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.

Lisa Salem

Thanks Boyd – I'm also a first-time filmmaker and am struggling in post. I think a lot of what you've said could apply to me too – v helpful. Cheers!

John Burgan

As well as Boyd's suggestion of the freeware Skype there's an even more ambitious (not free) app called SyncVUE which allows those working on editing in different locations to hook up and work together online.

Matt Dubuque

Has anyone here entered a documentary in the Cannes Film Festival?

What was your experience like? Does entering in Cannes have advantages over entering it in Sundance?


Doug Block

JB, that SyncVUE is amazing. We should post about that in The Future of The D-Word topic and its potential for future collaborative projects.

Doug Block

Matt, Cannes shows very few docs, especially if you're not named Michael Moore. And much more expensive than Sundance, which is mighty expensive itself. Cannes has a market, too, but that's mostly for distributors selling shlocky films.

Le Sheng Liu

Hey I have a lot of respect for Cannes EXCEPT for the fact that they practically disregard the entire genre of documentaries. I take it Michael Moore has some direct connections.

Le Sheng Liu

Hahahaha yeah, plus it's the French. Oh well c'est la vie!!!

Chris Hinrichs

Dear D-Worders,
I've really been enjoying digging through this site since I joined a few weeks ago. Thanks to these forums and your profiles, I've gotten to know lots of documentarians and films though your posts and links to your respective websites. I've also been scouring the public areas of the site to gain more insight into the world of documentary filmmaking. Unlike most of you, I am a fan of the genre rather than an aspiring filmmaker. I admire the fact that so many of you are willing to share your experience and knowledge with others in such a supportive, non-condescending way. I'd like to ask a "What would you do if you were me?"-type question that pertains to documentaries. Since it requires some explanation and may be long, I'll leave most of it hidden. Thanks!

Like I said, I am a huge fan of documentaries. There are very few I've seen that I haven't liked. If you check out my profile, you'll find a link to a list of the films I've seen via Netflix. I think my affinity comes largely from being the type of person who's a natural observer. I love the access to information that docs provide. I also like how they allow cinematic access to those who would otherwise be shut out.

In conjunction with my growing love of documentaries (especially cinema verite and direct cinema), I have grown increasingly soured by what "mainstream" cinema has to offer these days. Rather than just bitch about it, I asked myself, "OK, smart guy, if you can do better, prove it." So, I decided to watch as many documentaries as I could get my hands on and do what I do best – observe. From there, I set out to develop a documentary concept of my own, one that I thought might appeal to the masses as well as documentary "geeks" like me. I feel that what I've come up with is worthy of consideration.

Here's the problem: I can't make this film. I know, I know. I'm sure a lot of you thought the same thing before you made your first film. In my case, however, the idea itself precludes any realistic chance of me doing this myself. The whole thing is predicated on the fact that it comes from the mind of someone who's not, nor never wants to be a filmmaker. I just happen to have this one exceptional idea that would necessitate the involvement of a talented documentary filmmaker. It is a radical idea, one that requires an extremely open mind. The only way someone would understand this is by reading my proposal. Until then, you'll just have to take my word for it.

In order to market my idea to interested parties, I have decided to post my entire presentation on a website, unrestricted, in the public realm. I've done this after being frustrated by the "unsolicited material" barrier I've run into many times. I realize this means that some unscrupulous person could steal the idea, but at this point I have no other recourse if I want it to be read. Seeing as this is a place frequented by exactly the kind of people I want to share my work with, I am making it available to you all. It's at:

My presentation is very detailed and thorough, but can be digested in bite-sized chunks for those who don't have tons of free time. So, again, I ask what you all would do if you were me? What are my options? If your answer is "Give up", I'm afraid that's something I'm not yet prepared to do. I have to believe there is someone out there willing to take a chance on an idea like mine, or at least some mechanism by which I can increase my chances of having talented people read it. I just need to find the right person. I'll post this message at the Doculink site as well. Thanks for your time.