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like to know how you all go about getting projects for your films -
are they your own ideas, or do most of you work with
The second question is how you get your funding? When you are tapped
for a project, do you have a fixed rate? Or are you flexible,
depending upon the project and your interest?
How's that for a beginning?
something they care about enough to find the time and money to see it
through to completion. The idea may be self-generated, happenstance,
or from a third party who brings an idea to a filmmaker.
Some documentary films are commissioned by a network, corporation,
organization, or advocacy group. With rare exceptions, these are
actually public relations films. Documentary filmmakers take on these
assignments because they need to earn a living.
Funding for social issue documentaries comes from foundations or
individuals within that specific community circle.
Most documentary filmmakers have a sliding fee scale based on value
and pain. Their highest rates are reserved for commercial clients
who usually demand editorial control and copyright ownership. Most of
us work for free on our projects hoping to get paid after the film is
finished assuming it gets distribution. Less than 10% of the
documentaries made get any kind of distribution. Theatrical release is
likely less than half a percent. Television or on video is where most
high-quality docs end up. It's a complete crapshoot so most treat
doc filmmaking as a hobby and do other things to pay the bills.
It's my guess that there are less than 100 people in the United States
who earn their living solely from making documentaries.
who usually produce their own ideas, and doc companies, which often
pitch a number of ideas to broadcasters, usually cable channels but
sometimes PBS or HBO, as well. Or get hired to make programming.
When he throws out an estimate like that, I think he's talking about
the indies. There are far more than that earning their living helping
produce doc series. Let's not even get into "reality" tv or
As far as agents for documentaries, I wish. At least the William
Morris kind. But there are international sales agents (like Jan
Rofekamp of Films Transit) who (very occasionally) help filmmakers
with worthy projects find financing through foreign broadcasters like
Arte or the BBC.
and pain." _ hm. That's very similar to many of the arts I've been
exposed to. I tend to call the "public relations" as commercialism,
and I hate it. I have to keep reminding myself it's a necessary evil
to do other projects that are my loves.
I didn't realize - or think about - pitching to HBO or PBS. I've been
so steeped in the 'paper trail' that I've only looked at journalism
sources for money. You guys are really opening a new door for me
(when the student is ready...)
I'm wondering if the press leads I have would be willing to finance
documentary sides to the projects I have...
Part of all this is to learn the difference between all the names you
all are giving to the docs. I'm sure I understand the PR types, and
the indies. I'm not sure what you mean by "reality" tv or magazine-
type shows, Doug? Perhaps if you explain, I'm sure I'll know what
you're talking about.
making a living solely from docs. E.g, the Maysles made a lot more
money selling their style for commercials then they ever did do docs.
necessity for publications, of course...). Making a statement
(oblique or head-on) - whether through film, print or art - can be
very hard to finance. That part I understand.
Unless, of course, the funding is made with the objective of having
an exclusive that is pretty hard-hitting. Even then, it's iffy.
Very interesting reading Linda's ques and the answers that followed.
I'm interested in making a documentary but am quite unfamiliar with
the process to completion. There are - like with everything in life
many ways to IT - any rough guides out there on docu making and the
look forward to learning and exchanging!
There are a couple of books I'd recommend on Michael Weise's website:
The Art of Reality is worth checking out (the site has a sample
chapter you can read), and Weise's The Independent Filmmakers Guide to
Film & Video (or something like that) is a very valuable general film
book that applies to docs.
My second novel has been sold to film; my first has been optioned. I
worked on both scripts, and now I am striking off on my own with a
documentary project (as writer only) and an original feature script.
I look forward to invigorating discussions here! Thank you.
doc project is about? Always curious what attracts media
professionals (ie. people who should know better) to try their hand
with a documentary ;-)
my union card until I learn to mainline black coffee)I was asked to
be part of a documentary about Butte, Montana. Yeah, yeah, my
reaction at the time was about the same as yours when your read that.
But it turns out this place is a metaphor for the American West, a
place where exploitation, diversity, bawdiness, violence, wealth,
culture, sex and the landscape intersected ... like a train wreck.
Doug kindly answered a beginner's questions, so now I know enough to
be dangerous. That's all.
Fortruanetly, I've published two successful novels and written a
couple screenplays, so I have a vague sense of story structure. I am
eager to see how it's done in this "new-to-me" medium. I look forward
to chatting with all of you.
midlife career change. Do to 2 back operations I had to end my career
as a master automobile tech. I have been taping weddings as a side
line and also produced some small corporate videos. When I had to
change careers, I decided to go to school and get into video
production full time. I'm currently working on a documentary on the
growth of Charlotte NC, and how it effects the quality of life. I'm
also editing some works that will be shown at The Museum of the New
South. I'm so glad I found this site and hope to learn from it and
interact with the members.
Montana' by Thomas Schadt?
Edit in-the-camera, feature-length docs of the wedding day. It's one
of the ways I stake my independence and make docs of my own choosing.
It actually got me out of shooting corporate videos -- it's more
satisfying and I make a lot more $$$$.
other interests. I like the fact that each wedding is an event and
anything can happen. You have to be on your toes and ready for
something to happen that wasn't expected.
I have always thought that taping weddings was making a small
documentary of an event in ones life. The way the families of the
bride and groom interact is always interesting. Did they approve of
the wedding or was this wedding taking place because the bride was
expecting a little something. Great stuff to tape.
want to know/hear the LP version of what's been going on in my real
life, but the Readers' Digest version has me switching jobs and
moving from Texas to North Carolina.
After year away from the technical side of things, I'll be back
teaching production classes again. With any luck I'll get to teach a
16mm class in the near future, otherwise it's Mini DV and the Media
100. All of which means I will once again be checking into D-Word on
a regular basis.
It's good to be back.
chat room, Alberto. But hello back at ya.
note and everyone wanders by when they have time. So check back in
when you have a moment and see what's up.
I make independent documentaries, "The Shvitz" about the
Russian baths and "My Friend Paul" about my childhood friend,
the bank robber. Recently I did a "work-for-hire", the show
Maternity Ward for the Learning Channel (now known as TLC).
Funding for my films comes from foundations and TV; "Paul" got
a good wallop from ITVS, who gave completion funding. Now
making a new film about the ideals and impact of the 1960's.
my very first doc, a very short topic on sailing windmills (a type of
small one-design racing boat). I am doing this in preparation for
doing a longer project on gay and lesbian parents. I am located in
Columbus, Ohio, where there is a great community called the Columbus
Film Consortium (http://www.thecfc.org).
Bintu: I have learned a ton from reading the following three books:
Michael Rabiger's _Directing the Documentary_
Allan Rosenthal's _Writing, Directing, and Producing
Documentary Films and Videos_
Paul Kriwaczek's _Documentary for the Small Screen_.
you're doing with your short, is better. No substitute for
experience. Keep us posted on your progress.
one-hour docs right now. Two for Oxygen Network, and one
The independent is about a sex worker/photogrpher who breaks
into the art world with black and white photos of her male client's
genitalia. The film also examines her relationships with a
long-time client, her live-in boyfriend, and friends. I'm close to
having a rough-cut and am looking for completion funds.
So...male frontal nudity.... Where does this doc belong? HBO?
Showtime? Or is it just a festival film? Will ITVS even consider it
for public TV? Will POV broadcast male frontal nudity? I called
PBS in Virgina but they are not repsonding.
Any and all thoughts are appreciated.
this site is a great idea. wish I had found it before.
For those of you who are just visiting the public D-Word conference,
you might have noticed a bunch of new registrants to The D-Word
Community accidentally post their intros in the public conference. You
can generally tell by their level of experience. Nothing wrong with
that, just trying to explain if you're confused.
story for Cable World magazine (a weekly trade) on documentaries on
cable. Would love to hear your experiences pitching cable nets, and
to get a feeling for which networks are great to work with, which
ones aren't, is it getting easier to find a home for your docs with
the proliferation of digital channels ... ? Any and all thoughts
welcome! cheers, Shirley Brady (email@example.com)
insider gossip and slander to make public ;-) I'll email you.
Studies who would love to make a documentary film on current living
conditions in Russia and Russian culture. I recently returned from
living in St. Petersburg, Russia(and studying the language) for seven
and a half months so I have a lot of ideas. If you know anyone
involved currently in this type of project, planning one in the
future, or any other BBS's to point me to, I would greatly appreciate
the help. Thanks so much!
--Shelley S. McIntosh
documentary. The tools to do so are very inexpensive.
a 1 hr. doc was just green-lighted. I had asked for a broadcast
committment and the capability to solicit funding under their 501(c)
(3) status, which I have been provided, and in addition, they have
offerred fund-seeking, production, and promotional support. This will
be my first doc. I have worked in TV Network production & operations
for 17 years and for about 3 years I have been running my own small
production company. I am looking to D-word for some overall mentoring
and budget-writing support (they have asked for greater detail on the
budget I submitted). I look forward to hearing from, as we say in
NJ, "yous". Thanks!
key to our main community doors!
Creative Director of MediaRights.org, a community Web site,
helps media makers, educators, nonprofits, and activists use
documentaries to encourage action and inspire dialogue on
contemporary social issues. We have a database of over 2,000
social issue documentaries and a database of the 700,000
nonprofit organizations in the USA . Filmmakers can list their
film for free and we will link to their distributor, Web site and
email. We are about to launch an Outreach Toolkit (with AIVF)
which helps documentary filmmakers design, fund and
implement outreach campaigns or grassroots distribution. One
of my goals at MediaRights.org is to make sure that we are
serving the documentary community as best we can so I am
always interested in hearing what resources people feel is
Just a little background - I was an independent documentary
filmmaker and I made a personal documentary "Before You Go:
A Daughter's Diary" and I worked as porducer and camera on
"90 MILES" - just click on my username to get more info.
Welcome to the D-Word. Very impressive list of documentaries at
MediaRights.org, I'll add one or two soon.
This is actually the public conference, so make sure you join us in
LINK NOT IMPORTED and introduce yourself there.
I am just curious where is your last name from...if you come back to
d-word to answer the question.
I've just now joined the community. Currently (and I hope for some
time to come given the state of the Israeli economy) I'm working with
Highlight Films, Tel Aviv (http://www.highlight.co.il) as an 'ideas
developer' (exactly!!!) and writer. Just finished writing/editing a
six-part doc on the nature of religious ecstasy among six sects in
the not-so-Holy Land for National Geographic (any thoughts on
National Geographic... or should that read prejudices)? As I'm a
comparative newcomer to documentaries (having spent the best part of
the last few years keeping body and soul together by writing
corporate videos for high-tech), I'd appreciate any help on how I (we
the company) can go about researching international issues. i.e. does
anyone know of any organisations who hire out researchers (e.g. we
need someone in Taiwan). Any links/contacts/addresses would be much
Regards, David Jones.
This is the public conference. I'm sure you want to join us at our
community conference at
(just hope I got this link right)
I'm Adele and I live in central Virginia. I have a BFA in sculpture
from VCU. I went to Roger Ebert's frame-by-frame workshop on The
Birds. last year at the Virginia Film Festival. I've accepted an
invitation to produce and host a three part series on emergency
preparedness. I'm a beginner! I hope I can get some pointers. Thank
you for being here.