Documentary world vol. II Fran Porter

So, while working as a free-lance photographer I did make some contacts such Fran Porter.  Her business card says she was a Producer but when I went to the website of the media company she runs “Metal Dog Media” I discover they have made a couple of documentaries; all of them related to music. Then I did research her profile at Linkedin and I did find out that she had been really into documentary for some time.

That’s why I think her answers could be useful for me.

Contact Details

Fran Porter



My meeting with Fran Porter was extremely good. We spent one hour and forty minutes talking about documentary , the skills required, how to break into it, what can you expect for it, what is actually the most important thing in this field, the network ideas, the process of development and how to make a live on this. We even talk about the whole media industry in UK and the way of understanding media education.


It was a pleasure to have that chat, to have someone answering honest, just by telling her own experiences.



I put here the link so you can actually listen to the full conversation, I think that transcript 1 h 40 m of conversation is actually a waste of time so I am just going to write down what are most likely to be the answers to the questions I have asked to everyone and put some emphasis on what other people didn’t tell me before.


What are the key skills that you have needed to develop to do your job properly? And which ones are you still improving?

Well, the technical skills can be learnt via tutorials or you can just hire people to shoot or whatever you need. Research is extremely important, although You can always pay someone to do the research because a good research takes about 4 months and you may not have that time, but know how to research is always good.

Be interested in people is the key, to have passion about people and integrity. You have to be passionate and know where your own boundaries are. Your passion is what makes people trust you. You have to build up trust quick, really quick, and let them know this is going to happen. The film is going to be made.

You really have to build up the confidence because usually people are defensive against media.

You, as a woman, will probably make a documentary on a men’s world. You have to deal with that, break into a men’s world. You have to make them believe in you as a filmmaker at least.

It is also really important to know WHEN do you have to make a film. It can be such a huge film but not at that moment, maybe you have to wait five years if you want it to be a success.

You have to understand social moments and take them into account. What the audience wants in each moment. Recession moments are particular moments you have to consider that people is thinking on domestic stuff on survival, they are not really interesting in anything beyond or abroad.

Journalistic skills are also really important. You should go to look for what people are not saying, what they hide.  When I meet people,  I promise, I see everyone as a potential character. ​


-How can you get or improve those skills?

All these things with experience, to be honest. You are getting better and better with experience. I have made loads of mistakes. At the beginning terrible mistakes. Being a student making horrible films and getting the camera stolen. But now here we are.


-What are the educational requirements to be a documentary filmmaker?

I do not think there are educational requirements. It is more about passion and having determination, about having the commitment to do it.

-Do you usually work with editors or any other professionals?

My partner is usually the one who shots, I am the producer, then we have upstairs the editing lab so we edit ourselves, and the equipment its also ours. That’s the thing if you want to make money on this you have to own the equipment, if you start hiring this and that you are not going to have profits.


-Which professional networks would be useful to engage in for a documentary professional development?

It must be face to face. I don’t make people to come to my office to have  a chat or just phone them. You have to actually meet the people, yesterday this time I was off to the pub to meet the guys from Coventry FC . That’s the way! Go to the pub.  Actually, this morning the guy called me and told me that after I left the bar a guy came to him and said he had heard us and that he could help us.

But,  for me is not about networking, networking, it is more about ideas, ideas, ideas.

 -How do you break into documentary?

You have to start little by little. Just go for it. One day you will make something good, something big. it makes a difference. Our reggae docuemtary really made a point.

I remember Ken Fero also said something similar to this but i am not sure if it was more related to your family or potential clients. What he said is ‘when people see you haven’t given up and one day you make something good they start to take you seriously’.

Reflection on the chat

While talking with her I felt I was on the right way to develop my professional career on documentary. I mean, talking about the skills needed, and even about the process I don’t see myself far away from that. In terms of just breaking into it and living on it this chat made me think deeply about setting up a company, instead of being just a free-lance.

Ken and Lee and well all the references I have had drive me into the direction of free-lance. None of them think working for a documentary production company is really worthy now. But Fran went a bit forward and told me about the financial advantages as a enterprise and also the facilities you can have to find clients and foundation, in terms of trust. When you set up a company you have legal responsibilities so people would rather trust a company than a single person.






Professional Comments on my portfolio

Chantal Riekel is a French-German photographer who has her own portfolio

I had a look at her portfolio before asking her for help. What I most like about her’s is the home page,

Anyway she is also a photographer tutor as well as workshop and community project facilitator. So it’s not only the fact that is a professional photographer witha  portfolio but also that she is used to have a look at other’s works and portfolios, and critically think about them.

Here it is a sheet of feedback from Chantal


Chantal comments

Also , to prove that she was the one who did it I put here an audio of the meeting.


Most of the comments of Chantal were related to the appearence. I already knew those issues before speaking with here. Weteher because the free version doesn’t allow me to change some things, or because I do not know how tu use wordpress properly, the point is that the site hasn’t got the appearence I would like.

Apart from that, Chantal has pointed out some interesting stuff.

We have been seeing some of her colleague’s websites and even students websites. All of them related to documentary photography or kind of photojournalism to get some ideas.  On those websites the text, the explanation , all the details aroun the works and projects have much more importance than in any other photographer portfolio. So, she suggested me to make the most out of the introductory text, and the titles.

I asked her about the third person/first person conflict. In the about page all of their bio’s or career in third person but I am not sure about keeping it for the introductory texts of the projects. Some of them do that, but it sounds weird to me. She agrees with me, she would rather write it in first person.

She put enphasis on the space in between images, I really would like to do that but by the moment I do not know how… But non related to the control of the wordpress tools she commented me to think really well about the sequence of images I put. That is the main thing, they have to be more related, the order has to be on purpose…


Conclusions on the comments

I totally agree with her in everything but I am not sure if I am going to get the things in WordPress as I am visualizing them in my mind.

I am going to work on titles, and text, and to go re-select images as she told me, to think more carefully about the sequence and put some more pictures. She says is not necessary to have loads of projects but really good ones.  Not jus three pictures, put around ten and make a really good sequence with them.






So receiving this now I have to work in fix it!!


Wwoofing Documentary. Pre-production changes.

Tutorial with Steven today and as I have already imagined we have to change the dates, so its time to phone everybody!

Also I have to attend a skills session for the GoPro if I want to use it.

And I am meeting my partner to decide about looking for a sound recordist. Her opinion is that is not a good idea, I understand why she thinks like that but we are definitely taking a risk with this decision.

The point is that that third person should be interested in this as much as we are, not only in terms of be professional and willing to work without any payment and spend money in transport, but only because you have to work as wwoofer as well. Also we should re-ask every single host about being three, but the main thing is that is not that easy to find someone with that profile. You can find out someone really good at sound willing to collaborate in a documentary film but all these things…at least not from one day to another and we are in such a rush!


Documentary World. Vol. III

Lee Cogswell is a self-employed videographer and photographer. He is really good at sound editing and that’s why he has been involved in many music documentaries.

He has done also loads of work of documentary photography.

He is younger than the documentary filmmakers I have already interviewed so I think his answers could be different and may be more update. It is always good to se a different point of view anyway.


It was supposed to be a face to face meeting but due to his difficult agenda it ends up being just an e-mail answer to the questions. Here it is the screenshot of the e-mail.



Contact Details:

Lee Cogswell



-What are the key skills that you have needed to develop to do your job properly? And which ones are you still improving?
I’m always shooting, but, I feel within documentary film, the skill that’s really important is editing. I’m always improving as an editor. Editing is looking at what you’ve got and telling a story with it.

-How can you get or improve those skills?
Experience. Get out there and work on as much as you can.

-How does an outsider get into this line of work? Is it recommendable to start working in a documentary production company or as a freelance?
I’ve never worked for a company, doing this, so, I don’t know about that. You need your work to be seen, for people to want to work with you, so, find something interesting to document, document it and get your work out, on the net to be seen. Try to get involved with other projects that are happening.

-Which professional networks would be useful to engage in for a documentary professional development?
Facebook and social media are great and very important but it’s not a patch on face to face meeting and talking to people. Be willing to work for free at first to met people and work with them.

-What are the educational requirements to be a documentary filmmaker?
None, on paper. The work is infinitely more important than the grades. Let your work show what you can do.

-How do you find out the festivals to submit your film?
There are loads. I’ve not been involved with many. I guess, you’ve got to Google and research them to see which are right for your work. leegocogswell1

-As a freelance are you in charge of the whole film process or do you usually work with editors or any other professionals? If so, do you usually work with the same crew?
As a freelance videographer, many of my early projects were solo projects. I was the crew/editor. This is a good way of understanding the whole process, so when you do work within a team, you’ll understand the different roles.

-How do you find people that may be interested to work in your documentary projects?
The more you work within crews and teams the more you’ll find the right people to work with. Everything I’ve worked on came about from meeting somebody on a previous project.



My reflection on Lee’s words

I have found his words pretty useful, the advice of starting right now that “go out there” it is probably the best thing I can do. Also the idea of physically networking instead of virtually networking.  He also points the importance of editing. Ken Fero didn’t make such an emphasis on it during the interview but I can swear he did during three months of Documentary Production module, and I totally agreed with him by the end of that module.  Editing is ot only the use of the software but the idea behind. My cinema knowledge provides me of many editing ideas,   and talking about having an outstanding level with a software, I have already been enrolled this term an advantage module in Premiere and I am going to undertake an advanced film editing module in CSULB in order to learn how to use other professional software.

Moreover, as you can notice, I have add some extra questions this time relating to be a self employed filmmaker. His answer are not really surprising to be honest but I appreciate them anyway.


WWoofing Documentary. Week 5 pre-production

My partner and I are researching about the most convenient host.

At the moment we have received 4 negative answers and 3 positives We are making now a pro and cons list of the positives. At the end of the post there is a document attached.

I receive all kind of suggestions from Scarlett guiding our research (community)

I am already in contact with Sue Coppard, she is willing to be interviewed  (also makes suggestions).  I started e-mailing her but I am now speaking with her by phone. We have already arranged a meeting at her house but we still in touch talking about the project. She is also making suggestions and


wwoof host details edited

Scriptwriting: Clifton Stetwart

I had a chat with Clifton Stewart on 29th April and I have now focus my scriptwriting research on British or even worldwide market.

The reason I have contact Clifton is because he has experience as a script editor and mentor, to writers and directors new to film and television. In fact, the couple of things we have learnt this year about scriptwriting –that are the only things about scriptwriting I have learnt at University until the moment- were taught by him at the beginning of the Short Film Production module.I remember all the advices he gave to us. In fact I wrote them down and I have well saved that file. I found that workshop pretty useful, as well as his feedback on my script during that module.

So, we met on 29th of April, 9.30 am.

First we spoke about my favorite scriptwriters and scripts and we tried to figure out what they all have in common. We also talked about Spanish cinema at some point and about film festivals along all the conversation. Then we went through the same questions I have asked to everybody. The conversation was long and useful. After it I have kept on researching about scriptwriting, following his advice, and I have already found some places to send my scripts. So as soon as I meet my deadlines I would be focus on writing and start to make the first steps. Also, Clifton told me to contact him by the end of summer and for sure I will do that.

What are the key skills for scriptwriting? How can you learn or improve them?

Really, everything you do is good. When you read a book when you watch films you are improving them, the fact that you are here in UK is also good. You have that international point that is really practical.


Which professional networks would be useful to engage in for a scriptwriting professional development?

Contacts are the most important thing. Festivals are a great way to make contacts. You have to go to film or short film festivals with your business card and meet as much people as possible.


This thing about business card annoys me, I do not have one..

Do some, it can’t be that expensive, look for them on Internet…


No, what I mean is what I am supposed to say in that card, actually, who am I? I mean, what is my profession? Nothing really already…


Ok, you have nothing to lose. It is just a way of introduce yourself and make contacts, if you go to a film festival some of the filmmakers and producers won’t probably have time for you, but if you give them the card then they will probably call you. Put something like media producer or Spanish translator if you have already done some works with it.



How does an outsider get into scriptwriting?

You are not going to become a scriptwriter in a couple of days. It is going to take long.. You have to read scripts and write scripts. You have to produce scripts you are happy with and then send them to production companies. If you send it to a big production company they are going to have a script reader who wants to be a writer as well. So, You need examples, you need to write scripts.Clifton-Stewart

You need to decide as well stylistically in what are you going to concentrate. Most of the scripts you said are actually adaptations, you have to decide If you want to get into adaptation scripts, or you want to do thriller, comedy, drama, fantasy… It takes time, I did first a

You have to be aware of the industry and the market to know where you should get into. Research what a specific production company usually does, what they lack of, what they would be interested in. Research where I would like to work, who with…

Also, you have to consider that most of scriptwriters (about the 80%) are not full-time scriptwriters It is not a really good idea just to live for this, so keep doing whatever you enjoy doing. It can be obsessive if you just do this, and talking about money it is difficult to live just doing this, I mean, if a production company gets your script it is going to be well paid but it is not going to happen very often. You have to get used to rejection. You are not going to receive a call after sending your first script, you have to send loads.



What are the educational requirements to be a scriptwriter?  Are masters or any other specific courses a must?

I did fine arts, and then I was in a meeting with scriptwriters and I got nothing because they were talking in film language and I couldn’t understand. And there was a MA in scriptwriting coming those days and I did that. And then I start to look who was doing this and that, and e-mail them. I already had some short-films. It would be great if you make now a short film so you have something to show and spread out. But, you do not need to produce all you write, just write and when you are happy with something you wrote send it. At some point you will be recommended by someone.


But you do not need to do an MA in scriptwriting; you already have the film language. Do a short film now, is a good way to start.

My intention is to study next year at CSULB (USA) some modules of scriptwriting just to know more about how to write and develop a script, but I am not really considering the MA option because of money. This would be a interexchange, like Erasmus this year, but outside Europe. It is a cheaper option and I’ll keep travelling and meeting people.

That is completely fine. Well, I don’t know, sometimes there are very formal structures in USA above all in scriptwriting but there are probably some more flexible.



There is an audio clip attached here but it is just to test that we actually had the meeting but it has no the whole conversation and its quality is rubbish.



The following research in British scriptwriting market

Just by googleing ‘how to break into scriptwriting’ or ‘how to become a scriptwriter’ you can read the same steps that Clifton told me. I found particulary interesting Stephen Davis (2011) An insider guide to becoming a screenwriter The Guardian. Available at because S. Davis makes the same points that we went through and sometimes even goes deeper.

S. Davis says that is not a matter of a couple of days, he actually points out that you will spend in between 3 to 5 years to break into it. Davis order the reader to start spreading out scripts and do not expect anything back at first. He also says that BBC writers room is the first port to call at, and agrees in sending your script to producers but goes deeper by saying you must contact your regional screen agency because they should be aware of who is active in your area. He agrees also in having other job and suggests it could be even non-related to film industry. Moreover, he speaks about scriptwriting contest and that to participate it does not matter where are you from or where are you living, but is says that unluckily most of them are not free but it could be worthy to spend some money in some of them…

And at the end there is kind of a sum-up paragraph full of advices. Do not stop writing, do now wait for opportunities , go for them, now who you are competing with, spend time on sets to know how actors and directors work with scripts….


Apart from that useful guide, there are also loads of how to become a scriptwriter in X steps, they are all basically the same (see the list below). One of my main sources was How Do you Become a Scriptwriter (2013) Available at


– Write a script.
-Get feedback.
-Rewrite the script.
-Send it to the industry. The BBC’s Writers’ Room appears always as the first port of call. Some websites recommend also approach producers, production companies and agents as Clifton did. However, all of them say that it may be too early to seek representation, you must have written a good number of solid quality scripts to get one.
-Feel the burn of rejection . Actually, managing rejection appears in most of this articles as one of the most important skills of a scriptwriter. How to make rejection useful and not depressing or discouraging seems to be so essential.
-Repeat all steps

The most useful thing I learnt from those step lists was that in all of them BBC Writer’s Room was the first option to send the script. So, I obviously googled it. Amazing discovery. It is not only that you can submit scripts in there but you have also access to info, events, opportunities and advice about scriptwriting.

Anyway, I have also read about the specializing inside the scriptwriting field, but on the Internet while reading scriptwriters blogs they were mostly talking about specialize in radio, film, TV, computer games, corporate videos… rather than in genres as Clifton said. I guess I have to give it a go to several things and then we will see.

My reflection

The scriptwriting world seems to be a bit less closed now. My chat with Alejandro Melero was useful too. To be honest, talking about skills and how to improve them I think they both agree. However, this chat and the following research is more encouraging, as it seems ‘easier’ to break into scriptwriting. I am not saying it is going to be easy, I won’t even achieve it probably, but at least I know what I have to do to try to get into scriptwriting. I am not saying that Melero’s answer were not as good as Cliton’s, because I really believe they are true story as well. Apart from talking with Melero I did more research about Spanish scriptwriting market and I posted it all on the blog and as a conclusion I would say that it is more difficult to break into the Spanish market.

What I really like of this is that now I have now crystal clear what to do. I obviously have to write until I am happy with at least one script. I have already found where to submit them or who to send them. I am also going to a festival in Gijon the first weekend of August, it is not really related

So, basically this summer I am going to hit the road. I am going to write and re-write, to start making contacts. I have the whole month of June to develop ideas while travelling through UK meeting people and producing my Wwoofing documentary, then I have July to sit down and write. Here there are some possible submissions

This is a contest of a Spanish University in Canary Islands

This is not for now , but for some day you can just submit your script to contest or can ask for feedback (paying for it) you have to pay but they have developed services that help connect screenwriters with entertainment professionals looking for new material.


And in mid August I will be hopefully moving to Long Beach, California (USA) and attending modules taught by professional scriptwriters such us

By the end of the summer I do not expect to have won any scripts contest or received any producer calls, but hopefully I will have received some feedback and start spreading out my name and my scripts.