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.

Ben Kempas

I went to the site but couldn't figure out how to use it. Could you elaborate...?

Terri Hems Anderson

Ok, thanks for that Ben. It is related to the prison yes. The website looks promising, will go and check it out properly now. Fingers crossed!

Phil Dorman

OK well here goes, HI !
Yes a newbie to all this.
My plan goes like this:-
I was describing a trip I am about to make to someone who immediately said "You should film that".
And I thought "Yeah I would watch that for sure"
But then the doubts creep in as they should and I start thinking of all the problems ....
So I call a friend with years of experience in the film industry, describe it and ask for his thoughts. "Awesome can I come..."
So I phone another friend in the film business in the field of interest and his response is "Mad if you don't ..."

So maybe It's not such a bad idea.
Basically part a road trip through the Australian Outback in my 1929 International truck. Open cab, No doors etc. See attached pic.
And the other part visiting some major truck and tractor/machinery shows on the way and interviewing the owners/restorers of various interesting vehicles.
Not everyone's cup of tea but there have been some big time successes in the field. Check out "The Back of Beyond" from 1954 and of course recently "Long way Round" etc

So, Question is what do you all think about it ?

Oh, I have no experience with filming or presentation or marketing film. But am good at learning stuff. Taught myself to be a software developer so can learn this eh ?

John Burgan

Back of Beyond is a classic, Phil – what route will your journey take you?

Phil Dorman

Thanks John,
From home in Hunter Valley NSW drive to Dubbo for truck and tractor show (lots of footage and interviews there) then leave truck there for transport to Alice Springs via Road Train. Then fly to Alice at the end of August for the Road Transport Museum by annual event (again lots of footage and interviews there) then drive north alone to Tennant Creek then East to Charleville etc and back to the Hunter.
The drive back at least two weeks camping in the bush along the way.
Are you also familiar with a show called "Bush Mechanics" as I'm sure there will be breakdowns and fixits to include.

Doug Block

I say why not, Phil? Sure to be an adventure, no matter what. Teach yourself to shoot, practice a lot, have fun.

Marina Pessoa


I'm shootin a small documentary film and I would like some indications:
in Lima Peru, I need an indication to a driver with a van, and the procedures to film Lima and Arequipa.

in US – I'm shooting in Lapeer, MI and Olympia, WA. I'd like to know if is necessary a Film Permit to shoot in this cities and a Temporary Importation to enter the USA with the equipments

Thanks for all

Lucia Duncan

In reply to Marina Pessoa's post on Mon 5 Apr 2010 :

There are some cities in the U.S. where legally you need a permit to shoot, but depending on what you're shooting you can generally get away without having one. And unless you're bringing tons of equipment, don't think you'd need any special permission.

Peter Brauer

basically every US city has different rules. I would say NYC and LA have the hardest rules, because there is so much shot there. Small American cities are generally very easy to shoot in with out permission. There may be exceptions, but generally this is the case.

Stephanie Caruso


I'm trying to put together my reel & create a website. Any suggestions?

Peter Brauer

Just do it. And use wordpress for your web page so you can update it easily. Other then that, do you have any specific questions?

Tom Dziedzic

Create your own YouTube or Vimeo channel and post your reel there, would be my suggestion

Cianna Stewart

Stephanie – Any guidelines for reels and sites are not really universally true for all people in all fields. Take a look at the websites of people who are doing the kind of work you want to do. Look at a lot of them. Take notes. Pay attention to what grabs your attention, what irritates you, what you find easy to remember. Base your own reel and site design off what you discover that you like and what you think communicates what you want people to understand about you.

iLan Azoulai

Hi All,

I am in the process of my first documentary about the aftermath of sex slavery into Israel and the resulting effects on two women as they're trying to regain their family rights and social status after they have suffered the consequences of sex slavery.

i am at the phase where i need to "attach" someone to this project, advise, and an editor to put a short trailer for this. i am in the place where i need to start get funding for the project as all the trips thus far (and the continued trip at the end of the month) are personal investments. I am looking to build a "core" team that will live throughout the project and the success of the storytelling will be everyone's.

So, help will be greatly appreciated in the following:

  • Advisory and attachment to the project (for the purpose of fiscal sponsorship and grant applications)
  • Editor
  • Raising money methods and/or channels

in addition, since this is my first indie project, any suggestions, comments, help, would be greatly appreciated.


John Norby

Hi there!

I have a few ideas plotted out for documentaries and I'm soon planning to embark on the journey of putting everything together to actually make the film. I am very new to this, though. Despite having read multiple sources about making documentaries, I can't seem to find anything that tells me how to go about the initial stages of getting things going. To give you an idea, this is exactly where I'm at now:

I have an idea for a documentary. It involves some travel. I have the premise and the subject matter planned out, so now it's a matter of knowing where to go from there. Do I put a proposal to a production company or television station? Or do I try to assemble a team of my own first of all? Basically, I just need to know the best route – from a writer's perspective – to getting a documentary made from the intial idea.

This is the path I have chosen for myself. I am 100% dedicated to making this work and to becoming a filmmaker/documentarian. Any suggestions or help would be most welcome.

Thanks so much in advance,

Christopher Wong

ilan, if you haven't already, watch a whole bunch of documentaries (perhaps even on similar social issues as yours), and contact one of the producers of a film that you really like. tell them about your project and you just might be able to bring them aboard as an Executive Producer. (of course, make sure that they are not just a "name", but that they can actually do something tangible for your project.)

documentary producers/directors are ridiculously easy to contact (compared to their counterparts in the fiction world). for my last project, i contacted Davis Guggenheim out of the blue, and ended up having an hour-long, face-to-face conversation with him at his office. he didn't end up being my EP, but you just never know.

iLan Azoulai

Thanks Christopher,

i do watch quiet a bit, but it's never enough.
since you mentioned that it's ridiculously easy to contact documentarians, is there a way to contact you outside of this forum? :)



Doug Block

iLan, you can get someone's email address here by clicking on their profile (their name and photo link to it). We just ask that you not abuse it by spamming members.

Christopher Wong

sure, ilan. just put a call into my publicist. she will then refer you to my masseuse who will then text a message to my therapist. and if i'm not in session, then maybe i'll call you back...

just kidding, of course! yes, just email me anytime. if you want to talk over the phone, we can easily set that up too.

Tina Flemmerer

Hi I was wondering if any of you have a contact with the German TV channel ARD for securing the rights to some archival footage.

Kaoru Wang

Hi! I'm a first time documentary filmmaker and was hoping to get some examples of grant applications that have been funded. I'm applying for a grant and I'm not sure how to answer questions in regards to my plans for distribution aside from a hybrid DIY and film festival strategy. I'm more familiar with the online DIY side of things but am not sure about which festivals and networks I should be aiming towards.

In addition I'm unsure about how to address visual approach and special ways to shoot interviews that lends itself to the topic. If I can get some examples, that would be so useful. Thanks!

By the way, the logline of the film is: when a society is being educated for a world that doesn't exist,
can a young college grad find the rebirth of education within "The Killer App?"

michael gatti

Hi, I am making a documentary about retail and the horrors of customer service and I am just having the damndest time with finding someone or some group to give me a lil funding money. Shooting is going well, I have gotten a lot of footage that I need. But the funding is important so I can buy some stock footage that would help me out.