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.

Wilson Santos
Fan
hi

i just joined this forum and found a lot of good info from reading
through the site. i have a couple of questions i'm hoping some one
here can help me with. i've never shot a doc before but have ideas
for several. i'd like to start asap but have no funds. no experience
with video as my background is film school.

questions
1. would it be best to buy a camera or rent for a first time outing?
if i buy, is the panasonic dvx-100a a good choice? is there anything
a little cheaper that can get the job done?

2. since i have no funds, but might be able to scrape up enough for
the camera, should i begin shooting in the hopes that more funds will
come my way? i have ideas for fund raising but i need to start
shooting my subjects asap.

3. is it difficult to acquire archived news footage from some of the
top networks? if not, is it expensive?

4. i'll have a very small crew of myself, a camera guy and a sound
guy. i don't have to pay either of them and i won't have to pay any
of the subject i'm interviewing. i don't think i'll be paying for
locations either. where will my expenses come from? what is it that
will cost me the most? is there an easy way to estimate the cost? i
will probably have to pay an editor unless i try and learn the
software on my own. i can provide my own original music no problem.

5. is there a standard release form for interviewees? if so, where
can i get a copy of it? if not, what should i include when i draft a
release form?

i know this is a big load. any tips would be greatly appreciated.
great forum btw
Robert Goodman
Pro
1. Find a camera operator who owns equipment and convince her/him that
your project is worth doing.

2. If you are in the US, start shooting. Put together a trailer and
use that to raise money.

3. News footage from the networks is easy to acquire. It is also very
expensive.

4. If you don't pay people you'll need to cover their meals, travel,
hotel, etc. There is no easy way to estimate your costs. Don't learn
software - hire an editor who knows how to tell stories. If that isn't
in your budget - buy a book about how to tell stories - "Editing
Digital Video" (the one I wrote) or Walter Murch's book. Then get one
of the free software programs that does simple cuts and dissolves for
whichever computer platform you like.

5. There are standard release forms available on the web. Search.
Erica Ginsberg
Host
Assuming you don't need to travel for your shoots and you don't have
to pay your crew, your biggest expenses will likely be post-
production (editing, sound mix, color correction, getting rights to
archival, etc.) and outreach (website, postcards, attending
festivals, markets, etc.)
Wilson Santos
Fan
thank you robert and erica for your insights. i figured the biggest
expense would be in post production. i am a music producer and work
with logic on the mac, so i can handle that aspect. robert you are
right, i probably wouldn't want to learn the software since i'm
already involved in so much else at the moment. do you know the going
rate for a video editor?

my project would rely mainly on interviews, shooting real time action
and some news archives, so i guess the bulk of the budget will be in
the archives. i'll look into it.

thanks for the advice.
Robert Goodman
Pro
again - enlist someone to help you. Doc editors charge from $1500 a
week on up. Figure for every hour of footage, you'll need 2.5 days. A
rough guess.
Jamila Gaskins
Fan
I'm sure someone has spoken of this, but I'm wondering about writing
query letter to a production company, the format, etc. I introduced
myself in July. I'm developing a movie about living with HIV/AIDS in
America. I just finished training for and running the Dublin marathon
to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles. This is my first movie.
I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction.
Thanks in advance.
Doug Block
Host
what is it exactly that you're looking for from this production
company, jamila? and why don't you try to arrange for a meeting in
person? i would think that would be much more effective.
Jamila Gaskins
Fan
Doug,

I've never produced a film before so it's all new to me, budgeting,
crew, etc. I've begun my research and have contacts across the
country willing to help with the story, but I am in need of help
putting it all together. The person I spoke with at the company said
I should proceed with a query letter. But I'd love a meeting
instead. I agree it would be much more effective.
Ross Williams
Pro
I'm editing a personal documentary right now... when I began shooting
it, I didn't have much plans of trying to get it released or
anything, but as it's coming together I think I'll at least try to
show it at festivals... and if it all works out, I'd love to sell it.

Since I wasn't planning ahead for that I didn't get release forms
from any of the places that I was shooting. (I did get some release
forms from people that I knew I wouldn't be able to track down again.
And plan on getting release forms from my friends and family that
appear in the film.)

My question is, what sort of legalities are behind the places that I
shot. The majority of it takes place in our old apartment?... will I
need to get a release from the owners. My biggest concern is the
hospital where we shot some footage?... If I don't tell the viewer
where we are exactly and never have any identifying features, do I
still need a release form?

Can anybody answer these questions or point me towards a website or
book that'll answer them for me?

I'm a newbie at the legal side of it, been shooting guerilla style
for years.

Thanks!
Doug Block
Host
i'm not a lawyer but... i don't get location releases for my docs,
personal or otherwise, unless it's a really obvious place (say, yankee
stadium, disneyland) that would sue my ass in the blink of an eye. do
get releases from your friends and family. like, right away.

www.marklitwack.com is a good site for legal stuff.
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