Life’s hard enough if you want to make documentary movies, especially if you want to shoot overseas. Let’s say that you’ve found an interesting subject in a foreign land…

wooden buddha from roadtrip in taiwan

Wooden Buddha near Yushan Moutain, Taiwan

“It’s no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money”

You can afford the flight, you have enough gear to scrap together some good footage by yourself, but as it always is, you’re worried about the most precious of all resources; time. You can afford the things mentioned above, but how are you going to afford eating, drinking, and a place to sleep without any sort of income for the months away from home?

It may be easier than it seems

Well, if you can read this, you may be one third of the way there. If you can speak and write, then you should have the other two thirds on lockdown. Almost every non-english speaking country has a community of expats teaching English to interested locals, sometimes even legally! You may be able to find work abroad in the country of your choice in TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

In many countries, you may have options to do tutoring or even regular-hour jobs. In countries in the Asian continent there are a multitude of job offerings that can be found on sites like Dave’s ESL Café.  If you don’t want to sign any contracts or get tied down, you can always just start networking once you get in-country. Every other person in my country, seems to have a niece, nephew, sister, brother, or spawn of some sort looking to learn the English language, often at an age and level basic enough for anyone to teach it, albeit with varying degrees of success. Obviously these folks aren’t reading the “business” page of their local paper. At least it’s not Greek, amirite?

If done the legal way (through an employer, with a work visa) you’ll be able to stay in the country for long periods of time (usually a year-per-contract) and be your own embedded journalist, free to shoot your subjects as short documentaries (as I do) long-form films (as I do) or any number of other ways.

I, Youtube Documentarian

I’ll offer myself as an example: I’ve always been interested in Dragon Boat races. They’re fascinating because the sport attracts competitors of all ages & experience levels, and the boats and methods used in both training and competition are very strange and anachronistic, by modern standards. Within mere weeks of moving to Taiwan to teach English I had a job that only tied me down for twenty hours per week, a growing network of people involved in the local dragonboat competition, and an apartment right by the river where the race would be held. How’s that for a shooting location?

After the competition had completed, I had plenty of time to work on editing the surfeit of footage I had shot, as my job had me working just twenty hours a week (in Taiwan, twenty hours on an English teacher’s pay scale pays for rent, food & a bit to save, if you’re frugal.)

In the end, I couldn’t be happier with what I shot; an epic sports documentary that gave me enough experience that I feel ready to stat shooting even bigger subject matter in the future.

So what are you waiting for? Click the resources below and feel free to ask questions in the comment space below or shoot me an email for some tips… (see the about me section.)

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