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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.

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Erica Ginsberg
Tue 12 Nov 2002Link
Then you've come to the right place. Don't think there's much love
lost between most documentarians and Mr. Field though some folks
would argue that docs can and should follow a similar structure to
the 3-Act fiction film.

Not sure of too much on the web in the way of formatting. Closest I
could come is
<http://faculty.uscolo.edu/ebersole/handbook/script.html> If I'm
doing a paper cut based on window dubs, I usually also add a column
to note Tape Number and timecode.

Space Ludwig
Wed 13 Nov 2002Link
Erica,

Thanks for the link. Also, I just won "Directing the Documentary" on
ebay for $5, which is a bargain, I guess, so that should provide some
useful info. Apparently this is THE book to read. However, I heard the
same thing about Field's books which turned out to be a pedantic
farce so I'll wait until I read it to pass judgement. I'm looking
forward to readjusting my thinking process. Thanks for your help and
info. I'll post my progress and hopefully the 'veterans' can give me
advice along the way when I hit road blocks.

Regards,

Space Ludwig

Robert Goodman
Wed 13 Nov 2002Link
There is no THE BOOK to read other than Aristotle.
Directing the Doc has some useful info but is hardly the end all and
be all of making nonfiction. If you want insight go to the library
and look at the vast array of nonfiction books. That's the
possibilities that exist for nonfiction films. Everything from "In
Cold Blood" to Dave Barry Cleans His Sink.

Space Ludwig
Thu 14 Nov 2002Link
Robert,

Um, I believe the rules laid out in Aristotle's poetics, if I am
correct in assuming this is what you are referring to, were
thoroughly - and successfully - refuted by the movie 'Pulp Fiction'.
If you read ALL of my previous posts you will realize that what I am
looking for is not info on how to write a story, nor am I lacking in
creative inspiration, but rather a basic outline of what to consider
when making a documentary picture, i.e. technical information. Dave
Barry cannot help me in this department. Thanks anyway.

Regards,

Space Ludwig

Robert Goodman
Thu 14 Nov 2002Link
Pulp Fiction refuted nothing. Technical information for making docs
is no different than making any other film. They don't use different
presses for printing nonfiction and fiction.

Margot Roth
Thu 14 Nov 2002Link
I think Robert is taking the word "technical" too literally here.
Obviously Space is referring to the methods, the thought organization,
etc., not literally issues of tape stock, e.g.

And indeed there is a big difference in approach to making a fiction
or doc film. They are entirely different beasts.

Space, you might want to hire an a.p. or co-producer who is
experienced in docs to help you. I don't think a book can replace
human knowledge and experience in this case.

Margot Roth
Thu 14 Nov 2002Link
Heather, good to see you here and your idea sounds excellent,
although the challenges do seem a bit daunting. I wonder if you could
go ahead and do some shooting and cut a short demo for Walmart to look
at.

It's all rather unfortunate with the timing of Michael Moore's movie.
Did Michael Moore shoot inside Walmart? Did he get permission?

If the angle of your film is a Fred Wiseman type of
humanity-revealing through a microcosm, I'd imagine it would be great
publicity for Walmart. What makes this tricky is you don't know who
you're pitching to, exactly. If you can pitch in person, you can
gauge their sensibility better. You could pitch it to them as almost
a reality series built around Walmart (crass, but whatever). Of
course, if you pitch it to someone with a brain and sensitivity, pitch
the humanity/vérité angle.

Robert Goodman
Fri 15 Nov 2002Link
Margot - disagree - the thought process for making a fiction or
nonfiction film is much the same. The only difference is that in
fiction you need actors and the outcome of the film is
predetermined. Figuring out what the scenes are and who you need to
talk to and how to go shoot it require same skills. No special
cameras/crews required for docs versus drama. Planning is planning.
Prepro is prepro.

Hayley Peacock
Fri 15 Nov 2002Link
Hello

Im very new to this site, and I was hoping there may be some people
out there willing to share their views on the work of Nick
Broomfield, controversial british doc maker, with me (Biggie and
Tupac, Kurt and Courtney,The leader..., Heidi Fleiss etc..). I am
currently compiling a biography and analysis of his career and
works. Im especially interested in a discussion on doc ethics, with
an emphasis on new documentary. I would also like to know if anyone
knows of anywhere, apart form the N Broomfield official website,
where I could gain access to a biographical outline of his career
timeline.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks- Hayley

Doug Block
Sat 16 Nov 2002Link
Hayley, no need to post the same request twice. We read all the
different topics.

Leslie Bielanski
Sun 17 Nov 2002Link
Hi all! I am a little new to the world of docs having been a
television producer for many years. My husband and I have recently
started our own company and are in the middle of our first
project. Here's my question-We are aiming to make a one hr piece
and our initial thoughts were to go for something like the History
Channel, Discovery, PBS etc. Assuming we self fund the project at
say $125,000 budget and we present the finished project to these
channels what would they typically pay? I understand the concept of
domestic international rights etc. Lets say for instance we were
looking to give them domestic and home video rights and leave the
international marketing to another company. We are just trying to
get an idea of a typical pay out from the nets. Thanks so much for
your help!

Leslie

Robert Goodman
Sun 17 Nov 2002Link
ditto for Leslie.

Leslie Bielanski
Sun 17 Nov 2002Link
Okay. So if you don't mind here is a second question. In two parts:

Where does an international market fit...in other words how much per
country-is it reasonable to expect say Germany to perhaps pay
$100,000 for a $125,000 budget piece if they are interested? Is it
better to work with a distributor who has international connections?

Secondly-I have been in the TV business for a good many years and
have worked freelance for a documentary production company. How do
these companies make any money? Does say History Channel pay little
more money once you have become established? I do love making
documentaries but I am also trying to make a living at it and trying
to figure out the best way to do that. Thank you again for your
help.

Leslie

Doug Block
Mon 18 Nov 2002Link
Leslie, I strongly recommend you read the Jan Rofekamp conference on
Selling in the International Marketplace: {LINK NOT IMPORTED} It will answer your
questions.

Heather Menicucci
Tue 19 Nov 2002Link
Hello everyone,

First, thank you for your replies. It's super encouraging to hear words of advice and interest when you feel like you're floating in a
worldof what-to-do-next's.

I think I miscommunicated one thing and I'm curious to see if this changes anyone's angle/opinion/advice. The company we're
thinking of is actually not like a controversial Walmart-y kind of place. Although it is big and national, the branches we're interested in
are actually some of the smaller, less intriguing, and famous parts of the main company. Also, they have appeared
lately on dating shows and segments of David Letterman. So although I know image is a huge factor for them, it's not clear to me
exactly what they need to protect or project. Also, I think as a place on the fringes of big business I'm not sure if I can actually say -
'what have you got to lose'? Am I naive?

(btw - hello margot and thank you!)

-Heather & Margaret (again)

Doug Block
Wed 20 Nov 2002Link
Yes, you're naive, Heather. But that's not a bad quality for a
documentary filmmaker. Nor is stubborness or persistence. If your
heart is set on this, you should just plow forward and try not to take
no for an answer from anyone -- including anyone here at this forum.

Robert Goodman
Thu 21 Nov 2002Link
conventional wisdom makes bad docs.

Laurie Trombley
Mon 2 Dec 2002Link
Hi everyone,
My name is Laurie and I am new here. I have been working on a feature
documentary with a friend for the past 3 1/2 years. This film is
about the life and music of a musician who has passed away. This is
the first film for both of us--so we are a bit inexperienced and have
just run into a problem we were unaware of when we started editing a
year ago:

All of our interstitials (photos, journal entries, artwork) are
digitized tiff files. The Avid's ability to manipulate digital stills
(panning, zooming, various effects) is poor. People have suggested we
use Boris Effects, but we don't have the money to purchase this
software, nor the expertise to use it. So we're not sure if it's a
worthy investment. Our editor is someone who works on weekends and
after hours so the Avid is not "ours" and we probably couldn't
install the software anyway.

Is it conceivable to use After Effects and integrate into our Avid
timeline? Any advice and/or suggestions about professionally
integrating our interstitials is much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time. LT

Robert Goodman
Tue 3 Dec 2002Link
I'd ask the person who's Avid it is whether they have After Effects
or Boris. Also if working on XpressDV, there's a pan and scan plug.
Another option is StageTools - a plug-in that's available on the web.
Hard to believe anyone has an avid without one of these tools.

The last option is to print out your files - shoot them with your
camera and cut the footage into your show. That works too.

Laurie Trombley
Tue 3 Dec 2002Link
Thanks Robert. I am going to bring you e-mail to my editor and see
what her Avid has. I really appreciate your advice!

Elise Green
Mon 16 Dec 2002Link
Bay Area Video Coalition Vs Film Arts Foundation

We are in the process of pitching for sponsorship from FAF and BAVC
in the San Francisco area. Does anyone know whether BAVC can equate
with FAF in terms of the following:
- working connections in public TV, private networks and festivals
for docs
- successful films they have supported
- industry success ie similar brand name

Thanks in advance.
Regards,
Elise

Robert Goodman
Tue 17 Dec 2002Link
Elise,

Not sure that fiscal sponsorship will make your film more or less
attractive to PBS, festivals, et al. One or the other may carry more
weight with particular funders which is why you'd make the decision.

Also, I would venture a guess that both orgs will say nice things
about you and your film if they like the film to people in the
business because you are from their neighborhood.

Syeda Abedin
Wed 18 Dec 2002Link
Hello everybody,
I am currently directing a documentary about the Bengali community
here in Dundee,(Scotland) focusing on the dance group of young
children. As this is part of my project at university, I have been
asked to write an in-depth treatment of my documentary, as part of my
modular work. Could anyone point me in the right direction please? Of
how to write a treatment? This would be a great help! Thank you!
Sy.

Doug Block
Thu 19 Dec 2002Link
Syeda, a treatment for a doc is difficult (if not impossible) because
you can't predict what will happen once you start taping. So I don't
know why your university is asking for one. A project description or
synopsis makes a lot more sense. But if you must, I suppose you can
describe what you hope and expect might happen, and talk about your
directing approach.

Syeda Abedin
Thu 19 Dec 2002Link
Hi Doug,
Thats what I thought,but I wasnt to sure exactly what a treatment
was, so therefore i wasnt about to knock it without trying... heheh
Now instead of trying to force my documentry to fit the module, I am
doing another project for it. Thanks for your help Doug, hopefully
things like these wont keep forcing me away from my doc.
Thats all I wanna Do!!!!
Syeda.

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