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.

William Gazecki

In reply to tina flemmerer's post on Wed 4 Mar 2009 : I've heard the ATA Carnets can be expensive, and an easier route is to have a U.S. Customs Declaration of all your gear as you leave the U.S. Apparently for personal gear it's just as good as a Carnet in establishing proof of ownership and origin of goods.

Ben Kempas

That's good enough for an easy return to the U.S., but it doesn't guarantee you hassle-free entry into the country you're visiting.

Casey Crowdis

I am working on a documentary in Canada, though I am US based. Are there any considerations for working with a fiscal sponsor in another country? Most of the donors for the film will likely be Canadian.

Related to that issue, if I don't use a fiscal sponsor, is there any benefit to a person donating to my film? Thanks! –c

Marj Safinia

A US fiscal sponsor will only be able to offer the tax incentive to US taxpayers, so you'd have to seek out a similar thing in Canada if you want to appeal primarily to Canadian taxpayers. However, if you're seeking US foundation $$, you won't be able to get them (usually) unless you have a US fiscal sponsor. Sounds like you might want to have both?

Generally speaking, a donor will give money to your film because they care about the subject matter, because they care about you or because they care about documentary. Ideally all three. It's very rare that someone will give you money just for the tax incentive. That's a sweetener, for sure, but the real reason anyone will give you money is because you're passionate, dedicated and trying to tell a story for important reasons.

Casey Crowdis

Very helpful answer, Marj! I'm considering partnering with a local museum in Canada since it is relevant to the documentary and is a beloved attraction in the town. I will keep my antenna up in case there is interest on the US side to consider getting a sponsor here. Thanks for the advice. –c

Michael Fagans

Wondering if there are good or recommended choices for choosing mini-DV tape brands and quality for shooting an HDV doc? Thanks.

Mike Flounlacker

I have recently been asked to secure a distribution agreement by a client for a completed documentary. How/where can I submit content for consideration?

Is there a place to go where a person with no history in this industry will be taken seriously?

Jordan Older

Ventura Film Festival

The Ventura Film Festival, which was started in 2004 by Jordan Older and his father, has recently concluded its

first event of 2009 at the Majestic Ventura Theater in Ventura, California with the Ventura Film Festival "Fun Day"

on February 16, 2009 at 2pm.

The Ventura Film Festival is a combination online and traditional film festival requiring all submissions to be

uploaded online and submitted via traditional means. The Ventura Film Festival has maintained that one of it's main

goals is to give a large part of any proceeds to forest and ocean preservation efforts. The Ventura Film Festival

features independent films from around the world and from local film makers focusing on environmental issues such as

forest and ocean preservation, humanitarian issues, surf, skate, extreme/action sports, sports, martial arts, and

music films.

The Ventura Film Festival opened it’s 2009 events on Monday February 16, 2009 at the Majestic Ventura Theater in

Ventura, California with a “fun day”. The event marked the 6th anniversary of the Ventura Film Festival which was

started by Jordan Older and his father in 2004. The Ventura Film Festival board of directors were present to show

their selection of currently received entries for the 2009 Ventura Film Festival. The festival board includes

Hollywood film makers Dustin Dean and U.S. Olympian John Godina who is the most decorated shot putter in U.S.

athletics history. Ventura Film Festival is a green organization and accepts entries and submissions online at the

festival’s official web site, Part of the profits from the Ventura Film Festival

will go directly towards environmental issues such as forest and ocean preservation. The “fun day” served as a warm

up for the main event of the 2009 Ventura Film Festival which takes place on July 5th.

The Ventura Film Festival gives out no awards. We prefer not to have competition and to simply celibrate great

films as works of art and enjoy a fun event that provides support for environmental issues such as forest and ocean

preservation. From time to time we may give notice of special recognition to certain films.

The Ventura Film Festival has become a partner with the world's biggest film festival marketing organization

Withoutabox. The partnership was on request of Withoutabox executive Sara Nixon-Kershner on Feburary 18, 2008.

Withoutabox provides submission and marketing service to over 200,000 filmmakers in 200 countries as well as manage

submission receiving, judging, and notification, schedule publishing, and the ability to sell tickets using targeted

ads on well known film site IMDB.

Submitting to the Ventura Film Festival is a two step process. BOTH STEPS ARE REQUIRED!!!

1) upload your submission to (REQUIRED)

2) Submit via Withoutabox using this link: (REQUIRED)

Submissions that are not uploaded to will not be considered.

Rick Minnich

Hi, this is Rick Minnich in Berlin, Germany. I'm a US-born doc filmmaker who's been based in Berlin since 1990. I've made a number of shorts and feature-length docs, most recently FORGETTING DAD about my father's bizarre and inexplicable case of amnesia, which has haunted my family for the past nineteen years. Some of you might have caught the film at its premiere at IDFA last November. This spring it will also be playing at It's All True, Belfast, Full Frame, HotDocs, and Planete Doc Review in Warsaw, and I would love to meet other D-Worders at one of these festivals, here in Berlin or elsewhere. I can be reached at Cheers!

John Burgan

Hi Rick – welcome aboard (it's been a long while, but you're here at last).

Not sure you need any mentoring with your track record (hint – this post would have been more appropriate in Introduce Yourself but hey, what the heck). Your email and contact details are available to other members on your profile.

To everyone else: do yourself a favour and check out Forgetting Dad – you'll be glad you did.

Rick Minnich

Hey, give me a break! I'm still learning the ropes. Thanks for plugging FORGETTING DAD though.

Doug Block

Welcome, Rick, great to have you here. And best of luck with Forgetting Dad.

Rick Minnich

Hi Doug, Thanks for the welcome. Jan Rofekamp is repping Forgetting Dad. 51 Birch Street came up in one of our first conversations. FD has been drawing lots of comparisons to your film. I hope you can see FD at Full Frame or HotDocs. It would be nice to meet you in person as well!

Doug Block

No plans to attend either, alas, as I'm in the middle of editing the new film. Will you be passing through NYC? And send my regards to Jan next time you speak, he's the best.

Jo-Anne Velin

Rick, show it in berlin please – we met for a nanosecond in IDFA, but I was there only about 36 hrs, and didn't see FD.

Rick Minnich

In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 18 Mar 2009 :
I suppose we'll have a screening in NYC at some point, but no concrete plans yet. The good folks at Tribeca didn't want the film, breaking my heart forever ...
Yes, Jan is the best. I'm very happy he took on the film. He's been making a lot of TV sales around the world, much to my delight!

Doug Block

Rick, now that you're a member, and since you hardly need mentoring, let's continue these various conversations in their proper topics (Festivals, Shameless Self-Promotion, etc.).

Graeme  Orr

Hi, I am a first time filmmaker who has been shooting a doc for the past 2 years all over the world but I didn't got clearance from any of the countries I was shooting in. The film is about a humanitarian building schools and bringing aid to children in impoverished regions. We shot in Kenya, Egypt, India, Nepal and Sudan. I didn't get any clearance because he has always taken people along to document the work he does and I was taking over that roll. Now however I want to use the footage in a feature length documentary about him, with ambitions of getting it broadcast and in festivals. Is this possible. Do all filmmakers get clearance from the countries they shoot in if they are hoping to get them broadcast or shown at festivals. Also the organization is a non-profit and all profits from the film are going back to the charity – if that makes any difference. Any help or even a point in the right direction of where to get advice would be great. Thank you.

Regan Brashear

Hi all,
I am looking for input on acquiring archival rights, specifically when do you need to do so. I have about twenty different clips of archival footage (from old science reels I found at the Nat'l Archives to clips from news reports to bytes from two popular films) in my film that I don't currently have rights to. I have been assuming that I need to track down and try to get rights for all of this before I can take my film to festivals or think about any other forms of distribution. A friend recently said that might not be the case since they are all under 30 seconds and I am using them all as part of my critique/argument that they might fall under the Fair Use parameters.

I would love any advice on this.

Also would love to hear how folks actually go about securing rights,i.e. do you need it in writing from wherever it came from? Is there a specific legal document that you need to have them sign?
What would you expect to pay for say 30 seconds from FOX news?
How do the Fair Use guidelines work in reality? Does POV allow for them, for instance?

Doug Block

Regan, your questions really belong in the Research and Archives topic. Graeme, yours go in the Legal Corner. We like to keep discussions in their proper topics so that we can find the info later more easily. This topic is really for Enthusiasts who don't have access to the other topics.