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.

Wolfgang Achtner

Cool. Great idea. Doubt I'll ever have to worry about prizes but cash is certainly better than medals or trophies.

Robert Goodman

perhaps you reminded me since the biography is in my collection?

Leon Coleman

Hello all, my name is Leon Coleman and I write under the name Lord Baltimore. I know absolutely nothing and need a ton of help.

Long story short, I want to follow a girl's 18 and under volleyball team for one entire 6 month season beginning now and culminating in their championships in July 08. The owner of the club team loves the idea, has given me full access to his team, practices and games. I have enlisted the aide of a very experienced sound/camera man.

And by the way, if this is not the place to ask this question, i apologize to all...

Anyway, the first thing I need to know is if anyway has a sample clearance form I can provide to the coach and players/parents so I can proceed. After that I have some general questions about crowd shots, competition against other girls (who are not cleared) etc. Thank you.

(I posted in "introduce" as well before i knew about this room. sorry.

John Burgan

Google "release form" + documentary and you should find something that fits. Maybe best to check wording with your lawyer to be on the safe side

Leon Coleman

Thank you both very much. I downloaded the form Joe suggested and will do a google seacrh. This is sort of a daunting process. Once I get the girls, coaches and parents, I still have to figure out how to handle it when I shoot a game where that relates to releases from members of the other teams. Any insight or suggestions? From what I have read, if I film a sporting event and don't highlight the opponents, I may not be required to obtain their releases. Your thoughts are welcome.

Monica Williams

Hello everyone,

There is a segment in my film where I will need to use many paintings from the 18th and 19th century. I plan to travel to Europe seeking images to use in museums etc. I have a DP that I will be working with soon, so he'll probably have some ideas – but I would appreciate all the advice I could get before speaking with him. How does this process work – obtaining images that are past their copyright from museums. Can I take the photographs myself, and rely on my DP to make them look interesting in post, or will I need a professional photographer with me at all times? If I can acquire the images myself, what camera is best? Do the museums have a special way of making these images available? Will I need to speak with someone at each museum in advance and have special forms? Any other advice I'm not asking for will be much appreciated as well.

Thanks so much!

David Blumenfeld

Hi...Can anyone recommend any good Film Workshops for Directing, Writing, etc. in London England?

Darla Bruno

So, thinking ahead . . . now that I have my PAL and sound stuff straightened out . . . I finish shooting in mid-February, and I'm entering a contest with a deadline of mid-April. My DP can edit with PAL (he's in Milan). So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet). And then trying to get it in in time for this contest. Or, I can try to stay in Italy longer, and work with my DP to edit our footage/cut a trailer. I'd have to pay him something like 375 a day, but it may only take 2 days. . . he'll know the footage. He'll have the software and what we need to edit. (I won't need to rent a PAL deck here or whatever).

Does this sound wise? Moreso then coming back to the US with the footage?

Just running this by you guys.

Christopher Wong

unless you absolutely have the EXACT vision for what your trailer is going to be – and you are 100% confident you can get the interview subjects to say what you've envisioned – i have to tell you that it's going to take a lot longer than 2 days to cut a trailer. (i once thought the same thing, but 2 days goes so fast...)

theoretically, it really doesn't seem like it should take that long, but it always does. sure, you could cut a quick 2-minute trailer in two days but i guarantee you won't be happy with it. 5 days sounds like a much better estimation. if you are entering this contest because you actually want to win it, it's probably better to bring all the footage home and find an editor in NY or NJ.

Start looking now for the editor so that you can begin editing as soon as you return from Italy. Honestly, you probably aren't going to attract a top-flight experienced editor with your budget and project. but you can actually attract a decent (though inexperienced) editor for $200/day. 4-5 days editing with him/her will be roughly equivalent to what you would have spend with your Italian DP. If your editor is technically proficient, and you are very clear about what you want, you'll have a good chance at success.

Evan Thomas

David hi,

I attended the Panico Film Course a few years back. It depends what you are looking for. The Panico Course is introductory and it ran on Sundays for 6 weeks. It cost me 800 quid back then. Like i said it's more introductory in nature and each week you do a litle bit of this and that. Super 8, script writing, visualising shots etc...and it culminated in shooting a little short in groups of 2-3 on 16mm. It was set-up in the 1980s i believe by a British group who have worked with Terry Gilliam. We had a talk one week from a guy who worked on "Brazil" and another week from Toni Grisoni who wrote Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

I don't live in London but for those that do once you have completed the course you can join the "club" for about 40 pounds a year and they meet once a week socially and you get access to a jobs list.

They offer weekend courses too that are more specialised.

Darla Bruno

Thanks, Christopher –

So any ideas what I should look for in an editor. Someone who has the software, can edit in PAL, has experience with cinema verite, and whose work I like, obviously . . . but should I look on Craigslist? Obviously, too, it's better to find someone local, right? So I can sit with them...

Robert Goodman

What you need from an editor is experience and aesthetic judgment. A track record of excellence in cutting docs. Whether or not they have the software program or not. Editing in PAL is no different than editing in NTSC. The best place to find doc editors is to talk to doc filmmakers and get recommendations.

Le Sheng Liu

So I might be helping someone produce a series of art/music videos and he wants to know what are some features on FinalCutPro 4, 5, 6, etc. that aren't in FCP 3 which is what I have. At the present moment, he is curious about what can be done with titles (these will be karaoke videos with lyrics) and after-effects. So are there any major differences between FCP 3 and beyond that he and I should be aware of? Thank you!!!

Le Sheng Liu

And while we're on this subject, someone remind me of the difference between PAL and NTSC. What do they mean and stand for?

Marianne Shaneen

Hi and thanks in advance for your help!
I'm in post production on a documentary and most interviewees have signed release forms but a few gave on-camera permission. Is on-camera permission sufficient, in terms of getting E&O insurance, broadcast, distribution, etc.? Are there cases where that is not enough? Many thanks!!

Riley Morton

not sure why you didn't get more response. maybe because no one knows the best way to approach it. if it was me, and i was SURE that there weren't copyright problems using those photos, then i would shoot the stills myself. i'd use a DSLR with 8+ megapixels, but in truth you don't need that kind of resolution for even HD video unless you are doing a lot of zooming.

the museums would probably prefer that you went through them, and maybe their photos are a little better, but i'm sure that there is a hassle factor that is worth considering....

Matthew Hickney

Hey all! I have been shooting a project for over a year and a half. Currently it is at it's first watch able cut, I had a test screening, and word has been very positive, and I am excited about taking this project as far as it can go.

please check out the trailer on my myspace page:

once concern that I have however, is that this whole time, I have not collected release forms, but merely on camera verbal releases which, I was told, would do just as well as a consent form. Recently I have come to find otherwise. My question is, will verbal releases work? and also, if I must collect written releases, do they need to be for each and every person in the film?

for example: I am shooting a fight, the entire time the focus is one the two men fighting in the ring, but there are various faces around the ring and in the audience that can be made out...

I am perfectly capable to get the release forms from any individuals who speak, or play any kind of role. But for these others, do I really need to hunt down EVERY SINGLE ONE of these people, and get them to sign a release form?

or is there a line that is drawn about who I have to get releases from, and who I do not?

even if they are in the film for a few seconds watching a fight, and say nothing, and play no kind of role in the narrative of the film?

also, in the first cut, I use alot of 3rd party footage i.e; PRIDE, UFC, IFL, fights, as well as clips from Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport...

is there any easy way to maintain the presence of these clips in the film?

I assume not, and I will need to take them out.

This film was shot for next to nothing, and I certainly do not have the money to do a legal battle over the use of clips...

any advice is welcome.



Le Sheng Liu

MAtthew, how far do you want to take this project? Basically anywhere you show this, you will need to get clearances for most of what you mentioned. But especially if you want this to appear on television or at a film festival or even any legitimate distribution website, you should get written releases for your subjects. As for the folks who don't speak but whose faces appear, that is kinda tricky cuz I've seen documentaries (such as Super Size Me) where such individuals' faces were blurred out, so I'm guessing they did not ask for permission for those people and didn't want to bother. And the non-original footage, you HAVE to get permission to include those clips, and (assuming you even get permission) you will often get charged to use it, which can get really expensive depending on the source of the footage. If you've got clips from major studio flicks, then it won't be cheap. If you can't afford to keep these clips in there, then I would suggest using your creativity to tell your story in alternative ways. This is certainly a challenge I will have to deal with, since I am a sucker for using news and stock footage in my documentaries, but that is so costly.

Wolfgang Achtner

Hey Darla,

logging on for a few secs in the US.

In your next-to-last postyouwrote:

"So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet)."

regardless whether it's for the trailer or later (to do your documentary) it makes NO sense at all to log with someone unless you are going to edit the trailer – and more so – the documentary with that same person.

You CAN'T log your footage with person A and edit with person B.

You and your editor (whomever this may be) need to log the video TOGETHER.

Also, as I've tried to explain to you previously, the editing phase is NOT a phase where you can attempt to save money. You need the best and most competent editor you can find.

If you don't have enough money now, wait and save until you do and then edit it with a good editor.