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Linda Goin
Sun 20 May 2001Link
I have a feeling I'll be repeating myself down the road, but I would
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
writers/producers/agents?

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?

Robert Goodman
Sun 20 May 2001Link
Most documentary filmmakers get involved in a project because it's
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.

Doug Block
Sun 20 May 2001Link
Robert makes a good distinction between independent doc filmmakers,
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
magazine-type shows.

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.

Linda Goin
Sun 20 May 2001Link
"Most documentary filmmakers have a sliding fee scale based on value
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.

Doug Block
Sun 20 May 2001Link
"Survivor" is reality tv. "Sixty Minutes" is news magazine.

Linda Goin
Sun 20 May 2001Link
Gotcha.

Robert Goodman
Mon 21 May 2001Link
Linda - Doug is correct about my reference to (indy) doc filmmakers
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.

Linda Goin
Mon 21 May 2001Link
My history includes a long one in marketing and advertising (a
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.

Bindu Chander
Thu 7 Jun 2001Link
Hi People

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
steps involved?

look forward to learning and exchanging!

Doug Block
Thu 7 Jun 2001Link
Welcome, Bindu.

There are a couple of books I'd recommend on Michael Weise's website:
http://www.mwp.com/pages/books.html

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.

Lotsa luck!

Ron Franscell
Wed 20 Jun 2001Link
My name is Ron Franscell. I am a published novelist and newspaperman.
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.

Doug Block
Wed 20 Jun 2001Link
Welcome to The D-Word, Ron. Care to share with folks here what the
doc project is about? Always curious what attracts media
professionals (ie. people who should know better) to try their hand
with a documentary ;-)

Ron Franscell
Wed 20 Jun 2001Link
Well, BECAUSE I am an alleged media professional (they're withholding
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.

Robert Goodman
Thu 21 Jun 2001Link
the same old same.

Tony Esposito
Mon 25 Jun 2001Link
Hello everyone, my name is Tony Esposito and I'm in the middle of a
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.

Tony Esposito

Ben Kempas
Mon 25 Jun 2001Link
Welcome Ron, are you aware of that excellent documentary film 'Butte,
Montana' by Thomas Schadt?

Doug Block
Mon 25 Jun 2001Link
Hey, Tony, welcome to The D-Word. Guess what, I do weddings, too.
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 $$$$.

Tony Esposito
Wed 27 Jun 2001Link
Hi Doug, it is a very interesting way to make money and support my
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.
Take care,
Tony Esposito

John D. Williams
Mon 16 Jul 2001Link
John D. sneaking back in after an all too long absence. You don't
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.

Doug Block
Tue 17 Jul 2001Link
Good to have you back, John. It's been toooo long.

John D. Williams
Mon 23 Jul 2001Link
Yup. :-)

Alberto Hersckovits
Thu 26 Jul 2001Link
Well, let's see what happens if I start with saying 'hello' to
everybody...

Alberto Hersckovits
Thu 26 Jul 2001Link
I see. Everybody right now seems to be nobody...

Doug Block
Fri 27 Jul 2001Link
... he says, giving less than a minute for a reply. This ain't a
chat room, Alberto. But hello back at ya.

Robert Goodman
Sat 28 Jul 2001Link
Alberto this is more akin to a community bulletin board. You leave a
note and everyone wanders by when they have time. So check back in
when you have a moment and see what's up.

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