You know what's funny David? I thought I was about 80% completed but after joining this site I may be about 60%. I have about 75 hours of footage. I have already paid for the editing. I have worked out the music composition. I just need to shoot more of the principles in my project and pic up some more equipment and pay the cameraman shooting the B role. Any advice you have I am open for it. Thanks a bunch.
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.
In reply to Le Sheng Liu's post on Sun 16 Nov 2008 : Thanks for the information.I will look into those groups. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
Charles, you should definitely be in touch with Stanley Nelson from Firelight Media in NYC. He told me he has just launched a mentoring initiative for minority filmmakers and is looking for folks to mentor. He is absolutely invaluable.
Also, once you've got a trailer together, send it to him and he'll offer some advice on who to approach for more funding. And if you're really lucky, maybe you could get him to come on as Exec. Producer.
He's not great on email, so I suggest you give him a call and introduce yourself. Their number is 212.234.1324. Web address is www.firelightmedia.org.
Thanks Julianna, I will be sure to give him a call. I do have a trailer but I want to make it more professional.
Charles, also suggest if you are not already connected to sign up for Doculink. I believe they do work in progress screenings of trailers from time to time which may be worth looking into. Fellow D-Worder Robert Bahar is the Doculink Guru, so you may also want to talk to him. There's another group in the L.A. area now doing WIP screenings, but I think they are more focused on rough cuts. Plus D-Word now has a Vimeo channel where you can post for feedback here. I'm sure Doug can post the link since it escapes me at the moment.
Submit your short film to "The Party" 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 January 12, 2009. More info at
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on DOCULINK WORKS-IN-PROGRESS :
Yes that is true. LA Doculink hosts about one or two (or maybe even more) works-in-progress screenings by its members. We call it the 10x10 because ten submissions are selected for screening and discussion. I don't know when the next one is, but I recommend all D-Worders join Doculink anyway. It's a great resource just like D-Word!!!
I just posted a question in one of the members-only forums, but thought I'd come here and pick the brains of the general populace. I'm trying to help put a panel together for a talk in NYC on filmmakers' experiences with digital distribution. I need to get some more viewpoints on the topic.
If you – or anyone you know – is making any money with digital/online distribution of a documentary, please contact me: nycdiane "at" gmail "dot" com. If not making money, how would you define success with digital distribution? Thanks!
Hi – think this is the best place to post this:
I'm about to go on a documentary shoot abroad. I'm relatively new w/shooting video and have a camera guy shooting on a Sony Z1 along with me.
I want a TOP end camcorder that I can plug a kick ass mic into to shoot great b-roll. Here's my question: which camera will give me the closest to pure HD image? I've been directed to the HDC-H100K. I'm thinking of buying it but it takes SD memory cards. Are these superior to tapes? If I edit in Final Cut Pro, will I be able to easily get all this footage from the SD cards w/o a problem? I've heard bad things about the cards...HELP. Thanks so much in advance.
my advice to you would be to figure out a way to bring a 2nd Z1u.
even if budget is tight, you can still buy one (used), and then sell it after for a net loss of a few hundred bucks probably.
this way, there is no problems with matching footage, etc. and if something goes wrong on your shoot with either z1, then you have a backup.
it also has XLRs which is the only way to work if you want to use a great mic.
I use a Sony A1U as a second camera to my Z1U. The image matches nicely, and the A1U costs half as much, is less than half the size and it has XLR audio.
The A1U sucks in low light though.
I'm currently shooting on the Sony Ex1 and am pretty happy with what I am getting. Does anyone have any suggestions for picture profile settings for various shooting conditions? Thanks. Rob.
Hi everyone – I have new Hip-Hop film near completion – just wondering for advice on what I should do with it.
Its a Hip-Hop documentary, 'Peace, Love, Unity and Havin' Fun' and I have been filming for the last 3 / 4 years.
I feel it has international appeal and would be of interest to a lot of young people. 'Discover and learn about cross-community relationship, Northern Ireland and the global phenomenon we call Hip-Hop....' (http://www.sub-cultureproductions.co.uk)
It is 70 min in length and has some big names in the world of Hip-Hop and performing arts i.e QBert, The Pharcyde, Don Letts, DJ Craze, Ugly Duckling, Skinnyman and Shlomo to name a few.
The film refers to Hip-Hop in relation to popular culture (Hip-Pop) and redefines the term by giving examples of the influence Hip-Hop has on young people today. In particular Northern Ireland, a country of recent conflict.
I have attached a teaser.
Hello everyone, this is my first question here and you seem to be a bunch of knowledgeable, informed people so here's hoping someone can help me.
My company is NOT a not-for profit, and we are making a humanitarian-content 3-part documentary series http://www.necessaryproductions.com/page4.html
I have yet to source funding and am finding it increasingly difficult. Does anyone have any advice regarding developing ANOTHER company, such as a social enterprise or other not-for-profit, to work alongside my existing company in order to obtain the many grants etc that would then be available to me?
What would the implications be of having two businesses? Which one would own the films, and what would be the potential for transferring from a not-for-profit, to the profit-making business if it seemed like the film would do well?
Does that make sense? It does to me, but then I know what I mean to say...
Why would a grant-making body give funds to a not for profit, that then passes the money on to a for-profit? It sounds like a scam, the way you describe it, regardless what the law says.
What I have seen, not in film but other fields, is profit from a for-profit, being directed to a not for profit, or foundation, partly to lessen a tax bill, but often just to provide the not for profit with operating capital. So, exactly the opposite flow of what I understand you're describing here.
In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Wed 17 Dec 2008 : Yes Jo-Anne, you are right, oh dear, it does sound like a scam the way I've described it! It isn't meant to be at all. I don't mean I want to transfer the money from a not-for-profit, my question is, if I had a not-for-profit and the film was funded by a grant(s), would that film be 'optioned/owned' by that funder for a period of time, or would it be available later on for a for-profit company? (the film itself, not the money... please forgive me for not knowing, but the funding issue is new to me). The film is being raised to make profit to further research into a humanitarian issue. I want it to make as much money as possible for the benificiaries, yet, unless I am a not-for-profit, I am finding initial and finishing funding difficult to source – hence my badly-phrased question :)
It is possible to find non-profit organizations to sponsor your project for the purpose of applying for and receiving grants as an individual filmmaker. I have not done this, but I know it can be done.
Not sure about the laws where you are, but it might not hurt to consult with a professional legal/financial advisor.
I am starting on a doc about body image and how women feel about themselves. One of the main parts in my film is having women send in video diaries about themselves and how body image affects them. I am wondering, since I will probably never face to face meet them....do i still need "rights"? I know most people have their subjects sign an agreement saying they have the right to use the footage in their film but, i am wondering if i need to do that. if i do, how should i go about that?
Yes, Skyler, you still need rights. Send them a release form to sign. Examples can be found through a Google search, I'm sure.
In order to get grants for my project I partnered with our local community foundation that is 501C3. At first they didn’t think they could accept money and give it to me, a for-profit. It took the help from Robert Richter D-worder http://www.richtervideos.com/
and Karen Shatzkin (Shatzkin & Mayer, P.C.) www.shatzkinmayer.com to convince our local foundation.
I could of used Robert’s generous offer to provide the 501C3 but I wanted to educate our local community that this can and should be done. (I am on a mission to get our area hip to the production of films.) It also took the help and legal opinion from Karen Shatzkin.
The information from Karen and the offer from Robert helped convince the foundation to look into it. The foundation got their legal people and they then agreed that my project was with-in the foundations mission statement and have now partnered with me. Since I have received over 40,000 in grants.
The hidden section is the opinion I gave the foundation.
I'm producing a documentary about this particular family, and they have a lot of home movies and pictures that I'm going to use as B-roll. I have consent forms for the interviews and images, but I need a form specifically to handle the rights for the B-roll. Does anybody have a form like that, or know where I could get one?
I am using a HV 20 with DOF adaptor to make films. The quality of video is really good, but sound is very tinny. Is there anyway I can improve the quality of sound without spending a fortune? I'm still learning film-making, so want to get some experience before investing in higher-end equipment
Appreciate any suggestions please!
For those of you who have ever done pure editing jobs, what did you use to determine your hourly or daily rate? An old editor of mine from my journalism days hired me to edit some footage that I didn't shoot into a short doc for the web. While he didn't end up using the piece, which i actually never got to finish b/c of he killed the project, and we didn't agree to a set price upfront, I spent about 20 hours all told putting it together. NOTE: I took this work outside my day job (I'm a financial writer to pay the bills). How much do I work the cost of my Final Cut Studio 2 software and new iMac and storage into charging him for the HD edit if at all? Do I base my rate on my current salaried writing job? What's the going editing rate for New York City? It's tricky pricing because I don't want to price myself out of future jobs (shooting and editing) for him in 2009. He asked me to send him an invoice. Any help would be appreciated.
Craig, it varies widely. Top editors working on feature docs get $500-600/day. On the other hand, the guy who edited my last work-in-progress sample, who was an experienced ass't editor, and a talented but only somewhat experienced editor, charged $20/hr. Because you're tossing in your own equipment, I'd say a minimum of $25/hr is fair. Anything above that you feel like charging is up to your comfort level.
And your in NYC where the rates are higher... so you can factor that in as well.
In reply to Prabha Nag's post on Thu 25 Dec 2008 :
what kind of microphone are you using? a lapel mic? boom mic? condenser mic?
In reply to James Longley's post on Thu 18 Dec 2008 :
Yes, IDA has a "fiscal sponsorship" program. There is a detailed application process, but it can happen for you. Nots sure how hard it is to get approved for their program however. If your doc is of a massive budget – over $50,000 (last time i checked) – they start taking a percentage. I paid a lawyer to read over their legal documents regarding fiscal sponsorship and nothing seemed amiss to him.
Membership is required to apply for fiscal sponsorship.
Mudding is an art though, you have to make sure the room is at the right temperature between coats otherwise the seams will pop up right after the contractor cashes the check.
$25 is a good price, three coats if you own your house, two if you don't.
I searched through the d-word archives for info on subtitles and found suggestions for Belle Nuit subtitler. For some strange reason I can't read the font on the company's website. Would appreciate any explanations of what this software does and why it's preferable to doing subtitles in FCP.
In reply to Aaron B. Smith's post on Mon 29 Dec 2008 :
I'm looking at using a boom mike...Any suggestions?
In reply to Lucia Duncan's post on Fri 2 Jan 2009 :
In FCP you can hard code subtitles, that is, when rendered they become part of the image. There is no changing between one subtitle stream and another. Nor can you see the image without any subtitles.
Belle Nuit allows you to generate a separate subtitle file which can be added as a subtitle track when you burn a DVD, allowing the viewer to remove them or change languages.
If you're not concerned with seeing the image "clean", then you can subtitle in FCP without a problem.
Lucia, you'll find more info if you do a search for "belle nuit" on The D-Word.
Also, as a member, feel free to post these kind of questions in the Editing topic.
Lucia – Belle Nuit is the way to go if you're subtitling a feature-length film, you can get pretty fast and it has all the advantages that Ethan mentions. If budget is a problem, there's a cheap subtitling plug-in from Digital Heaven that might do the trick for you.
PS if the Belle Nuit website is not displaying properly, you might try a different browser.
Hi everyone...:)New year!!! It's so cool being here and meeting you all. I'm in the legal stage, looking for samples of release forms, current budget samples in USD amounts, simple and documented ways to prepare myself before standing in front of a potential financial partner. How far can I go legally before joining a production studio? I'm my own everything right now. ~J~
Hoping I can get some good advice here. I'm a film blogger, and I'm looking for a reputable film studies program that offers courses online. I'm looking for a general grounding in critical theory and film history more than a practical program in filmmaking, but am hopeful that this very wise and connected community can help me out.
Exactly, Doug. To pull myself up from the ranks of the "hobbyist" and to get a little respect from the rest of the film world (including documentary filmmakers), I'm feeling the need to get a little edumacation. Your comment confirms exactly what I'm feeling.
By the way, Doug. No posts since September? Bad blogger! :)
Hi I'm beginning work on a documentary that involves animals, birds specifically. Does anyone know if I need the owners to sign some kind of release form to use the birds images? Thanks!
if the images are under copyright, then yes, assuming you plan to sell the film or show it in public.
What if it's clearly communicated to the animals that they're being filmed?
They could still be minor birds. And don't pay them chicken feed, either.
Im working on a short documentary about broken relation between mother and son due to youth gun violence as graduate student at New School in NYC. Im following mother who made " Harlem Mothers" organization to prevent illegal gun selling, to educate youth about non conflict resolution and to organize support meetings for other mothers. Her son who was killed on the street few years ago when he was 26 made 5 minutes documentary about himself, his dad and mother. He will be character in the film.
Can you recommend me any documentary I should see with same topic?
Thanks in advance!
"Guns and Mothers" by Thom Powers. I haven't seen it, but the title seems right.
hello everyone,i'm in the process of buying a camera, nothing fancy just the right equipment for guerilla filmmaking .....and i've set my eyes and choice on either a Sony PMW-EX3 XDCAM or the Panasonic AG-HVX200A P2 HD... i've never tried the Panasonic, but i've seen it's popular around independent filmmakers especially documentarists..what would you advise?
i haven't found any review that compares both cameras... although P2 and XD are quite a different storage system , i'm not sure which is of a better quality and compatibility with say a macbook running final cut...
BTW Mr. Longley i'm an avid fan of your work .... as a middle eastern i have to say Gaza Strip , Iraq in Fragments , and Sari's Mother are the best documentaries to have been ever made in this region....you truly capture the essence , the texture, the feeling, the traits.....what can i say ..thank you for such adorable on screen experiences.....i heard you are in the process of making a documentary in Iran .... good luck with that ..eagerly looking forward to seeing it....
Chahid, I'll let the others chip in, but as well as the HVX200, you should also consider the (tapeless/P2 only) HVX170 which has the advantage of being lighter than the 200 which may be a factor for handheld work.
Hello – I have a question about casting subjects. Is there ever a time where Producers have to pay experts in order for them to be interviewed for a documentary?
I have always been able to convince experts to be a part of my student documentaries, but now that I'm graduating Im wondering if subjects for PBS docs or indie docs pay their experts.
Hello Mr. Longley-
I too have found your work profoundly inspirational. I have finally obtained my DVX 100b and have several documentaries ready to be actualized, as it were.
In fact you were a key reason why I joined this group about a year ago. Somehow I learned you were in it.
I wanted to commend you for one aspect of your work which I have not seen publicly acknowledged.
That is the fantastic music that you score for your films. As if it were not enough to do so much fantastic solo work on courageous topics, when I learned you did the music as well, that just took the cake!
I have a few questions. Do you ever shoot footage with a particular tune or tone piece in mind? The syncopation of your edits goes so well with your music. It seems likely that you score the music last, but I wondered if you ever made the visual image fit the music, a la Fantasia.
I'd even be interested in conducting an interview with you on this subject for a good magazine. I'm confident that this topic and aspect of your work has not been adequately explored by others and it would help to justifiably broaden your brand. I put you right up there with Vertov, Bunuel and Kurosawa (whom I have totally immersed myself in pending acquisition of the DVX 100b).
I imagine Russian film school must have really been amazing. Since I learned of your attendance there, I decided to immerse myself in a fair amount of Russian montage and I remain stupefied and in awe of Vertov, especially The Man With the Movie Camera.
I've been meaning to ask you, do you know any way how I might obtain a DVD of Vertov's "A Sixth of the World" or "A History of the Revolution"? These seem like essential items for me to study, especially the former. It's been a pretty solitary journey for me, everyone has been very nice, but nobody seems to know much about Vertov (or Kurosawa for that matter). Perhaps I am in the wrong circles.
I picked up a copy of Constructivism in Film by Vlada Petric (50 bucks!) and it was a revelation for me. As you probably know, this contains a frame by frame analysis of Man With the Movie Camera. Incredible.
I eagerly await your next film and hope that some day you feel my films are worth watching. I'm an extremely serious student. My motto is "Film that Matters, Films that Matter".
My first film will be complete by August 2009. The way things are flowing it seems likely it will be televised on HBO or The Documentary Channel or some such. I have some very good momentum established.
Thanks for the nice email exchange, Matt.
Chahid – I am using the HVX200 in Iran and I find it works well, particularly with four 32GB cards (a bit expensive) – I would second John Burgan's advice about looking into the HPX170 – (smaller/lighter/wider lens/better picture) – unless you really want to be able to shoot standard definition material onto DV tape, in which case the HVX200A would be the right choice. But it's a much bigger camera, and if you don't need DV tape recording there's no reason to get it now.
I haven't tried the Sony cameras, but other people here say they're good.
With all of these cameras that record on solid-state cards, the biggest thing to get used to is the new workflow. At first it can be fairly daunting to have to back up all your material onto multiple hard drives or other media, but I have found the more I work this way the easier it gets. It's very much "drag-and-drop" to get the material off your P2 cards and into hard drives for editing. I'm using 500GB Lacie portable drives in the field – I have 12 of them and they're very light and seem durable – it's enough space for about 100 hours of HD material, all backed up on separate drives. These drives also run off the Firewire cable power from a Mac Powerbook, so you don't need an extra power cable, and they're small enough to put in a baggy pants pocket.
James has very baggy pants. He's the MC Hammer of doc filmmakers.
James, you don't have any problem with the speed of the Lacie drives? They don't hang up and everything runs smoothly? What model of the drives are they? I've got older ones, but they'd be too big too bring along anywhere, but I recently bought a 1tb fairly small size drive but the footage hangs.
I'm using this one – the 500GB version. So far it works fine for cutting 720pN material on the Macbook Pro in Final Cut. I've only been using these drives for a few weeks, but no problems to report so far. And yes, I sometimes carry them in my pockets.
My new feature doc, an all- verite day in the life of three families in New Orleans, was accepted free of charge to the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Market after I submitted to the Film Festival. The movie is not in the festival, and it has not yet been picked up by any distributor (although I got really really close, dammit!)
I have never been to a film market of any sort before, and can find very little info on the net about the Thessaloniki Docmarket. So I am wondering if anyone has had any experience there or has heard anything, can tell me a bit about other docmarkets, whether it would be useful to be there in person or whether it's too crazy to go all the way to Greece [from Brooklyn]. One other thing to consider-– My flick is definitely a European style movie, which could hypothetically be most successful with audiences over there, so this market could be exactly where I want it to be in terms of target audience.
Thank you thank you thank you,
Naftali, it's not really worth it to go over to Greece if you're just in the market. Often they don't even let the filmmaker in to where the market is, it's just a bunch of commissioning editors and festival programmers sitting in a room with monitors watching stacks of films on dvd. What you really want to do is get your film to the few good sales agents out there that take on docs and sell them internationally (Films Transit and Roco Films are two). They go to the various markets and larger festivals and do the dirty work for you. Meanwhile, keep applying to film festivals and try to premiere it in the biggest and best one possible before you settle for the second or third tier festivals. Lots of luck.
In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
thank you for the reply Mr. Longley.... i just had a chance to try the Sony PMW-EX3 as a friend is over to visit from the U.S. and i found it to be rather good, except for some minor details, i'll try and find a Panasonic HPX170 , unfortunately we do not have a vast range of camcorders, or anything but the commercially available consumer minicams in lebanon... well its more convenient for me to shoot directly onto solid state cards.
and as you say it's pretty much "drag-and-drop" to get the material off the cards and into hard drives for editing.... i found it so easy especially with the non-linearity approach to viewing the clips ...
thank you again...
In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
Thank you very much. Mmmm, dirty work for me. That sounds fantastic. I will track Films Transit and Roco as best as I can.
And I am applying to those festivals, oh yes, I am applying those festivals. Thanks for the luck.
And good luck with all you are doing.
Best of the best,
In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
Your welcome James. I enjoyed it.
I wanted to ask you, on some of your long shots it occasionally seems that you are shooting the footage with music in your head. It seems that the way some of your camera movements are made as you wind your way down passageways in Baghdad, Gaza or Najaf have a distinct rhythm and syncopation to them, separate and apart from the way you punctuate your edits.
I play percussion and I occasionally had this distinct impression while watching your work. Is this true? Do you ever have music or rhythm in mind as you shoot any of your "Steadicam" shots?
Everything is hand-held in those films and the only music is the music of the spheres.
Can I write off my camera, lights and sound equipment?
I'm asking this question here because others may have it and I trust the answers from a tax law library or tax professionals that may be here far more than a Google search.
However, I find the CCH and RIA tax materials somewhat disorganized in their approach and layout, so I'm trying to avoid a trip to the law library.
I'm conviced I can make a profit on some of my films over the next five years and am willing to prove this to the IRS over time. This is the first year of my business and it is not a hobby.
As such, I am filling out a Schedule C and possibly a Form 4562 for tax treatment of my purchases of camera, lights and sound equipment.
I would like to expense these items rather than depreciating them. Can I do so?
Thanks. I just wish the Rutter Group (or even CEB) would make tax guides.
Yes – I think you can do this – but most tax advisors will probably tell you that you should calculate whether that will be the most beneficial thing to do.
Super, thanks so much James. I managed to get hold of the IRS instructions for this form (Form 4562) and was finally able to confirm that this is possible; the wording is pretty dense, but after reading it many times to learn whether film gear is considered a "listed" asset or not, I was finally able to decipher it.
I have a string of documentaries in the queue and have set up both non-profit and profit entities for them. I feel comfortable that for this particular for-profit entity this is what I want to do....
Hope all is well.
I'm sure you guys have already gone through this, but, I'm in need... Sorry!!! I'm currently working on my release forms for my documentary. The catch is it's a thesis project in order to gain my Masters degree. May you help me with sample release forms?
Thanks in advance.
Marcia, do a search for "release form" on this forum you'll find several examples. If you need one in Spanish, let me know and I can dig one up.
Hello to everyone in D-Word community,
I am a 35 year old living Brooklyn, NY who over the past 5-7 years has fallen in love with the documentary medium and is looking to make a career transition into this field. My original background has been in the fine arts industry of New York, but I now find it unfulfilling and less socially vital than important cultural visual media. I recently have been laid off due to the economy which I very much want to use as an opportunity to get involved in this industry. As you may know It's usually a bit difficult to get that first bit of experience in a new field when one has no previous experience in it. I'm setting my sights on getting a internship with any individual filmmakers or production companies to meet people and gain experience. I have been viewing craigslist regularly and applying there and it occurred to me that I could possibly post an "internship wanted" ad in the classified section of D-Word. I wanted to request any thoughts or input from anyone of the D-Words members regarding the likelyhood of attaining an internship at my age, or any thoughts or tips on going about getting involved with this amazing medium that has changed the way I see the world.
Thanks to all for your time and consideration,
welcome, Wendell. in your time off from work, you should see if you can learn the basics of editing in Final Cut Pro. the most useful interns often work as assistant editors – digitizing, organizing, and finding footage. this will give you a great introduction to what documentary filmmaking is all about (assuming the director you are working for is competent...) best of luck as you make your transition!
I may be hired to creatively consult / oversee a documentary by a financier. I've never held this role and wondered if anyone out there had experience with this. I'm putting together a proposal right now and would be grateful for suggestions, the more detailed the better. Should I suggest being compensated by the week or a percentage of the budget? Should I ask for back end profit participation? As you can probably tell, since this isn't my own film, I'd like to make it work for me in a "work for hire" fashion, that is, I'd like to get paid as well as possible. What credit should I ask for? What "looks better on a resume," to put it crassly? Producer? Co-director? I'd also like to make sure I respect the director's vision and be helpful without stepping on toes. Has anyone been in this type of relationship before and what are some pitfalls I should look out for? Thanks in advance for your time –