It's called tough love. And you behave yourself too, young man.
Monkey has become Oliver Hickey! Welcome! (And Sarah and Baldev and everyone else!)
Hi everyone, I'm Jenn. I've worked as a runner and assistant on short films but I have a passion for documentaries and just want some advice on how to carry on and succeed!
Your question is too general to get more than a very broad and unhelpful answer, like "Never Give In, Never, Never, Never."
If you have specific issues with a project, it's more useful to address those.
But with documentaries, the general rule of thumb is that to make them as your main occupation is never easy and rarely financially rewarding. So the only reason to do it is that you really, really like to make documentary films.
Or you have a subject you really really want to make a documentary about.
Or both. Hopefully both.
jenniffer, if you're just getting started on the rather long and arduous road of filmmaking, here's a couple places to start:
1) watch a LOT of documentary films, not only modern-day ones but especially some of the older docs. if you google "top-ten documentaries", you'll find a lot of lists from which you can begin watching. there are a lot of different styles of documentary, so pay attention to whichever style suits your personality best.
2) read Michael Rabiger's "Directing the Documentary". there's quite a few doc books out there now (one by Hampe, another by Rosenthal), but Rabiger's is the best by far. a local library might have it, but most bookstores won't.
3) find a subject that you are absolutely passionate about. don't pick a subject that you think OTHER PEOPLE will find interesting – it has to be interesting and compelling to you, enough so that after three years of shooting, and two years of editing, you will still persevere with it.
4) Go to a local community college (or whatever they have in the UK) and take some cheap camera and editing courses. you don't have to become a pro at either, but you do have to understand the basics of proper technique.
5) Good luck!
Hi Everyone, I just joined D-Word. I am a director/editor living in NYC and am now working on my first feature length documentary, which I am co-directing with a good friend of mine. Since I've known the filmmaking and specifically documentary filmmaking process only through the work I do in the cutting room, I am sure we're going to have lots of questions in the coming months. We are super excited about the project and truly believe in the importance of it. The film is about a Navajo family's journey to understand their children's rare genetic disorder, which forces them to live and die in the shadows. In their quest for knowledge they uncover the disease's connection to the dark past of American colonialism.
Welcome, Maya. Good luck with the film, sounds like a powerful one.
In reply to Maya Stark's post on Fri 19 Dec 2008 :
Is the disease best described as an allergy to light? (Just curious, because the wife of Helmut Kohl, Germany's chancellor who reigned during reunification and until 1998, could not stand light – it caused her excruciating pain – and committed suicide because of it. I'd never heard of this before.)
Thank you Doug :)
Jo-Anne, the disease is called Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP). It is not an allergy to light or sunlight. Although some people would describe it as an allergy, it is a major misconception. It means your skin is incapable of repairing itself from UV radiation because of an enzyme deficiency, which means even if you're out in the sun for a few minutes you can develop skin cancer. The family we are following has the Neurodegenerative variant of XP.
Hi all. Just realizing I don't think I ever introduced myself here, so figured I'd take the opportunity. After slaving in the commercial world and working in production for several series' and a couple doc features, finally got the nerve to get my own project off the ground. With a small grant from a non-profit, covering equipment costs, and an entire crew backing out one by one as they realized the reality of where we were shooting (a year in an Argentine shantytown) I managed to survive the shoot as a one-man-band, juggling between camera & logistics.
For those interested, a trailer can be seen here:
Currently, I'm working on getting a distribution sales rep, submitting to festivals, etc. And as that's moving forward, prepping things to get a couple other projects off the ground.
Glad to be a part of the community and looking forward to help when I can. It's truly a breath of fresh air to see a group of people all in the same fight, willing to share info to help those of like mind. Unfortunately, all too uncommon in the production world.
Welcome, Ethan, and thanks for finally introducing yourself. We should follow up on this in the Marketing and Distribution topic, but you'll find that sales reps generally won't be interested in taking you on until you get a premiere at one of the top festivals (Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca, etc).
I am looking to make documentaries on wildlife and habitat conservation issues in India. Would like to link up with like minded people. I have an identified project and would like to execute it in March 08 if everything goes ok.
Oops I meant March 09!
In reply to Baldev Rayat's post on Wed 17 Dec 2008 :
Merry Christmas! I would like to get some input from you on sound recording for documentaries...if you don't mind. What would be the best equipment to use for a documentary where I need to capture sound outdoors? Is it best to get one where it is integrated with the camera or better to get an external recorder? If so which one?
Thanks ever so much for your help,
Regards, (my email – email@example.com)
Record to the camera for ease of editing, especially if you are just beginning. Less equipment to handle. Unless of course, you just want wild sound, then you can use a digital recorder like the Zoom H2 or H4. Input with a good mic like a Schoeps. If you have the budget then a Sound Device 702
Welcome, Prabha. So you know, all questions should be posted in the Mentoring topic. This is just for introductions.
Well, here I am, on the D-word at the urging of my friend, Tanner Wolfe. I own a film production company called Dusk Films. I am transforming it into a non-profit. Exciting times. I hope to contribute to the site as much as possible and I hope to learn from all of you as well. I love community stuff and I love film.
Welcome, Aaron. You're gonna want to sign up for full membership to get the full benefit of the topics here.
My friend Doug Block has been urging me to join d-word for years! I am happy to finally be here. I have always enjoyed the community of documentary film makers when I have been at film festivals. So now I guess I have that community on tap.
I am amongst other things, a documentary film maker. Having made films about OTHER people I am currently making two films which include MYSELF.
I was trained as an ethnographer – one who uses their own self as an instrument of understanding the world view of others. Although I tell my own story on stage – in a performance called Two Men Talking – the enterprise or telling my story on film is one of the most challenging I've ever undertaken.
Perhaps there are those of you out there in the same boat.
either on the stage or in the boat. I find it difficult when I have a foot in each, though elastic underwear has made this almost achievable.
Welcome at last, Murray, but you're only halfway here. You now need to sign up as a full member to gain access to all the discussion topics.
Murray is a being a bit humble, as usual. He made a terrific feature documentary called "Paternal Instinct" that I'm proud to say I co-produced. And he was nominated for an Academy Award (with Roger Weisberg) for the short, "Why Can't We Be A Family Again?" And he's a total sweetheart of a homo sapien.
Welcome, Murray! I saw "Paternal Instinct" a couple of years ago and was completely blown away – it's still one of my favorite films ever!
Hi All, just joined the d-word this week, not sure why it took so long! I run a fledgling documentary production company, and am obsessed with all things documentary. Currently working on finishing a feature length doc 2 years in the making, about a kibbutz in Israel. I'm looking forward to learning and contributing at the d-word.
Welcome, Ben. Do share more about your film in the Members Films topic. I had a chance to see the rough cut and am only sorry that timing did not work out to screen it at Docs In Progress.
Hi Erica, I will do that. Didn't have enough time to work on it to submit it again for January, but we are hoping to re-submit for the March screening. By the way, the new Docs In Progress website is great!
I'll let Adele know you want to be considered for March and I guess you spilled the beans on something I wanted to announce in the Member's Websites topic so follow me there.
my name is Issar Shulman,I'm a musician.I do specially like documentary movies and for the music I wrote for the film "To die in Jerusalem" I was nominated for an Emmy award in September 2008.
I had a great experience working with HBO,editor Geof Bartz and director Hilla Medalia.that is the cause for my decision to move to NY in March and try to make as much connections I can.
you can hear some of my music in my web site
hope for inspiring collaboration in the documentary realm and feel free to ask me for music suggestions if you are looking for music to your movies.
In reply to Issar Shulman's post on Mon 5 Jan 2009 :
Welcome Issar! I just listened to your samples. Very impressive. I'm positive you'll be making connections here. In my opinion this is one of, if not, the best forum for documentary filmmakers/musicians/whatever out there.
thank you Michael that was really fast I've just found this site thanks again
Welcome, Issar, and thank you for the praise, Michael.
Who else is out there who has been meaning to introduce themselves? ;-)
Hello everyone! I've been producing documentaries for a couple of years with d-word member Ben Crosbie, but have only just now joined the forum! I'm looking forward to connecting with other people who share my passion.
A passion and a magnificent obsession!
Good to have you here, Tessa and Issar. Welcome.
hello everybody, i am what this new year of 2009 had dragged in....
Welcome, Chadid. Would be helpful if you'd tell us a bit more about yourself and your work, other than your friendship with a certain co-host named Burgan ;-)
Tut tut Chahid, don't be so lazy!
well if you insist , then i'll throw in a brief introduction of who i am and how i relate to documentary..... here it goes, brace yourselves:
i've always been in love with cinema and film ever since i was a child growing up with my grandmother and uncle who after coming back from his day job as a civil engineer would take me to an arthouse movie theatre ( sadly it's closing now ) to watch a different movie almost every day..... well this passion and love grew up as i grew older and soon enough i found myself landing my first job at the Video/DVD rental store that i frequented alot ....there i have to say i watched my first documentary , the one that made me want to upgrade my passion to becoming a vocation , an occupation , a practice.... no secret that documentary was none other than Chris Marker's "Sans Soleil" , i was 14 at the time .... ( i miss those days of being sourrounded by films me there between them, wondering what worlds and feelings and thoughts those discs retain......let's jump to when i realized i'm not cut to become a mechanical engineer and dropped out to go study filmmaking , but was severely lambasted by my father... so i went into graphic design, and chose to specialize in motion graphics, screen based design....and still wanting to be a filmmaker, it was only when my Danish instructor and friend told me about some folk highschool system in the secluded parts of Denmark.... i naturally applied and found myself in a micro-european community of enthusiats that want to venture in filmmaking.... the first course i took there was documentary ( a rather fundamental course) that broadened my perception ,opened my eyes and gave me certain skills that not only made me visualize , and technically approach filmmaking , but also nurtured my passion for documentaries and my evergrowing intellectual curiosity.... and from there on i tried to take every doc related course given at that institution....no secret that Mr. Burgan was the mastermind behind all those courses and sculpter of my new born documentary intellect.... after the course was over i went back to Lebanon (that peculiar tiny spot of bother in the middle east)... and as with everybody in that part of the world, being a full time filmmaker or any form of artistic occupation is synonymous with being non productive, social parasite , not to mention miserably broke... so i took ona job as an assistant producer for Young and Rubicam advertising (television commercials, radio spots , corporate films,.. what i call film prostitution) but i make ends meet, establish a not so bad network of cast, post production companies, directors, DOP, equipment rental....the full monty of film industry.....
i've been in the writing process of a doc-fiction about "the lebanese current situation" ( political assasinations, religious diversity and it's effect on society, state, and government).....
well that's about it...not so brief i see , then again you asked for it .....
oh just a colsing statement ; to me documentaries are the next level of filmmaking , the elevated intellect if you want ,la creme de la creme .....
Wow, what great unbridled enthousiasm! Good look on the journey Chahid!
If he can combine all that enthusiasm and talent with action, Chahid can achieve great things!
Chahid, we can cetainly use some unbridled enthusiasm among our professional members, so feel free to apply (and get access to all our discussion topics) here
I'm a UK based EP with a long career in wildlife documentary series for international cable and satellite channels. Now working freelance, but also concentrating on trying to make TV and film production sustainable.
So would be keen to hear from anyone who has experience and ideas on how to make documentaries without leaving too big a carbon footprint, and without using heaps of resources.
Welcome, Andrew. Good to have you aboard here.
I live in Los Angeles, CA and have spent the last year doing short documentary style pieces with community organizations. My background is in both community-based research and grassroots media. I currently teach video workshops for high schoolers to learn media in Alhambra and Koreatown, and work as a freelance Assistant Editor.
I am just learning about the feature documentary process, and would love your advice on how to get started!
Whoa, Chahid's here as well. Anyway, one of these long, lonely nights in the exciting town of Ludwigsburg finally dragged me here. I am currently a student for cinematography, but very much feeling the pull towards documentary. We all know there are just so many more interesting stories to be told than what we see in fiction cinema, mostly.
I'm also a disciple of the great Burgan, and very happy to know him, not only for the beer-tasting part of it. After growing up in the remote north of Germany I spent nearly two years in Denmark at the European Film College, then moved to Munich to be an intern at ARRI Rental, and now I made it to film school. Besides the obvious interest for film I love listening to music, playing music, reading, writing, science, psychology, riddles, beer; and I can never concentrate on one thing at a time, thus always wanting to do everything myself. I'm sure I must get over that one day.
I (somewhat lazily, but wholeheartedly) second Chahid's statement: "documentaries are the next level of filmmaking , the elevated intellect if you want". Looking forward to reading your posts!
I spent the last two years of my life as a New Media producer for the Obama For America campaign. Traveled around the country shooting video of the President-Elect at rallies and town halls, events as well as interviewing supporters across the country.
I wasn't much of a documentarian before the campaign; now I'm consumed by it. Hoping to pick up some more tips and hear some stories from the good folks on here.
Welcome, Stefanie, Timm and Chris. Chris, fantastic job and much thanks for your work the past few years!!! You all can sign up as professional members and have access to all the discussion topics here ...
I spent all my life painting, either on canvas or doing large murals,or being involved in public art projects. Then following several working trips in Africa, I got hit by the documentary bug. An intensely satisfying form of expression....