doc filmmakers. We're all in the same sinking boat. Good luck!
doc filmmakers. We're all in the same sinking boat. Good luck!
I'm new here and looking for further guidance. I want to get into
documentary film making to cover issues in children rights
(broadly). I studied Communications for both my BA and my MA and
have a day job to pay the bills. I've been reading more and more
about docs and I want to do it for a living (or try anyway).
Any ideas on where to go from here? If you ask me what I'd like to
be doing (in the field) in 10 years, I'd say producing and still
writing, which is what I'd like to do soon.
I hope this is a clear intro and I hope you guys will be able to give
me some constructive advice.
Thank you very much!
I have a question, well a few I guess. I recently started an
attempt at making a short documentry. Topic: online gamers. Next I
hope to do a wildlife short.
Here is my issue. I have some notes scribbled down, for example:
1. Opening intro
2. interview with.. XXX
3. comentary on convention
4. footage from convention
Is there a better way to lay out what I want to accomplish? I know
that most people do not like software that helps with these things,
but, what do you all think?
What type of software package would help me most with getting the
layout of my documentry down? Do I need a screenwriter software?
Movie outline? Final Draft.. or?
Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.
you could intern for established doc makers. you could simply pick up
a camera and start shooting. there's no set path.
treatment, you don't need to go shot-by-shot. I assume you are
asking about a script or at least a paper edit guideline.
Some folks live by using the same format as for a fiction script.
Personally I prefer the side-by-side version where I put my visuals
in the left column and the audio (interview bites, sound on tape,
music, etc.) in the right column. You may find you like doing it in
word processing or you may find that color-coded index cards on a
wall work better for you.
I'd recommend investing in the book, "Directing the Documentary" by
Michael Rabiger for further ideas on how to do a paper edit. Some
folks find it very old-fashioned since you can now do all the layout
directly in to a nonlinear editing program, but doing a paper edit
can be really helpful as you are starting out to help you get your
head around the story you are trying to tell.
some music. I'm a graduate student so I definitely need royalty free
music. The types of music range from woody allenesque jazz to 1960s
lounge music to classical piano interludes to kitschy italian
concertina music. Have any ideas? I also was wondering if there was an
easy place to access music which has had its copyright expire? Any
"royalty free music for films" --> www.royaltyfreemusic.com
I appreciate the advice. I have actually already tried that. The point
of my question was to weed through the 6,220,000 hits that Google
throws your way for a "royalty free music" search and see if there was
a prefered royalty free music clearing house. Is this site,
www.royaltyfreemusic.com, your best pick and if so have you ever used
it? If it is then I guess you're not in bad company as Google also
picks it as its number one site. Any further helpful advice would be
original music in my docs.
I have a friend that might be able to give us some advice on suggested
music but he wouldn't know about royalty free stuff. It might help
limiting the search by having a title. Let me know if you would like me
to contact him.
Where can I get this? No networks will answer my emails. All help is
appreciated, (maybe a spot on my credits)
you. Perhaps even do a story on you making a doc. All of the networks
have stock footage companies that sell footage. I'm sure you could buy
something if you want.
awhile now. I intend to go over seas within the next two years for
an early "OE" and have decided to invest in some equipment before I
go as I will be going to some very interesting places. I've been
looking at 'Camcorders' and "pro camcorders" for awhile now... But
to be honest I just want something efficient and well, cheap (as
cheap as possible). Can anyone make some suggestions as to what
would be good to look at? I have a budget as I'm a student who's
currently jobless =P 2.5Grand (US dollars) would be my limit (not
including accesories). I would prefer to spend less of course but I
do want something decent! Any tips / suggestions would be greatly
and I'd like to know what I need to include in the credits for legal.
They are all christian hymns from the public domain performed by
people in the film.
mentoring and major networking opportunity...
The Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant will fund two first
time documentary makers for travel and accommodations at the Full
Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 12-15, 2007. For four days,
grant recipients will be given access to films, participate in master
classes and be mentored by experienced filmmakers.
About the Grant: Garrett Scott made a distinctive mark in documentary
films during his short career. Without any formal training in film, he
directed CUL DE SAC: A SUBURBAN WAR STORY, examining the case of a
methamphetamine addict who stole a tank from an armory and went on a
rampage through the San Diego suburbs. The film prompted Filmmaker
Magazine to cite Scott as one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film. He
went on to make OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND, co-directed with Ian Olds,
about U.S. soldiers in Falluja, Iraq. It won prizes at Full Frame and
the Independent Spirit Awards. Both films were broadcast by the
Sundance Channel. In 2005, Scott died of a heart attack at age 37. His
friends, family and colleagues established this development grant to
help other emerging filmmakers reach their potential. The grant's
selection committee looks especially for filmmakers who somehow
fulfill Scott's example, by bringing a unique vision to the content
and style of contemporary documentary making.
Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder,
living in the continental United States; any age 18 or older. By
"first time filmmaker," we mean someone who is in the early stage of
their documentary career and not yet received significant recognition
(such as major festival play or broadcast). All applicants should
anticipate finishing their first project by March 2008. You can still
qualify as a "first time filmmaker," even if you've made shorts or
student projects or worked professionally as a crew member on other
people's films. Or if you've recently completed a documentary that
hasn't been released yet. The grant is open to students and
How: Applicants should send a 2 page letter addressing these areas:
1) Project summary: Describe the documentary you're working on. It
doesn't matter whether the film is a short or a feature. Describe the
characters, structure, visual approach and what stage you're at.
2) Director's statement: Describe how you came to filmmaking and how
you've trained as a filmmaker. It doesn't matter whether you went to
film school or are self-taught. Describe what you want audiences to
take from your film.
In addition, if applicants have a 5-10 minute sample of their work or
work-in-progress, please send that as well on DVD or VHS (NTSC
format). A sample work isn't required to apply. But if the selection
committee has to choose between several strong applicants, the sample
work will become a factor in making the decision.
Submit two copies of both the letter and work sample along with
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
324 Blackwell Street. Suite 500
Washington Building, Bay 5
Durham, NC 27701
attn: Garrett Scott Documentary Grant
Deadline: Applications must be postmarked by February 5. Applicants
will be notified by email in mid-March.
More information: http://fullframefest.org/call/garrettscottgrant.php
I am working on my first feature length documentary about the
destruction of the oldest Drive-In movie theater here in Illinois.
There was a very heated battle in the local city council to save the
theater, but it fell on deaf ears and the theater was torn down. I
then made it known that I was making a film about the poitics that
killed the theater, and have been interviewed a number of times in
the local press about the film. The problem I have is that I
honestly would like to get the people responsible for the theaters
destruction to appear on camera to explain their views to the
audience. How should I approach them and extend an invitation to
them even if they all ready know that the final film will not
necessarily show them in a favorable light? And I how do I assure
them that I won't "Michael Moore" them if they agree to an
interview, i.e. attack them as soon as tape starts rolling? I am
trying to draft a letter and am curious as to how others might have
handled a similar situation.
your post, Don. And I'd let them know that if they don't appear on
camera to defend their position, you'll be left only having the other
side represented. I see nothing wrong with telling them where your
sympathies lie, but emphasize that you want to be fair, not have the
film be a Michael Moore-like screed.
First of all, thanks for all the advice you so freely give. Thanks
to Erica for the info on the Garrett Scott Documentary Grant. I will
be applying for the grant.
I have been away, in Ohio, for a few months. I am working on the
aviation documentary about Charlie Taylor. He was the man who built
the engine that made it possible for the Wright brothers to fly. I
am also planning a video shoot with Wright State University sometime
in February or April. This video is separate from the documentary.
We will be taping in HDV. It will be an period piece interview
taking place in 1948. The author/historian of the Taylor book will
portray Charlie Taylor and I will be the reporter. I discussed the
editing process with a university media producer and he stated that
they have Final Cut and Adobe Illustrator. Which do you prefer or
what other editing program do you use.
or the other.
Wright State uses FCP for most of their work.
How have the screenings for 51 Birch Street been going?
Successfully, I hope. I sent an e-mail to Copacetic about getting
information for showing 51 Birch Street here in Sacramento, but
never received a response. What kind of information do I need from
you to have 51 Birch Street shown in Sacramento, Ca. They have two
theaters here that show documentaries, The Crest and Tower theaters.
If you can send me some information, I can contact both theaters to
see if they will be interested in showing it. I have also been in
contact with another producer here who will be showing his first
documentary film in Davis, which is just up the Interstate from
Sacramento. His film is about recovering MIA flyers from WWII. Check
out the trailer at http://www.BentStarProject.org/.
have gotten ridiculously behind in answering email.
It would be great if you could contact those theaters. Would be
easiest to direct the programmers there to our website, which has a
trailer, reviews and all sorts of info about the film:
Screenings for 51 Birch Street have gone great. We're still showing
in New York City, 11 weeks after opening there, and the NY Times lead
critic, A.O. Scott, named it one of his top ten films of the year.
We've already shown in about a dozen cities and have at least another
dozen lined up and counting.
the big money pictures don't last that long. I'll contact the
theaters and get the information to them. I've told everyone that I
come in contact with about 51 Birch Street. Hopefully, we can get a
buzz going here and have a showing in Sacramento or Davis. If you
are not familiar with the area, Davis is a college town (University
of Davis). I'll see what I can do to stir something up.
I agree with Doug's suggested approach to the people responsible for
the theater's destruction. There is no statement more damning to
them than "no comment."
As a fan of drive-in theaters, I share your pain. Your town's
experience is far from unique.
I'd do what Doug suggests. Give them the opportunity to tell their
side. If they give the "no comment", you can mention that in the
documentary. Steve is right. Check out http://www.16right.com/. It
is a site for a documentary about the closing of small airports
around the country. This one in particular is about Van Nuys airport
in California. Click on "One Six Right the Movie", and then click
on "Video". You can see the "opening sequence", "flight", and "Look
Ma - No Hands!". This might give you some ideas on what you want to
show in your doc. We are about to lose our last drive-in complex
here in Sacramento. They plan to put an indoor multi-screen building
in its place. Good luck with your project.
Thanks for your wonderful comments! I typed up my letters and sent
them all off last week. Needless to say, I haven't heard any
responses yet, but that was to be expected. I am still hopeful that
at least one of them decides to do it.
I do have another question if that's OK. The local (Chicago) news
stations all did extensive coverage of the drive-in fight and I am
dying to get permission from them to include some of their footage
in the documentary (especially since I didn't start work on my film
until AFTER the final vote was taken to kill it). How is it best to
approach them? The only station I tried to email was the local ABC
affilate and I got a curt response "We don't do that" (that is their
direct quote, I swear). Don't most local stations have rights that
can be purchased to use their footage if properly credited? And how
do I go about asking?
Thanks again for the help. For anyone interested you can check out
my website at wondersense.com for more information and updates about
should make direct contact with somebody in production. You may do
well with their ad or outside production departments, who would have
access to the footage and understand the concept of dealing with the
Failing that, there is probably a wayt you can work this in as fair
use. The presentation may not be the way you envisioned it, but there
may be a media-covering angle that will at least get the footage in.
and about rights clearances in general. but in persuing permission
from the station i wouldn't talk to people in production but the
general manager or someone who actually has the authority to license
even though my film has already shown in Berlin, it could use more
editing work, however, there aren't really time and resources, and i
don't think i could do it alone. perhaps if i had a really clear
picture of what i needed to do, i could find the time/resources, but
otherwise it seems like a waste. so i guess the question is, since
it seems to be "good enough" should i leave it alone, or should i
find a way to make it better, although, how, i don't know... a new
editor, which will be hard, no one wants to fix other peoples stuff,
or a consultant, which is expensive and not really a sure thing,
it's just one persons opinion, and then what if i start chopping and
i make it worse...does that make any sense?
odd that you didn't post it in the professional community - this is
the public forum geared for non- filmmakers or those just starting out
in the field.
i would never tell anyone to settle for good enough. the best money
i ever spent on my first film (and second and third) was to pay the
best editor i could find to be a consultant. a really good one will
give you very specific suggestions about how to "fix" your film after
one screening. you'll likely find you're much closer than you thought
and it might only take one or two days of consulting to make the
changes you need.
you might also hold a screening for a few trusted people (not
necessarily filmmakers) and get feedback. again, you'll probably find
you're not far away. it's highly unlikely you'll make it worse. and
if you do for any reason, though, simply go back to what you have now.
but whatever you do, DON'T SETTLE!
plus, sometimes i post and i don't get a response, and this was
sensitive so i wanted to be sure i'd get one. and i was here reading
old topics and this place called out to me. :)several trusted people
have seen it, both filmmakers and non-filmmakers, and say the
beginning is a little slow. and i know this. but i'm spent,
creatively speaking, i don't know what else to do with it. and i'm
getting suggestions of things that i've done before and they didn't
work. so, who, doug, who, can i go to? please please recommend. i'm
at my wits end. it really tortures me. especially since i'm not
technically working right now, just doing research and being mommy,
so its constantly buzzing in my brain.
two producers in NYC currently...how come? if need be, i'll go
consulting editor on my last two films (and edited "love and diane",
among many other credits). she was amazing, particularly on "home
page", where she gave very specific last minute notes that were
critical. i'll email you her phone number.
added bonus, when you're back you can get a free cup of hot java and
consult (like, alternative career advice) with yours truly ;-)
contact info on mona davis. i can get the wheels rolling there. what
do people like that charge normally? like a ballpark figure...
and you'll probably need no more than a half-day consult, which is
but i am about to embark on my first doc. Heading to europe for 1 week
to research for subjects and to get footage for a marketing trailer so I
can go raise funds. 2 questions: 1) HD or DV? my doc colleagues say HD,
while my pocketbook says DV. 2)I have a dp i like and has tons of doc
experience both directing and shooting and who has an HD package, but he
is asking $2000 for a weeks kit rental (deferring his time costs), plus
I will need to fly and put him up for the week. For that kind of money
should I invest in my own camera, and either shoot myself or hire a
local? Need to decide asap and head is spinning. Thank you.
moving in an HD direction and I sometimes regret not starting my
latest project on HD. But I've come to realize, through hard-won
experience, that it's damn difficult to make any money, to even make
back expenses, doing a doc and that the best way to lose the
smallest amount of money is to keep expenses as low as possible.
Business 101, but I had to learn the hard way. When I'm weighing an
expense, I ask myself how many DVDs I'm going to have to sell to pay
for that budget item. Helps keep me focused.
I just did what you're doing: go overseas to research a doc and
shoot material for a trailer. I hired someone local, based on a D-
Worder's recommendation, and it went well. I've taken my own DP on
long-distance shoots before, but that was when I had a much rosier
and naive view of doc finances. If you have footage already in the
can that matches the style you want to use, bring it and show it to
the local DP so he or she knows what you want. Others may advocate
bringing your own DP, and if you are Bill Gates's heir, I'd agree.
But if you're not, how many DVDs will you have to sell to pay for
the DP's package, airfare, lodging and per diem? Lots.
you are better off hiring someone to shoot for you. As for HD - what HD?
HDV - if so, don't bother. DVCPROHD? - perhaps you should buy a HVX200
for $10,0000 and pay someone on a deferred basis to shoot for you.
HDCAM/HDCAM SR? - This might be a great deal to gather very high
quality footage for a reel to raise money.
DV - the story had better be so damn good the market won't care 3-8
years from now that you shot it on a dead 4:3 tape format in a world
gone 4K high def in 16:9.
trust my shooting skills just yet. I am waiting to hear back from a
production manager oversees to see what is available on the local
front. But I am just torn between comfortably knowing that my DP is
onboard with what I are trying to accomplish and that I know the
footage will be good, especially for a marketing piece, and spending
too much to the point where I set a high priced precedent before I
even get any funding. The DP has a full HVX package, but not sure how
HVX can handle a full day of shooting as I think the drive and cards
he has can only accommodate up to 3 1/2 hours of shooting. You really
think HDV isnt worth it? As an aside, I was offered a free DVX 100b
for the week, but again, there is that DV vs HD question. Steven, Out
of curiosity, how much did you end up spending for your recent trip/
aren't in front of me. The rest was airfare, lodging, meals, the
regular travel expenses. I agree with Robert that if you can do HD,
do HD. Have you priced out the difference?
Any rental house in NY or LA would rent it to you for 900 for a week.
just the camera, but a two-man crew with audio and lights package
and a vehicle. Still wish I could have done better, but I didn't
know the language or have any contacts besides the crew recommended
by a D-Worder.
trip of what I deem to be at least 1 or 2 more in depth ones. And
being my first time as a director, I will try to coordinate a local dp
with an HD package to be on standby out there, and save myself the
cash for when I know exactly what I need. Rather than having a pricey
dp the whole week that I will be anxious about getting my money's
worth from. In the meantime I was thinking about purchasing the new
Canon HV20 HDV (for about 1K) to bring with me as a 'back-up' for
research, which I hope will relieve that 'wish I had my camera'
feeling on the days that I am dp-less, realizing it wont be the best
for the major interviews as it is only 1 CMOS, but could be great for
some research and filler shots that I wont require matching. Does
that sound like a good plan in your professional opinions?
& experience making docs. I've got 9 years experience as a journalist
(am in London now) and while I'm a total beginner as far as docs go,
I'd rather just get thrown in at the deep end rather than take a
course (is a course going to tell me that I'd love or hate this kind
of work? I think not.) Any thoughts would be most welcome. Thanks!
Might help to read a good book in the basics of documentary
storytelling, so you begin thinking about telling stories in images
and sounds instead of just words. Directing the Documentary by
Michael Rabinger is considered one of the best:
Would do you some good to read the conferences here, too.
I'm making a documentary film about an accordian festival and i've
contacted the co-ordinator about permission to film....do i need to
get permission from every individual who will be in attendance at
the festival or is there some sort of blanket permission form for
everything that i can get the organizer to sign?
it's basically just entirely DIY/Indie doc so what else should i be
aware of when making it? tips and tricks would help!
Thanks in advance!
(with the organiser's permission) stating that the festival is being
filmed for a documentary, not forgetting your company name & contact
details. Wording should include something like "Entrants consent to
being filmed and recorded by (****company name) for possible inclusion
in the documentary film (**** title)".
If in any doubt, consult a lawyer (especially if you're in the US)
The film did play at my local festival, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and was received very well. The reviewers that have seen the film have given it A to B grades. Other filmmakers that have seen the film all seem to like it. It's not a perfect film by any means, but I know that it is a good film.
I've seen so many terrible films, narrative and documentaries, at the same festivals that I'm entering, that I just can't believe that my film isn't considered at or above the same level. I think we're getting rejected because the film is so personal, while also not having anyone even slightly famous involved. (I feel like if Gus Van Sant stuck name on there, it'd be accepted into any festival in half a second.)
So I guess I'm asking for advice how to get into these festivals? Is there a trick I'm missing? Should I just give up and start trying to distribute it on DVD myself? (The entry fees are quickly adding up.)
Anything will help... I spent three years of my life putting this
film together and the fact that nobody wants to show it is killing
would like to see more. For some reason my laptop loads the first part
then seems to stop. Its not just yours it happens all the time.
Pisses me off.
Are you selling the doc?
not a worthwhile film. Festivals are not the be all, end all of a
film's life. They have numerous reasons for accepting or not
accepting films -- length issues, other films on similar topics
playing the circuit at the same time as yours, not thinking the topic
is sexy enough, or simply not getting the film. Rather than waste
lots of dollars continuing to apply, target your festival strategy at
festivals that have shown films in the same vein as yours. Heartland
Film Festival comes to mind since their focus is on films about
positive life values.
Whether or not you get into festivals, it appears you have started to
build an audience for your film through your MySpace page and other
outreach. So think about other ways to generate screenings -
microcinemas, academic conferences, public libraries, birthing
classes at hospitals, etc. It's a lot of work to do on your own, so
you may want to re-read the D-Word Conference on Outreach with Robert
West from a few years back, but it seems like there is a definite
audience for your film out there. It just may not be a festival
I'm not officially selling the film yet. But if you're interested I
could send you a screener copy. If you want to send me $5 for DVD
cover, disc and shipping, I'd love to send you a copy. I'd just ask
for your opinions on the film in return. Email me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested. (That goes for anybody else
Thanks for the encouraging words. My first short film was accepted
into over 50% of the festivals I entered and won a few awards, so I
guess I was just expecting the same this time around. I'll look
into Heartland Festival and start doing more research on the
festivals I do enter. Being a film about pregnancy and parenthood,
I'm definitely planning on looking further into those avenues. I
actually had a nurse from the pregnancy ward at our local hospital
tell me they'd love to get a copy for their new parents to watch.
So I'm hoping to get it seen that way.
I was just having a bad day yesterday, so I needed to vent a
little. I plan to read more about alternate ways of distribution,
but I'd love to get more advice if anybody has any.
really unusual to have a doc financed beforehand. I'd ask why, if he
has full funding, you're not getting a full salary and he's asking you
to defer part. I'd be curious how much he's asking you to defer (as a
percentage of what he's paying, that is).
is any specific protocol about which credits are opening credits and
which are end credits andin what order for a non-union project.
Different films I've referenced seem to do different things.
comes last and most important to least important in between.
Where does one turn if he/she is an idea person and wants to team up
with film makers to share the idea and develop it?
looking to put together a few sample news stories for a reel?
Through research on the internet, it looks like many documentarians
start a non-profit company for their film. Why is that? I assume it is
for getting grants, yes?
And what happens when they are done with the film and want to sell it?
Are they limited in any way under a 501(c)3?
It just means that anything above the cost of expenses has to be put
back into the non-profit. While the non-profit model can work for
some filmmakers, it is not a necessity. You do need non-profit
status for most grants, but you can do this through a fiscal sponsor.
And I am guessing that Mr. Goodman's comment relates to the fact that
very few doc films turn a profit anyway.
time for a 501c3 and the costs are major.
seem a bit juvenille. I am creating a documentary for National
History Day, a nation-wide contests where students in grades 6-12
research a specific topic that relates to the annual theme and present
it. I'm not the best with technology, so here is my question for you:
What editing software should I use? I have both a PC and a mac at my
house, so I can use all different types of software. Do you think that
final cut express will be sufficient for this project? That's what I
was planning on using, since final cut pro is a completely out of my
sufficient. In the case of most software, you can also probably get
an educational discount. You may also want to ask some of the
students - I'd be willing to bet some of them have some sort of low-
cost editing software on their home computers and are already pretty
adept at using it. The key thing you want is something that you can
edit nonlinear and can output to whatever media you to have to
present for the contest (I'm guessing a DVD).
Suppose I were extremely lucky and got a television deal overseas or even through PBS. What happens to that money? Do I pay a percentage of "earnings" to my non-profit sponsor? Or, the more likely scenario... I sell the DVD's myself through my website and so forth. What happens to that money? What are my obligations? Does the fiscal sponsorship "end" once the project is finished? Thanks for any help, guys!
come in to your project through them - ie. grants they apply for in
your name (such as NYSCA in New York State) or contributions that are
filtered through them for tax purposes. a fiscal sponsor gets not one
bloody cent of any other monies you raise apart from them or any
revenue you generate, unless you have a specific (much more atypical)
deal where they are helping you to raise money and take a percentage
of revenue in return. and, yes, your obligation to them ends when the
project is finished.
the classifieds topic, not the mentoring room.