In this Q&A post, Jake of Ghostly Activities answers questions about the life and skills needed to be a paranormal documentarian. Get the scoop after the jump.
In this post, you’ll get what I learned on my paranormal filming journey, the lessons I learned, and tips you’ll need to get the project finished.
What exactly is a paranormal documentarian?
In a nutshell, you present a ghost hunt and its evidence to the public. It could be a blog post, social media series, or YouTube video. The format isn’t as important as showing the evidence and what really happened during the investigation.
Notice I didn’t say it’s always a video. I like blog posts because you can write to provide context and use media to show techniques and evidence. You get to put audio clips, photo galleries, and video snippets all in one source.
Who on the team could act as a paranormal documentarian?
I think it should be the person most comfortable working behind the scenes, collecting the story, and editing it all. It’s probably someone very comfortable working with technology. Patience is also a key attribute for a documentarian. You’ll spend a lot of time working alone on the documentary.
Also, you’re not investigating unless the experiment demands it. A documentarian is more of an observer than a participant. If you want to be on camera, then learn how to be an investigator that’s really good at blocking a shot to help the documentarian.
How did you become one?
I just fell into it. I’m a bit of a tech head, so I liked learning how to use camcorders, audio recorders, and editing software. With all the paranormal shows getting cancelled, and the the gonzo nature of paranormal YouTube, I just decided to start making videos I wanted to watch.
Then, I committed to really learning how to make a show. Although, I’d rather use my blog for it all: I knew most people would want to watch a ghost hunt on YouTube instead of read a ghost hunt report.
Is there any special training you need to become a documentarian on a ghost hunt?
Yes, and it’s not as complicated as you think. There are many tutorials on YouTube you can watch. That’s how I learned to edit video. I just searched for it.
To be specific, I recommend learning the following in this order:
How do I get started filming?
Just start. I started with a cheap handycam. Don’t think you need a high-end camera to start. I used action cameras and my phone, too. I started by filming my dogs playing in the backyard. That will help you get good at trying to keep things in frame.
How should I prepare to make documentary?
Research is a big thing. You don’t need to be an archivist, historian or work at a library. I think you should know the subject of the ghost hunting documentary. That usually means the location’s dark history. I always know what the ghostly activity is, so I can capture it on film.
Any tips or advice you can give me?
- Audio is more important that you think: You can get away with shitty video if it sounds good.
- Light is very important: Make sure you have the scene lit well enough to make out what’s happening.
- Invest in a decent microphone on your camera or phone because of the first bullet point.
- Be kind to yourself while you learn all of this stuff: You’ll screw it up often, but don’t get discouraged.
- Video editing will likely be the toughest thing to learn: Once you get the hang of it, it’s the easiest part when making a video.
- Learn your gear so well, it becomes second nature: Things can change rapidly on the scene, so don’t get caught changing your focus and missing something.
- Have fun! With so much screwing up while you’re learning, a good sense of humor will help you get through it.
- Don’t put up with assholes. You’re there to capture the ghost hunt events and present the evidence. You are not someone’s personal assistant so they can become a social media darling. You can take your stuff and leave.
- Always finish your projects. Most documentarians never finish and publish their work. Build up the discipline to do that, and you’ll start building your reputation as someone that gets the job done.
Could we see an example of your best documentary?
Sure, here’s the project with the most views:
My favorite ghost hunting documentary is the most recent one, Our Haunted Heritage: Baillie House.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. I’ll get back to you right away. Thanks for reading!