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
Yes, you're naive, Heather. But that's not a bad quality for a
documentary filmmaker. Nor is stubborness or persistence. If your
heart is set on this, you should just plow forward and try not to take
no for an answer from anyone -- including anyone here at this forum.
Deleted User
Fan
Hi everyone,
My name is Laurie and I am new here. I have been working on a feature
documentary with a friend for the past 3 1/2 years. This film is
about the life and music of a musician who has passed away. This is
the first film for both of us--so we are a bit inexperienced and have
just run into a problem we were unaware of when we started editing a
year ago:

All of our interstitials (photos, journal entries, artwork) are
digitized tiff files. The Avid's ability to manipulate digital stills
(panning, zooming, various effects) is poor. People have suggested we
use Boris Effects, but we don't have the money to purchase this
software, nor the expertise to use it. So we're not sure if it's a
worthy investment. Our editor is someone who works on weekends and
after hours so the Avid is not "ours" and we probably couldn't
install the software anyway.

Is it conceivable to use After Effects and integrate into our Avid
timeline? Any advice and/or suggestions about professionally
integrating our interstitials is much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time. LT
Robert Goodman
Pro
I'd ask the person who's Avid it is whether they have After Effects
or Boris. Also if working on XpressDV, there's a pan and scan plug.
Another option is StageTools - a plug-in that's available on the web.
Hard to believe anyone has an avid without one of these tools.

The last option is to print out your files - shoot them with your
camera and cut the footage into your show. That works too.
Deleted User
Fan
Thanks Robert. I am going to bring you e-mail to my editor and see
what her Avid has. I really appreciate your advice!
Elise Green
Pro
Bay Area Video Coalition Vs Film Arts Foundation

We are in the process of pitching for sponsorship from FAF and BAVC
in the San Francisco area. Does anyone know whether BAVC can equate
with FAF in terms of the following:
- working connections in public TV, private networks and festivals
for docs
- successful films they have supported
- industry success ie similar brand name

Thanks in advance.
Regards,
Elise
Robert Goodman
Pro
Elise,

Not sure that fiscal sponsorship will make your film more or less
attractive to PBS, festivals, et al. One or the other may carry more
weight with particular funders which is why you'd make the decision.

Also, I would venture a guess that both orgs will say nice things
about you and your film if they like the film to people in the
business because you are from their neighborhood.
Deleted User
Fan
Hello everybody,
I am currently directing a documentary about the Bengali community
here in Dundee,(Scotland) focusing on the dance group of young
children. As this is part of my project at university, I have been
asked to write an in-depth treatment of my documentary, as part of my
modular work. Could anyone point me in the right direction please? Of
how to write a treatment? This would be a great help! Thank you!
Sy.
Doug Block
Host
Syeda, a treatment for a doc is difficult (if not impossible) because
you can't predict what will happen once you start taping. So I don't
know why your university is asking for one. A project description or
synopsis makes a lot more sense. But if you must, I suppose you can
describe what you hope and expect might happen, and talk about your
directing approach.
Deleted User
Fan
Hi Doug,
Thats what I thought,but I wasnt to sure exactly what a treatment
was, so therefore i wasnt about to knock it without trying... heheh
Now instead of trying to force my documentry to fit the module, I am
doing another project for it. Thanks for your help Doug, hopefully
things like these wont keep forcing me away from my doc.
Thats all I wanna Do!!!!
Syeda.
Deleted User
Fan
Hi- Here I am , new to this place- and thrilled to find it!, wanting to
hear that I am not completely insane to want to put a doc
together BY MYSELF. Have people done this? Gotta camera, got
programs, got a MAC, got subject, got music, got editing skilld.
Shouldn't I be able to do this? I'm seeing some scary posts, and
doing a search for info is either giving me lots of companies that
do docs (no thanks, I've already got one...), or links to all the
places that make this seem awfully difficult. I'd like to hear from
anyone who has put something together him/herself. As I asked
in my introduction on the "introduction" page...Am I nuts?
Thanks!
Scott Peehl
Pro
I am new to this too. Accidentally made my first documentary last
year. Since then I have made two short docs that have screened at
festivals. I recently completed my first feature doc...a year of
work, frustration and lessons. I might suggest a person for
audio...the most challenging part of editing has been fixing the poor
sound quality that came from the on board mic. If you believe in the
project enough you can do anything. You also might want to bring in
an editor also if you do not have prior editing experience. The
reality is that technology has made it possible for a one person doc
crew.

In answer to your question, yes...you are crazy. You would have to
be to want to make a documentary film. Welcome to the club.
Doug Block
Host
Good advice, Scott. I agree. Also suggest you do a lot of practice
practice practice on your camera work. And if you're editing
yourself, wise to spend the money on a very good, very experienced
editor to look at your scenes from time to time and offer feedback.
Deleted User
Fan
Lucky for me, I hope, I have worked in vid editinmg, and YEARS
in audio- am polanning to do some separate sound
recording-though not on interviews, because I don't wanna deal
with time code. Doing the actual camera work is probably where
I'll nedd the most work- so I intend to spend lots of time with my
cats(that oughta give me some practice!)-and I'll make my poor
daughter be an interviewee for a while-she'll love that!
Any suggestions- books or sites to go and learn more about all
of this and putting together? And anyone whose got things I can
look at on web would be great! Let me know. Thankyou all so
much for everything so far!
Ben Kempas
Pro
Wait ... in an inteview situation, it can be most useful to have a
separate sound recordist, because you'll have other things to focus on
in that moment. You're already asking the questions, operating the
camera, and, most importantly, listening to your interviewee.

This doesn't mean that the sound has to be recorded on a separate
medium and thus cause timecode worries. The soundman's signal can
still go straight into your camera, no?
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Also it's good to have a sound recordist because he or she is REALLY
listening to your interview and may actually be paying more attention
to the content than you are, as you are concentrating on making sure
the subject is speaking in useable soundbites and thinking about
seguing into the next question. I always let my soundman have the
last question of the subject and he never disappoints with a good one.
Deleted User
Fan
Aha- Very good points! I assume (tho' I know what happens
when you assume) that I have an aux audio on the camera. My
husband does audio for a living (as I have done in past) I will tap
hiim, then, there by insuring a reasonable sound without
timecode- you people are so wonderful! And I start shooting next
week- so this is all really great - I also realized I can set up a
mike and mixer, and set all to start (camera and mike at same
time) once I am ahppy with audio and video levels. This will all
be fairly static shots w/tripod/mike stand- so even if I decide to
change positions here and there for some alternate angles, I
should be able to do it- I just was telling the spouse about your
input, and he suggested we do dry runs of this possible set-up
at the house to see whether I can do it...Does that sound
sensible?
Again- your input is really priceless, I can't thank you enough!
Deleted User
Fan
Another ?- any of you in NY or even Long Island? Maybe I could
pick some brains, if anyon's willing at all- I'd also love to
meet/speak with others who are no doubt far more able than I at
this, and just soak it all up!
Scott Peehl
Pro
Stephanie, I am in New York - East Village(no "RENT" jokes please).
Not sure what I would have to offer at this point...still sort of new
but I could share the lessons learned so far. Feel free to email me.
Leslie Bielanski
Pro
Hi there. I have a fundraising question of sorts. I am doing a
Holocaust related doc-My first doc. Where can I find non-profit
sponsors to help me raise money for the doc as going it alone at the
moment has not yielded me much funding. Grants seem to tak to long
as this story is time sensative and being that this is my first doc
it has been really hard. Thank you all for any advice.
Doug Block
Host
Would help to know where you live, Leslie. If it's NY, there's NYFA,
for starters. Regardless, they have a great website that'll give you
some helpful info: www.nyfa.org.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Leslie, you might want to partner with a more experienced filmmaker
as producer or co-producer and apply for grants that way. As you
have learned the hard way (as have many of us), there are few funders
willing to take a chance on first-timers. If your story has a Jewish
theme, one place to consider (but you would need someone with a track
record to apply with you) is the Fund for Jewish Documentary
Filmmaking (http://www.jewishculture.org/docs/film_fund.html)

As for non-profits, we would need to know more about the angle of
your story to give better advice. Also worthwhile to look at the
credits of other Holocaust docs, check out donors to the Holocaust
Museum, etc. etc. to get ideas of organizations to approach. Also
important to know whether you looking just for a pass-through for non-
profit status or an organization that wants to take an active
interest in fundraising because your project could benefit them.

But do know that while taking on a co-producer or an NGO as a partner
may help you get access to funds, it may also take away some of your
freedom in how you want to tell your story. Especially with an NGO,
you want to ensure that you are on the same wavelength as to the
purpose, angle, and distribution strategy for the project (not to
mention clarifying who gets paid and how much).

I am reading between the lines that your story is only time-sensitive
because it involves interviewing a Holocaust survivor(s) who may not
be long for this earth. You may be able to find a kindred spirit who
would be willing to help you out on a deferred pay basis or a service
barter to shoot the interview/s. But again you need to say more
about your project so that the world knows what makes your Holocaust
story unique?
Leslie Bielanski
Pro
Okay so now let's say I have found someone interested in financing
the remainder of the budget for my film. However this budget
includes salaries for myself and my husband as producers etc. Is it
unrealistic to expect this person to pay salaries? We need the
money from the salaries to pay rent etc. but this person has said
that our personal needs are not her problem she is only interested
in paying what it would cost minus the saleries to get this done.
Advice is greatly welcome.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Is this a grant-making organization or a private donor and has
he/she/they already seen the detailed budget? If the sentence: "In
order to complete this project on time and on budget, we will have to
devote ourselves fulltime to it" is not enough to stop an otherwise
intelligent person from confusing livelihood with personal needs,
maybe you need to find another line item other than salary to ensure
that you get paid (my, those post-production expenses have gone up,
haven't they?). I'd only do that though if it isn't an organization
where an accountant-type will be bean counting every expense.
Robert Goodman
Pro
depends on the salaries. I'd offer the following deal -
include the salaries and the project will be completed by the
following date. No salaries, it will proceed in between all the
other projects we will have to do to earn our living.

So if you are willing to wait 3-7 years for us to finish the project
and get your money back, because you don't want to pay any salaries
that's fine. Or you can fast track it. I won't recommend burying
salary in another line item because it only means there will be an
unintended surprise later on.
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