The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

  • Public

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.

Jessamy Meyer

I just joined, and at the moment am trying to figure out some translator issues for the documentary I'm editing- lots of footage in Hmong! Would anyone know of any good Hmong translators what would be the best way to give HD footage to a translator? Disks? Hard drives??

Also, for traveling and documentary filmmaking abroad, I have some team members going to Laos. Would anyone know of a good 'fixer' in Laos?

Andre Dahlman

Hoping to glean some knowledge regarding forming an LLC for a documentary.

Here's the back story:

Been working on a doc for almost a year now and I just got my fiscal sponsorship from the IDA. No doubt the dollars will be rolling in in no time (kidding kidding). But I AM hoping to do some serious fund raising and I want to make sure I protect myself financially.

The IDA fiscal sponsor form requires I submit a W-9 tax form with either my social security # or a Tax ID. Thus far I have merely opened a separate bank account and just keep track of finances with basic accounting software. Things seem to be getting more serious now and I'm considering starting an LLC.

Two questions:
1 – Has anyone with fiscal sponsorship from the IDA used their personal social security number? Did you encounter any problems submitting your taxes?

2- If I do decide to form an LLC, what are the advantages of forming an LLC for a general production company VS forming an LLC for a specific project. I hear a lot of people form the later.

Many thanks for any advise/ online resources you could point me towards.

Mansi Behal

Submit your short film to Pros And Con Games competition at and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due November 6, 2008. More info at

Jason Vaughn

Hi, I'm a Los Angeles photographer looking to find a documentary film to do still photography. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good place to find a list of documentaries currently in production or starting soon. Any words of wisdom or advice would help greatly.
Jason Vaughn

Judy Lieff

Hi, I'm working with my first ITVS contract and need some advice regarding how best to distribute the funds – through a fiscal receiver or my LLC.

My situation is a bit complicated because of the history of funding on the project. Prior to my ITVS contract, I used one fiscal receiver for State grants (NYFA) and a non-profit organization for NEA funds. (NEA changed their rules several years ago and only allows organizations to apply, not individuals with fiscal receivers). I signed off on my ITVS budget giving the non-profit organization's director a salary equivalent to cover fiscal responsibilities. What I completely forgot about was that NYFA requires that they be the only fiscal receiver. NYFA is now telling me that they will terminate my contract if I don't use them as the fiscal receiver. I don't have an additional 8% in my budget to spare to cover their fee (18,000). The only option I can think of in order to not breach my contract with NYFA would be to use my LLC for the ITVS funds.
Does anyone know if I could still pay people as independent contractors if I use my LLC? What if people are working at my office? – Won't they technically need to be on payroll? (I did not allow for payroll expenses in my budget).
The only people who would be working at my office on a regular basis for the year are editing assistants and the editor.
Please Advise.
Thank you!

Sam Rabeeh

Hi Everyone,

A friend suggested I create a sequence of "best shots" from my trip to Egypt. I guess this is under "research", "Egyptian Identity", silly ideas as to what that might be....misconceptions I've seen personally or in media/film, whether negative or positive where what interested me at I mixed in there somewhere as Erica suggested a while ago?

A 41MB H264 QuickTime Movie (no sound) is at:

Eli Brown

Judy, considering that you have an ITVS contract, you might want to consider applying for member status on this website – it will open up a lot more forums and chances to get more feedback on a question like that. That said (and not being an accountant/lawyer), my best advice would actually be to talk directly with ITVS. They obviously have a vested interest in you managing to finish your project, so they'll be able to better advise (or point you in the right direction of someone else who might) and from all accounts, are very helpful in general. My understanding of an LLC is that it's akin to any corporation, so you should be able to pay people the same way anyone with a company might – but, please, don't take my word on it as I'm not a lawyer/tax accountant, I just know that a lot of films are set up as LLCs and must also deal with this dilemma. Hope some of that is helpful and good luck!

Christopher Wong

judy, i think what eli says is right. i'm not quite sure why you would process your ITVS funds through a fiscal sponsor anyways – ITVS doesn't need a tax-deductible receipt from you. the only entities that go through your fiscal sponsor are 1) individuals who want to deduct their donations from their taxes; and 2) foundations or corporations who have a policy of only donating funds to non-profit organizations. so i think you have nothing to worry about...

for the record, i have an LLC and i pay my independent contractors through it. the question of whether your crew are considered employees has nothing to do with paying them through an LLC (or other such corporation). the employee designation has more to do with whether they are truly functioning independently from your constant supervision, and a few other key provisions that you can easily google...

Thomas Golaszewski

Hi All;
I'm getting ready to do a documentary about leader dogs for the blind. This project will take about two years to complete. I was told to look for grant money but, don't have a clue where to start and this project will start in January 2009. I have most of the equipment because of video work that I've done before for example Canon XL1s cameras. I will also do all my own editing in FC studio. This is the first project of this size and if I can get it done right, the org. that I'm working with could get a lot of donations and help me as well.
Thanks for your time