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.

Steve Holmes
Pro
I lost a bet.

No, I went to journalism school at Missouri with emphasis on
broadcast journalism, worked in public television for a local
station in Kansas City and started my own company, which is always
on life support.
Kathryn Burg
Fan
Does anyone have information on what sort of guidelines one should
follow when drawing up consent forms? I'm going to be shooting a
choir that's going on tour to England and Italy this summer. I
want to shoot mostly outside and inside the churches where they'll
be singing, although I will also be shooting the choir as they
take hikes and tour around the cities as a group. I know where
they'll be singing and where they'll be staying, but the tourist
spots will be on the fly. My crew consists of me (the recording
crew has requested separate informal permission from the
churches).

I was planning to send forms to the known locations in advance and
bring extras for the tourist spots. I've been told by the
directors of the tour that the churches might shy away from
signing official consent forms prior to filming (they may even bar
me from shooting at all), but they may be more open to it after
seeing the final cut. I'm planning to enter the final product into
film festivals, so I don't want to prevent myself from doing that,
but I don't want to scare anyone off, either. Any thoughts? Any
advice you could give or resources you could point me to would be
much appreciated. I leave in just under a month.
Steve Holmes
Pro
Welcome, Kathryn! Not sure about sending the forms. It gives the
more paranoid recipients time to worry and stew. Forms can look
intimidating when people don't know what's going to happen during
the taping. Gut feeling is I'd send them in advance only if someone
requests them.

Why might the churches bar you from taping? Image concerns?
Preserving the sanctity of the concert? I saw a doc of a choral
concert tour which includes the concerts. Your best selling point is
you and your sensitivity to their concerns and the promise of a
credit and festival exposure.

As to the on-the-fly tourist spots, can you find out a few minutes
in advance where the group will be going, then go in and ask
permission first? Be sure to promise a "Thanks to" credit.

Will you have a release form in Italian?
Kathryn Burg
Fan
Thanks for your thoughts, Steve! I get your gut feeling to not
send them in advance. Do you then think it's more appropriate to
ask them to sign the forms once I'm there in place or after I have
a cut to show?

Apparently, the churches sometimes take issue with the presence of
"equipment" during a solemn service. They have a legacy of
tradition backing them up (one is the staunchly traditional chapel
at Windsor Castle). I'll suggest tucking me and my camera out of
the way, but not too out of the way, if that's necessary. The
rehearsals are often a bit more interesting anyway, so as long as
I can convince them to let me shoot during those times, and at
services for at least some locations, I will live with it. And is
it true that I can use footage from a location without permission
as long as it's not recognizable?

For most of the tourist spots, I will know a bit in advance, so
I'll be sure to speed myself ahead of the group with form in hand
-- and polished sweet talking skills.

Luckily I speak Italian, so I'll be able to create a form for
those spots. I have a few English examples to work with, but if
you have any suggestions, or any links that might be good
reference, please pass them on. Thanks, again!
Steve Holmes
Pro
Kathryn:

I would have them sign the releases at the taping site. If you wait
until you show them a rough cut of the show, some of them might balk
because of how they feel they're being portrayed. It might not have
anything to do with the content or tone, but perhaps as trivial a
concern as someone's Bad Hair Day.

<<And is it true that I can use footage from a location without
permission as long as it's not recognizable?>>

Under American law, you don't need a personal release if a person is
not recognizable. I have no clue about how Britain and Italy view
such things. It's a good idea to have a location release.
Maureen Futtner
Fan
Hi, Documentary Mentors:

As always, I am grateful you folks are out here.

I am nearly done with production on my project, and even nearly done
logging, and am embarking on making a sample tape, then it's onto my
first assembly.

I am wondering at what point do I begin inquiring about licensing
rights for photos, music, footage I MIGHT want to use? Does one
simply wait until fine cut, or is it best to start putting feelers
out there now?

I don't plan to use a TON of non-original material, but there are a
few things out there that I definitely would love - including an R&B
song from the 60s, pages from an article which appeared in GQ
magazine, a clip or two from a FoxNews Talk show ... any wisdom as to
where, how and when I might begin inquiring about using this stuff?
I realize I could be way outta my league financially, but I'd like to
know just how far out I am. More specifically -
1. Do I go straight to the artist regarding the pop song? (if I can
find her)
2. Do I go straight to GQ and FoxNews? if so, which dept. do I
contact?
Thanks, in advance, for your help.
Maureen
Steve Holmes
Pro
Maureen:

When you start asking about licencing rights depends on how much
material you have and how vital it is. The more important it is, the
earlier I'd ask. For the more marginal stuff, I'd wait until I had a
good idea that I'd be using it. No use spending a lot of time
inquiring about material that won't make the final cut.

Some of the material might be covered under "fair use," but it can
be a grey area. Not sure whom to contact at GQ or Fox. You might
check their websites. I suppose I'd go to the artist about the pop
song, but I'd look into fair use, too.
Christina Frederick
Pro
Hi! I'm going to be travelling with a group of about 15 students from
a Caribbean island to NYC. We're shooting video of them (and they'll
be shooting video of each other) for a community-based documentary.
They are talented teen performers who have raised the money to travel
to NY to perform a show on Broadway that they have written and created
with Broadway professionals who are volunteering their time to the
project. We've been shooting their rehearsals and local performances
for months, and the kids will be filming each other's home lives and
families. Eventually we'll assist the kids in editing their own
full-length documentary of the experience and plan to market it to CPB
etc.

My question is about permits. The kids and I will be running around
the city for one week next month, doing touristy things, meeting
showbiz professionals, rehearsing and then performing. I'll be taping
on a Canon GL1 or a palmcorder, and the kids will also be taping each
other using small palmcorder units. I might have a light tripod with
me but that's the extent of the equipment we have. Do we need to apply
for insurance and NYC filming permits? I know we'll need releases from
recognizable people and interviewees, but -- will we need special
permission to film at city landmarks and in the theater where they're
performing?

Thanks so much. I did search the forum and the web but didn't find out
much about this topic as it relates to doc filming. Maybe no news is
good news?
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