How do you ask someone if you can make a documentary about them?

An important part of our unwritten history are documentaries made about the simple people who have an inspiring story that no one has told before. Such is the example of people who have survived through tragedies such as wars or tyranny. There are also stories, true stories that should be told to the public. For starters, I saw that youtube is a good choice for documentaries and it is used by other filmmakers too. I am not a professional filmmaker and I am barely starting but I believe this could be something that would very much passionate me and others. I would want to tell the story of that high school teacher that taught math during her career or of that doctor that managed to cure many patients in spite of the unpredictable times that we live in. There are many topics that I could choose from and many people in my area that have great stories to tell. The only problem is that I have absolutely no idea how to ask them to be a part of my documentary film. How do I ask someone if I can make a documentary about them? What if they don’t agree?
The approach that worked best for me was to reach out to that person and be open and honest with them, without any type of flattery. If you are making a documentary about one person, it helps to talk with that person a few times before starting working on the documentary so they get comfortable around you because you are asking them to open up and tell personal details from their lives.
You need to somehow get in touch with that person. Maybe it can be through a mutual connection or through internet. It is easier if you meet with that person in real life, somewhere neutral (for example, at a local event that you are both attending). You go to that person and you introduce yourself in a polite way. Then you start telling them the truth, that their life story inspired you into creating a documentary about them. Then you continue discussing this with them. There is no need to be shy or or tense, just be calm and talk to them about this. If you are lucky, they will agree and you've got yourself a project to work on!
It is not that difficult to ask someone. It is difficult only if you wish that one person to say "yes" and you have no backup plan if your proposal gets denied. At the end of the day, we are all humans and it is good to take the polite approach. Contact that person and just pop up the question in a respectful manner.
It depends on the context and the person you are asking. Generally, start by introducing yourself and explaining why you think their story is worth telling. Let them know that you want to represent their story in an honest, respectful way. Also, explain the process of making a documentary and any costs associated with it. Finally, ask for permission to make a documentary about them.

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