Guerrilla Documentary: Anonymity Part 1 of 2

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A Socio-Political Weapon

Filmmaking is a tool whose function has a range of diversity equal to that of the artist. It can exist as internal reflection, social commentary and activism, and with the possibility of transforming the world one audience member at a time. The means of distribution, and often production, tend to be in the hands of a few members of the large corporate media system. This puts limits on people who attempt documentary filmmaking with revolutionary goals, mostly because it may challenge the very foundations these systems are resting on. The underground may be the place for these digital video anarchists, where the rules are different and the dangers are more vivid. Guerrilla filmmaking, especially with non-fiction, is reproducing at rapid rates these days because of internet self-distribution and it is easy for truly independent filmmakers to get their work seen. If someone is attempting to by pass the normal flow of film distribution and ownership laws they may attempt to go anonymous, leaving the film to speak for itself without credit given to them explicitly.

Once you take your name off of the credits, or anyone’s name for that matter, you open yourself up to do things that you normally could not get away with. Copyright law is difficult for even the most seasoned film veteran to interpret, and usually you are not going to be liable unless you are taking a financial reward. If you are looking for purely anonymous distribution on websites like MySpace or YouTube any copyright laws can be forgotten completely. This means that you should feel free to use any film footage, news real, or music that you would like to further enhance your work. Since there would be no one to pursue for infringement on intellectual property rights you are in the free and clear to use all media you feel fit. You should still be cautious if you intend on using large segments of copyrighted work because the hosting websites may remove it, but if you use small segments to augment your work or as a creative palette for your own remix then your work will be free to be seen without liability. There are a number of programs available free online for use in capturing audio files or videos, either from websites or physical home viewing formats. When trying to simply download media there is a number of person-to-person(P2P) formats available, including SoulSeek and all types of Bit Torrent downloads.


Likewise, any methods that you used to acquire footage in your normal production process will not be subject to any legal questioning. For example, if you are working on a film that challenges a certain government or corporate institution you may want to breach trespassing laws to acquire footage. This is illegal, and the footage in your film would be a self-incriminating document. Employing complete anonymity would then take away the ability for authorities to identify you personally for the legal violation. This opens you up to take a new ethical perspective, where the importance of your work becomes primary over the possibility of retaliation against you.


Libel and slander laws are commonly pressed against independent and alternative journalists. Much of it is valid because it is common in the internet age for journalists to ignore common fact checking and ethical procedures. Unfortunately, this is also mixed with false charges that are pressed by larger corporate or governmental organizations that have the legal and financial resources to go after renegades that challenge them. In your filmmaking process you will be under similar scrutiny, however, if your film maintains no author then there is really no person to serve with a lawsuit.

This post is part of the series: Guerilla Documentary

The truth does not always live in the open, so many documentarians head to the underground. Learn about some techniques used in guerilla documentary production.

  1. Guerrilla Documentary: Anonymity Part 1 of 2
  2. Guerrilla Documentary: Anonymity Part 2 of 2
  3. Guerrilla Documentary: Clandestine Footage
  4. Guerrilla Documentary: Hidden Field Cameras
  5. Guerrilla Documentary: Filming Without a Permit
  6. Guerrilla Documentary: Wireless Microphone
  7. Guerrilla Documentary: Using Still Photography
  8. Guerrilla Documentary: Using Your Mobile Phone
  9. Guerrilla Documentary: Entering and Exiting the Premises
  10. Guerrilla Documentary: Usable Stock Visuals
  11. Guerrilla Documentary: Getting Your Releases Early
  12. Guerrilla Documentary: Forget High Definition
  13. Guerrilla Documentary: Hidden Costs
  14. Guerrilla Documentary: Small & Light Cameras
  15. Guerrilla Documentary:Videotaping News Crews
  16. Guerrilla Documentary: Making a Studio in Your Apartment
  17. Guerrilla Documentary: Don’t Turn Off Your Camera
  18. Guerrilla Documentary: Chasing Your Subject
  19. Guerrilla Documentary: Prison Interviews
  20. Guerrilla Documentary: Group Interviews
  21. Guerrilla Documentary: Using Newspaper Clippings
  22. Tips on How to Make a Documentary Film