Making a full length documentary is supposed to be easy, right? I’m learning the hard way, by real life experience, just how much work it really is. Here’s my second update on the making of the “We are Family” documentary about an inner city basketball team that against all odds won the Indiana state basketball championship.
I could go into a number of complications that we’ve run into, but let me share just one. David Lichty, my video editor, discovered some videos of Arsenal Tech basketball in the Indiana State tournament dating back to the 1950’s and 1970’s that would be great B-roll footage for the movie.
He also found the 2014 Championship Game at Banker’s life fieldhouse that Tech won.
We have footage of this game too, but it is court side footage that Julian and other players recorded from the bench during the game. When he researched the footage on You Tube it turns out to be owned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).
So I contacted IHSAA to see if we could use their videos, and was put in contact with Chris Kaufman of IHSAA who apparently works with this kind of thing. Here’s what I learned.
It turns out that any recording of an IHSAA game, including video taken on a personal device, is the property of IHSAA. This is not a problem when that video is used for non-commercial reasons, like a parent shooting video of their kids playing that they’ll watch at home. But as soon as the video is used for commercial purposes, it must go through a process of approval through IHSAA, requires and contract which includes compensation to IHSAA. Chris told me that the biggest contract IHSAA has worked out is with the movie Hoosiers. Hoosiers used old footage from the State Championship game that Milan won.
I told Chris that at this point we are just trying to make the movie, and don’t have any deals lined up to sell the movie, etc. So he worked out a two part contract with us: (1) We pay IHSAA $500 for the use of their footage to complete the movie and show it. (2) There will be a second contract required if we plan to sell the movie in the future. In this scenario, IHSAA would ask for a percentage of any compensation we receive for the movie.
If this were all, no big deal. But it gets more complicated.
In the first contract to just use their footage we are required to have Movie Insurance.
I get why IHSAA requires movie insurance. But I am WAY OVER MY HEAD in figuring this out. I guess this is why I have Jeff Sparks a consultant on this project.
So you can see how one thing – in this case our request to use IHSAA video – becomes a much bigger, complicated thing. I’ll probably need to hire a lawyer with experience in the Movie Industry to read these contracts and make sure that everything is straight.
And this leads me to my next point.
As we keep pressing forward, new costs keep adding up. Here are some of the new costs that I did not account for in the 25K we raised to make this movie:
- $500 for the use of IHSAA video
- ??? for Movie Insurance
- $1,500 to hire a lawyer on retainer
These new costs are not the end of the world. But we are a low-budget operation. I’ve looked into a couple of options to raise a little more money. So far, no luck. I’ll keep trying, and we’ll see what happens.
In the end, no matter the cost, I’m committed to making this movie. This inspiring story is worth telling!
The Hard Work of Creativity
Creativity is hard work. We often think of creativity happening in a moment of inspiration. And I suppose it does occasionally. But, for the most part, it is just hard work. It is putting in time. It is collaborating. It is feedback. It is grind.
For example, my son Julian spent hours going through playoff game footage and noting what were the best plays, the best footage. You can see his work in the chart below. The red stands for footage that should NOT be used; yellow stands for OK footage that can be used; and green stands for GREAT footage that needs to be used.
In preparing for this next step of the documentary process, my son Julian encouraged me to watch the film “More than a Game” that tells the story of Lebron James and his friends that played AAU and high school basketball together. The film covers about 8 years, so it is a little different than what we are trying to do. I really enjoyed watching the movie. I and thought they did a great job in telling the story. Learning from others is all part of the creative process too.
In the end, making a high quality documentary is just hard work. We have over eight hours of footage that needs to be trimmed down to a 3 hour “uncut” version of the documentary, and then trimmed down one more time to about 1.5 hours of the final version of the documentary. But in the end, telling this story of a team that inspired a city will be worth it!