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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.

Matt Dubuque
Wed 14 Jan 2009Link

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?


Matt Dubuque

James Longley
Wed 14 Jan 2009Link

Everything is hand-held in those films and the only music is the music of the spheres.

Matt Dubuque
Thu 15 Jan 2009Link

Cool. Filming to Pythagoras. I can relate!



Matt Dubuque
Sun 18 Jan 2009Link

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.

Here goes:

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.

Matt Dubuque

James Longley
Mon 19 Jan 2009Link

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.

Matt Dubuque
Mon 19 Jan 2009Link

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....

Many thanks,

Hope all is well.

Marcia Pacheco
Wed 21 Jan 2009Link

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.

Ethan Steinman
Thu 22 Jan 2009Link

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.

Wendell Martinez
Fri 23 Jan 2009Link

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,
Dell Martinez

Christopher Wong
Fri 23 Jan 2009Link

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!

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