Want to Make a Documentary but Don’t Have The Tools? Here’s How Rob Greenfield is Doing It

Rob Greenfield spent 38 days crossing 7 countries with only the clothes on his back and his passport. He’s making a documentary about sharing and simple living.

Rob Greenfield at the Farm of Life in Costa Rica. RobGreenfield.tv

Earlier this year, entrepreneur and eco-activist Rob Greenfield set off on a journey he called Share My Way Home: a 4,000 mile adventure from Panama City, Panama to San Diego, California, with nothing but the clothes on his back and the passport in his pocket.

As Rob traveled, he told many of the people he met that he was making a documentary. He didn’t carry a video camera, of course; instead, he asked people to record them together using their own smartphones and camcorders and email the video to Rob’s colleague, Sean Aranda, back in San Diego.

And this summer, the documentary Share My Way Home will be born.

Rob’s seven-country trek took 38 days of hitchhiking, bus rides, and walking across Central America. As he traveled, Rob estimated he met hundreds of people, 28 of whom contributed footage to his documentary. He returned home to San Diego after having collected approximately two hours of video footage. I was able to catch up with Rob after he returned, to ask him some questions about his project.

Where did you get the idea to create this documentary?

I was yearning for an adventure where I could truly disconnect. I wanted to wander lands unknown to me with nothing but the clothes on my back and I wanted to connect deeply with the people and places where I ended up. At the same time, though, I wanted to share the experience with others and I thought using the cameras of the people I met along the way would be a unique way to put together a film without me having to carry any possessions with me.

Having dinner with Couchsurfing.org host Alex Garzia Miranda in Nicaragua. RobGreenfield.tv / Via Alex Garzia Miranda

What do you want people to learn from this documentary?

I want to show people that if we can learn to share we can live in a more fulfilling manner and live more freely. By sharing with each other we can reduce our environmental impact, become a greater part of our communities and decrease our dependency on money and systems that just aren’t working in the favor of the masses. By reducing our needs and living more simply we can start living the lives that we truly desire to. What better way to learn to share myself than to be forced to share, by having no possessions of my own?

Lunch in Costa Rica with host and fellow users of Warmshowers.org and WWoof.net. RobGreenfield.tv / Via Elena Ross

What did you ask people to do? Did you explain why you were making the documentary?

The idea was simple. When I met someone who had a smartphone or camera I asked them to take a 30-second clip of us hanging out. Sometimes I also asked if I could just use their camera to video a scene. Yes, I explained that I was making a documentary to teach people how to share. Sometimes I just said I was creating a documentary to help people live more happily.

Teaching children to do headstands in El Salvador. RobGreenfield.tv / Via Julio Rosemberg Colorado

How did people respond when you asked them to help?

Well, since I was in Central America and my Spanish is only decent, a fair number of people did not understand what I was asking. That meant I missed out on some good opportunities for videos. But when people understood me they were usually pretty excited about being a part of the project. There were also a lot of apprehensive people, though, and I found a lot of people were too insecure to get into the video themselves.

Hitching the final frontier, Mexico. RobGreenfield.tv / Via Nick Elliseos

What work still needs to be done to complete the documentary?

I’m still waiting on a few people to send me the videos before I can get started. Internet is shaky in many of the places I went through. Next I’ll need to find a few people to help with creating the documentary. So far I feel like this is a true example of a crowdsourced project and I’d like to continue the project in that manner by finding people online who want to be involved in the project for the same reasons as me. That way we can leave money out of the equation and all be happy to create something together.

Rob Greenfield at the Farm of Life in Costa Rica. RobGreenfield.tv

What advice would you give other filmmakers who want to create similar projects?

Just get out there and do it. You’re probably not going to create your masterpiece on your first shot, so if you want to create something awesome you’re going to have to get out there and fail or make something mediocre first. I’ve been creating short films for about a year now, and it is a lot more work and a lot more learning from start to finish than I expected. I’d also recommend using your resources, learning from people who have done films before, and sharing as much as possible to keep costs and overhead to a minimum.

This article was commissioned by Rob Greenfield. Learn more about Rob’s work at RobGreenfield.tv.

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