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.

Marcia Pacheco

I'm sure you guys have already gone through this, but, I'm in need... Sorry!!! I'm currently working on my release forms for my documentary. The catch is it's a thesis project in order to gain my Masters degree. May you help me with sample release forms?

Thanks in advance.

Ethan Steinman

Marcia, do a search for "release form" on this forum you'll find several examples. If you need one in Spanish, let me know and I can dig one up.

Wendell Martinez

Hello to everyone in D-Word community,
I am a 35 year old living Brooklyn, NY who over the past 5-7 years has fallen in love with the documentary medium and is looking to make a career transition into this field. My original background has been in the fine arts industry of New York, but I now find it unfulfilling and less socially vital than important cultural visual media. I recently have been laid off due to the economy which I very much want to use as an opportunity to get involved in this industry. As you may know It's usually a bit difficult to get that first bit of experience in a new field when one has no previous experience in it. I'm setting my sights on getting a internship with any individual filmmakers or production companies to meet people and gain experience. I have been viewing craigslist regularly and applying there and it occurred to me that I could possibly post an "internship wanted" ad in the classified section of D-Word. I wanted to request any thoughts or input from anyone of the D-Words members regarding the likelyhood of attaining an internship at my age, or any thoughts or tips on going about getting involved with this amazing medium that has changed the way I see the world.

Thanks to all for your time and consideration,
Dell Martinez

Christopher Wong

welcome, Wendell. in your time off from work, you should see if you can learn the basics of editing in Final Cut Pro. the most useful interns often work as assistant editors – digitizing, organizing, and finding footage. this will give you a great introduction to what documentary filmmaking is all about (assuming the director you are working for is competent...) best of luck as you make your transition!

Amir Bar-Lev

Hello everyone;
I may be hired to creatively consult / oversee a documentary by a financier. I've never held this role and wondered if anyone out there had experience with this. I'm putting together a proposal right now and would be grateful for suggestions, the more detailed the better. Should I suggest being compensated by the week or a percentage of the budget? Should I ask for back end profit participation? As you can probably tell, since this isn't my own film, I'd like to make it work for me in a "work for hire" fashion, that is, I'd like to get paid as well as possible. What credit should I ask for? What "looks better on a resume," to put it crassly? Producer? Co-director? I'd also like to make sure I respect the director's vision and be helpful without stepping on toes. Has anyone been in this type of relationship before and what are some pitfalls I should look out for? Thanks in advance for your time –

Evan Thomas

Hi all,

I will soon be recording a choir for soundtrack use – so sound only. What releases should i get from the choir members? Can i get all of them to sign one form? If the piece of music is out of copyright then i just have to get permission to use their performance right? This is small choir at a local cathedral singing sacred music for mass.


Diane Johnson

Hi does anyone know how much typically an expert is paid to in order for them to agree to be interviewed for your documentary? What is the typical payment for someone who is an expert on their field (but who is not famous *famous meaning written a book or something like this)

Christopher Wong

typically, you don't have to pay experts a dime... if they are really interested in their field, and in getting their views out there, many of them are actually appreciative of the opportunity to do so on film.

of course, you don't want to waste their time either. your only "payment" to them needs to be an organized production, perhaps a meal or two depending on the length of the shoot, asking good questions, and of course, finishing your film. at the end, they should also receive a complimentary DVD and perhaps an invitation to a local film festival where your work is playing.

don't offer any cash if you can at all help it. if they ask for it, just plead poverty and inform them about the "low-budget" nature of documentary. if they insist on payment, you can just find another expert, or find some other non-monetary compensation that will satisfy them.

Jennifer Davis-Lewis

Not sure if this is the right place to post but I need to put closed captioning on the doc before a company will pick it up for distribution. Where do i find out how to do this?

Jennifer Samuel

New to D-word and will introduce myself properly soon. For now, I'm in desperate need of a filming studio in Brooklyn, NY for this weekend. Doesn't need to be a big space but quiet with some backgrounds etc. for sure and under $1000. Any suggestions?

Andre Dahlman

Hello Everybody,

Looking for some recommendations of high quality documentary websites.
I am putting together a website for a documentary and I'm looking for ideas. Anyone got a favorite site they want to plug?

Many thanks.

Rachel Leah Jones

i'm not sure this is the right place to post, so please redirect me if the post is errant:

i'm using FCP 5.0 on a MacBook Pro. i just recently upgraded to OS 10.5 and FCP (which is the same version as before) is acting a little weird. when i digitize, it gives me this new window called "Analyzing DV Audio" and inside it reads "Validating Audio Data." it takes anywhere from 1-10 minutes depending on the clip. it appears once capture is complete. if i press cancel, the clip evaporates as if i never captured it. if i let it do its thing, when i play a clip captured with in and out points ("batch capture") i lose sync (sound trails about a second behind image). but when i capture on the fly ("capture now") the clips are in sync.


Wil Rumps

Any advive on how to promote my first doc.? I do not have a big budget (read "any") and am trying to get the most buzz for my time spent. Thanks

Wil Rumps

Well, thanks, I guess? I have been there. I am looking for more inside info that other people have found to work for them.

Christopher Wong

two things that might help you:

1) whether or not you are finished with your first doc, a good trailer helps to get people's interest going. best advice on this forum has been to keep your trailer to no more than 2 minutes long. if you don't quite have the skills to form a tight trailer, then it also helps to put together a DVD of 2-3 of your best scenes. these scenes should fall into the 1-2 minute range.

2) once you have your trailer/clips ready, start marketing them to your target audience. if you are profiling gamers, then start posting about your project at the various online gaming communities. once those communities get excited about what you are doing, they'll spread the word amongst themselves. think about secondary audiences as well. maybe it's not just gamers who want to see your doc; it's possible that a lot of parents would really connect to the characters in your film – parents who are concerned about their own children getting "addicted" to the world of gaming.

just a few suggestions to get you going.

Wil Rumps

Thanks for those tips. I have been doing that for a while. I never thought of the parent angel, though. I will have to work on that one next. If any one else has an insight please let me know. Here is one of our current trailers Just to show you what we are working with.

Timothy S. McCarty

In reply to Diane Johnson's post on Sun 25 Jan 2009 :

I Agree with Christopher! Don't pay for something you can get for free. We find that telling most experts who participate in our doc efforts that a full credit (Name, Title, Business/School etc...) will appear as both a lower third graphic and in our doc's end credits burned onto the DVD goes a long way with most who have the right intentions, too!

Good luck!

Matthew Dougherty

Working on my first budget – are grants and foundations more likely to give money to rent camera and sound equipment – or is it acceptable to list the retail price of a camera (around $5k)... and would i get to keep it?

basically, are grants generally against or ok with helping filmmakers buy reasonably priced equipment?

Lynn Smith

I just applied for my first grant as a first time filmmaker just to meet the deadline. I hadn't found any production people to work with me at the time and still need to know how to find a good camera, or a good video person who knows sound. I'm signed up for a digital video class and a Final Pro Class at UC Irvine, but it's not until June.
All advice very much appreciated!!

Erica Ginsberg

Matthew, many grant-makers do not support the purchase of equipment since they are supporting a single project rather than a production entity which would be likely to make use of the equipment beyond that single project. However, many funders understand that independent filmmakers with their own equipment may include the rental cost of equipment in their budget (essentially renting from themselves) and that this generally ends up being more cost-effective than renting the equipment from a third party rental house.

Lynn, had you thought of asking the instructor of the digital video class you'll be taking at UC Irvine? He/She may be interested or have some leads on professionals in your area. You may also want to do a search on the People page here in D-Word and see who is in the area (or maybe extend the search to include LA) and contact a few folks who look like they have the skills you want. They may not be able to do it for free, but might be convinced to work for a fair price if they are taken by the topic of your film.