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.

Yixi Villar

Thank you Thank you thank you...I was looking at IFP and NYFA. NYFA charges a higher percentage but seems to provide more services ...and their in NYC where I am.

Doug Block

The IFP is close enough, Yixi. They're in Dumbo (right down the block from my office), and it's just a short subway ride from midtown Manhattan. It was a while back, but I wasn't impressed with NYFA when they sponsored my first film. Wheras I'm very impressed by the IFP as an organization. But you should speak to some producers who've worked with both firsthand.

James McNally

I just found out about a programme being offered by Seneca College here in Toronto called the Documentary and Filmmaking Summer Institute. It's an intensive 14 week course in doc filmmaking and the faculty list looks impressive (guest lectures by Alan King, Sturla Gunarsson, Jennifer Baichwal, etc.)

But, does anyone feel that these kinds of short intensive courses can really teach you filmmaking? As someone with a day job, this would require at best an unpaid leave of absence (and at worst, my resignation), so I'm looking for some guidance as to whether the filmmakers here think this would be worthwhile.

More info:


Robert Goodman

Probably a better solution than a 4-year college program. My feeling in general is that no one can teach you to be a filmmmaker. You can learn techniques and a sense of the job but experience makes a huge difference. Filmmaking is an art form and as such requires process.

Erica Ginsberg

I think a lot depends on you, James. Some people learn best by hearing from experts and having the time and space of a classroom setting to experiment, work on teams with other students, and make mistakes without consequence. Others learn by going out and just start making films, either on their own with the help of a few mentors or by working on others' projects before tackling their own.

The faculty certainly looks impressive and 14 weeks seems more than feasible to work on a student documentary piece. But that said, I don't know if I would recommend quitting your day job to do this. Surely there are other educational programs which you could take at night or on weekends. And especially if your end goal is to become a writer or a publicist, you might be better off just working on somebody's film to get a sense of what's involved. I'm sure you can hear what a lot of these experts have to say on a panel at Hot Docs or elsewhere.

James McNally

Thanks, Robert and Erica, for your wisdom. I think if I wanted to, I could make contact with some filmmakers here and get some work on a film doing something, so maybe it's not so important for someone like me.

I guess the thought of "running off to join the circus" for 14 weeks sounded pretty good.


Claire Forgie

I have just put up a documentary on funeral directing i made a couple of years ago.
I am looking for some feedback or ideas on where to go from here, possibly make an extended version.
Ideas and feedback all appreciated!
Thanks, claire


Evan Thomas

Apologies as i know this isn't the place for this post but i haven't applied for full membership yet! I'll do it, i promise i will!

And this is a loooong shot I expect but i am scouring LA for Office space, nothing huge just somewhere downtown that is secure and has a few desks, power points etc.

Oh and cheap as possible!

Evan Thomas

In reply to Claire Forgie's post on Sun 12 Apr 2009 :

Hi Claire – Just watched it, it's pretty good so far, i enjoyed it. In the opening scene with the guy taking the call in bed, that deep, donnie darko-esque ambient sound, did you create that? Or did i imagine it?

If you were thinking of making an extended version here are a few thoughts..

If you can do more filming It would be interesting to see some of the different funerals that people have whether religious or especially not so. What kind of unusual requests do people make? Items in coffins for example, the red wine bottle and the football scarf that are mentioned. If you could get permission it would be nice to see some of these things to get a visual. I guess access to actual funerals could be key, to see real people grieving death and celebrating life is usually powerful.

There is a mention of "the history of funerals" maybe that's an avenue to explore a little? Along with the change in law regards cremations? What about the guys that work there? What are they like when they're not at work? What kind of houses do they live in? Do they go for drinks after work? Christmas parties etc?

Oh also you show a framed portrait of an ancestor? Can you scan this and use in the film that way? If it's a family business are there photos of fathers or grandfathers that could be shown and talked about?

I found it pretty engrossing generally. I mean to see deceased human beings – i find it quite affecting, most of us have no experience of such things. I notice there's no music but maybe it doesn't need any...

Shakai Shepard

Hi all, I am new here and have not yet gotten to introduce myself. I am an anthro/film student at Columbia University in NYC and currently tossing ideas, scribbling in my journal and generally obsessing in thought around ideas for my first film. I was wondering if any one would suggest a good small handheld and would also not mind telling me what their choices pro's are, why they like their suggestion.

I have a PD 150 and still love it, but I was thinking of something much smaller...

Thank you!