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.

Le Sheng Liu

And while we're on this subject, someone remind me of the difference between PAL and NTSC. What do they mean and stand for?

Marianne Shaneen

Hi and thanks in advance for your help!
I'm in post production on a documentary and most interviewees have signed release forms but a few gave on-camera permission. Is on-camera permission sufficient, in terms of getting E&O insurance, broadcast, distribution, etc.? Are there cases where that is not enough? Many thanks!!

Riley Morton

not sure why you didn't get more response. maybe because no one knows the best way to approach it. if it was me, and i was SURE that there weren't copyright problems using those photos, then i would shoot the stills myself. i'd use a DSLR with 8+ megapixels, but in truth you don't need that kind of resolution for even HD video unless you are doing a lot of zooming.

the museums would probably prefer that you went through them, and maybe their photos are a little better, but i'm sure that there is a hassle factor that is worth considering....

Matthew Hickney

Hey all! I have been shooting a project for over a year and a half. Currently it is at it's first watch able cut, I had a test screening, and word has been very positive, and I am excited about taking this project as far as it can go.

please check out the trailer on my myspace page:

once concern that I have however, is that this whole time, I have not collected release forms, but merely on camera verbal releases which, I was told, would do just as well as a consent form. Recently I have come to find otherwise. My question is, will verbal releases work? and also, if I must collect written releases, do they need to be for each and every person in the film?

for example: I am shooting a fight, the entire time the focus is one the two men fighting in the ring, but there are various faces around the ring and in the audience that can be made out...

I am perfectly capable to get the release forms from any individuals who speak, or play any kind of role. But for these others, do I really need to hunt down EVERY SINGLE ONE of these people, and get them to sign a release form?

or is there a line that is drawn about who I have to get releases from, and who I do not?

even if they are in the film for a few seconds watching a fight, and say nothing, and play no kind of role in the narrative of the film?

also, in the first cut, I use alot of 3rd party footage i.e; PRIDE, UFC, IFL, fights, as well as clips from Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport...

is there any easy way to maintain the presence of these clips in the film?

I assume not, and I will need to take them out.

This film was shot for next to nothing, and I certainly do not have the money to do a legal battle over the use of clips...

any advice is welcome.



Le Sheng Liu

MAtthew, how far do you want to take this project? Basically anywhere you show this, you will need to get clearances for most of what you mentioned. But especially if you want this to appear on television or at a film festival or even any legitimate distribution website, you should get written releases for your subjects. As for the folks who don't speak but whose faces appear, that is kinda tricky cuz I've seen documentaries (such as Super Size Me) where such individuals' faces were blurred out, so I'm guessing they did not ask for permission for those people and didn't want to bother. And the non-original footage, you HAVE to get permission to include those clips, and (assuming you even get permission) you will often get charged to use it, which can get really expensive depending on the source of the footage. If you've got clips from major studio flicks, then it won't be cheap. If you can't afford to keep these clips in there, then I would suggest using your creativity to tell your story in alternative ways. This is certainly a challenge I will have to deal with, since I am a sucker for using news and stock footage in my documentaries, but that is so costly.

Wolfgang Achtner

Hey Darla,

logging on for a few secs in the US.

In your next-to-last postyouwrote:

"So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet)."

regardless whether it's for the trailer or later (to do your documentary) it makes NO sense at all to log with someone unless you are going to edit the trailer – and more so – the documentary with that same person.

You CAN'T log your footage with person A and edit with person B.

You and your editor (whomever this may be) need to log the video TOGETHER.

Also, as I've tried to explain to you previously, the editing phase is NOT a phase where you can attempt to save money. You need the best and most competent editor you can find.

If you don't have enough money now, wait and save until you do and then edit it with a good editor.

Le Sheng Liu

Does anyone else feel that the editing stage is in some ways more crucial than the shooting stage? That's the way I feel about documentaries.

Robert Goodman

It depends on the film. Cinema verite style films – certainly. Others not so.

Christopher Wong

for me, it's hard to say which stage is more crucial. sure, you can always save something in the edit, but if you've shot it well, it makes the whole edit much easier. for instance, there are a few scenes in my documentary where the shooter got VERY little coverage and so we are left with absolutely zero choices in the edit room for those scenes.

good shooters AND good editors are worth their weight in gold. having said that, just because you pay someone their weight in gold, doesn't mean that they are the right fit for your project.