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.

Doug Block
Gary, sorry about not responding - I travelled a lot in Decmember and
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.
Gary Parker
That is fantastic news. I'm really happy for you. 11 weeks!! Even
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.
Steve Holmes

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.
Gary Parker
Hi Don,
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 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.
Don Dobrez Jr.
Hello All,

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 for more information and updates about
this documentary.

Steve Braker
Don, I would say that if you feel you need their permission you
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
outside world.

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.
Doug Block
i would speak to an entertainment lawyer about a fair use argument,
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
Maria Yatskova-Ibrahimova
good, i wanted to ask for some kind of sensitive advice: I feel like
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?