How To Make An Award-Winning Adventure Documentary [VIDEO]

A lot’s happened since Janapar‘s premiere at Raindance last year, but one of the nicest moments was winning one of the top awards at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, one of the UK’s main fixtures in the adventure & outdoor festival calendar.

It was particularly rewarding given the ridiculous amount of work that had gone into putting it together — four years of shooting, two years of production and 6 months of distribution so far, unpaid, and the ongoing storytelling project still occupies a large chunk of my time.

I learned a huge amount during the production process — as did James, who’d spent half a decade cutting his teeth in the TV industry. And there are plenty of articles on the way for those of you who are interested in trying your hands at adventure filmmaking — hopefully on a more sensible scale! (If you’re not interested, don’t worry; tales from the road in Iran and new adventure cycling projects are coming too.)

Today I’d like to share a special 12-minute documentary, going behind the scenes in the studios, edit suites, voiceover booths and broom cupboards we worked in — a rare insight into the production process of an adventure film.

This short featurette originally appeared in Janapar‘s DVD extras, and in the online bonus material for the instant HD download of the film (both of which are currently available at a discount).

Feel free to ask any questions about this filmmaking process in the comments — I’d be more than happy to answer them!

11 Responses to “How To Make An Award-Winning Adventure Documentary [VIDEO]”

  1. Jason

    Hi Tom. Just a quick quizzing – is that tape or velcro on your video camera and is it doing anything other than potentially hiding a logo/brand?

    Lovely job on the film and congratulations on your successes so far – it’s a truly inspiring watch and read!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      It’s Gaffa Tape and it’s to hide the brand and make the thing look less valuable. Not sure how effective it was or whether it was really needed, but it stayed there for 4 years!

      Reply
  2. john

    What camera did you use? Was it reliable?

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    Congrats Tom! My brother and I will be doing a bike trip this summer and I wanted to get some tips and advice on what stuff to film. What you found as the best angle shots, etc of you riding. Did you take any other “video gear” to help with the filming besides the camera and tripod? Thanks.
    Andrew

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Take a look at the filmmaking advice on this page. Point number one: shots of blokes riding bikes are interesting for approximately 6 seconds, regardless of angle! After that, you need to start telling some kind of story. Point number two: the microphone (and using it!) is as important as the camera. Stories require characters and dialogue.

      Best overall advice I can give you is to make as many crap short videos as possible before it actually matters. Sounds like you’ve got a few months to practice!

      Drop me a line if I can help further…

      Reply
      • Andrew

        Thanks for the info Tom. It was definitely helpful. So you used your handlebar bag to hold your camera? Did you have any issues doing this? What brand of bag was it? Thanks.

        Reply
        • Tom Allen

          I used an Ortlieb Ultimate 5 with a foam inner. No issues — just make sure the camera fits. The ability to pull it out in 5 seconds flat was priceless.

          Reply
  4. Rachel

    Hi Tom,
    Just came across this video. Thanks so much for sharing – it’s so helpful to see the behind the scenes side of things. I’m a photographer and this year my aim is to develop some filming skills ahead of a big trip next year. Thanks for all your great articles! Looking forward to seeing Janapar sometime soon.
    Rachel

    Reply
  5. Faith

    Thanks for sharing Tom! It’s so rare to find this kind of honest behind the scenes view of the filmmaking process. Thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together. Eye opening and inspiring!

    Reply

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