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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

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.

Eli Brown
Thu 1 May 2014Link

Hi Eva, welcome – and maybe sign up for professional membership, too! There's lots more to explore elsewhere on the site with that. And I think your Tribeca-ness easily qualifies! As to your deal – not sure how great of a deal that is, since it would probably preclude any other deal and it appears that they're mostly specializing in France? Or are just most of their films French language? Is your film French (in subject matter if not title)? Also, not sure how they plan to account for earnings or – more precisely – what they would expect to sell on your title (you can AND SHOULD ask them what kind of sales numbers they predict/expect). It's nice that they're not charging you for any promotion, but a more typical split for all media is 30/70 or 33/67. Without an advance or any kind of money being put in by them, it doesn't seem like they're really invested in the film (i.e. there's not a ton of incentive for them to sell your film because they're not trying to recoup an investment in it. For them, it's really about building up a catalogue and they can say to other prospective filmmakers, "Hey, we have a Tribeca film in our roster." And that looks great, for them. I'm not sure how great that is for you. Short films are notoriously difficult to distribute/get money for outside of the festival world...) But, really, the best thing to do is to ask for some references or talk directly with filmmakers that have signed with them to gauge their experience. Best if you can find them by not going through the distributor directly, as you can get a more unbiased report that way. My gut is telling me this is not a great deal – but a short experimental documentary film is also not the easiest thing to distribute, so I'm not sure how optimistic I would be about making much on any deals that you're fielding. You say you are getting approached by distributorS – are there others that are approaching you? Do they have deal terms that you can compare? That might be helpful, too, at least as a bargaining chip. Congratulations and good luck!


Andrew Iden
Thu 1 May 2014Link

Hey all-
I’m not entirely sure where this discussion falls in the topics here, but I’ve determined this to be the closest. Jumping out of the network news world, and more into the independent production side of things, I’ve had some difficulty getting some traction and networking (some of it my own fault, some of it just the difficulty of making your way in a different arena) I’ve reached out to some people via email in the production community near me without any introduction, or any real in person networking. I’m curious, am I out of line just “cold e-mailing” folks? I’ve found that often times, jobs, opportunities and openings in this career track don’t sit on job posting websites, and don't follow some of the more traditional job boards/directories/etc that more “normal” type industries would use. So, in an attempt to make it happen, and following the “no one will do it for you” type attitude, I’ve just gone for it-Emailing, pitching myself, etc. So I’m curious-How does this look on the other side to potential producers/employers? I certainly don’t want to turn people off, but also know that I’m not exactly going to have things handed to me, either. I’m just trying to strike a balance. Thought this would be a good place to throw the discussion out there. Thanks everyone-This is a great forum, and probably some of the more accurate feedback I’ve gotten on issues like this.


Dillon Birdsall
Thu 1 May 2014Link

Hey I was just wondering were I would post information about my kick starter and other crowd funding news? and if anyone has already started the topic please let me know.


Doug Block
Sat 3 May 2014Link

You can do it in the Classifieds topic, Dillon.

In reply to Eva von Schweinitz's post on Wed 30 Apr 2014 :

Now that you're a Professional member, Eva, a better place for your post is the Marketing and Distribution topic. Normally we discourage "double posting" but in your case it's justified.

And welcome to The D-Word, by the way.


Eva von Schweinitz
Sat 3 May 2014Link

Dear Eli,

thank you so much for the thorough answer. Everything you say makes a lot of sense. To answer your questions:
My film is not French, though I feel like it could do well in a French market. This is what Gonella Films said in their e-mail:

"We are based in France, but we have clients all over the world. We can sell your film to television channels and VOD platforms in different countries. We have recently sold short films to TV channels as Canal + (France, Spain, Belgium), Arte, TV5, among many others. "

What you say about them wanting to build their catalogue seems to be part of why they're interested. I'll get in touch with some of the filmmakers they represent, that's a great idea.

Gonella Films was the only distributor that contacted me with an exclusive offer.
The others have been online distributors, such as the VOD platform SnagFilms and I have an opportunity with vimeo's new VOD Audience Development progam.

As I'm hoping to show my doc at more festivals, I'm holding off from distribution right now to keep it eligible, but it's good to know where to go from there.

I now got the professional membership (yay) and will look around elsewhere on this forum. (Thanks, Doug!)

Best, Eva


Robert Rapplean
Sun 11 May 2014Link

Hi, all. I'm doing a documentary that basically asks the question "why hasn't this awesome medical treatment been adopted after 20 years?

The answer I'm presenting is systemic, but I'm having difficulty finding qualified medical professionals who are willing to be interviewed because they're afraid that I'll make them look bad. Trying to explain to them that I'm trying to make the point that there would be no way for them to have known doesn't seem to help.

The ones who do want to be interviewed want to sign a contract saying that they have a right to not have their interviews published if they think I'm going to say something bad about them. Could someone point me to resources for navigating this kind of difficulty? I'd specifically like to know if this kind of contract is common, what the pros and cons are, and if it's going to double my meager budget to hire a lawyer to navigate the issues.

Thanks,

Robert


Summers Henderson
Thu 15 May 2014Link

In reply to Andrew Iden's post on Thu 1 May 2014 :

I can't really answer your question with authority, Andrew, because I haven't usually been in the position of the employer. Usually I'm like you, looking for a job. But I'm curious to hear if other people have a response. Personally, I think it's a good idea to cold email people that you want to work with. In my limited experience, you're likely to get a good response if you happen to email them on the day when they just realized they need somebody like you. By the time two days go by, they've forgotten about you already. So if you email somebody and don't get a great response, it's probably just your timing is bad. Probably not that they're offended you contacted them directly. Why would they be offended? It doesn't hurt them when you try to contact them. So I say go for it!


Margie Friedman
Fri 23 May 2014Link

I'm looking to connect with another filmmaker who has used licensed music from a music publisher (not an original score or from a stock music house) in their documentary and is selling the DVD to libraries and educational institutions.

I have a specific question regarding the music licensing and public performance rights in an educational setting.

I just joined the D-word and am waiting to be approved for professional status. I appreciate hearing from anyone who has experience with music licensing for library DVD sales.


Doug Block
Sat 24 May 2014Link

Now that you've been approved as a Pro, Margie, best you re-post your question in the Legal topic. Many more members will see it there.


Noam Osband
Wed 28 May 2014Link

I have an audio question I'm wondering if someone might be able to help me with: I'm using a Rode NTG-3 with a Canon XA-10. When I listen to the audio I record, it definitely sounds a bit muddy, as if it's clipping. But the levels when I import into FCP 7 aren't showing clipping. Moreover, the levels on the camera aren't showing clipping either when I'm recording. Thoughts on how I might solve this?


John Burgan
Wed 28 May 2014Link

As you've just been admitted as a Full member, you might wish to repost this in the Member's Topic Sound and Music


Adjul Gardner
Tue 8 Jul 2014Link

Hello,
I'm in the outlining phase of a documentary that will follow three different groups that work on communication in different ways, but with a core similarity. I'm also working on a separate documentary that tracks one of those groups through a 2-month training intensive in the wilderness. I have a few questions, I'd appreciate any help, or if you can redirect me to part of the site that is more suited to my question.

1. One of these films already has 1Tb worth of footage, and I'm only 1/4 of the way into the filming phase. I've been taking a few words of notes on each day, and thinking to put that into a searchable word document to cull through when I'm done. I've also put each day's clips in a separate labelled folder. What are people's methods of organizing such a mass of footage and/or taking notes on it during the shooting phase?

2. With the piece that I'm just starting to outline, I'm wanting to start arranging interviews but I'm nervous because I don't know what the narrative thread will be. It could be more of a "let the speakers and clips speak for themselves," or I could do voice-overs as the POV narrator throughout the film. How much of the arc/narrative style of the film really needs to be decided this early on, if any? I'm worried about not feeling confident during the interviews (they require travel) and regretting not taking more time to prepare.


Jaeyoon Lee
Wed 9 Jul 2014Link

Hi all,
Is there anyone who knows where I can get some help with fixing Beta deck Sony UVW 180 in New York city?
We have a beta deck Sony UVW 180 and we are trying to put it back in use after a few years on the shelf. We are going out from the deck into a Sony converter box DVMC-DA2. But Log and capture in FCP 7 doesn't work...The Log and Capture window shows “no communication'...

Thank you!
Jessie


Doug Block
Wed 9 Jul 2014Link

You might try Technisphere, Jessie.

No need to sign your name after a post, btw, as it appears above it automatically.


Jaeyoon Lee
Wed 9 Jul 2014Link

In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 9 Jul 2014 :

Is Technisphere still in business? Because I went there and it was closed even though it was monday. And when I call the store number, it says 'this number is temporally unavailable.'
So do you guys happen to know other store similar to Technisphere?

Thanks


Eli Brown
Wed 9 Jul 2014Link

Sony Professional Service is in Teaneck, NJ, also as an option. Usually pretty reliable, but they'll probably be at least $300 just to look at it. "No communication" on the capture window would make sense, since the converter box doesn't offer any deck control. Choose "non-controllable device" and make sure you're getting video in via the firewire port. Apple has some info about this whole process here , if that helps troubleshoot it at all.


Jaeyoon Lee
Wed 9 Jul 2014Link

In reply to Eli Brown's post on Wed 9 Jul 2014 :

Thank you so much for store info and link, Eli!!
I tried to log and capture numerous times with non-controllable device setting but video doesn't show up.....I don't know if deck is wrong or converter box is wrong or rca cable is wrong or Final Cut setting is wrong.....

I don't think we have that much budget for fixing this.....T.T And with that money, I think it's better to just ask a store to digitize beta tapes rather than fixing beta cam deck..

Is there anyone who knows cheaper and closer store? Or could you guys recommend good and cheap place which can digitize beta tapes?

Edited Wed 9 Jul 2014 by Jaeyoon Lee

Khadijah White
Fri 11 Jul 2014Link

Hi – I'm a former AP at PBS whose been out of the newsroom for several years finishing up grad school. Now that I'm a professor (with an actual equipment budget!) I'm looking to invest in my own professional-grade video camera equipment for a one-man band within my means (around 5k). This would be for possibly airing on TV or in film festivals. I would really appreciate suggestions on what to get. Based on some lists I've seen online, I've narrowed down the choices to these few, but I'm sure there are lots of stuff I'm missing. Thanks for any help or feedback:

ALSO – Here was my top list based on prices of HD:

Panasonic AG-HPX250 AGHPX250 P2 HD Hand-Held Camcorder + 32GB DSHC Card (10) + Tripod + Deluxe Accessory Pack

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00B3VJHZY/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20

Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM Professional Camcorder

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0037JOU66/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20

Sony PMW100 One 1/2.9" Exmor CMOS XDCAM HD422 Handy Ca

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B008HUTJ9I/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20


Canon XA20 Professional Camcorder

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00C3R16O2/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20


Canon XH-A1S 3CCD HDV High Definition Professional Camcorder wit

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B001JQLKRG/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20

Panasonic HMC40KIT Camcorder and Mic Adapter/Holder with 12x

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00A4L9U8S/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?tag=epfilms-20

And in terms of 4K cameras:

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00I9GYG8O/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00I9GYG8O&linkCode=as2&linkId=U55SZVM267JANQ6X&redirect=true&ref_=as_li_tl&tag=eduaange-20

Edited Fri 11 Jul 2014 by Khadijah White

John Burgan
Fri 11 Jul 2014Link

This is an interesting selection, Khadijah – but this Topic is mainly for beginners, which you clearly are not! If in any doubt as to the purpose of a Topic, virtually all have a brief description at the top of the page underneath the title.

You should use the Search Function (top right of every page) to look through the Cinematography Topic in particular as there have been many detailed discussions on specific cameras which you might find useful.

Edited Fri 11 Jul 2014 by John Burgan

Khadijah White
Wed 16 Jul 2014Link

Thanks John, I'll do that!!! Plus, I still think of myself as a novice when it comes to buying equipment, but thanks for vouching for me :-)


Neil Gaerhard
Wed 23 Jul 2014Link

Hi all,

I've signed up to the D-Word as an unusual situation has presented itself, and hopefully some of you guys can offer some advice.

I work mainly making short online promos, commercials and corporates, but over the years have produced and directed three full length web-docs, (30-60mins).

I've been approached by an agency who have a multi-national client in a fairly controversial industry – palm oil – who are looking to produce a documentary about what they do in a developing part of the world. However, they don't want to produce an 'expensive' corporate film that no one will watch – they want to get it broadcast on TV, preferably globally.

Normally, it wouldn't be my job to tell them how to do this, but this time it is. And unfortunately, I don't really have any experience on that side of it. I just make em!

Obviously there are a few ethics and transparency issues here. There probably aren't too many mainstream broadcasters who'd be eager to snap up what is effectively corporate propaganda and put it on their channel. I've had conversations with the agency about this, and have told them of the need for honesty and transparency and independent voices within the field to fend off allegations of corporate shilling or astroturfing.

So I guess the questions I have are:

Are corporate sponsored films a complete non-starter for broadcast? Let's assume I make an honest, transparent doc, that although in 'association with GloboCorp', doesn't shy away from asking and answering the tough questions to paint an honest picture of their operations, would broadcasters be open to acquiring it?

Would a broadcaster pay for it, or would 'GloboCorp' have to pay? (Presumably this ratchets up the whole ethics issue if the company were to pay to have it shown!)

What would be the best way to approach broadcasters, pre-production with a treatment or post-production with the completed film?

I apologise if this gets anyone's back up. I'm sure some people might not be too comfortable with the idea of the D-Word discussing corporate propaganda. That said, I wouldn't touch this project if I was being asked to produce a film about how they don't go tearing down the rainforest if they're tearing down acres of rainforest.

As I've had it pitched to me, there are a lot of misconceptions on the subject and a lot of untold stories, and the company is (I'm told) looking to present their work in a way that let's people make up their own minds.

Ok, so I've probably gone on long enough. Over to you guys and thanks in advance for any advice!


Julia Guest
Wed 23 Jul 2014Link

Interesting situation Neil.

I heard someone complaining recently that Liberia's new Government had agreed to oil palm plantations.. Not just any government, but one that now has a very high ethical bar, compared to the past. Already there are stories of corruption related to the contract and people losing their land. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

It made me wonder what is the other side of the story.. undoubtedly jobs for Liberia.. but how many and at what cost, what protection of the environment will there really be.. and so on.

I doubt a broadcaster would fund something that was effectively directed by the company or accept something they had funded.

You have access.. that counts for something. It should be about how effectively you manage that access to create a transparent film. Involving a broadcaster during production would allow them to push all the really awkward questions forward.


Vivian Kleiman
Wed 23 Jul 2014Link

In reply to Neil Gaerhard's post on Wed 23 Jul 2014 :

Neil,

First of all, congrats on all of your thoughtful questions. It's clear that your approach to filmmaking must be equally methodical and inquiring into the nuance of choices made.

As a veteran Producer/Exec Producer of many docs broadcast on national PBS, I can say that there's the rule, and then there's the implementation of the rule. They aren't always the same.

It's clear that you understand the principle of self-aggrandizement. And it seems that the company is proposing a film that has broader significance than that. But it can be a grey zone. I recall once when my local PBS station launched production of a documentary profiling the patriarch of the Gallo family. IIRC, it was paid for by a donation from Gallo Wines to the wine industry's professional association here in the Bay Area, and then re-granted to KQED. A huge uproar ensued and ultimately, KQED aborted the project and funds returned.

Other broadcasters might be more flexible in their interpretation.

I might suggest that you contact the legal depts of the potential broadcasters and see how they respond to the query. My experience with PBS is that the legal dept is available for such conversations.


Neil Gaerhard
6 days agoLink

Hi Julia and Vivian,

Thanks so much for your thoughts and advice.

I'm thinking that an approach that may make it more attractive to broadcasters while also helping with the transparency issue could be to have the doc fronted by a high profile presenter from an environmental background. Someone deeply skeptical of palm oil and not afraid to scrutinise the company's claims. If the company genuinely feels it has the evidence to back its position up, they should have the cojones to welcome that... right? ;-)

Thanks again, I'll let you know how it goes!


Julia Guest
6 days agoLink

Thanks Neil, it does sound very interesting and worthwhile if you can get it right. Love to hear more and email if you'd like more direct input.


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