"Signs of a filmmaking amateur:
No Clear Vision - There's no clear vision for how the film will be used in the end. Is the goal a theater release, to be bought by a national broadcaster such as HBO, is it for PBS? Or is it a packaged educational piece to be sold to schools? Perhaps it is simply to showcase to family and friends. Or will it be a mini-documentary for the web only? The point is that if there is a certain goal in mind, the documentary can be crafted from the very beginning with the end use in mind.
Skimping on production -- For the filmmaking amateur, lack of money is a very real issue. It can often be the filmmaker with a camcorder and that's it. And if that's all you've got, then go for it and do your best. But realize that when you're back in the editing room with an interview that's badly lit or the sound is terrible, it's going to be torture and you'll be kicking yourself for not making the extra effort to get the shot right. Do everything you can to get the best quality footage in the field.
Underestimate the value and importance of a trailer -- An effective trailer can be the difference between your documentary getting made or not. A trailer can help you raise money, support and publicity.
Shooting way too many interviews -- A typical documentary might only profile 7-10 people. More than that and an audience gets lost. Filming more interviews than you need is normal, but a filmmaking amateur goes way overboard.
Creating a business plan -- Many first time filmmakers are entralled by a certain documentary idea, but with no sense of who will be interested to see it when it's done or how it will be distributed. If the project is purely for joy, then skip this part. But with just a wee bit of foresight, you could potentially gear your idea to a particular audience where your film could be of value and help generate income for yourself. Make a list of all potential buyers before you start making the film. Check out our Documentary Proposal Template for guidance."