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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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Le Sheng Liu
Sun 21 Sep 2008Link

I'm not new to D-Word. I joined earlier this yr but I am a relatively new transplant to LA (been here since early 07). Anyway, just wanted to introduce myself: My name is Le Liu. My long-term objective is to write, direct, and produce my own feature docs, although as of late I've been thinking about TV and internet distribution a lot more.

My website reel is here if you wanna see my feature doc, my short films, or my speaking engagements :)
http://leshengliu.com/Films.html

And this is the blog I keep for a long-term project I'd like to eventually launch....
http://covergirlsthedocumentary.blogspot.com/

I work M-F til about 7pm in Sherman Oaks (for the Emmy-nominated A&E show Intervention). But other than that, I've been wanting to make myself available to doc filmmakers who need help with whatever. I've done PA work, scheduling/coordinating, editing on FCP 3, public relations, film fest submissions, film fest boothing, and lots of other random stuff. At this point, I am mostly interested in development/funding so I can learn how to get my project off the ground (i.e. my blog) and into the real world of production.

In any case, if you're in the LA area and want an assistant (preferably paid, but I'll take whatever), feel free to CONTACT ME OFF-LIST.

lesliu@gmail.com
213.308.6387


Stefan Immler
Mon 22 Sep 2008Link

Sorry if this has been asked a thousand times already, but is there a comprehensive web site that lists all organizations that have development grants for docs? I am starting to shoot my first doc and could use a grant or two ;-)

Thanks!


Christopher Wong
Mon 22 Sep 2008Link

stefan, the grants section of the IDA site is not a bad place to start. it's not absolutely comprehensive but it has a lot of region-specific grants listed...


Emily Meyers
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

Hello everyone,

I was hoping to learn a little bit more about distribution companies. We currently have a film related to methamphetamine addiction and recovery that has gotten wonderful reviews and won numerous awards, and were looking into signing on with a distributor. What companies jump out at you as either being a good fit or have been a positive experience for you? Thanks for your help!


Laurie Little
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

Hi, I hope my doubled intro will be deleted by you, the mentors, as I couldn't figure out how to delete my extra post.

Thanks!


Doug Block
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

done, laurie. you only have about 5 minutes to delete or correct a post yourself. whereas we almighty powerful hosts can delete anything at any time. wheeeeee!!!!!


Arturo Glass
Wed 8 Oct 2008Link

We have a 90 minute doc shot and recently accepted into a couple "A" list film festivals. What we'd like to know is what sort of distribution deal we should be seeking at the festivals in the event the film wins or doesn't win awards. What kind of numbers should we be seeking for theatrical distribution? For television – HBO, Showtime, something like that? I know the best bet with theatrical is always trying to get more upfront rather than hoping for royalties down the line, but what ballpark figures should we be seeking?

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


Arturo Glass
Fri 10 Oct 2008Link

If it makes any difference, the doc is a direct cinema (verité) w/out narration, that is, plays out like a normal fiction film.


Jessamy Meyer
Sun 12 Oct 2008Link

I just joined, and at the moment am trying to figure out some translator issues for the documentary I'm editing- lots of footage in Hmong! Would anyone know of any good Hmong translators what would be the best way to give HD footage to a translator? Disks? Hard drives??

Also, for traveling and documentary filmmaking abroad, I have some team members going to Laos. Would anyone know of a good 'fixer' in Laos?


Mark Barroso
Mon 13 Oct 2008Link

What's a team member?


Andre Dahlman
Wed 15 Oct 2008Link

Hoping to glean some knowledge regarding forming an LLC for a documentary.

Here's the back story:

Been working on a doc for almost a year now and I just got my fiscal sponsorship from the IDA. No doubt the dollars will be rolling in in no time (kidding kidding). But I AM hoping to do some serious fund raising and I want to make sure I protect myself financially.

The IDA fiscal sponsor form requires I submit a W-9 tax form with either my social security # or a Tax ID. Thus far I have merely opened a separate bank account and just keep track of finances with basic accounting software. Things seem to be getting more serious now and I'm considering starting an LLC.

Two questions:
1 – Has anyone with fiscal sponsorship from the IDA used their personal social security number? Did you encounter any problems submitting your taxes?

2- If I do decide to form an LLC, what are the advantages of forming an LLC for a general production company VS forming an LLC for a specific project. I hear a lot of people form the later.

Many thanks for any advise/ online resources you could point me towards.


Mansi Behal
Thu 16 Oct 2008Link

Submit your short film to Pros And Con Games competition at Filmaka.com and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due November 6, 2008. More info at
www.filmaka.com/featurefilm


Jason Vaughn
Wed 22 Oct 2008Link

Hi, I'm a Los Angeles photographer looking to find a documentary film to do still photography. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good place to find a list of documentaries currently in production or starting soon. Any words of wisdom or advice would help greatly.
Thanks!
Jason Vaughn
jasonvaughn995511@ yahoo.com
951-768-2784

Edited Wed 22 Oct 2008 by Jason Vaughn

Judy Lieff
Mon 3 Nov 2008Link

Hi, I'm working with my first ITVS contract and need some advice regarding how best to distribute the funds – through a fiscal receiver or my LLC.

My situation is a bit complicated because of the history of funding on the project. Prior to my ITVS contract, I used one fiscal receiver for State grants (NYFA) and a non-profit organization for NEA funds. (NEA changed their rules several years ago and only allows organizations to apply, not individuals with fiscal receivers). I signed off on my ITVS budget giving the non-profit organization's director a salary equivalent to cover fiscal responsibilities. What I completely forgot about was that NYFA requires that they be the only fiscal receiver. NYFA is now telling me that they will terminate my contract if I don't use them as the fiscal receiver. I don't have an additional 8% in my budget to spare to cover their fee (18,000). The only option I can think of in order to not breach my contract with NYFA would be to use my LLC for the ITVS funds.
Does anyone know if I could still pay people as independent contractors if I use my LLC? What if people are working at my office? – Won't they technically need to be on payroll? (I did not allow for payroll expenses in my budget).
The only people who would be working at my office on a regular basis for the year are editing assistants and the editor.
Please Advise.
Thank you!


Sam Rabeeh
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

Hi Everyone,

A friend suggested I create a sequence of "best shots" from my trip to Egypt. I guess this is under "research", "Egyptian Identity", silly ideas as to what that might be....misconceptions I've seen personally or in media/film, whether negative or positive where what interested me at first...am I mixed in there somewhere as Erica suggested a while ago?

A 41MB H264 QuickTime Movie (no sound) is at:

http://larci.com/Demos/EgyptShots.mov


Eli Brown
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

Judy, considering that you have an ITVS contract, you might want to consider applying for member status on this website – it will open up a lot more forums and chances to get more feedback on a question like that. That said (and not being an accountant/lawyer), my best advice would actually be to talk directly with ITVS. They obviously have a vested interest in you managing to finish your project, so they'll be able to better advise (or point you in the right direction of someone else who might) and from all accounts, are very helpful in general. My understanding of an LLC is that it's akin to any corporation, so you should be able to pay people the same way anyone with a company might – but, please, don't take my word on it as I'm not a lawyer/tax accountant, I just know that a lot of films are set up as LLCs and must also deal with this dilemma. Hope some of that is helpful and good luck!


Christopher Wong
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

judy, i think what eli says is right. i'm not quite sure why you would process your ITVS funds through a fiscal sponsor anyways – ITVS doesn't need a tax-deductible receipt from you. the only entities that go through your fiscal sponsor are 1) individuals who want to deduct their donations from their taxes; and 2) foundations or corporations who have a policy of only donating funds to non-profit organizations. so i think you have nothing to worry about...

for the record, i have an LLC and i pay my independent contractors through it. the question of whether your crew are considered employees has nothing to do with paying them through an LLC (or other such corporation). the employee designation has more to do with whether they are truly functioning independently from your constant supervision, and a few other key provisions that you can easily google...

Edited Tue 4 Nov 2008 by Christopher Wong

Thomas Golaszewski
Thu 6 Nov 2008Link

Hi All;
I'm getting ready to do a documentary about leader dogs for the blind. This project will take about two years to complete. I was told to look for grant money but, don't have a clue where to start and this project will start in January 2009. I have most of the equipment because of video work that I've done before for example Canon XL1s cameras. I will also do all my own editing in FC studio. This is the first project of this size and if I can get it done right, the org. that I'm working with could get a lot of donations and help me as well.
Thanks for your time
Tom


Mansi Behal
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Filmaka offers funding to unknown filmmakers around the world and provides a chance to step up in to professional cinema and TV. Last year Filmaka commissioned over 40 web series to filmmakers across the planet, from Tokyo to Mexico City, and awarded $5 million in production funding to a Londoner, Nuru Rimington-Mkali, to direct his feature film. Filmaka has launched some new features to enhance its reach to professional film makers:-

1) Ability to compose a professional portfolio: You can now create an online portfolio by uploading samples of your work to the personal films section of your profile. Let industry professionals discover you through Filmaka now. Click here to upload the samples of your work http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_upload_master.php

2) Filmaka Forums: Advertise your services to the biggest community of online professional film makers. Access http://www.filmaka.com/forums/ to post your casting calls, equipment needs and reviews and read reviews for the latest Hollywood releases.

3) More Exciting Branded competitions launched every fortnight: Filmaka has released more than two million dollars as prize money to its film makers through its branded competitions most recent ones being with Ford, Cisco, MSN, Red Bull, FX and SAB Miller.

4) Enhanced Community features: Filmaka members can now upload personal pictures, Bios, CV's and personalize there profiles to make them more elaborate and detailed for fellow film makers, producers and actors. Members can write reviews about fellow film makers competition entries, post private messages to each other and also embed there favorite videos in there profiles on other websites.

5) More Web Series: Filmaka has more than 25 web series in production with a new episode being launched every Monday and Thursday, watching webisodes was never more exciting, Every series has there own dedicated page with all actors, characters and directors profiles, bios, making of and pictures. To check more details check the Filmaka Channel homepage http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_channel.php

Check out the most exciting professional film maker's database at http://www.filmaka.com . For more details contact the online support chat from the contact us page.


Thomas Golaszewski
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Good morning Mansi;
Thanks you very much for this information. I'll check into all of this
Have a really great day!
Tom


Sam Rabeeh
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Egyptian Identity V2 – 11+ minutes, subtitles begun, audio, very raw.

Not many responses (none actually!) on my last mentoring request, maybe this time will be different?

http://vimeo.com/2216268

Thanks in advance

Edited Tue 11 Nov 2008 by Sam Rabeeh

Doug Block
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

What's your actual request, Sam? Feedback?


Sam Rabeeh
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

You know Doug, Yes! Feedback PLEASE!

I should have made it clear I was looking for feedback, but this was the mentoring section so I made some silly assumptions :)


Robert Shore
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

Does anyone have any incite on the legality and public domain issues in using youtube-like videos posted on the web? I know that formally copyrighted material is a no go, but what if, say, I want to use a video of Joe-Sixpack (ahem) taken at a bar and posted by his girlfriend, Josephine. Any chance Joe can bust me on this? Thanks! Rob.


Mark Barroso
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

Robert:
One of the dirty secrets of the legal industry is the concept of "exposure." It means how likely you are to be sued by someone, and how likely it will end up costing you loads of money.
In the scenario you described, I'd say your exposure was zero, meaning not to worry about Joe Six. Now, if you were Steven Spielberg then Joe Six (and his lawyer) would probably figure you are loaded and come after you. Conversly, if Joe Six actually turned out to be Joe Pesci, he might come after you (and not just with his lawyer).
So, no responsible person would condone or encourage you to break the law. But you got me instead, the realist. Bottom line: Joe Six CAN "come after you" but it's not likely he will, and if he did, you would get a letter telling you to cease and desist before appearing before any judge.


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