The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

  • Public

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.

Anna Fischer

Thanks that was helpful!
Now I still have to get some help on how to translate accurately?
Stick to bad English or translate and correct the English but confuse the reader?
What to do?

Ramona Diaz

That's always tricky. First of all, is he really difficult to understand? Do you really have to subtitle him? I've vowed in the past not to subtitle characters speaking English but because of outside pressures (like broadcasters, distributors), I've had to do it. So I treat it like I would treat other subtitles, I "translate" it so it's grammatically correct. Offensive all around but if you have to do it....

Nefin Dinc


I am planning to apply for a grant to make a documentary and they are asking for "letter of commitment" from the advisors.

Could you tell me where can I find a sample for a letter of commitment?

If I were to create it myself, what should I include in it?

Thank you,

Reid B. Kimball

I would suggest you subtitle exactly as your subject speaks. Documentary films are supposed to be accurate, representing truth. If a deaf person learns that the subtitles were not reflecting actually what was said then you lose credibility. Also, I don't think your subject would appreciate words being put in their mouth.

If your subject is really that hard to understand, then can you not include them in your film? I always vet my subjects for camera presence before I spend the money and time with them.

Ramona, that's a shame you don't want to subtitle your films. I'm hard of hearing to point where I need to wear $6,000 hearing aids. I absolutely must have subtitles for me to watch a film and understand most of it. Then there are people who are completely deaf and they need subtitling too.

Ramona Diaz

My films are close captioned for the hearing impaired. I think that's what you're referring to.

Subtitles are a completely different matter. I subtitle my film if they are not speaking English and it's for b'cast in this country or distributed in English speaking territories. My point about not wanting to put English subtitles on someone already speaking English to begin with is that it is offensive to the person filmed. But sometimes, due to distribution contracts, it has to be done. And if I only choose subjects who are easy to understand (and who will define "easy to understand" to begin with?), then I'm hosed.

Rina  Sherman

I have an hour long timeline in Sony Vegas sub titled with a media generator legacy plug in. About 40 minutes into this hour SV started crashing repeatedly.
I have tried and tested all and any solution that various colleagues have suggested, to no avail.
I have several more hours of of sub titling to do and I am now looking for an alternative method. I need to print to tape and DVd authoring, so my titles cannot be made purely during the DVD authoring.

Any suggestions welcome. My sub titling is from Otjiherero to English and the same to French – two versions.

I will be looking at Subtitling Workshop, but any other ideas?

Thank you in advance,
Rina Sherman

Doug Block

Rina, the Mentoring Room is basically for Enthusiasts who don't have access to most of the discussion topics. Some Professional members drop by here but not that many. Now that you have Professional status, you should move any further questions about sub-titling to the Editing topic.

Bonnie Friedman

Hi everyone,
I have just finished my first doc and now need some advice on the business side. Against my better judgement I took bad advice and did not get cast or crew deal memos and now an intellectual property attorney tells me that broadcasters will require these in addition to other clearances. He says all crew, but not necessarily the cast, but other research tells me all cast and producers only. I want to do what is needed and I would like to only ask people once. So first question is : from whom do I need these deal memos? and second: are there standard forms to use (both pre for next time and post for this one.)
Many thanks,

Doug Block

Bonnie, you'll need what's known as release forms for the key people who are in the film. Anyone who speaks prominently, for sure. It's necessary in order to get Errors & Omissions (E&0) insurance, which broadcasters require.

Crew deal memos are important more in case you get audited by the IRS. I've never needed them for any broadcasters, and I've worked with PBS, HBO, Bravo, IFC and many big international broadcasters.

I should add I'm not an entertainment lawyer, and I highly recommend you consult with one before proceeding.