5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Filming A Vegan Documentary

From hearing how everyone has an opinion to realizing how many mistakes you will make along the way...it's all been a learning curve
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James Hoot

Director James Hoot with plant-based doctors Dr. Loomis and Dr. Barnard

A new five-part vegan documentary series covering the rise of the vegan movement from a global perspective is set to be released later this year.

Planet Vegan will feature stories from all around the world, with the aim of 'completely reshaping the public's view of what it means to be vegan.

Below, director James Hoot discusses his experiences making the series - and the things he wishes he knew before he started.

1. The editing process takes absolutely forever

When I started filming Planet Vegan (previously named Vegan Round the World: The Series…which also made for the world’s most obnoxiously long Instagram handle) I was expecting to film for a year, edit for six months and then have it ready for a network.

I was wrong. On so many levels, I was wrong. Going into this project, I had zero filmmaking experience and throughout the editing process, that fact has frequently illuminated itself.

We've now spent about five months on the pilot episode (one of seven episodes), although much of that time was on creating a badass intro to play at the start of each episode, cutting up interviews, and creating animations.

Moving forward, we've got a much more streamlined editing workflow and I'm sure we’ll have this thing 100 percent completed within a few weeks (joke). ?

2. You're never really finished

The amount of times that Lars (Planet Vegan editor) and I have been in the editing booth, looked at each other while reviewing an episode and said, 'you know…this would be waaaay better if we added (insert some high-budget, difficult to capture,you've-gotta-be-kidding-me idea) to the episode' would shock the average person.

However, at some point, like any art form, you've just got to call it quits and find the balance between finishing a project and trying to make it 100 percent perfect. ?

3. The little mistakes that you make along the way will teach you a lot, but you will hate yourself for making them once you're in the editing room

Oh, remember that time that you had a full day of filming but you forgot your key light's power cable but just figured that you'd film the interviews anyway and just 'fix it in post'?

No problem, now everyone's face shadows just look like a horror film and it turnsout that 'fix it in post' is just a fancy phrase you heard on a Youtube video about how to suck less at filmmaking and it holds little weight in the real world. Whoops. ?

The series will be launched soon

4. Everyone has their opinions

Opinions are like social media addictions – everyone has one and they're absolutely terrifying to face. That being said, to the groups of people that we've showed the preview of the pilot episode to, the reviews have been outstanding.

It's always interesting to watch the reactions of different 'levels of vegan' (ranging from cupcake vegan to anti-capitalist-intersectional-no-waste-vegan-anarchist) to the various themes in the episode.

For example, the first episode covers clean meat and plant-based meat, with the former being highly controversial in the vegan movement. However, we've got into a fair share of long discussions in the Q&A after playing the pilot preview and everyone has walked away better for it, or so I believe. ?

5. Screenings are the most nerve-wracking thing in the history of the nervous system. In fact, I now know why they call it the nervous system

What could be more anxiety laden than watching your life's work play out in front of 100 people? Literally nothing. And while that's is of course a complete exaggeration, it is a pretty intense time watching people watch your film.

On top of that, we've held multiple screenings so far throughout Europe and quite a few of them have been a miniature form of a disaster in a can, with audio cutting out, colors on the projector being off and making everyone look like a lemon, etc. But hey, the show must go on.

After reading through that list, you might think that creating Planet Vegan has been a nightmare, but in reality it’s been a more fulfilling experience than I could have ever imagined.

For anyone who is interested in jumping into the world of film with little or no experience, I say put your fears aside and go for it! Nearly every vegan out there has been influenced in some way by the myriad of pro-vegan documentaries out there which just goes to show that film is a powerful medium to create change in a world that desperately needs it. There is no time to wait.

If you want to learn more about Planet Vegan, head on over to our website where you can check out the trailer, learn about the people who are featured in the series, and also offer your support on our Patreon page