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.

John Philp
Fan
Hi Doug, I'll look for some books. Yes, the $400,000 budget
includes i/nat. travel/production and frequent trips in the US, as
well as lots of music and archival pix issues. (The doc also
serves as a social history, in a way.) Most of the investors don't
balk at the figure but other filmmnakers do, including me
sometimes. I've always worked much lower budget, and may end up
doing this film for less as well.
Doug Block
Host
marc, i suggest you tell them if there's a time when they really want
you to stop shooting, then let you know and you'll honor their
request. otherwise, i don't think i'd set up elaborate ground rules.
just be sensitive to any emotional situations as they unfold and use
your common sense.
Georg Schmitt
Pro
Yes Ben, it´s me but i have problems to log in there!
Coul´d you help me with that?
And by the way, i always was looking forward to meet you one day,
hopefully some time soon.
g.
Marc Maurino
Pro
Hi folks. I'm shooting a documentary as a "one man band"--mostly with
my own 1 chip, but when i can get it from the local cable access
channel, i'll be using their JVC GY DV500 (3 ccd.) in no particular
order, a few questions:

1. has anyone ever used this JVC camera, and if so, any caveats,
complaints, or compliments? (i'm assuming it's better than my 5 year
old Sony DCR-TRV11, though truth be said, i've been blessed with that
camera.) also, since i'll be buying mini DV tapes in bulk, should i
go with JVC, or Sony, or some other brand, and how high quality do i
need to go? in bulk at BH Photo video i'm looking Sony premium DVM
60s running about 3$ a pop, which fits my (non-existent) budget.

2. The cable access channel said i'll need to buy a new battery for
the JVC, they lost theirs or something. i've done some internet
searching and found some online battery places that have compatible
batteries for about $55. am i doing the right thing here or do i need
to find a JVC-manufactured battery?

3. Naturally i want great sound and don't have a boom operator, so
i'm investing in a shotgun mic. in the BH PHoto Video catalog i'm
looking at an Azden SGM-X shotgun mic for about $130, a Sennheiser
MKE300 for $170, and a Sony stereo condenser mic for $80. Any
recommendations about these or any others you swear by? I really
don't want to go over $200, and am only willing to go that far because
I obviously know the importance of really good sound.

4. I have a something which was given to me which I realize now is a
Beach Tek Dual XLR audio adapter DXA 4 for Sony cameras. Is this
going to be compatible and/or necessary for a shotgun mic?

5. My doc is not, thus far, proving to be something where I can set
up lights and all that; I'm documenting a couple who are starting a
small private (Montessori) school and most of what I'm catching is
them having business meetings with the bank, the business plan guy,
interviews with them about their partnership and philosophy, scouting
out the (potential) school space, giving informational meetings for
parents, meeting with realtor, etc. Since I'm shooting on DV, and
mostly 1 chip for that matter, what would you, experienced D-worder,
recommend as the things I absolutely should (or should not, as the
case may be) be doing when I'm shooting? As you can see, good sound
is something I'm paying attention to, but should I absolutely have a
single light i'm setting up behind my camera, or invest in an
expensive tripod (i have a lightweight one that i set up and then
don't touch), etc? Professional experience and words of wisdom are
greatly appreciated by us first timers.

As always, thanks in advance!
Doug Block
Host
no time to answer now, marc, but i highly recommend you not post so
many questions at one time. it's a bit overwhelming for us time-
challenged folks. one quick thought, though: go with sennheiser.
Marc Maurino
Pro
thanks for the advice, doug, both on sennheiser and posting
etiquette. i guess i wanted to avoid the "man, that guy is posting
new questions every day" thing, so i post a dozen at once . . . looks
like i backed the wrong horse! i'll give it a few days and then
dribble questions in one at a time from now on. thank you for taking
the time, and have a great weekend!
Stephanie Vevers
Pro
Marc,

The beachtek adapter is not needed with model MKE300 sennheiser
mic which already has a 1/8" connector.

If the mic you choose has a 3-pronged connector you do need the
beachtek adapter. It is a good device and I have used it a lot
with a Sony TRV900 camcorder. It also allows you to take a line
feed from pa and sound systems.
You would need a cable to go from the mic to the beechtek. A
short cable for ease of use.
A long cable for remote location from camera, if you need to tape
a panel discussion or pass mic around.
You have to be concerned about mic noise of course. Connections
and handling introduce noise. Headphones?

Try to review your footage as you go, learn from your mistakes.
don't zoom with impunity. do change shot setup or angle, rather
than stay in an poor one.
But don't wear out your tapes with viewing. Dump onto hard drives
or make vhs viewing dubs?
Hard drives are going to be an investment.
Start thinking about editing now.

B&H sells generic batteries too.

http://www.beachtek.com/dxa4.html to download info and
instructions if you need them.

THere are some good books out there,
Directing the Documentary, by Michael Rabiger, seems popular.
Marc Maurino
Pro
Stephanie,
Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed and intelligent
response. The "review . . . learn . . . and dump" as you go advice is
really good. I have a spreadsheet form that I fill out after shooting
and I'm going to start logging as I go, as I anticipate shooting a few
hours a month for nine months, and don't want to wake up in september
with thirty hours staring at me! :)

I just had my first experience with the beachtek the other night,
borrowed a few shotgun mikes from the local cable access station (and
stands) and ran them into my beachtek, monitored it all on headphones.
good experience, and when I have a static environment, i think i'll
go with mikes on stands; but for more mobile shooting (or tighter
quarters) i think i'll go with Sennheiser. I really appreciate the
advice! Thanks for being so generous!
Marc Maurino
Pro
quick question on ethics and doc filming--if you've got a good scene
going but your subjects are just a little too far apart (physically)
to both be in your frame, is it ethical/permissible/fair to ask them
to scoot closer to one another to fit into your frame? in this case,
it was a married couple discussing a budget, and i was crammed into
the corner of their dining room, and they were comfortable just
sitting a little closer and pushing their laptop over a little.
anyone have any thoughts on this? thanks in advance.
Doug Block
Host
sure, i've done that. had no great moral scruples, either. but,
shhhhh, don't tell anyone ;-)
Deirdre Fishel
Pro
Hi,

I just switched from using a SONY PD 150 camera with which I was
using only SONY DV cam tapes to a Panasonic DVX100B. B and H said
definitely start using the Panasonic tapes because you don't need DV
cam and they are much cheaper. But my SONY deck has only been used
with SONY DV cam tapes.

My friend and teacher Cynthia Wade said definitely stick with only
SONY DV cam tapes. Does anyone have any experience with this?

I know there are issues with drop outs when mixing tapes. But am
I now locked into the DV cam tapes? I'm about to start a long
project so with tapes and dubs I'll probably shoot minimum 300 tapes
so using the Panasonic mini DVs would represent about a $2700
saving. On the other hand I want to use the best tape and not have
problems with my deck.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

D
Doug Block
Host
welcome, deirdre. we go way back, you know. i'm about to register
you into the d-word community. be sure cut and paste this question
there. many more working doc makers will see it there and you'll
definitely get answers. but i've heard over and over you should stick
to the same brand of tape stock and preferably the same as the
camera's manufacturer.
Didi Francis
Fan
Hi there

Im in the process of coordinating a long distance endurance event in
Africa raising money for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. I am looking at
approaching documentary production companies to film the event.
However, I am unfamiliar with documentary companies and am looking
for advice on who to approach. In particular i need to approach a
company with expertise in sports, social issues and simultaneously
capture the beauty of Africa.. anyone with suggestions pls help! thanks
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Deirdre, do you have the option to dub from your new Panasonic camera
into the editing system? I wouldn't use Panasonic tapes in a Sony
deck. Not sure about using Sony tapes in a Panasonic camera, but I
am sure somebody around here will pipe up about that soon.
Doug Block
Host
Didi, I highly recommend you contact David Jammy or Harriet Gavshon
at Curious Pictures in Johannesburg. They're considered the top doc
producers in SA and are great to work with. Please say hi from me:

http://www.curious.co.za/
Ben Kempas
Pro
Ask Don Edkins of Day Zero in Cape Town. He produced "Steps for the
Future", a series of films about life in Southern Africa in the
presence of HIV/AIDS.

http://dayzero.co.za/steps/
Didi Francis
Fan
Thanks Ben, I will do so as well. Thanks for all the help, really
appreciate it.

Didi
Ross Williams
Pro
I'm nearing the end of my production of my first documentary. And
I'm looking into clearing some songs to include in the festival
release. I'd like to get a Guster song (smaller band on the Warner
label) and I'd like the rights to cover a Talking Heads song, not
one of their big hits. (I've already got a band working on it.)

Does anybody have any experience doing this? I've read that it's
very diffucult to do, and it's easier to go through a music
clearance company. Does anybody have any advice on how to go about
this? Any music clearance company recommendations? Any guess at
how much this will cost me? I've got an extremely small budget.

Thanks guys.
Ross Williams
Pro
Thanks Doug, this was the sort of site I've been looking for but
have been unable to find. And now that I've read it, man... what a
pain in the ass.
Ross Williams
Pro
Never thought it was easy. But I enjoy the creative part of it.
This legal stuff makes my mind go numb. It's something I'm doing
completely on my own. So I'm just taking it kind of slow, learning
as I go, making sure I get it right the first time. Next time
around it'll be easier cause I'll have much better idea of what I'm
doing. And hopefully I'll have some partners to help me out.
Cliff Knopnik
Fan
Hi,

Can any Pros help point me into the right direction?

I'm planning out (writing script, gathering resources, etc.) a
documentary/drama and am interested in finding resources on what you
can / can't include in documentaries from existing works, and how to
go about purchasing licenses for copyrighted works. For example: How
do you include a news clip about current news? How do you get the
rights to include a clip from an old John Wayne movie, etc.

Thanks in advance for the help!

Cliff
Steve Holmes
Pro
Cliff: It's a tricky area. You're wise to tread carefully. There's a
concept of "fair use" which says you can use *limited* copyrighted
material, if certain conditions are met, in a new work. Those
conditions include how big a percentage the copyrighted stuff will
be in the new project, how the use will affect the market for the
material you include and whether you're likely to make any money off
of the new work (as a doc maker, the answer to that last question is
probably "no").

It is a grey area. Your best bet is to hire an attorney who's
familiar with the subject. Lawyers for the Creative Arts does pro-
bono work, I believe. Other than that, check the U.S. Copyright
Office's page on fair use (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html),
the Cornell Law School page
(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000107
----000-.html) or see if entertainment lawyer Mark Litwak has
information on his site (http://www.marklitwak.com/resources/). As
the Copyright Office says, your safest bet is to get the OK from the
copyright owner, which generally isn't hard if it's a local station.
A John Wayne movie would be tougher.
Cliff Knopnik
Fan
Thanks. I'll check down those avenues and see how much public
domain / original stuff I can use.

Any resources for licensing music that you would recommend? I would
like to use a Louis Armstrong song in the opening credits. Is there a
central company that can get this license or do I have to go directly
to whoever currently owns the rights to it?

Cliff
Steve Holmes
Pro
BMI and ASCAP are the biggies. I'll bet they have websites.
Lucio Terra
Fan
Hello, I`m planning on starting a wildlife documentaries producing
company, have several ideas quite advanced, and I am now facing the
more costly (in money terms) part of the project which is buying the
initial camera and sound equipment. I`m on a tight budget, looking
for a reasonably priced camera which is "professional" enough to
achieve high quality images. My inmediate target is local TV, which
is not that quality-demanding (I`m from Uruguay, SAM), but I don`t
want to throw away my chances of going international through
cable/satellite TV just because I use lower end equipment.

I been going through the Canon XL1S and the Sony PD 150 and VX2000
models. Do you think they are enough? Do you think I could be fine
with less than that? Which camera equipment do the big ones (BBC,
Discovery Channel, NatGeo) use?

Any guidelines will be greatly appreciated, cheers
Maria Vougioukalaki
Pro
ok i should post here i guess..
im working on my thesis on Pennebakers Monterey Pop(1968) anyone
any advice??any links, books on direct cinema or even the film
itself(im too optimistic i know..) thx in advance!!
maria
Jon Foy
Fan
Hello,

A two part question:

I've been searching out archived news clips (mostly local) and feel
like there's more out there than I find. I've tried: Lexis Nexis,
Vanderbilt, Google (of course), and searching engines on each local
news station. Any other places come to mind?

For acquiring the footage: I'm looking for two local news segments
from 2003 (Pittsburgh WTAE, Cleveland WKYC) and I've tried the
stations (won't release them) Multivision, and an assortment of
local archive houses. Any other ideas? Anyone know of any ways (by
hook or by crook) to get the stations to hand them over? I know
that this must be a common problem for doc film makers.

Much thanks in advance, -Jon and the Resurrect Dead film crew
Steve Holmes
Pro
Jon, what's their reason for not releasing the clips? Money?
Privacy? Too lazy to dub them? Is there an organization that studies
your subject and might have clips or access to them? If you're
talking about the crop-circle project, how about the Coast to Coast
radio show which looks into a lot of mysterious phenomena?
Joshua Moro
Pro
Hello, we are considering producing a feature length doc that
utilizes dramatic Alaskan landscapes and wildlife as major
characters. We are novices and so don't think we can go with film
and instead think HD will be more realistic. Are there different
types of HD? What is a good example of a doc or program recently
shot on high-end HD?
Steve Holmes
Pro
I don't mean to be disrespectful, Joshua, but if you're novices, can
you afford HD shooting and editing? I haven't worked in that medium
and will defer to people who have, but I know it's high-end stuff.
So I don't seem to be just a naysayer, here's a place for info. on
HD: http://www.hdnnc.org/index.php. It's a group that promotes the
use of HD. You might get some answers there.
Joshua Moro
Pro
No worries about disrespect. We've made one 50-minute doc, shot on
location in China, Montana, Seattle on widescreen digital beta. It's
had a good amount of success at the second-tier festivals and we are
currently looking at broadcast deals. We still think we are novices,
but have an opportunity, story and some connections to make a leap
into the feature-length doc world. From what little we know about
HD, it seems a great option for capturing the details of vast
landscapes and wildlife. Maybe not for interviews or indoor footage,
though. Thanks for the info!
Michael Lieberman
Pro
Hello. I forgot my user info last fall, and am finally back.

I was/am making a documentary about an Iraq War veteran, and am in the post-
production stages. I was curious, as I was sent here last fall for a discussion, lost my login
info (and my job, moved, etc.), and am now back.

At the time, I asked a bit about grants and producers. I've been turned down by a few
grants, mostly because I suppose this is the *wrong* time to be making a film about a
veteran, given the timeliness and the vastness of films about this subject. Oh well.

I've self-financed this project from beginning to end and have spent under $1000. I have
no distribution or festival plan, and work most of my time so I am unable to edit as I'd
like. I know this sounds, well, like alot of other filmmakers doing the same thing. But I
was wondering if there might be a few pointers someone would consider offering. I have
no experience or helpful people around me regarding this, even though I know
filmmakers who have found distribution. When I ask them, I get a cold shoulder or my
question ignored, as if they're protecting their precious resources.

I've tried some local fundraising, and haven't found any organizations or individuals
willing to put any financial backing. I've offered clips and a small edit (like 20 minutes)
and nothing still. I don't hope to change minds about the war and refuse this idea of fair
and balanced reporting about the war, because this project isn't about that at all. Could it
be that, given how most feel about the war, that putting money behind a project with this
subject matter is considered fruitless, given most disagree with the war and my subject as
well?

Sorry for the ramble, but I've about given up finding any funding at all, or a producer. At
this point should I do everything myself?
Doug Block
Host
I mean, his Fundaising Conference on The D-Word is here: {LINK NOT IMPORTED}
Steve Holmes
Pro
Michael Lieberman wrote:

<<I've been turned down by a few grants, mostly because I suppose
this is the *wrong* time to be making a film about a veteran, given
the timeliness and the vastness of films about this subject.>>

I know of several Iraq films out there, including two by our own
James Longley and Julia Guest, but timeliness usually means it’s the
*right* time to be doing something.

Where are you in the process? I’m confused. Are you looking for
distribution of a completed film or fundraising to finish it? Those
are two different animals.

<< even though I know filmmakers who have found distribution. When I
ask them, I get a cold shoulder or my question ignored, as if
they're protecting their precious resources.>>

Strange. I can understand being coy about some funding sources,
especially if a filmmaker feels he has a special “in,” but people
around here are quite open with advice about the pros and cons of
distributors.

<<I've tried some local fundraising, and haven't found any
organizations or individuals willing to put any financial backing.>>

Where are you located? Is there a filmmakers’ group nearby that has
occasional workshops on fundraising and distribution? There’s no
money in doc distribution unless you’re Michael Moore. Most doc
makers get their funding through grants or their own checkbooks.
Very tough to sell this as an investment. You need people who will
put money into it for emotional reasons. They believe in the topic.
They believe in the veteran. They believe in you. Maybe some group
such as Vietnam Veterans against the War. They might not have money,
but should be able to steer you to people who can help you with
cash, in-kind, endorsements or contacts.

Try the Foundation Center (<http://fdncenter.org>). Its site allows
you to search by key word for potential funders. The group also has
placed copies of its core collection of grantwriting books in
libraries around the country. Get the nearest location through the
website.
Ross Williams
Pro
In my documentary I want two quick shots of two seperate
celebrities. Unable to afford paying for any usage rights, I'm
wondering about how to get around this.

How I've worked it now, is I've changed photos of them very
significantly, cut them out, messed with them in photoshop and
animated them. I don't know if anybody would ever be able to
recognize them from the original photo.

I thought I'd heard somewhere that if you change a photo more than
50% than it's considered a new image. Is this true? I can't find any
evidence of this anywhere.

Has anyone dealt with this before? Or point me to a website that
would explain this?

Thank you.
Doug Block
Host
call me dense but who do you need to pay the usage rights to, ross?
the photographer? a magazine?

and if you change the phot so much you can't recognize the celebrity,
why are you even using the photo?
Ross Williams
Pro
I believe that you would have to pay the photographer, because they
are the copyright owner.

The celebrities are still recognizable, they look more like
charactures now... but the photos aren't recognizable.
Christopher Gallant
Pro
Hi everyone,
I also have a usage question. I need to use some footage from some of
the old roman empire b+w epics - ya know "cast of thousands"kinda
ficks. There are a few really old ones from the 30's and 20's which
might be less problematic(?) I would love to write whomever owns the
rights to ask but I have a tight deadline for the finishing of this
documentary... It's for my thesis project. I would like to show the
film more widely later on, but for now I just need to show it on
campus and have a small community gallery/space showing to fulfill my
requirements. Using this footage, a minute or two, will make the
project concept work sooo much better. What's your advice?
David Seidman
Fan
I'm a longtime print journalist and non-fiction author who wants
to work in documentary film/video. I've joined IDA, I've started
pitching ideas to various production houses, and now I'm here.
What else should I do to find work in this field?

David Seidman
davidseidman@earthlink.net
Robert Goodman
Pro
Find work - look elsewhere. Most of us support our habit by working in
peripheral areas. For example, shooters do everything from corporate
work to commercials to weddings. The ranks of the doc makers who earn
their entire living from making docs is slim. The Maysles earned more
from commercial work than they ever did from making docs. Michael
Moore likely earns more from book sales than doc films. Lots of people
teach. Some are independently wealthy. As several famous nonfiction
filmmakers have told me - this is a hobby not a profession.

sorry to disappoint.
Steve Holmes
Pro
Excellent advice from Robert, as usual. To find work in this field
as a producer, which is what I infer you want to do, you have to
make your own work. You'll find no ads that say, "Wanted:
Documentary makers." Almost everyone on D-Word has created labors of
love that they have funded by themselves or through grants or co-
production deals and then attempted to sell and distribute. Find an
idea or topic you can stay in love with for at least several years
and begin to pull together funding possibilities and a filmmaking
team. That's how you find work in this field.
Robert Goodman
Pro
Actually find an idea or topic that will remain interesting to people
for the next 40 years - we call them evergreens. An evergreen brings
in a trickle of money year after year. Anything less and you'll never
get a return on your investment.
Doug Block
Host
David, hopefully you can keep doing your print journalism to fall
back on. A first doc generally takes years to make and then get out
into the world (don't forget that part).
Karen Nedivi
Fan
I just started working on a documentary as the cinematographer, that
will take place in the cloud forest in ecuador. I don't have
experiecne shooting abroad on film. They are planning on buying either
the arriS or the SR (money) and will be either sending film or
bringing film with us. We also are worried about the bext way to
develop the film, since we will be there for over 3 months, and if it
is better to do this locally though a kodak, or send back to AMerica
to a lab.
If anyone has experience with shooting abroad and have any
recommendations or warnings, it would be very helpful, or online
resources. We will contact kodak and labs to ask them what they
suggest, but I would like to find out information from people who
actually had the experience.
Julia Guest
Pro
Karen this sounds like a very expensive, high risk medium to use in
a steamy jungle. You will face problems with condensation for a
start. Have you consider going Hi Def instead? I doubt a lab in
Ecuador is going to be adequate to process the film, so you will
also not see your results till you get back.
Luke Walden
Fan
Hello all. This is my first post here, and I'm wondering where should
I go and whom should I ask to get some really experienced advice about
technical issues around post production for an indie historical doc
that combines contemporary 24P DV interviews/B-roll with a wide range
of archival footage formats and stills. I'm trying to plan and budget
for an edit that will cause minimal headaches in an online for
broadcast and also for possible film transfer. We will most likely
edit in Final Cut and online on a high end AVID at a decent post house.

I've done a lot of internet
searching and talked to several post houses in New York, but I don't
feel like I've yet gotten answers that really take into account the
possibility of mixing all that archival material with 24p footage and
what that might entail in terms of technical issues, workflow and
onscreen look. Perhaps the person I need is on this very board! But
if not, where to look?

Thanks,
Luke
Doug Block
Host
as noted in the intro topic, since you clearly qualify as a
professional, luke, you'll find qualified pros to answer that question
in the professional community here: www.d- word.com/community/join.

but you could also post this question on the shooting people website:
www.shootingpeople.com
Joe Wilson
Pro
Greetings Folks,

I'm new to this world, and am up to my neck (or is that in over my
head?) in my first big project:
(http://qwaves.com/QWAVESnew_10/Heartland.html).

As I begin fundraising, I'm wondering if there are recommendations on
which org(s) work well as a fiscal sponsor .. ? (So far, I'm looking
at International Doc Assoc., Film Arts Fdn., & Southern Doc Fund.)

Also, as I begin to grapple with approx. 70 hours of footage, I'd love
to connect with (and hopefully hire) a talented writer, experienced in
documentary work, to help me flesh out the narrative / structure for
the piece. Any suggestions on how / where to reach out / connect with
writers? (I'm particularly interested in someone with experience in
queer film and/or activism.)

Thank You for any comments or suggestions that may come my way:
qwavesjoe@yahoo.com
Ethan Yarbrough
Fan
Hello all. I'm new to the forum, and new to documentary filmmaking.
I have a subject I'd like to pursue that will require multiple
interviews with multiple subjects. My question is just a basic one:
how do you find people willing to participate as subjects of a
documentary? Do you put an ad in the paper? Ad on craigslist or some
other online board? I want to follow a few willing subjects for some
time, but I just don't know the best way to find those subjects.

I appreciate any tips you all can offer.

E
Joe Scherrman
Pro
Anybody know Kevin Costner's Publisist? I would like to get an
interview with him. How about any producers or contacts at netflix?
Doug Block
Host
Ethan, hard to answer that question without knowing your specific
topic. But often you go to experts first and either interview them or
ask who they might recommend you talk to.
Steve Holmes
Pro
And as you explore your topic, you'll soon figure out who the
experts are. Wouldn't bother with an ad, but a notice on an online
forum or newsgroup dedicated to the subject might help.
Dustin Ogdin
Fan
I hope I'm posting this in the right place. Moderators feel free
to move if you'd like.

I recently found a fiscal sponsor for my project. I want to do
fundraising on my website through paypal. The problem is that my
sponsor is not very tech-savvy. Is it ok for me to collect
donations on my website through MY paypal account, and then give
the funds (or their percentage) to my sponsor? I know the
opposite situation is the typical scenario (sponsor gets money -
takes out their share, then gives money to me.) My sponsor
doesn't have a problem with this - they trust my honesty. I'm
just curious to know if it is legal?

Thanks for any input!
Robert Goodman
Pro
It's legal just not tax-deductible. Contributions have to be made
directly to the organization. If people give you money and you give it
to the organization, then you can take the tax deduction. The pay to
line on the check determines whether it's a charitable contribution.

Why not set up the fiscal sponsor with an account?
Dustin Ogdin
Fan
Thanks for the clarification, Robert (and for the quick response).
My fiscal sponsor is not too tech savvy, but I'm definitely going
to try to get them to set up an account. Thanks!
Gary Parker
Fan
I'm new here. I posted the newbie intro and came over here. I helped
produce a documentary for a local TV station back in the 70's and
haven't been doing anything since. As I said in my intro, I have
several historical documentaries that are in pre-production. One of
the most important things that I'm looking for is a good producer so
I can get the financing for the completion of the first project. The
companies that I plan to approach for funding are not willing to
give money to someone with no track record. I have two production
companies in mind but, as usual, they say they will get back to me.
I'm not holding my breath. What kind of advice can you give me about
getting the financing started? Should I just contact the companies
with the story and hope for the best? Thanks for the suggestion for
Shooting People in a previous post. I signed up there.
Gary Parker
Fan
Doug, I watched the trailer for the 51 Birch Street doc. I'm very
impressed! You have a great one there. I would love to see it but,
the Nov. 3 showing in SF is in conflict with me being in Ohio at
that time. And all the others are too far away. I'll be working on
the history doc I'm trying to put together. I'm basically doing
everything right now. I'm writing narration, shooting script, review
of existing film and interviews, document selection and placement,
interviews with experts in the field, etc. This project will take a
few years to complete.
Doug Block
Host
Thanks, Gary. It's scheduled for a one-week run in SF, and if enough
people show up, it can easily be held over. So don't give up yet.

As for getting fundraising started, I suggest you attend as many
markets (IFP, Sunny Side of the Doc, BritDoc), festivals and pitching
forums (Toronto, IDFA is the best) as possible and start to introduce
yourself around, familiarize yourself with the Commissioning Editors
and see how it all works.
Ken Mackenzie
Fan
Hello, by the looks of the posts here this sounds like a good place
to get some advice. I am a post production professional (with a
steady job!) that is interested in writing my first doc. I have...a
million questions but I'll keep it to two (for now!). The first: If
I am one of the main subjects within the story how much should I be
involved with in the process? (ie bringing on another writer or
interviewer). The second: Where can I get some solid advice or
resources on the form of documentary writing?
Justin Frimmer
Fan
I am in the process of doing a investment memorandum and have a
question regarding the way documentary films are sold and revenue
distributed. Is the documentary model the same as the fiction
model, in that net receipts are distributed between the distribution
company and the producers/investors? Or does the distribution
company simply buy the rights, giving them all the receipts? For
example, the film Wordplay "sold" for 1 million. Is that 1 million
the end of the revenue for the filmmakers as far whatever
domestic/international/theatrical/dvd rights were agreed upon or
will the filmmakers get a percentage of film receipts as well?
Joe Scherrman
Pro
I'm having trouble updating my personal info. When I submit it comes up
error.
Also
I am looking for informantion about fiscal sponsors. I have one
interested but they want to know how. Also looking for an example of a
contract between my LLC and the fiscal sponsor 501c3.
I appreciate the help.
Doug Block
Host
Ken, there's no set rule to your first question. As for documentary
writing, most docs these days aren't pre-written or scripted. Tend to
be shoot first, "write" it in the edit room (if there's even narration
at all, that is).

Justin, it's pretty much the same regarding the kinds of sales to
distributors you refer to (the big "Wordplay" ones), that are the big
exceptions, btw. It's one in a thousand docs, at the least, that make
that kind of a sale. And in almost all cases (including Farenheit
911, I've heard), the advance is the last money the filmmakers ever
saw. And don't forget that in that advance the filmmakers are
required to pay for the deliverables, which can take a huge bite out
of it.
Robert Goodman
Pro
Never believe the "sales $$" sold for hype. I really really doubt
Wordplay sold for $1 million.
Elena Ghanotakis
Pro
Hi,
I am working on a documentary following rape survivors through
a rape clinic in South Africa. I am shooting the project in HD
format. I would like to backup all of the footage on an external
hard drive. Does anyone have advice about which is the best
external hard drive on which to do this? I am looking at Western
Digital, Lacie and Seagate. Also, is it better to go with a
larger drive, i.e. 1TB or break it down into 2 500GB drives. Do
the larger drives have more problems?

Would appreciate any feedback!

Elena
Robert Goodman
Pro
Single drive 1TB units not generally available.
The cost/GB sweet spot is around 350GB. Seagate.
Are you backing up HDV, HDCAM, DVCPROHD, or HDCAM-SR footage?
All have different needs - from USB to Fiber Channel connections and
from a single drive to RAID arrays.
Robert Goodman
Pro
It's not 1TB drive - it's two drives in a box. Read the description.
I'd forgo the huge single unit and get multiple drives as you go. HDV
uses the same space as miniDV - a 350GB drive holds a lot of footage.
Cheap so you can buy two and make two backups.
Gary Ballen
Fan
This is the first Documentary I have been involved with. We are
doing a piece on the history of the Negro Baseball League and the
Negro Baseball League Museum. We are putting a business plan
together and I have to research potential income streams for the
following,
1. aquisition from a network and cable station
2. potential sponsorship income
3. Advertising Income
4. DVD sales
5. E commerce
6. cd soundtrack income
7. Grant $
8. Military Sales
9. Infomercial Sales
10. Licensing Income
11. Ancillery $$

I would really appreciate any help I can get on this.

Thank You,
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Is the museum sponsoring your project? How many visitors do they
get a year and what partnerships do they have with other
organizations -- both baseball and African-American orgs? I would
think your best bets are grants and DVDs sales through the museum's
existing network of contacts. Depending on how the project is
developed, you may be able to sell it to PBS or a cable channel, but
don't expect to make back any money from those sales.
Gary Ballen
Fan
The museum is not sponsoring us but they are supporting us, it will
be an authorized documentry if that means anything. We are looking
for funding right now, got any cash?

Thanks,

Gary Ballen
Joe Scherrman
Pro
Shaking the Money Tree, 2nd Edition: How to Get Grants and Donations for
Film and Video: Books: Morrie Warshawski by Morrie Warshawski.
Barry, I enjoyed talking with you the other day. I know you are pressed
for time so grants may be out of the question. I'm on my first doc that
needs funding. It seems to me that finding a 501C3 partner is my best
bet. Good luck and keep me in the loop. We're both doing baseball
related stuff.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Ha, Gary. Last place you want to raise serious funds is from other
doc filmmakers. We're all in the same sinking boat. Good luck!
Ana Da Silva
Fan
Hello!

I'm new here and looking for further guidance. I want to get into
documentary film making to cover issues in children rights
(broadly). I studied Communications for both my BA and my MA and
have a day job to pay the bills. I've been reading more and more
about docs and I want to do it for a living (or try anyway).

Any ideas on where to go from here? If you ask me what I'd like to
be doing (in the field) in 10 years, I'd say producing and still
writing, which is what I'd like to do soon.

I hope this is a clear intro and I hope you guys will be able to give
me some constructive advice.

Thank you very much!

Ana
Robert Murdock
Fan
Hi all,

I have a question, well a few I guess. I recently started an
attempt at making a short documentry. Topic: online gamers. Next I
hope to do a wildlife short.

Here is my issue. I have some notes scribbled down, for example:

1. Opening intro
2. interview with.. XXX
3. comentary on convention
4. footage from convention

...etc.

Is there a better way to lay out what I want to accomplish? I know
that most people do not like software that helps with these things,
but, what do you all think?

What type of software package would help me most with getting the
layout of my documentry down? Do I need a screenwriter software?
Movie outline? Final Draft.. or?

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

RObert
Doug Block
Host
ana, you could try any number of things. you could take classes.
you could intern for established doc makers. you could simply pick up
a camera and start shooting. there's no set path.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
I'd go with word processing and skip the specialty software. For a
treatment, you don't need to go shot-by-shot. I assume you are
asking about a script or at least a paper edit guideline.

Some folks live by using the same format as for a fiction script.
Personally I prefer the side-by-side version where I put my visuals
in the left column and the audio (interview bites, sound on tape,
music, etc.) in the right column. You may find you like doing it in
word processing or you may find that color-coded index cards on a
wall work better for you.

I'd recommend investing in the book, "Directing the Documentary" by
Michael Rabiger for further ideas on how to do a paper edit. Some
folks find it very old-fashioned since you can now do all the layout
directly in to a nonlinear editing program, but doing a paper edit
can be really helpful as you are starting out to help you get your
head around the story you are trying to tell.
Christopher Gallant
Pro
I'm half way through my first documentary rough cut and I'm in need of
some music. I'm a graduate student so I definitely need royalty free
music. The types of music range from woody allenesque jazz to 1960s
lounge music to classical piano interludes to kitschy italian
concertina music. Have any ideas? I also was wondering if there was an
easy place to access music which has had its copyright expire? Any
advice welcome.
Christopher Gallant
Pro
Doug,
I appreciate the advice. I have actually already tried that. The point
of my question was to weed through the 6,220,000 hits that Google
throws your way for a "royalty free music" search and see if there was
a prefered royalty free music clearing house. Is this site,
www.royaltyfreemusic.com, your best pick and if so have you ever used
it? If it is then I guess you're not in bad company as Google also
picks it as its number one site. Any further helpful advice would be
appreciated.
Doug Block
Host
hopefully someone else will pipe in, christopher. i've only used
original music in my docs.
Joe Scherrman
Pro
Christopher

I have a friend that might be able to give us some advice on suggested
music but he wouldn't know about royalty free stuff. It might help
limiting the search by having a title. Let me know if you would like me
to contact him.
Andrew Corica
Fan
For my next doc I need footage of Katrina, and other similar events.
Where can I get this? No networks will answer my emails. All help is
appreciated, (maybe a spot on my credits)
Robert Goodman
Pro
try your local news station. They may have footage and be more open to
you. Perhaps even do a story on you making a doc. All of the networks
have stock footage companies that sell footage. I'm sure you could buy
something if you want.
Alexandra Stubbs
Fan
Hey, guys. I've been very interested in docs and doc making for
awhile now. I intend to go over seas within the next two years for
an early "OE" and have decided to invest in some equipment before I
go as I will be going to some very interesting places. I've been
looking at 'Camcorders' and "pro camcorders" for awhile now... But
to be honest I just want something efficient and well, cheap (as
cheap as possible). Can anyone make some suggestions as to what
would be good to look at? I have a budget as I'm a student… who's
currently jobless =P 2.5Grand (US dollars) would be my limit (not
including accesories). I would prefer to spend less of course but I
do want something decent! Any tips / suggestions would be greatly
appreciated!
Scott Westphal-solary
Pro
Are there any set guidelines for music credits? I have about 4 songs
and I'd like to know what I need to include in the credits for legal.
They are all christian hymns from the public domain performed by
people in the film.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
This may be of interest to emerging documentary filmmakers for a
mentoring and major networking opportunity...


The Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant will fund two first
time documentary makers for travel and accommodations at the Full
Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 12-15, 2007. For four days,
grant recipients will be given access to films, participate in master
classes and be mentored by experienced filmmakers.

About the Grant: Garrett Scott made a distinctive mark in documentary
films during his short career. Without any formal training in film, he
directed CUL DE SAC: A SUBURBAN WAR STORY, examining the case of a
methamphetamine addict who stole a tank from an armory and went on a
rampage through the San Diego suburbs. The film prompted Filmmaker
Magazine to cite Scott as one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film. He
went on to make OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND, co-directed with Ian Olds,
about U.S. soldiers in Falluja, Iraq. It won prizes at Full Frame and
the Independent Spirit Awards. Both films were broadcast by the
Sundance Channel. In 2005, Scott died of a heart attack at age 37. His
friends, family and colleagues established this development grant to
help other emerging filmmakers reach their potential. The grant's
selection committee looks especially for filmmakers who somehow
fulfill Scott's example, by bringing a unique vision to the content
and style of contemporary documentary making.

Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder,
living in the continental United States; any age 18 or older. By
"first time filmmaker," we mean someone who is in the early stage of
their documentary career and not yet received significant recognition
(such as major festival play or broadcast). All applicants should
anticipate finishing their first project by March 2008. You can still
qualify as a "first time filmmaker," even if you've made shorts or
student projects or worked professionally as a crew member on other
people's films. Or if you've recently completed a documentary that
hasn't been released yet. The grant is open to students and
non-students alike.

How: Applicants should send a 2 page letter addressing these areas:

1) Project summary: Describe the documentary you're working on. It
doesn't matter whether the film is a short or a feature. Describe the
characters, structure, visual approach and what stage you're at.

2) Director's statement: Describe how you came to filmmaking and how
you've trained as a filmmaker. It doesn't matter whether you went to
film school or are self-taught. Describe what you want audiences to
take from your film.

In addition, if applicants have a 5-10 minute sample of their work or
work-in-progress, please send that as well on DVD or VHS (NTSC
format). A sample work isn't required to apply. But if the selection
committee has to choose between several strong applicants, the sample
work will become a factor in making the decision.

Submit two copies of both the letter and work sample along with
your...

Name:
Address:
Phone:
E-mail:

Send to:
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
324 Blackwell Street. Suite 500
Washington Building, Bay 5
Durham, NC 27701
attn: Garrett Scott Documentary Grant

Deadline: Applications must be postmarked by February 5. Applicants
will be notified by email in mid-March.

More information: http://fullframefest.org/call/garrettscottgrant.php
Don Dobrez Jr.
Pro
Hi,

I am working on my first feature length documentary about the
destruction of the oldest Drive-In movie theater here in Illinois.
There was a very heated battle in the local city council to save the
theater, but it fell on deaf ears and the theater was torn down. I
then made it known that I was making a film about the poitics that
killed the theater, and have been interviewed a number of times in
the local press about the film. The problem I have is that I
honestly would like to get the people responsible for the theaters
destruction to appear on camera to explain their views to the
audience. How should I approach them and extend an invitation to
them even if they all ready know that the final film will not
necessarily show them in a favorable light? And I how do I assure
them that I won't "Michael Moore" them if they agree to an
interview, i.e. attack them as soon as tape starts rolling? I am
trying to draft a letter and am curious as to how others might have
handled a similar situation.

Thank You!

Don
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