision to quit your day job and how did you know that you were ready?


(Amen J.) #40

I would avoid doc subjects not great on camera, at least as the leads…yeah, don’t include them! You want interesting, strong characters on screen. They’re people, but they’re your “actors” too.