There are myriad issues to consider when putting together a documentary. Is the story relatable? Is there an audience? If there is an audience, how do I reach them? How am I going to possibly fund this endeavor?
Depending on the subject and nature of the piece, these considerations are in their own ways crucially important to creating a successful documentary but sometimes the most important element can turn out to be the most elusive: trust between subject and the person capturing their story.
In the case of Victorious, a documentary chronicling the championship season of Washington, D.C.’s all female full-contact professional football team, establishing trust was crucial.
The project, directed by Robert Mac and produced by Lookout based DC Visionaries, is an intimate and poignant look at the DC Divas undefeated Women’s Football Alliance Championship season. The WFA isn’t that bikini league you may have seen on the internet; this is high impact grid iron drama playing out on fields throughout the United States.
Gus Soudah was hired on as Director of Photography/second shooter throughout the project and spoke at length about what it meant to work so closely with the Divas throughout their season. Gus first came to the Divas by way of Director Robert Mac and was immediately impressed with the passion of Mac and everyone within the Divas organization. When Gus first came on board, Mac was basically running one man show; all logistics, shooting, booking, travel accommodations you name it. If it was Victorious related, Mac was somehow the one handling it. So Gus was a welcome addition to the production, but there was one caveat. He wasn’t formally introduced to the team.
His first exposure to the Divas came during a crucial early season contest against their long time rivals, the Boston Renegades. Thrown into the mix as yet another Guy-With-Camera, Gus knew he had to tread lightly at first and work to earn the resect of the Divas before they would truly let him into their world as a filmmaker. He recognized that trust between subject and documenter is built over time and achieved by working hard, taking advantage of chance opportunities to connect with each player on an individual basis and perhaps most importantly, simply continuing to show up. Proving to the players that you’re truly with them and actually in it for the long haul.
The long bus rides to and from away games certainly helped. Especially during that first game against Boston. Gus recalled becoming an instant fan of the team, too, drawing motivation from the Divas’ honed focus and belief in themselves. In time, the team didn’t even think about Gus and he became free to work amongst them as he pleased.
Production of Victorious has now wrapped and the project is in it’s editing/finishing stages, with crucial rounds of additional fundraising still to come. Everyone involved with the project recognizes the importance of getting the project out there. The Divas put a lot into this Championship season and exposure will continue to be a crucial fuel for the overall growth of the WFA.
On a personal level, Gus already misses the camaraderie of the Victorious production team and the Divas organization and is on the lookout for new documentary projects, showing just how much of an impact trust can have on a filmmaker.