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.

Marshall Burgtorf

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. I discovered a developing story in Iraq 2 weeks ago. I approached the parties involved about tagging along to tell their story. They made a spot for me and one of my investors purchased airfare today.

Here is the issue. In the past when I have traveled in countries such as Kenya or El Salvador my "press pass" was simply a badge provided by the organizations I was traveling with. Do I need some kind of official press pass? I will contact the US Embassy as soon as it is morning in Baghdad but I thought someone here might be able to help out. Thanks.

Reid B. Kimball

Hi everyone,

I am trying to use Excel to enter my IN and OUT timecode information. I am having trouble getting my format to appear correctly. My timecode is based on 60 frame/sec so it may look like 00:04:34.51 but freakin' Excel will change it to 04:34.50, truncating the hour 00 and rounding down the frame number. I have tried setting the column cell type to Number, Text and custom (which I don't understand well) with no luck.

I did search for Excel macros for timecoding info and most are based on 24 or 29 frame/sec. It would be a bonus to have a timecode macro that can calculate the elapsed time between IN and OUT but that is not essential.

My main issue is getting the formatting right because I am copying and pasting from a word doc with the original timecode format.

Right now I have to copy from my word doc, paste into notepad, then copy from notepad and paste into Excel for the format to appear correctly. Talk about a productivity nightmare.


Robert Goodman

there are far better programs for logging video footage than excel. Avid has one, Imagine Products makes expensive ones, and there are bunch of others floating around. These days I wouldn't even bother. Just do it in your editing program – if space is an issue – bring everything in low res. That way you can organize bins too.

Todd Leatherman

Hello all-
I'm a documentary film student (about to graduate in December) who is looking for an internship here in NYC. Aside from the standard job posting sites, does anyone know of a good way to find and research available internships in the field?

ben epperson

In search of the "perfect" camera:

I am a photographer in Knoxville and have been roped into this crazy adventure in the spring. It's called The 555.
Basically all of the crazy motor heads here are travelling across the country again. The only catch is that they must use motorcycles under 500 ccs, costing less than $500 to rebuild and orginally built before 1975.
and they want me to sit in a homemade side car and film the trip for two weeks
I am looking for a camera that is in the spirit of the 555
grimy, beat up, sturdy, drunk, a one man show
Can anyone recommend something?
What kind of camera does a crazy person take on a dangerous motorcycle adventure in hopes of capturing the truth about "The 555"?

ps. how the hell am I going to get sound for this if I'm the only one doing this project?

ben epperson

Stephen Cooper

Hi, everybody—

I’m new to the D-Word, new to the world of documentary filmmaking, and I have a ton of questions. I’ll confine this post to question number 1 but first a few words of introduction.

I’m a writer in Los Angeles, working in collaboration with a veteran European filmmaker on the development of a doc film project that’s been accepted into IDA’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program. On page one of the FSP Agreement it says that as Project Manager I’m required “to obtain appropriate liability insurance for all aspects of the project in an amount of not less than $1,000,000, which shall name IDA as an additional insured.”

I’d like to ask folks with experience in this area where I should (and maybe also should not) go to inquire about such insurance, how much I should expect to pay, if there are some plans better than others, etc. Any and all information will be appreciated.

Many thanks, and it's great to be part of this group--

Steve Cooper

P.S. Thanks to Lisa Hasko of IDA for telling me about the D-Word!

Stephen Cooper

Here's my second question for the Mentoring Room and it's also about insurance. At what point in the long process of development should Errors & Omissions coverage be purchased? Compared to liability insurance, the quotes for E&O are way more expensive. Early on, we're trying to figure out the best way to spend what money we have. Any thoughts or anecdotes will be appreciated--


Doug Block

Stephen, wait until you're finished (or close to finished) and have a sense of what your distribution will be. You'd need it mainly for theatrical and broadcast, so why pay for it when you may not ultimately need it?

James Longley

Basically, if a broadcaster (like HBO or the BBC or Discovery or whoever, for example) wants to buy your film, they will tell you if they have an E&O requirement and what company they prefer you to get the insurance from – because the insurance is really to protect the broadcaster, not the filmmaker (but you should still make sure that the insurance policy also covers you.)

This is because broadcasters have a lot of money, and filmmakers generally have none. So any potential lawsuit resulting from your film will likely target the broadcaster, not you, the filmmaker.

However, in most cases such lawsuits are few and far between – this E&O business is mostly just a formality required by the legal departments of large media companies.

What you can do to prepare for this process is to get signed waivers from the principal participants in your film, if possible.

Stephen Cooper

Thanks, Doug and James, for your 12/16 and 12/17 responses to my question above about E&O insurance. You're both helpful and encouraging.

Maureen Ridley

In reply to Ray Metoyer's post on Fri 13 May 2011 :

Can anyone tell me what are the typical rates for selling a documentary to a US TV channel or where I might find such information? I have a client here in the UK who has made a documentary which should be of interest to the US audience.

Doug Block

The rates are all over the place, Maureen. Could be as little as next to nothing (small cable channel) or as high as a million or more (HBO, if they really really want it). Would help to know what kind of doc it is and the length.

Doug Block

Sounds like The History Channel is your likely target. Don't know their license fees (does anyone here have any experience with them?) but my guess is it's not high for an hour-long "one-off" acquisition. 10 to 20K, perhaps? Don't hold me to it, though.