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.

Diane Johnson

Hello I have a question about what is needed to be handed over to a network in order to qualify for distribution. Is it true that you have to give proof of E&O insurance? What else is needed?

Has anyone here worked for a production company who has a first look deal with a major network or someone here who is a UPM and can help me out?


Lenville O'Donnell

Many networks have their "deliverables" posted online in a "producers" or "filmmakers" section. The required deliverables vary from network to network. Google the networks you think might be a home for your film and see if they have that stuff online. PBS does. Happy Hunting.

Robert MacDonald

Hi, I am about to film my first documentary on the difficulties that face young disabled people in Glasgow and to portray the extreme difficulty in accessing the services they need to live even a modestly fulfilling existence. I just need info on the correct standard procedures to do this. This is very low budget so it's just me and my equipment.
Many thanks.

Doug Block

Not quite sure what you mean by "correct standard procedures", Robert. Do you mean filming your subjects publicly? Would help if you can give a bit more info.

Robert MacDonald

How would you start to organise a low budget documentary? You've been approached by a disabled person who wants to interview 4 other disabled people and follow them for a day each to highlight the difficulties they face. This is intended to be a hard hitting DVD to target various government bodies, ie NHS.

Mark Barroso

There's no standard way of shooting. I would suggest you do several inventories:

1. What can I record with the equipment I have? Work with those limitations. If you only have the microphone on the camera, for instance, you need to shoot wide and close. If you try to shoot from a distance your sound will be horrible. Another example would be low light – some cameras don't do well so count on shooting in well lit places or out of doors.

2. Who, when and where can I shoot? Who's in the movie and who's not? The more focused you are in the beginning will translate into less work sorting everything out in the edit room. Sounds like you want to confront a government official. If so, figure out how you're going to do this. Ask for an interview? Ambush outside the office?

3. What am I not good at? If I can't shoot or edit or anything related to the process then I need to get help. (Have you taken a class in filmmaking?)

These are some ideas to get you started. Good luck.

Faraz  Mohammad

I am starting to shoot my first documentary soon in NYC and I am currently looking for some advice:
1) I am looking for camcorder to shoot the movie, I cant afford anyting expensive but would appreciate some advice on which camcorder to buy. I went to B&H and the salesman recomended Canon HV40.
2) I need someone to help me edit the footage as I have no experience in that area. As I am paying for everything from my own pocket I wont be able to pay for the job but I will def put their name in credits.

Sahand Sahebdivani

Dear Faraz, as in most other businesses, freelancers like editors are overworked and underpaid, desperate for the next gig to come to pay the bills. An experienced editor would have a hard time working just for the credits, even if it was a high profile project with good quality material to work with and most likely to help advance his/her career.

Why not try 1st-2nd years editors in film school? They might be inspired by the subject of your doc and want the experience. While you wait for someone to reply to the notes your sticking up, also start messing around with all the good semi-pro editing software out there.

Hashin Hassan


I'm currently working on a written assignment based on new media technology and its impact on documentary film and its makers. I would really appreciate it if you could answer one or two of my questions based on your own experience.

Have you experienced the shift from analogue to digital? If so, what has changed in your work routine? How different do you work now?

What equipment do you use (currently)?

Do you choose equipment that you are comfortable with and meet the standards of broadcast? Or are they determined by the nature of the documentary you are making?

Do you feel it is necessary to be constantly aware of new technology or do you think that current standards are sufficient for you?