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.

Timoty Gibbs

Thanks, Doug, I'll investigate. Have you heard anything about this "club"? I'd think if someone like Oprah was looking for documentaries, it would be another great broadcast opportunity but no one seems to be talking about it. Do filmmakers not know about it or is it a bad thing?

James Longley

It is a good thing. Any invitation to watch documentary films is a good thing. Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch! But watch docs. We live in the real world.

Jason Osder

Here is info on the OWN documentary project – you need to click into the Flash site from this link.

The "club" is based on the book club: one doc per month on cable TV and DVD mail order – an invitation to "get off the couch" have a discussion, do something.

I agree with James says: a good thing.

To me, it's sort of like a new model: traditional, digital, hybrid, Oprah.

Laura Moire Paglin

My hunch is – to be broadcast by "the club' that your a doc already has to be successful – a hit on the festival scene, awards, nominations, etc. – I could be wrong of course....

S.Tavaris Belle

I cant remember where I got the information from on the website but a post was made about documentary researchers with there name and contact information. Could somebody help me find it again? I tried using the research tool but couldnt find it

Nadia Hennrich

In reply to Bill Jackson's post on Mon 23 Aug 2010 :

Hi there Bill, I haven't figured out how to post a new thread here, so i am replying to you hoping someone will see this post: fact is I know there are some sound studios specialising on inexpensive sound mix for docs in LA, would you know any places? sorry to bug & thx

Christopher Wong

for my sound mix, i used a really great guy who has a nice little studio in downtown LA. his name is Nathan Smith and he runs a company called NL3 Audio. very inexpensive rates, and he is absolutely obsessive-compulsive about good, clean sound. we had some troublesome air conditioning and street noises in various scenes, and Nathan did a great job with it. tell him i referred you! you can check out his work at

Derek A. Reuter

Hello, my name is Derek and althought I have commissioned documentaries and non-fiction film work before. I am now taking a step to be D.I.Y. and do one myself for a bit of a change of pace and discovery.

I would deeply appreciate any help and advice experienced people like yourselves can offer someone as crazy and adventurous as me. I do enjoy diving head first into a new medium that I have no previous formal training. If anything this allows me to innovate, but none-the-less there are plenty of mistakes I could make that could greatly hinder the products production/budget/success etc and nothing is more important than the product itself and its purpose.

My first question has to do with affordable resources and crew suppliments.
I am mapping out the film schedule, travel arrangements, and appointments with talent and talking heads. Already there is multiple conflicts with traveling with my current DP. So understanding that I can't always drag him with me to every opportunity to film or meet with an individual.

So is there a network out there where I can cherry pick videographers, sound engineers, etc that are affordable or willing to do in-kind work from various parts of the country?

My next question has to do with fiscal agents. I am currently investigating and informing my associates about CID (Center for Independent Documentaries) and am in love with what I have found. Especially as someone who is normally playing the role of being the Fiscal Agent/nonprofit resouce. But these relationships can be competative and there is no guarentee that the board and staff will feel inspired to work with us on our topic/film. Are their other non-fiction film organizations that have a good track record and are experienced at being a fiscal agent? Certainly a documentary based FA would have much greater advice and resources to guide or film to reach the market and viewers.

Last but not least. Considering we still have a few months before filming starts. I have yet to invest budget monies towards the bulk of video and sound equipment needed. Our documentary will be taping multiple live performances/jam out sessions, talking head interviews, stills, and moving shots.

Rigs and all aside. We are currently looking at a Canon EOS Mark ii for filming and stills, can anyone recommend a sound setup that can pair with this camera that will caption quality sound? Or better yet, recommend a video/audio pair that you have found most effective in capturing the essense of asceticism in video and sensation of good sound at a comparable price.

I would appreciate any and all advice on these questions and am always willing to be of service should you have any questions for areas I am experienced in. Agreed these are more questions for the member area but I have no creditals thus far in the genre so membership is doubtful.

Maybe in trade of consulting I can help in your films with an environmental, activist, natural resource management, policy, elections, music festivals, community organizing, nonprofit themes.

Always open and always willing,

Derek A. Reuter

Derek A. Reuter

Thank's john, logging the links now.

I often do things for an altruistic purpose and try to cut costs everywhere I can so that the objective and community benefits are achieved or not compremised. Volunteering professional services on a chartiable or education project is in-kind time. If possible maybe some of these videographers would be willing to help for a day for recognition on the credit rolls, webiste, etc instead of wanting a chunk of the funding. By having a nonprofit umbrella the project and leverage their designation it allows for any person to get a tax write-off (in some cases monies paid later by foundation/invoices not project budget) for the hours, materials, supplies, services supplied towards the project.

Derek A. Reuter

As for "in-kind" work I am offering. Simply ask, each situation I have encountered in regards for help has always been different. If I am unable to help myself I may have a list of resources to direct you to.

Linda Wasson

I'm confused about the various "no student films" or "no student funding" or "film must not have been made while a student" etc. ad nauseum....

what's this about exactly? and does the fact that I'm a student and making a film, even outside of class, automatically target me as someone not eligible for funding??

it's sooo frustrating and just a bit unnerving... the current film I'm seeking finishing funds for and other guidance – it's grown outside of my original class project and truly taken on a life of its own. I'm happy of course and no longer see it as a student film (again, am not sure what that is even supposed to mean!).

can someone help explain this to me please??

Jo-Anne Velin

As far as I know, student films are classified as this because they are made with film school resources. If this disqualifies you for certain finishing funds, maybe the school can point you to an alternative. Take this up in the NAmerica funding topic?

Linda Wasson

Jo-Anne, thanks but I'm still not clear what exactly constitutes a "student film."

also it raises a new question – what you said about school resources – why would that make any difference?

and no, my school knows no more resources than anyone else.

Linda Wasson

*this is posted here because the term "student film" is used in a number of designations not just for funding, i.e., film festivals, etc. sometimes there's even a separate category.

maybe every instance "student film" has its own definition??? it's so exasperating....!

Ramona Diaz

Hi Linda, it's really not that complicated. A student film is a film for which you received credit toward a degree using the school's resources – be it their equipment or their editing facilities, etc.

Linda Wasson

so why the discrimination? who cares whose facilities are used? what's the dif?

and what about a film (such as the one I'm in the midst of now) where it started as a class project but outgrew it and now I'm finishing it separate from class?

some situations have also used the designation "no students" rather than "student film" which makes me feel like my work is somehow automatically disqualified just because I'm a film student.

Derek A. Reuter

Hello members, anyone have any suggestions as Gaffers, DPs, or Directors what lighting/camera combination has worked best for you?

Sahand Sahebdivani

Hi Derek,

It somewhat depends on what type of shots you're making. Talking heads inside will obviously need a different appreach than outside shots. You're also constrained by your budget. Care to tell a bit more what kind of project you're embarking on?

Derek A. Reuter

Filming subject is upon American Folk Music from the region and its events. From Old Time to modern emerging genres.

Most interview shots would be scheduled in home, office visits, classooms, archive areas, and outdoors. The other shots will mostly be from outdoor summer events, darkly lit venues, front porches, barns, and in home band jams. At times we will take shots of nature, buildings, homes, and scenes of natural discourse and activities of the human talent and scholars. Of course always expect random opportunities.

Budget most likely won't allow for multiple cameras and light setups but has yet to be invested on equipment so currently very flexible for any recommendations.

Derek A. Reuter

At the very least I want to be able to do a light triangle w/background light that gives a good rim on the subject and would be a bit too much during the night. Any suggestions on a package or combination that would work well and is travel friendly?

James Longley

Derek – here's a pro bono promotional video I made for a school in Pakistan using a Canon 7D and a monopod. Edited using Final Cut Pro on a laptop – it was almost free to make it, apart from a few days of my time. I'm not sure that's exactly the style you're going for, but it's cheap and fast and fairly easy.

Jessamy Meyer

I am starting to edit a trailer together for a doc project in the beginning stages of editing. I need to get the trailer to show and help with some financing. The doc is very archival heavy and has a main character with a lot of published philosophies on various topics of interest to the film. So, the director and I are playing with the idea of including text in the trailer so I'm looking for some advice on maybe good examples of films that use text in a way that is informative and also stylistic interesting and significant. Beyond examples, any experiences with using text/quotes in films? Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Kristen Kellogg

Hi everyone. I am just breaking into the world of film making, and I have a great idea on a unique story in Bali and how a couple that moved there is changing the way we eat throughout the world. There is much more here, but that is the gist. They have responded to my interest and want to know my proposed plan. I have never made a film before, and want to find someone to work with me on this project who is a cinematographer. Also I need to get back to them and let them know my ideas this week. Any suggestions how to approach this? Thanks, Kristen

Bill Jackson

In reply to Nadia Hennrich's post on Mon 29 Nov 2010 :
Hi, Nadia. Sorry I didn't get right back to you. I have been on a couple of projects that have consumed all of my time, and I haven't been on D-Word for several weeks.

If you still haven't mixed yet, get in touch with me. My schedule opens up after tomorrow.

Kristen Kellogg

In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

Hi Dan. I am currently in Australia, but do you have skype? Maybe we could have a chat on there? Or shoot me an email kellogg.kristen (at) Would love to hear about what you just wrapped up as well.

Kristen Kellogg

Can anyone recommend any great websites (other than this one) where I can get help on how to make my first documentary?

John Burgan

Not sure a website or a book can replace the experience you will gain by launching in and actually making a short doc exercise – ideally something in your own back yard – walk before you run. I presume you have access to a basic DV camera and edit software? How about a 2-minute portrait of "someone at work" – that's always a classic subject. Try to interpret it in visual terms, rather than relying on interview/talking heads.

Also search for "documentary filmmaking" on – check out Andy Glynne's Documentaries and How to Make Them and Michael Rabiger's much more comprehensive Directing the Documentary

Timoty Gibbs

Can anyone talk about educational distribution? Who are the game players? Can it be lucrative? Is it a difficult market to crack?

Christopher Wong

In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

If you need to come up with a proposal quick, watch as many documentaries as you can. Make sure you have a good mix of different genres, old and new. Then, figure out what you want to borrow from each, and start conceiving the proposal from there. A quick list of varied docs might be:
SALESMAN (Maysles Brothers)
GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog)
HARLAN COUNTY USA (Barbara Kopple)

this list could go on forever... but other than making docs, watching docs is the best way to learn.

Kristen Kellogg

John-Thanks for the book recommendations. I read Documentaries and How to Make Them by Andy Glynne today. A lot of clarification and great insight.

Christopher-I have been watching a variety of films the last few days and it's been a tremendous help.

Justine-many thanks for the site! So many helpful hints!

Thanks everyone for helping me take the necessary steps to making my vision become a reality.

Jaggy Singh


sorry for the loud introduction.

hope everyone is well.

I am currently in my final year at university, over here in the UK.
I am studying Film production and Technology, and am working on a dissertation, which is based on, the technology used for cinema release documentaries.

I have started the research, and have noticed, i am getting much more information to do with the theory, artistic and issues and debates in documentary, more than the technology side of documentary film making.

I was wondering if anyone could assist me with any articles, books or websites I could look at which focus on the technology side of film making for documentaries in cinema.

Also, I'm amazed at how there are so many different people on this website. wow! this is like a small community within it self.

Also, are there any camera men, sound recorders and editors and cinematographers, which i could maybe interview through email, just so i can get an insight of those who work in the industry, with first hand experience, that would be so great.

if anyone can help, that would be great.

Thank you for your time.

Take care

Jaime Cruz

Hi Jaggy

Perhaps your interest for this topic is only about docs production in the "first world". Anyway, you will find a very broad range of technologies used in docs, from the oldies (but goodies) dvx 100´s to the DSLR´S. So maybe your question should be more in the perspective of "how and why" the diverse options of cameras, sound gear, etc., are being used by documentaries filmakers. Well, is just a suggestion.

Jaggy Singh

In reply to Jaime Cruz's post on Thu 23 Dec 2010 :

Hey Jaime,

Thank you for writing back man, appreciate that! yh I am looking into those camera's at the moment. I am analysing the technologies through time, in reference to films. from the 20's to the 60's and to the 21st century. so I am looking at films such as, man with a movie camera, gimme shelter and touching the void. I want to look at why 35mm were used, why did people stop using them, then 16mm came in to action and now the 35mm is getting back in documentaries. I know the general idea, but i want to get in to more detail. also what the future may look like for documentaries. i wish i could change the title, I really do...but I am stuck with it now, so I just have to get on with it and learn to love it.

cheers Jaime!

Bill Kerrigan

Jaggy... because of my age, I might be able to help.
When I started... feature docs were shot on 35mm.
I filmed some pickup shots for 'Janis' and 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest'.

If you wish, you can write me off forum.

Jaggy Singh

In reply to Bill Kerrigan's post on Thu 23 Dec 2010 :

hey Bill, hope your well.

That's great.Seriously, I would love to hear from you, and your work. Thank you for replying back to my post, really do appreciate it Bill.

Is it possible I could maybe get your email add, so we can talk about this?

Thank You

John Burgan

You'll find the email address of any D-Word member if you click on their name or photo.

Jaggy Singh

hey, thanks for the help lads.

thats great Bill, ill email you now.

Merry Christmas everyone

Christina Antonakos-Wallace

Hi there,

I recently completed a 20 minute version of the feature-length film I am directing ( which is targeted for educational use. The film comparatively explores the immigration debate in the U.S. and Europe through the stories of children of immigrants in Berlin and New York. The film was shot half in Germany, and a very big German educational distributor is interested. They have given us a generic contract to look over, but I have no idea of the terms are decent or terrible, plus it is in German! Basically, they seem to be offering us no money upfront, but 50% of all profit from sales. They would get exclusive access to all German-speaking countries and Goethe Institutes for three years. I know that I need to find a German entertainment lawyer to speak with before signing anything, but it would be great if anyone could share any of the terms they have gotten in educational distribution contracts, or even send a sample contract.
Thank you so much for your help!!!

Doug Block

Christina, you're a member so you shouldn't post this in The Mentoring Room. Especially since it's a public topic and therefore open to Google searches and the like. This belongs in the Marketing and Distribution topic.

Nicola Lees

Christina – you could try contacting Christoph Fey – he's a a German entertainment lawyer based in Berlin and has been very helpful in the past.He works for a company Unverzagt Von Have and his contact details are easily Googled.

Jeff Girard


Advice sought: Least expensive PC for video editing programs

I am seeking help finding the least expensive PC laptop capable of running Pinnacle Studio video editing programs. I’m on the low income side (especially after becoming unemployed) so I am working with modest equipment.

Because I am couch surfing, I need to stick with a laptop, not a PC.

I’ve tried several other editing programs such as Vegas, Adobe, etc., and I’ve tried iMovie on the Mac. Pinnacle works best for me. My current laptop, a Dell I bought in 2009, cannot handle my HD video editing. I am using a Kodak Zi8 camera.

The system requirements are at:

There are three main versions and all 3 appear to have different requirements:
Studio HD
Studio Ultimate
Studio Ultimate Collection

The graphics card requirement is the same for all of three.

I’m a lean quick on my own how to use document, photo, and video editing programs for creative purposes. I am however clueless about the tech stuff.

I am getting unemployment checks and money is tight. However, I believe in myself enough to take a gamble and spend up to $1,000 on a laptop.

I need help though because I'm not good at the tech stuff and don't want to get ripped off at the stores. So far, Best Buy, Fry’s and my computer savvy friends have all recommended different machines. I’m hoping that at some point I’ll hear the same recommendation a few times.

At least at Best Buy and Wal-Mart there are no re-stocking fees.

Thanks! I appreciate your time and help,


System Requirements for Studio Ultimate Collection

* Windows ® 7, Windows Vista ® (SP2),Windows XP (SP3)
* Intel ® Pentium ® or AMD Athlon ™ 1.8 GHz (2.4 GHz or higher recommended)
– Intel Core â„¢ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz required for AVCHD*
– Intel Core â„¢ 2 Quad 2.66 GHz or Intel Core â„¢ i7 required
for AVCHD* 1920
* 1 GB system memory recommended, 2 GB required for AVCHD*
* DirectX ® 9 or 10 compatible graphics card with 64 MB (128 MB or higher recommended) – 128 MB required for Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks Plug-in: Pixelshader 2 required, Intel GMA integrated graphics not supported. – 256 MB required for HD and AVCHD*
* DirectX 9 or higher compatible sound card
* 3,6 GB of disk space
* DVD-ROM drive to install software
* Accessory:
o CD burner for creating Video CDs or Super Video CDs (S-VCDs)
o DVD burner for creating DVD and AVCHD* discs
o Blu-ray burner for creating Blu-ray discs*
o Sound card with surround sound output required for preview of surround sound mixes*

Input Options

* Capture from DV, HDV and Digital8 camcorders or VCRs (requires a FireWire ® ; port)Capture from analog camcorders, 8 mm, HI 8, VHS, SVHS, VHS-C, SVHS-C, or VCRs (NTSC/PAL/SECAM). (requires Pinnacle or Dazzle video hardware)
* Import from AVCHD* and other file based Camcorders, Digital Still Cameras, Mobile Devices and Webcams via USB

Output Options

* Output to DV, HDV or Digital8 tape (requires camcorder with FireWire Input port and a PC with a DV/FireWire port)
* Output to analog videotape (requires DirectShow compatible device with video output)

Import Formats

* Video: AVCHD*, BD Blu-ray*, DV, HDV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX ® , MPEG-4, 3GP(MPEG-4), WMV, Non-encrypted DVD titles (incl. DVD-VR/+VR), QuickTime ® ; (DV, MPEG-4, H.264*)
* Audio: MP3, MPA, WAV, AC3*, WMA

Export Formats

* AVCHD*, BD Blu-ray*, HD-DVD, DVD (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW, dual layer), S-VCD, Video CD (VCD)
* Apple ® iPod ® , Sony ® ; PSP/PS3, Nintendo ® Wii, Microsoft ® Xbox compatible formats*
* DV, HDV, AVI, DivX*, RealVideo ® 8, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4*, Flash, 3GP*, WAV, MP3*, QuickTime ® (SD format) files
* Dolby ® Digital 2 channel and 5.1 channel audio*