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.

Nicholas Varga


Please don't get me wrong...I work forward everyday on the project whether there is money available or not. As an editor, as the film is already in the can, EVERYTHING left to do is up to me to accomplish or oversee getting done being that the others involved know nothing about production. We do need narration, the film needs to be scored, GFX...there is a TON of post to be done. The point I am at now, after sifting through 1000 hours of footage, capturing what I know I need, organizing and beginning is VERY hard to move forward to make the project the quality I envision it with 0 dollars. I am a firm believer in doing things the "right" way, the first time without cutting corners. So for me to hire craigslist talent when I know "who" I want to narrate it is working backwards in my opinion. I will never "throw in the towel" but am committed to accomplishing what I deem necessary without too much compensation of quality for the project. Do you know what I mean...

Nigel Walker

I do and I respect the amount of work you have put in already and the commitment to your project.

My point is you will be surprised at what you can accomplish on your own and given the choice of not moving forward because you don’t have the money to get specific narration or getting narration that is good enough, which are you going to choose?

If your goal is make more films then the most important thing is completing this one as quickly as possible and taking what you have learnt to the next project so that one is better.

I looked at your project online. You have an interesting topic, character (likable?) and good access but you need to think about putting a shorter fundraising trailer together. The work by Fernanda Rossi is a good place to start.

Good luck with your project.

Nicholas Varga

Nigel, thanks for looking online at the topic...

I agree a short TRAILER for the film needs to be cut. It is the next in line. Essentially what you saw was me putting the RAW footage into "buckets" so that an investor can see how high impact the reality footage is and who it involves. Needless to say, in moving forward, a TRAILER is the NEXT thing I plan on doing.

As far as the character being likable, you and I both agree that the audience is more than likely NOT going to be sympathetic with him...which sucks because of his image! What I want to do is find a woman who has been a true victim of domestic violence to narrate "on camera" her own experience and then furthermore tell Ben's story of how he is inevitably a "victim" from false allegations of abuse so that the audience sympathizes with him. Ben by himself telling the story isn't as powerful as someone else telling it for him.

Custody is HUGE right now and his case is HISTORICAL by having the first woman ever in the US convicted of perjury on the stand in a custody case. This film has to be done right so that it is "THE" Custody film of its kind. I know where I want to go with it, I simply need the resources...

You rock for taking the time bro! I will let you know when the trailer is complete!!!

Lenville O'Donnell

My advice would be to finish your film, by hook or by crook, as polished as you can make it, THEN approach the narrator of your dreams. I have some experience in this. If you want an A-list or otherwise very successful or well known narrator, they will not agree to narrate your film until they have seen your final cut, with sound design and final score. Big names need to be assured, by seeing the finished product (with everything except the VO), that the work is of the highest quality, and that they will be proud to have their name associated with it FOREVER, which is what you are asking. It is a big ask. But you can be successful with it if you make a fine film with excellent (scratch) VO that is well-written, and approach a potential narrator who has a connection with the subject matter in some way.

Diane Johnson

Hello I have a question about what is needed to be handed over to a network in order to qualify for distribution. Is it true that you have to give proof of E&O insurance? What else is needed?

Has anyone here worked for a production company who has a first look deal with a major network or someone here who is a UPM and can help me out?


Lenville O'Donnell

Many networks have their "deliverables" posted online in a "producers" or "filmmakers" section. The required deliverables vary from network to network. Google the networks you think might be a home for your film and see if they have that stuff online. PBS does. Happy Hunting.

Robert MacDonald

Hi, I am about to film my first documentary on the difficulties that face young disabled people in Glasgow and to portray the extreme difficulty in accessing the services they need to live even a modestly fulfilling existence. I just need info on the correct standard procedures to do this. This is very low budget so it's just me and my equipment.
Many thanks.