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.

Craig Schneider
Pro

Hi all,
Does anyone have any advice/experience shooting Sweet 16 videos? I'm shooting one this Friday documentary style, so i won't be directing so much as just capturing the moments (and there's plenty of dance numbers and such to capture), but it's my first paid job as a documentary videographer and my first Sweet 16, and I know the family, so I want to do this right. I have experience shooting formal events with my cousin's wedding and a friend's wedding. However, I'm shooting this on my own, with a Panasonic DVX100a, and my journalistic instincts. Would you recommend a lav mic on the birthday girl if she would have it? I wasn't going to bother just to simplify. If i do direct at all, is there anything fun you'd recommend shooting with her and her "court" or her court alone? I can let the photographer take the lead on this stuff of course during the photo shoot, but I think it may also be good to have her close friends and family say/do something. Would you recommend I use a separate mic during the party for that? I have a RES50B. This is really a big deal for her and her family, and they trust me to do an amazing job. I know what they have planned for the day and night, and i plan to capture some behind the scenes, getting ready moments, and the excitement and fun. I also posted in the legal section to ask about a contract template just to protect myself (I've only done pro bono before). Other than charge my batteries and get close with the camera and shotgun mic, work my angles, am I forgetting anything? I also do mostly handheld so i'm thinking that a monopod vs. a tripod would be better. Lastly, if anyone can recommend a place in NYC to pick up a spare and relatively inexpensive DVX100a battery, let me know. It's going to be a long day.
Thanks.

Doug Block
Host

Craig, as someone who's shot well over a hundred weddings, I say don't fret too much. Unless you're a hopeless incompetent (which you're not), they're gonna love what you shoot, I guarantee it. Normal people aren't used to seeing themselves captured verite-style and it's always a hoot for them.

Technically speaking, I'd simply use a good directional mic on the camera (like a Sennheiser 416), get in fairly close as much as you can, and definitely shoot handheld. Screw the tripod. And I'd set up as little as possible, just be a total fly on the wall. But that's me.

Have fun and lotsa luck.

Craig Schneider
Pro

A few other related questions to my previous Sweet 16 post that i forgot to ask: I normally shoot my documentary footage in 24P on the DVX100a in squeeze mode. Do you see any issues with using that format for the Sweet 16 video? Do videographers at the formal events normally just wear a black button down shirt and slacks? When i was i shot weddings, i was actually in the wedding party so i wore a suit. And I am renting one of those light panels for the top of my camera for low light situations, but i haven't tested one out. Advice? Thanks again.

Craig Schneider
Pro

Thanks, Doug. I was hoping you would post. Now I'll stop my fretting. Thanks for the sage advice.

Craig Schneider
Pro

Doug, I didn't get very far in "legal" on my contract template request. Can I ask how you handle getting stuff in writing? All I have now is a verbal agreement on the price. I feel like it would be good business practice to protect myself, on this job or when i don't know the family. Have a great July 4th weekend.

Doug Block
Host

Craig, just emailed you my standard, one-page wedding agreement. Hope it helps. BTW, the Mentoring Room is for Enthusiasts, not Members, so keep stuff like this in the Legal topic in the future.

Brian Boyko
Pro

Short question with a complicated answer: Have any of you guys ever filmed in Cuba? I figure before I start doing research about how to get permission to go to Cuba as a journalist from the State Dept., I could ask here, and see if anyone's got any experience with it.

John Burgan
Host

As you're already a Member, Brian, you can pose this question in the Production Topic. There are several colleagues who I'm sure will be able to ask your question.

Mark Barroso
Pro

In reply to Brian Boyko's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :

Brian: you can email me off list and I'll give you my phone number, but the short answer is unless you have a letter from an accredited news organization that's recognized by the State Dept., you will not qualify for a journalist exemption to the travel ban.

Assuming you do not have relatives there, that leaves you the option of going illegally, or under the license of a humanitarian group. I can advise you on that, too. Depending on what you want to do, you will also have to fly under the radar of the Cuban govt.

Brian Boyko
Pro

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :

We considered that possibility, but isn't there an application process for freelance journalists?

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1097.html
"Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism."

If we can't get special permission, we're considering contacting BBC, Reuters, AFP, EFE, CNN, etc., to see if they could use some stringers in Cuba, work under their aegis, and film the doc in-between assignments.

I'll e-mail you off-list, Mark.

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