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


(Amen J.) #41

That’s true! My hard drive has 1 TB on it and then the DOP and sound would record and send me the files via Google Drive…so I don’t think I’ve found the best system either.


(sam lockie-waring) #42

cool as hell x2. a lot of people think documentaries are boring- how do you combat that and make real life and real stories as exciting as any fiction? especially i’m curious how you convince other people that they’ll be exciting/interesting


(Amen J.) #43

I just asked :slight_smile: I sent out several emails to local craft breweries (that is a big thing over here) and one of them offered three cases of beer! And then I asked the local grocery store. Most places have money set aside for this type of thing, although they usually prefer community non-profit initiatives.


(Anna Bateman) #44

So have you ever run into a problem where you’re telling a story and a person with significant stakes in that story is not very good on camera?


(Anna Bateman) #45

More broadly, I’m curious about if you ever had a bad experience during an interview or shoot? What did you learn from that/ what do you wish you could have done differently?


(Amen J.) #46

I am in the same boat. That’s the best I’ve got for ya at the moment! I am trying to think outside of the box on partnerships, so I will keep everyone posted once I figure it out…if I do, hah!


(Amen J.) #47

Because they are interesting! People think public servants are boring, so I found people with singularly “secret lives” who are the completely opposite: super creative and a bit eccentric and we open each episode showing them as their secret life persona, in a stylized way. That’s why your cast should be strong from the get go, otherwise editing is also your friend.


(Amen J.) #48

Not at the moment, but that’s also because this doc series was highly planned and pretty much only focused on one person. If you’re doing something more fly on the wall then you’d probably have to edit the person’s words into more compelling sound bites, cut to BRoll, add music, etc.


(Jane) #49

This has been so interesting to read through- thanks so much for that! I’m really socially awkward but I want to get into documentaries, at least to try them out… how do I get over my social anxiety to ask people questions and to be in my project at all?


(Amen J.) #50

In the moment when I’m interviewing I am also questioning everything I am asking, whether or not I am pushing for a more interesting answer, etc. I think I need to trust myself and my instincts more. I do think part of that has to do with being a woman and feeling a bit intimidated by largely being the only one on set; also it was my first time directing a crew. Since I had a crew, all the technical stuff was managed with them, otherwise in the past I’ve struggled with doing the lighting, the sound not working properly etc…which is why I hire professionals now!


(Amen J.) #51

I’ve suffered many years with social anxiety and just anxiety in general, I completely hear you. I am also an introvert. I think focusing on the other person helps me. If I take myself out of the equation, that this is “my” project, no, I am telling their story, they are so fascinating, I want to hear more about them, etc. that has helped me immensely. Even going to parties, I just focus on the other person and it’s made me feel a lot more confident over the years.


(Bri Castellini) #52

I think this got lost in the shuffle but I definitely wanted to hear more about your recent day job quitting!


(Jane) #53

This is really helpful- thank you!!


(Meg Carroway) #54

Are you interested in pursuing scripted content ever, or are you dedicated to unscripted/docs?


(Amen J.) #55

I’ve been talking to one of the unions here, the newspaper, as well as a platform for public servants to see if we could partner in the future. I pointed out the number of views and interest I’ve generated for the series and told them I’m open to adjusting the format based on their needs. My other plan is to set up meetings with distributors in general to see what they interested in acquiring. We’ll see about that. Otherwise I am focusing on coaching and future documentary projects. If I can make something work for this, great, but I am also ready to move on if I can’t secure a distributor or funding.


(Ollie R) #56

Fair 'nuff. My other question is about time… how do you stay busy and productive and making money while filming a project since documentaries take so long?


(Amen J.) #57

It’s been a long process. So when I was in the public service, I would take leaves of absence to do contract work in film/tv production, do internships and anything more creative. I wasn’t going anywhere being a public servant, I was deeply cynical about bureaucracy, I couldn’t use much creativity in my day job (because of said bureaucracy). I realized I didn’t just want to do freelance film production, because those jobs are short-term and the hours are insane, and I’d probably spend years toiling in the same type of roles. So when a permanent job posting appeared for my last job in television, I took it. But a year and a half later, it wasn’t enough either. I’ve gotten so much more confident about my own capabilities as a doc filmmaker and a creative over the years that that voice inside me was telling me I had had it. I don’t have a grand backup plan here, but I know I have to do something different with my life.


(Amen J.) #58

Not going to lie, I just love docs and that’s where most of my ideas play into. But scripted content is easier to shoot schedule-wise. I think if I was working with a strong DOP I would be good getting into scripted content, but it would have to be short and something compelling for me.


(Bri Castellini) #59

So what has gone into you transitioning into consulting? What does that “business plan,” as it were, look like?


(Amen J.) #60

I created a production and postprod schedule that due to everyone’s availability essentially went from February to October. When I was working 9-5 I used to work on everything doc related either during my lunch hour (or any lulls), and then after work and on the weekends. I just created a to-do list and then update it everyday. I make it a goal to get at least one thing done a day, even if it’s answering an email. Some days you feel less like it than others, but it does all get done.