The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Doug Block
Host

Welcome, Kelsey.  I highly recommend you get in touch with researcher extraordinaire Rosemary Rotondi. If she doesn't need help herself my guess is she could steer you towards someone who might.  Her website is: http://www.archivalfilmresearch.com, and feel free to say I suggested you get in touch.  Best of luck!

Kelsey Killeen
Pro

Doug,

Thanks so much for the reply! I'm happy to say (because it shows I'm on the right track) that I'm well aware of Rosemary's great work and contacted her recently. She offered some helpful tips, but didn't have anyone specific in mind. She suggested I join IDA, attend events, become a member of or volunteer at local film orgs, and reach out to filmmakers in the Boston area. I'm not set on staying in Mass, so my search will likely be broader. 

I'm hoping someone in the D-Word network might be in need of an assistant or have someone in mind who is. I'm open to any opportunity that would give me some experience and education, as long as I can afford rent and food!

By the way, Doug, I have to say that I saw you on the TODAY Show discussing 112 Weddings and enjoyed the film very much! It's a pleasure to hear from you.

Kelsey

 

 

 

Doug Block
Host

Kelsey, you've demonstated enough seriousness of purpose that we've upgraded you to Professional status on The D-Word.  It will enable you to post your request again in the Professional Classifieds topic, which many more professional members will read.  (The Classifieds are the only topics we permit double posting in.)  You'll have access, as well, to the Research topic here, which you'll hopefully find helpful to read through.

Kelsey Killeen
Pro

Thank you so much, Doug! This will be a huge help. I'll re-post in the Professional Classifieds and explore the site in depth. Have a happy holiday!

Doug Block
Host

Ooo, not sure we would have let you in if we'd seen that Red Sox hat, Kelsey :) Make sure to fill out your member profile and also post something about yourself in the Introduce Yourself topic. And happy holidays to you, too!

JB Letchinger
Pro

Kelsey, your enthusiasm is refreshing and a powerful asset to you. Those suggestions you’ve received from the research pro were really good ones, also, following suggestions of those whom you respect demonstrates teachability. I should have done that more often, myself! Even as you cast a wider net, and may leave Boston later on, immerse yourself in your current community as best you can. Good luck and feel free to email me anytime with questions.

Yixi Villar
Fan

Hello Everyone, so greatful for this forum.  My name is Yixi and I am working on a cancer documenary called"Life In The Balance". I need to shoot an interview with a patient who is in Colorado but I can't get there and he is quarantined so the hospital wont give us permission. To get around it, I was thinking of recording the interview with him via Skype. Does anyone have any recommendations on what is the best Audio & Video recording App for Skype that will transfer to Final Cut without losing quality ? Also, I want to make sure the Audio is on point, should I use an external Mic for him? Any guidance would be much appreiced. Thank you.  

 

Casey Elliott
Pro

Hello All!

I'm a new member to The D-Word and am hoping this is the right place to ask for some advice about how to transition into a career in documentary filmmaking!  I am an Associate Producer with 8 years experience working on reality and documentary-style television programs in various formats, from historical clip shows to docu-series to live television and variety programming. But I am now eager to transition from reality TV to the documentary field, specifically (if possible!) in a research capacity for historical projects.  As a long-time history buff,  I have a genuine affection for research and studying the past. 

I do have work experience and qualifications that I think would make me an ideal candidate for documentary projects, as I'm well-versed in archival research and skilled at navigating through all types of historical databases, whether it's rare collections held by educational institutions, government archives, or private libraries. I also have extensive experience researching and licensing the perfect stock footage for various projects, negotiating releases and clearing all types of materials/people/location/logos etc., and working directly with legal departments to resolve R&C matters. I would love to be able to take what I've learned in these areas and expand on them by working on authentic documentary projects.

And of course, I am willing (and would love!) to work in any capacity that helps me get my foot in the door :-) Any advice or words of wisdom would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

I have also attached my resume for reference. 

Casey Elliott

Doug Block
Host

Casey, one way to help your transition is to be a "professional" member of The D-Word, rather than an "enthusiast," so we've upgraded you.  You certainly qualify, and it's a puzzle to us why so many otherwise qualified people who register stop at the "enthusiast" level.  Anyway, you'll now have accerss to all our discussion topics.

Given that you already have a career in documentary, I assume you mean transitioning to making your own films, right?

Casey Elliott
Pro

Hi Doug, 

Thanks so much for the comment and upgrade! I wasn't sure if my reality TV background qualified me as a professional, I really appreciate it!

In regards to your question, I'd like to find work on more serious historical documentary projects, but am not sure how or where to find these opportunities. My prior work experience has been on projects that I think fit more into the reality TV genre than the documentary genre (even though some of the series I've worked on had factual/historical content).  I would love the opportunity to work in a research capacity on projects that are more seriously focused on historical topics. I genuinely love to do research and enjoy the challenges associated with finding and analyzing rare historical material.

That being said, I'm not sure how to find work in this area! I've been reaching out cold to various doc filmmakers/production companies but haven't had much success so far. Even though my specific interest is in historical topics, I'm really eager to work in any capacity in the documentary genre, but am having trouble finding available positions.  

Any further advice would be much appreciated! 

Thank you so much!

 

Doug Block
Host

Casey, I recommend you email D-Word member Rosemary Rotondi and ask her advice.  She's super nice and is an extremely accomplished film archivist.

Erica Ginsberg
Host

In reply to Casey Elliott's post on Wed 4 Mar 2015:

If you aren't already a member of IDA, join and attend some of their Doc-Us and other programs which take place in L.A. Also join Doculink listserv which is technically open to anyone but seems to have a significant number of SoCal folks. Connect with other filmmakers. In a transitional mode like this, I might recommend (if you can afford to do so) connecting with a doc maker working on a historical doc and offering to do some part-time pro bono research work so you can build your track record and references in this area.

Casey Elliott
Pro

Thank you Doug - I will definitely email Rosemary for advice! 

and thank you Erica for all the suggestions!! I am a member of the IDA (I just went to the DocuDay they held the day before the Oscars, it was so great!), I definitely hope to attend more of their events in the future. A friend of friend also suggested to me that I join doculink - I've been reading the posts but haven't posted myself. Do you think it's appropriate to post something similar there that I did here?  

And great idea about offering up some research work, I'm happy to do this! I've contacted a few people, but it's been a bit tough finding historical doc projects based in the LA-area, do you happen to know of any filmmakers in LA that might need a little extra research help? Or perhaps I shouldn't limit myself to LA-area, since research can really be done from anywhere?

Thanks again to you both for your advice!!

Bill Jackson
Pro

Casey, it looks like you are doing all the right things. D-Word, Doculink, and Docuday, which is the biggest single day for Documentary, here in LA. Good luck!

Emma Holbrook
Pro

Hi Everyone,

This is an introduction and an asking for feedback post all in one.  I've been making little shorts and been involved on the sidelines with lots of projects for over 15 years now. I've just spent the last two years making my first doc as a director which is all about how the live arts can survive in the regions of the uk following the financial crisis and the cuts to local authorities. I've got to a stage where we're happy with the offline and we're about to do the online edit.

We have our release forms etc but I was wondering if there was anywhere on here I could post the private vimeo link so I can just share it with you guys for any creative or legal feedback that I may have missed?

I'm also trying to get some good distribution advice beyond simply monitization on vimeo etc. The website for the project is www.makingthecut.org.uk which has the film's trailer on the home page. WIll look forward to meeting some of you virtually and reading your feedback.

Thanks,

Emma.

Doug Block
Host

Emma, the reason you can't post the Vimeo link here is you're in the Mentoring topic, which is meant for members known as "enthusiasts" rather than "professionals." Since you're a pro member, you should post again in the Works in Progress topic, where we have video enabled. 

Not sure how long your film is.  If it's a feature, it's unlikely to get too much feedback.  For a short, yes.

Anyway, good to have you aboard here. You'll get the hang of navigating The D-Word soon enough.

Emma Holbrook
Pro

Ok great Doug, Yes sorry about that, just learning to find my way around at the moment. Thanks.

Sebastian Lory
Pro

Hey D-Word,

I'm a documentary filmmaker, currently embarking on my second feature film. I am looking for creative people to collaborate with on an idea I've been developing for over 5 years and that I am now ready to push forward into production. I am essentially hoping to find someone who would be interested in producing the documentary. Have I come to the right place? If so, it would be great if someone could point me towards the appropriate topic forum to discuss the idea in more depth. Thank you!
Best regards,
Sebastian

Doug Block
Host

Sebastian, since you're a Professional member, better that you post in the Professional Classifieds topic.  You're likely to find a higher caliber producer there than in here, for sure.

Bryn Hadubiak
Fan

After some research, we found out we can't put up our doc publicly in order to submit it to film festivals. So, I won't be able to show it yet, except privately or as part of my portfolio. In the meantime, I'm looking for work and have a few questions.

Funding in my province has all but dried up. The loss of the film tax credit demolished most of the local film industry - there aren't many companies doing anything but commercial work. The obvious solution is to move, which I have no problem with, but figuring out where to go and what sort of work to look for is the question.

I'm good at developing ideas into fleshed out stories. Directing, videography, technical editing, story editing - I've done a bit of everything. I've done it well enough to earn high if not always top marks in my classes at the J-School, and be paid for it professionally freelancing and interning at news media outlets.

What I want to do is to work my way up doing documentaries again. Should I be looking for work project by project, i.e. freelancing, or should I be looking for a job with a production company. If the former: how would I go about finding such projects?

I'm also working on creating another documentary until I find work.

Right now, in my spare time, I'm working together with a couple of colleagues from my previous doc. All of us have worked as journalists, and we're in the process of putting together a creative treatment. We're also meeting with a videographer on Wednesday to see if they have any interest in working with us. But while we know how to put together the form and content of a good story, all of us are relatively inexperienced when it comes to the logistics behind putting together a feature-length documentary - by this I mean: budgets, legal, etc.

I figure the best course of action for this documentary would be to put our treatment together and pitch it to an independent producer, and learn more about the process as we go. We could do it on our own, but the subject matter requires great care and we want to treat the story right. Any advice would be welcome.

Jody Lauren Miller
Pro

Hi D-Word ... Can you please give your opinion on paying for "consultations" or mentorships?

I need guidance, but don't wanna be a "docu-rube" and pay for something that perhaps a wiser filmmaker would not. 

Thank you.

Christina Neferis
Pro

Hi, I am new here to this site.  I applied for Professional status, how long does it take to be accepted?  Thank you, Christina

John Burgan
Host

In reply to Christina Neferis's post on Sun 24 May 2015:

 Doesn't appear that you had actually applied, Christina - but no worries, I've just upgraded you to Pro - welcome to The D-Word. Also as Hosts we sometimes like an evening off!

The Mentoring Room is for beginner filmmakers, questions about The D-Word itself belong in Help with the D-Word Topic

Doug Block
Host

In reply to Christina Neferis's post on Sat 23 May 2015:

Welcome, Christina. A lot of people registering for "Pro" status seem to get stuck at the "Fan" level and the hosts are actually very curious why that happens, as we'd like to make it simpler and easier.  It seems it's mostly because they feel they did register as a Pro.  Any idea why you thought that?  

Jody Lauren Miller
Pro

In reply to Jesse Zook Mann's post on Sun 24 May 2015:

HI JZM ... Thanks for responding. I think i was misleading using "mentorship" ... but i was referring to this type of thing: http://www.howtomake-a-documentary.com/documentary-mentor  - Basically it says: "You've got QUESTIONS! We've got ANSWERS! Take advantage of our 40 years combined experience in the documentary industry! Let us guide you through an entire film, or just a tough spot in your process. Our award-winning background, attention to detail and supportive guidance will get you back on the fast-track."  

There was another "consultation" dealio ( http://docsinprogress.org/services/consultations/ ) ... just unsure if this is a useful step/tool/idea or plain dumb.

i am very familiar with doing narrative work and how to pull that stuff off on any budget ... but felt like a little direction with my docu concept may be wise ... again, i dont wanna be thaaaaaaaaaaaaaat idiot, but talking to those who have been there, done that (even if its for a reasonable fee) didnt seem like the most ridiculous idea. Yet anyway :)~  - 

Jesse Zook Mann
Pro

In reply to Jody Lauren Miller's post on Sun 24 May 2015:

 I think you have a more powerful support system on this site, but who knows. It looks like they have done ok. Getting ITVS three times is impressive. I don't think any of these things are bad but I said my piece about this topic over at: http://www.d-word.com/topics/175-Our-Daily-Bread-Redux?post=325039

Getting grants is hard. You might get ITVS, and Sundance... but you probably won't. even with professional mentor help. People with academy awards are having a hard time getting funding, you are comping against the best filmmakers in the world. Does that mean you can't do it? No way. People here get grants all the time. But even in the best case scenario it is years of work to get funded. Sometimes half a decade, and then if you don't get funded... well thats a lot of years wasted, and that is more of the rule than the exception. 

So these programs leave a bad taste in my mouth because in their pitch it is so easy - just do what they say and you'll be in festivals sooner than you can imagine! Unless you can find a camera, pick it up, and have the time to start shooting... that isn't reality. A camera, free time, a macbook, ramen, and d-word are a much better use of your money than professional mentors IMHO.

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Hey Jody, I am the Executive Director of Docs In Progress. While it might seem like my "pitch" would be very different from what Jesse is suggesting, it actually isn't. The best way to learn and improve is by doing - whether you just go out there and make a documentary and turn to free support networks like The D-Word or film communities and meet-ups in your own city OR gain mentorship by working with a more experienced filmmaker.

Paid advice works in very specific circumstances -- feedback on a cut or a proposal or, for some folks who treat it like a personal trainer -- to give them the regimen to keep them moving. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The consultation program of Docs In Progress is actually the smallest program we offer but most we do offer (filmmaker roundtables, work in progress screenings, classes, etc.) take place in the DC area. So I would probably recommend you seek out film communities where you are (Philadelphia? New York?) as well as the fine place you've happened upon called The D-Word.

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Oh and Jesse, only those with Pro status can see your post over in the Our Daily Bread topic. Thanks for re-posting part of it here so the Fans can see it as well.

Jody, you should apply for Pro status as well since your bio indicates you are hardly a newbie.

Jody Lauren Miller
Pro

In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Mon 25 May 2015:

Thank you EG ... i will def apply for "pro status"! I've written and shot tons, all in the ad space for the past 10 years ... so i thought your "pro" was for "pro DOCU" level exeprience ... i do have a decent base of experience since i started my career at NFL Films and that was a great training ground for docu style shooting, etc ... Thank you for your time and advice!!! Now back to picnics for you and JZM :)~ 

Doug Block
Host

Jody, thought I'd save you the bother and just promoted you to Pro status.  Clearly you qualify and now you'll have access to 45+ discussion topics.

Daniel Simmonds
Fan

Hey everyone.

I'm Dan, I'm an amatuer and working on an idea for a documentary. If anyone would like to offer some advice, right now I'm focusing on the story. I have the premise and outlined the selective parts and I want to develop it into a great story. Can any offer non-specific tips or maybe books to read on creating great stories.

Thanks

Michelle Maren
Pro

Hello D-Word - I codirected and am the subject of AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MICHELLE MAREN. Last month I attended the IFC screening of ONE CUT, ONE LIFE by Lucia Small and Ed Pincus. I could relate to so much of what the film had to say about collaboration. Question: Filmmakers, how would you define "collaboration" and what had been your experience?

Babette Hoogendoorn
Fan

Hello everyone! I am a Berklee Master's student and I'm conducting a research on the interest in exclusive bespoke themes based on classical music, created for independent film and documentary makers and advertising agencies. This research is done to explain and analyse my thesis for which I want to set up a business plan for a music supervision company that is specialised in classical music and can make exclusive bespoke themes based on this music genre. I promise it won't take you long and your input is very much appreciated. Could you fill the survey out before the 10th of June please? Thank you so much! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7HQCHZ6 

Kellie Krevosky
Pro

Hi, I was wondering if someone could tell me where they find their ideas for documentaries?  

Best and Thanks,

Kellie K.

Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo
Fan

Hey guys, I'm new around here so excuse me if this is in the wrong place. 

I'm working on  a documentary for my final project, the project is about a artisan who's lifestyle im interested in. Its a more intimate vision of his life/work. (in my opinion it's really important to keep record of this way of living, mostly because this way of working is getting extinct)

He has his own shop, fixes guitars and "most" important recreates medieval instruments based in "pictures" from books etc. Now to the problem itself, since im trying to avoid the BBC wild life of guitars genre, i'm currently struggling to create a story line. (I want to avoid these questions: how did you made this? how did you end up here? whats your favorite desert?) 

Some references ive been studying: Vertov, Harun Farocki, Orson welles, Hugo Zemp, Godard.

Thanks in advance and i'm sorry if i wasnt explicit enough or just confused everyone.

Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo
Fan

In reply to Kellie Krevosky's post on Wed 3 Jun 2015:

 well its going to sound cliche but it's true: you have to find something that bothers you or get you excited, just start with a phrase or a word and keep studying the subject until you find something worthy. Most important you need to have something to say otherwise its pointless. 

that's my 2 cents! 

Doug Block
Host

In reply to Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo's post on Mon 15 Jun 2015:

 Hi Telmo and welcome.  Usually what creates a story is conflict.  Is there any conflict going on the artisan's life?  Is his shop threatening to close, for instance?  Is he going through some kind of transition?  This is why so many documentaries take place over a lengthy period of time, because time is often necessary to capture periods of transition.

Jesse Zook Mann
Pro

In reply to Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo's post on Mon 15 Jun 2015:

 Doug's advice is on point. Unless he is SUPER engaging, and has a lot of archival coverage, talking about the past will likely be pretty boring in a sitdown interview. Now if he was played with the Beatles and narrowly escaped assasination by Interpol... I'll take that back... but if he's not superstar LIGHTNING you have to find conflict. If you don't have the much time to watch things develop, you can look for major events that are happening where your guy is up against something, and has something at stake. Something where he goes in looking to win, and he wins or loses at the end of it. Maybe it's a contest. Maybe its a tough familiy reunion. Maybe its a trip to meet a son he's never seen. Maybe he had an old conflict with a musician after the guy stole his girlfriend and they get back to play together after five years. Pry to see if these kinds of events might be possible to capture. Doc really works when you are watching events unfold in front of you. 

I'm sure some folks here would say it is unethical, but I will produce these kinds of events to happen. Usually it is the only way to get things done on the kinds of time restrictions I generally have for a given project. I try to set things up with as much informed consent as possible, and shoot what happens with as much empathy, and integrity as possible. If that means anything. I stuggle with this constantly... for 15 years.

Austin Anderson
Pro

Hi, 
We have a completed feature length Documentary that has won several film festival awards, and are now looking for distribution.  Does anyone have contacts with a sales agent? 

Please email me for info. 


Bests, 

Austin Anderson

andersonwaustin@hotmail.com

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3220044/

 

log line:
Sharing the Rough documents the never before captured process of the journey of a colored gemstone from mine to market while exploring the challenges of an emerging mining economy in East Africa.

http://www.sharingtherough.com/

http://www.sharingtherough.com/#!copy-of-story/c1aq6

Trailer:
http://www.sharingtherough.com/#!trailer/cjv8

 

 

 

John Burgan
Host

Austin - you look like you would qualify for Pro Membership of The D-Word - you would certainly gain access to a much wider range of advice in the Pro-only Topics

John Burgan
Host

Strangely, there's no sign of a Pro application, Austin, so please go ahead and re-submit. We give all D-Word applicants the automatic option to apply for Pro status as soon as they have registered as a Fan, so this should normally be a straightforward process.


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