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.

Brian Boyko

John and Erica - The documentary is called "Makers."

If you'll recall, I'm doing the feature-length documentary interviewing Prime Ministers and such in New Zealand. I know I'm in over my head so I thought I'd get some experience by filming events at an event in Austin - the Maker Faire, and turn it into a 28 minute piece. I mean, I thought, it's a bunch of cool looking stuff that is strange and the people who build it, right?

But there's also an additional issue that came up - the entire thing looked like it was a countercultural movement - like Burning Man. And I wanted to examine that more, so after I got all my footage (shot in a weekend - the event was only two days long) I started working with the idea that trends in our current society are forcing what was once considered "American Ingenuity" into a counter-culture.

I got the participation of Mark Frauenfelder (editor of Make Magazine - I interview him this Friday), Bruce Schneier (Security consultant), and Adam Savage (Mythbuster) to talk about the DIY Counterculture.

(Savage takes the point of view that eventually the DIY counterculture will, like rock and roll enthusiasts, become the culture, while Schneier takes the point of view that since 9/11, underqualified security personel are treating "different as a stand-in for dangerous because no one knows what dangerous actually looks like."

They're all willing to let me film them, but without development funds I can't afford to fly out to them, so the rough cut I want to shop around to grant-making solutions will simply have their voices recorded on the phone. Additionally, I've got some pretty unique stuff - for example, the Star Wheel, a pedal-powered moving ferris wheel. Sure, other cameramen were there filming it, but I don't think they got the moment that the thing ran into a powerline. (No one was hurt.)

I've put up a couple of promotional preview clips - one of them has already gotten 5000 views due mainly to a link from You can view them all here in 720p H.264 streaming.

Brian Boyko

Oh, and as for progress - the event's over so I can't go back and film more footage. I think I have enough for 57 minutes, but I can always scale back to 28 if I don't. (Truth be told, I think this would probably fit best in 45...)

So: Structure:


"The Counterculture Becomes the Culture" - 8 minutes (Adam Savage talks about curiosity and the DIY culture, robot builders show off computer technology) ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"A Bigger, Better Mousetrap" - 4 minutes (Footage of a Life Sized Mousetrap Game) ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"Who but a Subversive would Make something?" - 8 minutes (Bruce Schneier talks about fear, security, and the danger of being different - some of the more dangerous exhibits are shown)ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"The Ferris Wheel that Got Away" - 4 minutes The Star Wheel is a fun-looking contraption that accidentally runs into a powerline when the cameras are rolling. ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"Ain't Those Freaks Just Grand?" - 8 minutes - Talking about the relationship between performance art and invention. ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"These are our people" - 4 minutes - EepyBird talks about the science of the "Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments," followed by a live recreation. ROUGH CUT COMPLETE

"[Quote to be determined]" - 8 minutes - Mark Frauenfelder on running Make Magazine and devoting his life to the subculture. NEEDS MORE FILMING

"[Quote to be determined]" - 4 minutes on hybrid car conversion. FILMING COMPLETE

"Everything is Miscellaneous" - 7 minutes - an unapologetic break from the narrative to look at all the strange things that didn't really fit in with the narrative but which are interesting enough in their own right to be included. (for example, case modders, craft makers, model rockets, musical tesla coils, self-replicating robots...) FILMING COMPLETE

Conclusion - 2 minutes recapping the lessons learned and what I took away from it. FILMING COMPLETE

John Burgan

Monica - check out D-Worder Denise Ohio's advice on music clearance

Brian - it's very unclear (to me at least) what the above description has to do with "interviewing Prime Ministers and such in New Zealand".

Do you have a 100 word description of your project? A sentence?

Brian Boyko

Oh, no, it doesn't have anything to do with that. That's a separate project.

"Following Alexis West" is the "real deal." It's the movie I really want to make and it's the movie I'm spending my life savings on.

"Makers" is the project I'm cutting my teeth and making my mistakes on - a project that I took on mainly to familiarize myself with the equipment I'd be using on FAW, and figure out what I need to do. It was chosen as a subject because it was only 3 days of filming at most.

As for the 100 word summary:

Makers is a 2007 short-subject documentary directed by Brian Boyko about the "do-it-yourself counterculture." With interviews from Mark Frauenfelder (editor of "Make:" magazine,) Bruce Schneier (Security consultant,) and Adam Savage (Co-Host of "Mythbusters,") Boyko asks what the emergence of this counterculture of "making" says about our mainstream culture of "consuming." Are the “makers” on the bleeding edge of the future? Or are they being pushed to the fringes of society because of post-9/11 fear of the unusual? The interviews range from people who build musical Tesla coils, two-story-tall robots, pedal-powered amusement park rides, a giant game of Mousetrap, and more.

John Burgan

Aha. Do you have a short description of either project?

Brian Boyko

In the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who examined American democracy in the 19th century, American director Brian Boyko travels to New Zealand to examine its democratic system. “Following Alexis West” examines the unprecedented peaceful change of New Zealand's American-style two-party system to a European-style proportional representation system in 1993 - and the effects of that change 15 years later. Through interviews with former Prime Ministers and current party leaders, it will show how New Zealand’s “MMP” system prevents problems that we have in the United States, including gerrymandering, negative campaigning, civic disengagement, and undue influence of powerful lobbies.

Leah Cameron

In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 13 Nov 2007 :

Ya, point well taken. I was kind of kidding about the how-hard-it-is-to-make-a-doc-about-your-family angle. I've decided that the best thing for right now is just to follow the story and see where it leads. I'm curious what the NYU student response was to your talk on Personal Docs. It's a genre that really seems to divide audiences.


Doug Block

The response was really enthusiastic, Leah. There was clearly a lot of interest. I've actually talked at a few other schools recently and it was similarly great. Doing another NYU class on personal docs tonight (subbing for Thom Powers) and one at the New School on Monday.

John Burgan

Sounds like a really complex subject, Brian. How is the project being funded? And why the title?