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.

Christopher Wong

you're welcome, charles. looks like you have a wonderful project – and it sounds much more compelling than the "MADE IN AMERICA" doc recently done by Stacey Peralta. since you have the insider perspective, i can't help but think that NBPC would be interested. also, in addition to NBPC, you should also apply to ITVS. btw, if you are a first time filmmaker, you will probably be obligated to pull an experienced Executive Producer on board in order to qualify for funding. but with your storyline, that shouldn't be a problem. best of luck!

Doug Block

Sounds like a very strong project, Charles, as Chris says. The very first thing you should do is apply for full membership in The D-Word. It will give you access to all the discussion topics.

Charles Acrie

I truly appreciate your comments Christopher. I may have someone with experience to attach to the project for the purpose of getting funding. When I was in Federal prison I would lay on my bunk submitted because it is difficult for me to trust people since one of my scripts was flipped to make Chris thinking of ways to make money doing what I liked doing. I had already written several scripts, none Rock's HEAD OF STATE. I figured the simple thing to do was to produce a documetary, distribute it straight to DVD and make money. The problem was that making a documentary would be more complicated than I thought it would be. My editor expressed to me that if I wanted him to edit the project, lending his name to it it would have to follow protocol and he suggested that I watch countless documentaries. I started shooting the project in 2006 and I must say that it has been a learning experience. The one thing that I understand is that there is no second chance to make a first impression so I have been very patient. This site has been God sent. Thanks again Christopher

Thanks Doug I wanted to apply for full membership but didn't know if I qualified. I will apply immediately.

David Mcilvride

Charles you say you're 80 per cent complete and you need the other 20 per cent ... what is left that will take 20 per cent? Music compposition? Mix, color correction, etc. that kind of things. There might be contacts that can help with the completion if we know what you're needing.

Charles Acrie

You know what's funny David? I thought I was about 80% completed but after joining this site I may be about 60%. I have about 75 hours of footage. I have already paid for the editing. I have worked out the music composition. I just need to shoot more of the principles in my project and pic up some more equipment and pay the cameraman shooting the B role. Any advice you have I am open for it. Thanks a bunch.

Julianna Brannum

Charles, you should definitely be in touch with Stanley Nelson from Firelight Media in NYC. He told me he has just launched a mentoring initiative for minority filmmakers and is looking for folks to mentor. He is absolutely invaluable.

Also, once you've got a trailer together, send it to him and he'll offer some advice on who to approach for more funding. And if you're really lucky, maybe you could get him to come on as Exec. Producer.
He's not great on email, so I suggest you give him a call and introduce yourself. Their number is 212.234.1324. Web address is
Good luck!

Charles Acrie

Thanks Julianna, I will be sure to give him a call. I do have a trailer but I want to make it more professional.

Erica Ginsberg

Charles, also suggest if you are not already connected to sign up for Doculink. I believe they do work in progress screenings of trailers from time to time which may be worth looking into. Fellow D-Worder Robert Bahar is the Doculink Guru, so you may also want to talk to him. There's another group in the L.A. area now doing WIP screenings, but I think they are more focused on rough cuts. Plus D-Word now has a Vimeo channel where you can post for feedback here. I'm sure Doug can post the link since it escapes me at the moment.

Doug Block

Charles, The D-Word has a Group on Vimeo here

And a Channel here

To get your films on The D-Word channel, join the Group and add your films to it and member Mike Patterson will automatically add them to the channel.

Mansi Behal

Submit your short film to "The Party" competition at and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due January 12, 2009. More info at

Le Sheng Liu

In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on DOCULINK WORKS-IN-PROGRESS :

Yes that is true. LA Doculink hosts about one or two (or maybe even more) works-in-progress screenings by its members. We call it the 10x10 because ten submissions are selected for screening and discussion. I don't know when the next one is, but I recommend all D-Worders join Doculink anyway. It's a great resource just like D-Word!!!

Diane Ingino

Hi everybody,
I just posted a question in one of the members-only forums, but thought I'd come here and pick the brains of the general populace. I'm trying to help put a panel together for a talk in NYC on filmmakers' experiences with digital distribution. I need to get some more viewpoints on the topic.

If you – or anyone you know – is making any money with digital/online distribution of a documentary, please contact me: nycdiane "at" gmail "dot" com. If not making money, how would you define success with digital distribution? Thanks!

Ari Mark

Hi – think this is the best place to post this:

I'm about to go on a documentary shoot abroad. I'm relatively new w/shooting video and have a camera guy shooting on a Sony Z1 along with me.

I want a TOP end camcorder that I can plug a kick ass mic into to shoot great b-roll. Here's my question: which camera will give me the closest to pure HD image? I've been directed to the HDC-H100K. I'm thinking of buying it but it takes SD memory cards. Are these superior to tapes? If I edit in Final Cut Pro, will I be able to easily get all this footage from the SD cards w/o a problem? I've heard bad things about the cards...HELP. Thanks so much in advance.

Riley Morton

my advice to you would be to figure out a way to bring a 2nd Z1u.
even if budget is tight, you can still buy one (used), and then sell it after for a net loss of a few hundred bucks probably.
this way, there is no problems with matching footage, etc. and if something goes wrong on your shoot with either z1, then you have a backup.
it also has XLRs which is the only way to work if you want to use a great mic.

Joe Moulins

I use a Sony A1U as a second camera to my Z1U. The image matches nicely, and the A1U costs half as much, is less than half the size and it has XLR audio.

The A1U sucks in low light though.

Robert Shore

Hi All-
I'm currently shooting on the Sony Ex1 and am pretty happy with what I am getting. Does anyone have any suggestions for picture profile settings for various shooting conditions? Thanks. Rob.

Chris Eva

Hi everyone – I have new Hip-Hop film near completion – just wondering for advice on what I should do with it.

Its a Hip-Hop documentary, 'Peace, Love, Unity and Havin' Fun' and I have been filming for the last 3 / 4 years.

I feel it has international appeal and would be of interest to a lot of young people. 'Discover and learn about cross-community relationship, Northern Ireland and the global phenomenon we call Hip-Hop....' (

It is 70 min in length and has some big names in the world of Hip-Hop and performing arts i.e QBert, The Pharcyde, Don Letts, DJ Craze, Ugly Duckling, Skinnyman and Shlomo to name a few.

The film refers to Hip-Hop in relation to popular culture (Hip-Pop) and redefines the term by giving examples of the influence Hip-Hop has on young people today. In particular Northern Ireland, a country of recent conflict.

I have attached a teaser.


Sarah Goldsmith

Hello everyone, this is my first question here and you seem to be a bunch of knowledgeable, informed people so here's hoping someone can help me.

My company is NOT a not-for profit, and we are making a humanitarian-content 3-part documentary series

I have yet to source funding and am finding it increasingly difficult. Does anyone have any advice regarding developing ANOTHER company, such as a social enterprise or other not-for-profit, to work alongside my existing company in order to obtain the many grants etc that would then be available to me?

What would the implications be of having two businesses? Which one would own the films, and what would be the potential for transferring from a not-for-profit, to the profit-making business if it seemed like the film would do well?

Does that make sense? It does to me, but then I know what I mean to say...

Jo-Anne Velin

Why would a grant-making body give funds to a not for profit, that then passes the money on to a for-profit? It sounds like a scam, the way you describe it, regardless what the law says.

What I have seen, not in film but other fields, is profit from a for-profit, being directed to a not for profit, or foundation, partly to lessen a tax bill, but often just to provide the not for profit with operating capital. So, exactly the opposite flow of what I understand you're describing here.

Sarah Goldsmith

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Wed 17 Dec 2008 : Yes Jo-Anne, you are right, oh dear, it does sound like a scam the way I've described it! It isn't meant to be at all. I don't mean I want to transfer the money from a not-for-profit, my question is, if I had a not-for-profit and the film was funded by a grant(s), would that film be 'optioned/owned' by that funder for a period of time, or would it be available later on for a for-profit company? (the film itself, not the money... please forgive me for not knowing, but the funding issue is new to me). The film is being raised to make profit to further research into a humanitarian issue. I want it to make as much money as possible for the benificiaries, yet, unless I am a not-for-profit, I am finding initial and finishing funding difficult to source – hence my badly-phrased question :)

James Longley

It is possible to find non-profit organizations to sponsor your project for the purpose of applying for and receiving grants as an individual filmmaker. I have not done this, but I know it can be done.

Not sure about the laws where you are, but it might not hurt to consult with a professional legal/financial advisor.

Skyler Buffmeyer

I am starting on a doc about body image and how women feel about themselves. One of the main parts in my film is having women send in video diaries about themselves and how body image affects them. I am wondering, since I will probably never face to face meet i still need "rights"? I know most people have their subjects sign an agreement saying they have the right to use the footage in their film but, i am wondering if i need to do that. if i do, how should i go about that?

Doug Block

Yes, Skyler, you still need rights. Send them a release form to sign. Examples can be found through a Google search, I'm sure.