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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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Robert Goodman
Wed 8 Apr 2009Link

Probably a better solution than a 4-year college program. My feeling in general is that no one can teach you to be a filmmmaker. You can learn techniques and a sense of the job but experience makes a huge difference. Filmmaking is an art form and as such requires process.


Erica Ginsberg
Wed 8 Apr 2009Link

I think a lot depends on you, James. Some people learn best by hearing from experts and having the time and space of a classroom setting to experiment, work on teams with other students, and make mistakes without consequence. Others learn by going out and just start making films, either on their own with the help of a few mentors or by working on others' projects before tackling their own.

The faculty certainly looks impressive and 14 weeks seems more than feasible to work on a student documentary piece. But that said, I don't know if I would recommend quitting your day job to do this. Surely there are other educational programs which you could take at night or on weekends. And especially if your end goal is to become a writer or a publicist, you might be better off just working on somebody's film to get a sense of what's involved. I'm sure you can hear what a lot of these experts have to say on a panel at Hot Docs or elsewhere.


James McNally
Wed 8 Apr 2009Link

Thanks, Robert and Erica, for your wisdom. I think if I wanted to, I could make contact with some filmmakers here and get some work on a film doing something, so maybe it's not so important for someone like me.

I guess the thought of "running off to join the circus" for 14 weeks sounded pretty good.

:)


Claire Forgie
Sun 12 Apr 2009Link

I have just put up a documentary on funeral directing i made a couple of years ago.
I am looking for some feedback or ideas on where to go from here, possibly make an extended version.
Ideas and feedback all appreciated!
Thanks, claire

link: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2671393/for_life/


Evan Thomas
Wed 15 Apr 2009Link

Apologies as i know this isn't the place for this post but i haven't applied for full membership yet! I'll do it, i promise i will!

And this is a loooong shot I expect but i am scouring LA for Office space, nothing huge just somewhere downtown that is secure and has a few desks, power points etc.

Oh and cheap as possible!


Evan Thomas
Fri 17 Apr 2009Link

In reply to Claire Forgie's post on Sun 12 Apr 2009 :

Hi Claire – Just watched it, it's pretty good so far, i enjoyed it. In the opening scene with the guy taking the call in bed, that deep, donnie darko-esque ambient sound, did you create that? Or did i imagine it?

If you were thinking of making an extended version here are a few thoughts..

If you can do more filming It would be interesting to see some of the different funerals that people have whether religious or especially not so. What kind of unusual requests do people make? Items in coffins for example, the red wine bottle and the football scarf that are mentioned. If you could get permission it would be nice to see some of these things to get a visual. I guess access to actual funerals could be key, to see real people grieving death and celebrating life is usually powerful.

There is a mention of "the history of funerals" maybe that's an avenue to explore a little? Along with the change in law regards cremations? What about the guys that work there? What are they like when they're not at work? What kind of houses do they live in? Do they go for drinks after work? Christmas parties etc?

Oh also you show a framed portrait of an ancestor? Can you scan this and use in the film that way? If it's a family business are there photos of fathers or grandfathers that could be shown and talked about?

I found it pretty engrossing generally. I mean to see deceased human beings – i find it quite affecting, most of us have no experience of such things. I notice there's no music but maybe it doesn't need any...


Shakai Shepard
Sat 18 Apr 2009Link

Hi all, I am new here and have not yet gotten to introduce myself. I am an anthro/film student at Columbia University in NYC and currently tossing ideas, scribbling in my journal and generally obsessing in thought around ideas for my first film. I was wondering if any one would suggest a good small handheld and would also not mind telling me what their choices pro's are, why they like their suggestion.

I have a PD 150 and still love it, but I was thinking of something much smaller...

Thank you!


Carlos Gomez
Sun 19 Apr 2009Link

panasonic's hmc-150 may be too big, the vixia might work for you.


Katinka Kraft
Wed 22 Apr 2009Link

I am feeling tongue tied. Every distribution workshop I have taken thus far has suggested that you call the programmer of the film festival that you have submitted to and strike up a conversation/introduce yourself. I keep picking up the phone and drawing a blank on what will be important for me to say, what will not seem redundant and irritating to someone who might get these calls all day long. Any suggestions?


Doug Block
Wed 22 Apr 2009Link

I think that advice may be overrated, Katinka. Personally, I've never done it without a specific question. You might, for instance, call to say you have an updated sample and is it too late to swap it for the one you submitted. Or even a new synopsis. And it is a way for to get your film on their radar. But I'd only do that if you actually have an updated sample or synopsis that's significantly better.


Matthieu Lietaert
Thu 23 Apr 2009Link Tag

Hi all,
any one knows where are the pitching forum for CROSS MEDIA or 360 degree projects in Europe? any help appreciated!
good work,
mat


Andrew Dupont
Thu 23 Apr 2009Link

Can someone link me to a good legal refresher on filming in the US and, if possible, Massachusetts? I'm about to embark on a large scale project here and I don't want to get unreasonably hassled by the man. Thanks!


James Longley
Thu 23 Apr 2009Link

What do you need to know? An hour with a good entertainment lawyer – one specializing in documentaries – would probably be as good as any course.

Basically, you want releases for everything – if you're filming in the US. Individuals, locations, etc.

If you're signing a contract of any kind, you want a lawyer.


Andrew Dupont
Fri 24 Apr 2009Link

Where would I get a good draft of a legal release to use people/places in my films?

Thanks already for your help!


Tom Dziedzic
Fri 24 Apr 2009Link

Andrew, I would highly recommend you get the book Clearance and Copyright by Michael Donaldson. It's geared toward the independent filmmaker.


Scott Bridges
Fri 24 Apr 2009Link

I am about to do a doc in Mexico. Any ideas of a good point person or company to help insurance against local hassles?


Diane Johnson
Fri 1 May 2009Link

Hello – I have a silly question can u all tell me if in the film world is the word "narrative" just used for fiction films?

Ive heard the word thrown around for both documentaries and fiction long form. I always though that the word 'narrative' just meant 'story' example: what is the narrative? (to me means what is the story)


Christopher Wong
Fri 1 May 2009Link

for better or worse, the term "narrative" is commonly used when referring to fiction films. obviously, we all believe that "narrative" should be able to equally describe a documentary; but in regular industry-speak, TITANIC is a narrative and HOOP DREAMS is simply a doc.


John Burgan
Fri 1 May 2009Link

Narrative documentary – you might like to check out Sheila Curran Bernard's "Documentary Storytelling for Video and Filmmakers", also check out D-Worder Karen Everett's website

Edited Fri 1 May 2009 by John Burgan

Diane Johnson
Fri 1 May 2009Link

Thank u both John and Christopher :)


Rida Solano
Mon 4 May 2009Link

Does anyone know how much a 20-30 clip of a film like "Enchanted" would cost in order to be used for a documentary? I also wanted to use a clip from the show "Roseanne", I love Lucy, Leave it Beaver and other similar shows.

IMDB Pro doesn't have the video stock departments listed for Disney or the 5 major networks.

Also can someone like Disney prohibit the usage or referencing of their company's name or logos in a documentary that depicts them in a bit of an unflattering light? Do I need their approval?

I know the producer/director that did "Supersize Me" was able to shoot inside different McDonalds and use the McDonalds logo and his doc was against McDonalds – so I'm wondering how he got away with that.


John Burgan
Mon 4 May 2009Link

There's a short answer to this: get yourself a lawyer. You can be sure that clearing the legal side of satirical/critical films like "Supersize Me" takes quite a bit of time and money.


Jason Osder
Mon 4 May 2009Link

It's also my understanding that McDonalds made a strategic PR decision not to take legal action against Super Size Me, judging that by giving the film additional publicity through a lawsuit they would do more harm than good for their business.


Shyla Palm
Mon 4 May 2009Link

Looking to start the research process on a documentary should I dive first into the library or is there a tried and true method to scouring through massive amounts of information. If anyone has any tips to share I'm all ears.


Marj Safinia
Mon 4 May 2009Link

Shyla, diving in in the only method I know of. Of course you might find Google more fruitful than the library to get a grounding in the topic.


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