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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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Sudeshna Chowdhury
Sat 27 Jun 2009Link

Hi this is Sudeshna here. I want to be a filmmaker and really keen on making documentaries. RIght now am working for a news channel. could you plaese tell me how do I start. Yes, I was told that I should start making videos and post it on websites. Could you please let me know how do i begin and which are the potential websites i should send my work to?


John Burgan
Sat 27 Jun 2009Link

It depends very much on you, Sudeshna: what interests you? What's going on in your area? What stories do you want to tell? The website part is easy (you can use Youtube or Vimeo), but it's the work that counts. Are there any films which have inspired you?

Edited Sat 27 Jun 2009 by John Burgan

Sudeshna Chowdhury
Mon 29 Jun 2009Link

Hello John
Yes films that mostly deal with social and religious issues interest me. I have watched a couple of documentaries by Satyajit Ray whicb have insppired me a lot. Also this film called La Americana have motivated me to further explore subjects. I have also watched a copule of documentaries on Maoists in India. Well these are teh kind of stories that I intend to tell. Am making short videos( which i shoot with my handy cam and right now cany afford one due to financial constraints)but what i am looking at is to become part of an organisation that will give me good exposure. These of course are my views but i don't know how it actually works. Your seggestions please??


David W Grant
Tue 30 Jun 2009Link

ABOUT VIDEO ESSAYS that use docu-drama – Where do 'documentaries of the future' exist? A film that posits a possible future? Such a film obviously could be declared 'fiction'. Is there a genre of this type?
Thanks.


Craig Schneider
Wed 1 Jul 2009Link

Hi all,
Does anyone have any advice/experience shooting Sweet 16 videos? I'm shooting one this Friday documentary style, so i won't be directing so much as just capturing the moments (and there's plenty of dance numbers and such to capture), but it's my first paid job as a documentary videographer and my first Sweet 16, and I know the family, so I want to do this right. I have experience shooting formal events with my cousin's wedding and a friend's wedding. However, I'm shooting this on my own, with a Panasonic DVX100a, and my journalistic instincts. Would you recommend a lav mic on the birthday girl if she would have it? I wasn't going to bother just to simplify. If i do direct at all, is there anything fun you'd recommend shooting with her and her "court" or her court alone? I can let the photographer take the lead on this stuff of course during the photo shoot, but I think it may also be good to have her close friends and family say/do something. Would you recommend I use a separate mic during the party for that? I have a RES50B. This is really a big deal for her and her family, and they trust me to do an amazing job. I know what they have planned for the day and night, and i plan to capture some behind the scenes, getting ready moments, and the excitement and fun. I also posted in the legal section to ask about a contract template just to protect myself (I've only done pro bono before). Other than charge my batteries and get close with the camera and shotgun mic, work my angles, am I forgetting anything? I also do mostly handheld so i'm thinking that a monopod vs. a tripod would be better. Lastly, if anyone can recommend a place in NYC to pick up a spare and relatively inexpensive DVX100a battery, let me know. It's going to be a long day.
Thanks.


Doug Block
Wed 1 Jul 2009Link

Craig, as someone who's shot well over a hundred weddings, I say don't fret too much. Unless you're a hopeless incompetent (which you're not), they're gonna love what you shoot, I guarantee it. Normal people aren't used to seeing themselves captured verite-style and it's always a hoot for them.

Technically speaking, I'd simply use a good directional mic on the camera (like a Sennheiser 416), get in fairly close as much as you can, and definitely shoot handheld. Screw the tripod. And I'd set up as little as possible, just be a total fly on the wall. But that's me.

Have fun and lotsa luck.


Craig Schneider
Wed 1 Jul 2009Link

A few other related questions to my previous Sweet 16 post that i forgot to ask: I normally shoot my documentary footage in 24P on the DVX100a in squeeze mode. Do you see any issues with using that format for the Sweet 16 video? Do videographers at the formal events normally just wear a black button down shirt and slacks? When i was i shot weddings, i was actually in the wedding party so i wore a suit. And I am renting one of those light panels for the top of my camera for low light situations, but i haven't tested one out. Advice? Thanks again.


Craig Schneider
Wed 1 Jul 2009Link

Thanks, Doug. I was hoping you would post. Now I'll stop my fretting. Thanks for the sage advice.


Craig Schneider
Thu 2 Jul 2009Link

Doug, I didn't get very far in "legal" on my contract template request. Can I ask how you handle getting stuff in writing? All I have now is a verbal agreement on the price. I feel like it would be good business practice to protect myself, on this job or when i don't know the family. Have a great July 4th weekend.


Doug Block
Fri 3 Jul 2009Link

Craig, just emailed you my standard, one-page wedding agreement. Hope it helps. BTW, the Mentoring Room is for Enthusiasts, not Members, so keep stuff like this in the Legal topic in the future.

Edited Fri 3 Jul 2009 by Doug Block

Brian Boyko
Mon 13 Jul 2009Link

Short question with a complicated answer: Have any of you guys ever filmed in Cuba? I figure before I start doing research about how to get permission to go to Cuba as a journalist from the State Dept., I could ask here, and see if anyone's got any experience with it.


John Burgan
Tue 14 Jul 2009Link

As you're already a Member, Brian, you can pose this question in the Production Topic. There are several colleagues who I'm sure will be able to ask your question.


Mark Barroso
Tue 14 Jul 2009Link

In reply to Brian Boyko's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :

Brian: you can email me off list and I'll give you my phone number, but the short answer is unless you have a letter from an accredited news organization that's recognized by the State Dept., you will not qualify for a journalist exemption to the travel ban.

Assuming you do not have relatives there, that leaves you the option of going illegally, or under the license of a humanitarian group. I can advise you on that, too. Depending on what you want to do, you will also have to fly under the radar of the Cuban govt.


Brian Boyko
Tue 14 Jul 2009Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :

We considered that possibility, but isn't there an application process for freelance journalists?

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1097.html
"Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism."

If we can't get special permission, we're considering contacting BBC, Reuters, AFP, EFE, CNN, etc., to see if they could use some stringers in Cuba, work under their aegis, and film the doc in-between assignments.

I'll e-mail you off-list, Mark.


Brian Boyko
Tue 14 Jul 2009Link

In reply to John Burgan's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :

Cool – I didn't notice I was promoted in my absence!


Brian Boyko
Sun 19 Jul 2009Link

Just a quick update: We had our meeting this afternoon with everyone on board. The producers didn't consider all the problems that we might have, and when I spelled them out, they realized that there was no way that they could pull off the movie with a reasonable chance of success at this time.

However, we quickly moved onto our secondary project, which will likely be an examination of Tango in Argentina.


Mark Barroso
Mon 20 Jul 2009Link

I would love to meet the performers who pass the examination. Take me with you.


George Bahash
Wed 22 Jul 2009Link

I am wondering about the best way to approach people or organizations I want to interview. what are the pros and cons of showing unannounced versus trying to get an appointment. my questions are not intended to be confrontational. thanks.


Mark Barroso
Sat 25 Jul 2009Link

Unannounced is synonymous with ambush interviews. News people do this when they intentionally want to make people look bad. Making appointments is considered civilized and professional.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

COMPARABLE FILMS DATA

Hey folks, I'm a young producer in the development stage of a documentary and I'm trying to get some data on comparable films for budget projection (DVD sales, Rentals, Negative Costs, P&A Costs, Domestic and Foreign TV, etc.) Are there any places that have this kind of information at a reasonable price? Anywhere that specializes in the more obscure documentary titles?


James Longley
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

You're asking about a wide range of data that is unlikely to be covered by a single source.
On the one hand you have production and post production costs, on the other you have projected revenue streams. Very different stuff.
About costs of filmmaking – these are roughly quantifiable. About revenues – these are much harder to know and depend very much on your film and all sorts of variables in the way it's made and released that you can't easily predict.
Suffice it to say that if you structure the project around the distinct possibility that your film will never be profitable, you are unlikely to be disappointed.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

Thanks James,

Ha ha, yeah we're well prepared for that un-profitability possibility, but the donors/investors would like to at least see what's been achieved with other similar films.

Obviously there's BoxOfficeMojo for theatrical grosses. I know that Baseline Research (http://www.blssresearch.com/) sells other data:

- $20 a title (negative costs, P&A, rentals, & video units and gross)
- $50 a title (for expanded domestic and foreign TV)
- $70 for ROI reports

They have a pretty sparse selection of documentaries though. I just wondered if some company specialized in this kind of data for documentaries or smaller indie pics, but I guess not.

Fortunately, my particular film has some elements of marketability as well as some social objectives that might make it more interesting to donors interested in mideast peace and not in profit.

On that note, have any of you social issues filmmakers heard of L3C legal status?


Laura Moire Paglin
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

Unless you're proposing a reality TV like scenario (eg Supersize Me), I don't suggest going the investor route. You'll have to pay an attorney just to draw up the LLC and PPM – unless you already have an investor ready to throw in $100,000. Even if your film has some marketable elements, that by no means, indicates that it will be commercially profitable.


Doug Block
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 28 Jul 2009 :

Once again, please don't double post, as you asked this in the Legal topic, so any additional answers should go there. Not to mention, this is a topic for Enthusiasts, not Members.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 28 Jul 2009Link

Sorry Doug,

I'm still getting used to the lay of the land here. :|


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 4 Aug 2009Link

POST GRADUATE DOCUMENTARY DEGREE

What are the best MFA programs specializing in documentary film out there (both in and out of the U.S.)?

I'm considering applying to some MFA programs specializing in documentary film either this fall or next fall. I have a pretty good academic record, strong writing abilities and a respectable resumé of non-fiction film experience.

I'm very serious about increasing my diversity as a documentary filmmaker but most of the programs that I have heard about structure their curriculum around narrative/fiction films.

Any suggestions on schools I should look into?


Michael Wolcott
Tue 4 Aug 2009Link

In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :

I did a Master's (not MFA) in Australia and had a great experience and hopefully came back a much better filmmaker, my problems were I came back to the US with no contacts and no real idea of how to get funding in the US. Still though, my degree is what landed me my current job.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 4 Aug 2009Link

In reply to Michael Wolcott's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :

Thanks Michael,

What school did you attend? In my particular case, I'm not pursuing the degree necessarily to try and land a job. I already have several options for jobs but I want to attend a school that has the alumni network and the curriculum that is on the cutting edge of what's happening in the documentary world.

I'm particularly interested in building strong networks with filmmakers who are really pushing the limits of the genre. I would also like to give myself the option to teach on a University level at some point later in the future, which requires at least a Masters.


Michael Wolcott
Tue 4 Aug 2009Link

I went to the University of Technology, Sydney. I had a lot of great teachers who were a part of the '70s/'80s Australian film & documentary movement, like Tom Zubrycki & Jeni Thornley (who just released a really interesting looking film Island Home Country). The film dept. is small though so you probably wouldn't get the kind of network that you'd be looking for there.

One of the reasons I went on for a Masters was also for the ability to teach in the future, without an MFA though I think my options are somewhat limited. Until of course my first blockbuster documentary is released.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 4 Aug 2009Link

Yeah, I'm working on my first blockbuster documentary right now too. ;)


John Burgan
Wed 5 Aug 2009Link

In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :

Check out this list of courses


Yocheved Sidof
Wed 12 Aug 2009Link

Hello fellow filmmakers

Wanted to get some advice here. At a tough spot with my film. Its a character/story driven doc that also has elements of issue- themed doc as well...

Protagnist on quest to find love- adheres to strict Jewish law forbidding touch between opposite genders. Can she find love without touch?

Have tons of compelling footage, lots of opposition from her family, keepng law gets harder as their relationship progressess. They end up getting maried without touching eachother once.

Cut into the story, we also want to tackle the broader isse- what is the law? benefits? why is its observance 'dying out' within observant Jewish circles? is it healthy? what is the best way to learn about sex? How do other cultures view premarital sex? sex ed system, etc..

Question:
Weve spent the past 1.5 yr capturing, cutting scenes, interviews some experts, interviewing other young people about sex, etc. Also tried to edit whole cut of hjust protaganist story without tackoling issue at all... Now we feel stuck. Should we back-track and write a script? Should we figure out the 'issue' stuff and shoot it? Should we hire an outside prof editor at tis point? A doc doctor? Should we be looking for other stories to intertwine with this one?

Need some advice here!

Thanks in advance!!


Marj Safinia
Wed 12 Aug 2009Link

Yocheved, since you already asked this question on the member side, and have already started getting answers there, you should pursue this discussion in the other topic. No double-posting on D-Word. Most people read everything.


Yocheved Sidof
Wed 12 Aug 2009Link

Sorry :( Learning the rules here... ;)


Marj Safinia
Wed 12 Aug 2009Link

no worries :)


Sharon Hewitt
Sun 16 Aug 2009Link

Hello, I just joined, so please let me know if my post does not adhere to the rules of the community. I'm producing my first documentary and plan to shoot in HD and would like to meet broadcast standards. I'm considering purchasing Panasonic's new AG-HMC-40 (H.264 MPEG-4 using 3-1/4.1" CMOS image sensors). Can anyone tell how to be sure the camera I'm considering meets broadcast standards?


Chris Clauson
Sun 16 Aug 2009Link

Sharon,
I just joined too and am planning my first doc with a similar camera. I am not sure what broadcast standards will really be as the web blends with TV in the near future. The camera I plan to get is the Panasonic hdc-tm300, which is a stripped-down version of the one you want. It has very similar specs, though. I am interested to hear about your doc and how you plan to gather the material.


Sharon Hewitt
Mon 17 Aug 2009Link

Chris,
Thanks for the info. I wasn't aware of the camera you mentioned, but I checked it out and it is very similar to the one I'm considering. I plan to cover my topic by recording my subjects in their natural settings as well as through interviews. As of now, there are approximately 25 specific days over a 9 month span that I'd like to cover. I have some flexibility on the number of days I can devote, but not much. If needed, I'll trim some of these days to add other material as it develops. Tell me a little about your doc.


Chris Clauson
Tue 18 Aug 2009Link

Sharon,
I'm just trying to figure out how to do a character-driven doc on a local woman who is on a personal mission to save unwanted pets. I hope to do it in episodes for a start-up web/cable TV station. Then,who knows, maybe there will be enough good stuff for a real doc. As I mentioned before, I plan to shoot most of it on the TM-300, which is really small and lightweight. The interviews can be shot on my JVC hd200. When I picture this story, it vaguely looks like Jon and Kate Plus Eight...that kind of reality. When the episodes run in this two county area, I hope it builds awareness of the plight of the animals and that people will donate and/or adopt. The documentary will have a bigger focus on an over-arching topic when I can get enough material. I am the shooter for this and my husband is the editor. He uses FCP. What is your doc about in general?


jane taylor
Thu 20 Aug 2009Link

Hello D-word

I'm Jane Taylor and currently studying an MA at the University of Salford, Manchester, UK in Television Documentary Production.

I am at the stage now where I am conquering my dissertation. I got extremely inspired by the Documentary Campus event at the Manchester Town hall – Leaner Meaner and Keener, and have based my dissertation on the effect the internet has on documentary.

I would really appreciate some opinions, experiences and professional advice on this subject. How the internet plays a part in documentary distribution in a good way and bad way? advantages and disadvantages? What's the future? How it has helped you business or film? Everything and anything would be highly appreciated.

Many Thanks,


Doug Block
Thu 20 Aug 2009Link

Jane, the short answer is that the internet has been a great boon for marketing and promoting your docs, and hasn't nearly reached its promise as a serious distribution platform, especially for long-form docs. Whether it ever will is the (multi) million dollar question.


Jaty MacMillan
Fri 21 Aug 2009Link

Hello All,
I've just joined and was wondering if there were any posts about copyright violation on torrents sites. They're offering my film on free downloads and i need to find out how to have it removed


Susheel Kurien
Fri 21 Aug 2009Link

Hi all
I am shooting a film that has extensive performance of jazz standards. The musicians have given us releases for their peformance but I need to understand a) how to get performance rights from the publisher b)what these rights would cost.. I am trying to budget this and appreciate any help ..FYI examples: Green Dolphin St, Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, At Last, Moanin' etc

thanks


Mark Barroso
Fri 21 Aug 2009Link

In reply to Jaty MacMillan's post on Fri 21 Aug 2009 :

I can't help you, but I'm curious how you found out. I'd like to check for my own work.


stephen watson
Wed 26 Aug 2009Link

In reply to Doug Block's post on Sat 12 Mar 2005 :

Hi Doug
I have a similar question and the weblink for that article is no longer available. Do you have any other suggestions on obtaining synch licenses?


stephen watson
Wed 26 Aug 2009Link

In reply to Kyoko Yokoma's post on Fri 11 Mar 2005 :
Hi
What was the outcome relating to the licenses for the songs u needed?


Doug Block
Wed 26 Aug 2009Link

Stephen, I'd simply do a Google search: "sync licenses for film". I'm sure it'll turn up something useful.


alix de roten
Tue 1 Sep 2009Link

PAl/NTSC in HD?

Hello everybody! I'm new there but it seems this is the place to ask a technical question.
I'm going to shoot in Latin America for a documentary that will be edited here in Spain. I will do it with a Panasonic HD, AG-HVX200, so recording on P2 card. As it is the first time I shoot in HD, I don't know if we still have the PAL/NTSC problem.
I have a good oportunity to rent the Panasonic in Latin america, but I need to know for sure that it will be no problem.

Someone can help me about this?

thank you a lot


Robert Goodman
Tue 1 Sep 2009Link

Countries that are on the PAL standard for SD have HD cameras that record at 25 and 50 frames per second. Panasonic cameras from NTSC countries (US/Japan)record at 24 and 30 frames per second. Editing is not a problem though best not to mix 24 fps and 25 fps material unless you really have to.


alix de roten
Wed 2 Sep 2009Link

Thank you Robert. I understand from you answer that, when you record in HD on P2, the only difference bw PAL and NTSC is about frames por second.
So I have another question, as it is the first time I will be editing in Final Cut (changing from AVID), does Final Cut allow you to import material recorded at 30 fps, and change it into 25 fps?
And another question (sorry but nobody is able to tell me that in Barcelona). The P2 card for the camera are the same for PAL / NTSC cameras? (means I can buy the cards here (europe) and use them for the NTSC camera I will rent there (america).
thank you very much


Robert Goodman
Wed 2 Sep 2009Link

P2 cards are the same everywhere. Yes you can change the frame rate in FCP. And HD is HD despite the frame rate changes.


alix de roten
Thu 3 Sep 2009Link

Ok great! thanks a lot for your help Robert.
For those who needs to understand the basic issue PAL/NTSC in HD, here is a very didactic article.
http://www.sharbor.com/tutorials/1674.html
Hope it can help others.


nick toscano
Mon 7 Sep 2009Link

new to this and figured someone here could answer questions. I'm filming a female boxer whos trying to make it to the next olympics. The backround music at the gym brought up some copy right issues and wasnt sure if i need to try and edit the backround music. This is my first film so not sure how the legalities work.


Robert Goodman
Tue 8 Sep 2009Link

if you don't edit a visual sequence to the background music, and it is in the background, it should fall into the fair use category. Read up on the rules for claiming fair use.


Andy Schocken
Tue 8 Sep 2009Link

and it depends where you plan to exhibit it. for background music, i wouldn't worry about online or festival usage- it's only likely to be an issue for broadcast or theatrical. not that the other uses are necessarily legal, but it's very unlikely that anyone will do anything about it.


Shelly Helgeson
Thu 10 Sep 2009Link

Hi Everyone! This started on the introduce yourself forum, but was told it would do to move it over here. Any help would be greatly, GREATLY appreciated. Thx – S

Now for a question: The doc I'm currently working needs a male actor to mimic the voice of one of our subjects for use as scratch narration. We'd like to get some one who can come very close to the person's real voice as we may use a cut with this narration to send into festival applications, etc. Does anyone know the best way to go about finding and hiring voice talent or actors? Our budget is small, so I'm sure we couldn't pay too competitively but, would try to offer a decent wage. I've posted on Backstage but was hoping for more suggestions. Does anyone know anything about contacting talent agencies or casting directors? Any advice would greatly help as I am totally inexperienced in dealing with actors. Thanks!


Michelle Ferrari
Fri 11 Sep 2009Link

It's been a long time since I worked with an actor I didn't already know, so I apologize in advance if this method proves outdated. That said, it used to be that talent agencies had CD compilations of their voice-over talent, which can help a lot in narrowing down the field. (SAG can provide a list of agencies. The commercial or voice-over division of a given agency is the one you'll want to contact.) Depending on the talent, their level of interest in the project, and your ability to negotiate with their representation, you can sometimes get voice-over talent for well below scale. The trick is to get around the agent. You might try writing a letter (sent to the agent, but addressed to the actor) that really talks up your project and states in no uncertain terms how vital the actor's participation is to its success, but does not mention pay. Try to get him/her interested first. In my experience, if an actor wants to do something, he does it, regardless of whether or not his agent thinks it's a good idea. Say in the letter (in a p.s., so it's the last thing he reads) that you'll be following up with his agent, and then do that. With any luck, the actor will have told his agent he wants in on the project and the money will be less of an issue.

All that said, if you're only planning to use the actor for scratch, you may be facing an uphill battle – when an actor forgoes money, it's usually in exchange for exposure. If you're not offering exposure, you'll definitely want to focus your energies on smaller agencies and lesser-known talent.


J. Christian Jensen
Wed 23 Sep 2009Link

STANFORD MFA IN DOCUMENTARY FILM

I'm in the process of selecting post-graduate documentary film schools. Is there anyone who has graduated from Stanford's MFA program that could make yourself known? Or is anyone in contact with other filmmakers who are significantly familiar with the program. I'd love to ask some questions.

Is this the best place to post such a question?


Marj Safinia
Wed 23 Sep 2009Link

Christian, since you're a member you'll get more response posting maybe here: Teaching Docs


Ted Fisher
Wed 23 Sep 2009Link

In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Wed 23 Sep 2009 :

I believe Michael Attie just joined after completing that program. He can probably give you some useful info. He posted recently in the Introductions forum.


J. Christian Jensen
Wed 23 Sep 2009Link

Fantastic. Thank you both.


Julian Samboma
Wed 30 Sep 2009Link

Thanks for the warm welcome, Doug. Nothing less than I expected!;)

Right. My first question. My next project is a 30-45 minute doc on an aspect of the UK economy. This is going to be my first major production, not like the previous two, which were essentially "teeth-cutting" exercises.

They were self-financed and I did everything myself. This time around, I am exploring the possibility of seeking funding from various sources – if for nothing else but for employing a top editor.

My question is how much do i factor into the budget for said editor,and how to find one?
Also, my camera is the pana gs400, an sd camera. Is it a good idea to include the cost of a decent hd cam in the budget?

I hope this is the best place to post this question. Thanks.

Best


Alexandra Branyon
Wed 30 Sep 2009Link

I am about to complete my first documentary. I can't find the original source of some of the photographs, which may have belonged to a person or may have been published in a newspaper, magazine or book. What can I do to protect myself? Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.


Doug Block
Wed 30 Sep 2009Link

Julian, it's not the best place because you're now a member. Ask fundraising questions in the Fundraising (Europe) topic, camera questions in the Camera topic, etc.


Julian Samboma
Thu 1 Oct 2009Link

Thanks for that, Doug. Just finding my feet, as one does!


Maria Yatskova-Ibrahimova
Mon 12 Oct 2009Link

In reply to Alexandra Branyon's post on Wed 30 Sep 2009 :

I think you have to be a bit more specific for anyone to help answer that... what are the photos of? how did you get them? when were they taken? when and where were they published to the best of your knowledge? how do you intend to use them etc...

Edited Mon 12 Oct 2009 by Maria Yatskova-Ibrahimova

David W Grant
Tue 13 Oct 2009Link

I've completed, to my satisfaction, a speculative video essay, 28:45; edited on Final Cut Express. I want it to be technically as perfect as possible. Does that mean next step is 'audio sweetening' and/or 'color correction'? What are my options? Do I send the DVCAM cassette to a commercial house? Do rates vary widely? Is it best to do it locally?


Magee Clegg
Thu 29 Oct 2009Link

Hello everyone,

I am applying to grad film school and I am interested in schools that have great documentary filmmaking programs. Does anyone have any suggestions? At the moment I am looking at Cal Arts and UCSD. Is there anything else out there?


Ramona Diaz
Thu 29 Oct 2009Link

Stanford – I'm an alum. You can emal me offline and I'll give you the lowdown. Are you from the Philippines? cinediaz2000@gmail.com


Doug Block
Thu 29 Oct 2009Link

Magee, you might want to consider The School of Visual Arts in New York City. They have a new MFA program in documentary that I hear very good things about.


Christopher Wong
Thu 29 Oct 2009Link

stanford and berkeley come to mind as the top grad schools for documentary production. ucla is also quite good, but it provides the extra benefit of giving you exposure to fiction narrative production as well. (if you are a CA resident, ucla would also be substantially cheaper than a program like stanford)


Magee Clegg
Thu 29 Oct 2009Link

Thanks for responding! I will check that out. If anyone else has anymore ideas, I would love to hear from you.


Erica Ginsberg
Fri 30 Oct 2009Link

I'm an alum of American University in Washington DC. It is not specifically a documentary program but, since non-fiction is the bread and butter of the area, the majority of the students are focused on documentary. I can't say how it compares academically or artistically to the other aforementioned universities, but it does position you firmly in the real world of actually finding work in the industry.

Edited Fri 30 Oct 2009 by Erica Ginsberg

Diane Johnson
Mon 2 Nov 2009Link

Is there an experienced line producer that can send me sample budgets of a documentary – I would really appreciate it, I know that budgets vary depending on different elements, but I just need detailed budget to look at.

nycproducer212@gmail.com is my email

Thanks in advance!


Daniel McGuire
Tue 10 Nov 2009Link

In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :
An MA won't help you get much in getting work in academia – A doctorate in Communications or Art Hist Concentration Film Studies would. To teach filmmaking then an MFA is considered the terminal degree – so that is more useful than an MA. That being said, going into debt for 100k or so to get a degree should be questioned in this day and age – better to use that money to make a couple of good films.


Arjuna Krishnaratne
Tue 10 Nov 2009Link

Hi this is Krishna from Sri Lanka. Can some one help me to find out an online course in documentary film making. Please.


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

hi there – i am doing two different series – one is a set of one on one interviews, the other is trailing a team of people for a day. it's for a great idea but i have no documentary filmmaking experience, so i was going to hire film students to do it – or have them do it for deferred pay as i have no money. for the one on one interviews, i dont need anything fancy, right? i just need someone who has shot interviews, with a camera and lighting adn sound kit? these are going to be aired on the web – tey're sort of long. what sort of camera should i ask that they have? i'm clueless, please help! thanks


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

and also for the part where they are trailing a team of people, should i hire more than one camera person? that could get tricky...


Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

tackling second question first... if you and your crew have little to no experience with documentary filmmaking, you should definitely limit yourself to one camera only. you don't want to be worrying about shooting from the wrong side (it's called "crossing the line" and results in major difficulties when it comes time to edit), and you also don't want to have to avoid being in the way of the other camera(s).


Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

as for the 1-on-1 web interviews, it sounds like you just need basic lighting and framing, nothing tricky or especially artistic about your setup. so, yes, just find someone with a lighting kit (2 or 3 lights should do) and a basic DV camera. you can use HD if you want to, but it's not necessary for the web.

by the way, hiring film students to do work for you on a deferred pay basis is a difficult proposition. film students are not known for being extremely reliable, and if they are not being paid, you never know what you're going to get. if i were you, i wouldn't even promise deferred pay – i would just sell the project on its own merits, and hope that whoever wants to do it just needs the experience. good luck.


Joanna Arnow
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Hi Ginger, it might be difficult to find students who have their own cameras, lighting and sound kit so I would start out by seeing what you get. But in terms of cameras try to find someone with a 3ccd camera that has manual modes. Also, try to find someone with a lavalier microphone. And if someone doesn't have lighting or sound you could try renting from DCTV (downtown community television center)--they have pretty reasonable prices. If you're following people for a whole day, I think you'd get a lot of footage with one camera and be able to follow the action but it really depends on how much is going to be happening in your event, and how much material you need for this series. Good luck!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

wow, incredibly fast responses! you know what, they dont even have to be students – i'll just post on mandy, but selling project on merits & for their film reel is a good idea. so is renting from dctc, thanks! so no one will notice quality difference between dv and hd camera? i know nothing! thanks


Ted Fisher
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Ginger Rose Lee's post on Wed 11 Nov 2009 :

Hi Ginger,

I do have one recommendation: when you set up the interviews, consider what sort of shot you can gather that could be used to cut away to or to otherwise allow your editor to break up long sections of the interview. There are many possibilities: b-roll shot outside the interview, or detail shots taken at the time of the interview, for example. But definitely find something that will give your editor reasonable options when they are editing the interview. Ideally, you'd like to have the option of shortening, clarifying or repairing parts of the interview, so get those shots that will allow you to "cover" the editing.

Edited Wed 11 Nov 2009 by Ted Fisher

Joanna Arnow
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Okay, and now my own question. I've been doing a lot of handheld camera and my wrist starts hurting soon into shooting. It didn't used to do this, and I've been wondering if people wear wrist braces during or after shooting? It feels strained.


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

also is there a program where i could get an actual mentor, like an old documentary pro, to help me? it's a real do-gooder project. i dont know if ifp and similar organizations offer stuff like that...i just want to make sure i do this right!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

thanks ted! GREAT suggestion. is there a place to get free b roll? god you guys are awesome!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

i meant b-roll – not the type you mention of things happening during or immediately preceding interview, but like b-roll of related actions that the subject is talking about...


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

oh, another thing – compensation for subjects. this section of the series i'm asking about is the interview section (not really a documentary sectopm). let's say i'm interviewing a famous woodworker who is also going to spend a large portion doing a demo of his work to show you how to do it. he gets to publicize his own site and name in agreeing to be interviewed – but is it standard to offer these people compensation? my site will be ad supported, i dont think i will charge people to use it, but it will be a for profit company. thanks so much for your help!


Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

ginger, it sounds like you are really starting from the beginning on this... i would recommend that you do a quick read of Michael Rabiger's book called "Directing the Documentary". it will get you up to speed very quickly. also, it wouldn't hurt to watch a few docs from the library: Hoop Dreams, Fog of War, Salesman, Capturing the Friedmans, etc.


Doug Block
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Joanna, given that you're a Member, no need for you to ask questions here. This is for newbies like Ginger. And nice to see you taking advantage, Ginger.

Arjuna, you're a Member, as well, so you should take your question to the Teaching Docs topic. Believe me, many more folks here will see it there.


Joanna Arnow
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

ah, I thought I'd better ask here because the working pros sound like they have wrists of steel, but I'll try a different topic...


Doug Block
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Naaahh, we're all softies here. Try us.


Tony Mohareb
Thu 12 Nov 2009Link

In general, do the docs we see nominated for Oscars have distributors prior to festival attendance or are they picked up at the festival?


Nicholas Varga
Tue 17 Nov 2009Link

Does anyone know of an online hosting site where you can upload what you have edited thus far to attract funding for completion? I have gone as far as I can go without money, and the film needs money to be finished...i simply need the forum where someone may wish to contribute to see it completed!!!

I am literally starving and need to finish the project! Thanks in advance!


moloy chakraborty
Tue 17 Nov 2009Link

Hi; every body ;
i 'm moloy from INDIA;very glad to meet you here.
I'm now working as an assistant film director with the most eminent indian film maker; BUDDHADEB DASGUPTA. But you all know that in INDIA its very difficult to be an independent film maker . i've completed the research work for two of my ducomentaries .
my first project is about the children who lived on footpath of calcutta;but they all have a very pain full history; and the causes are very socio-economical.........
and my second project is on MEDICINE;how the people of INDIA are cheated by those multinational medicinal companies.......
i've approach to many people and tried to make my dream true' but i faild. so i'm requesting you to give me some suggestions for it (i.e:how do i find producers.....). thanking you; moloy


Martin Touhey
Wed 18 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Nicholas Varga's post on Tue 17 Nov 2009 :

Nicholas,
Reelchanges.org is a great place to post your project and collect donations. indiegogo.con is also another good fundraising site.


Nicholas Varga
Wed 18 Nov 2009Link

Thanks Martin!

I actually found that website and was fortunate enough to have them accept my piece as an addition to their site. There aren't many films on there nor was there contact info other than an email, so I am wondering how wide of an audience they actually have. Time will tell. I will try indiegogo as an additional forum to display what we have edited thus far. Have you had any luck with Reelchanges? I only need $95K to finish and am positive this thing is going to make money. I just need one person to step up to the plate without having to jump through all the hoops and wait 6 months for Sundance and organizations like those to dispense money if they do decide the film is worthy. I HATE how money stops change even though it's probably the biggest catalyst when evoking change! UGGH! The system SUCKS!


Peter Brauer
Fri 20 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Nicholas Varga's post on Tue 17 Nov 2009 :

you could also look into http://www.kickstarter.com/ I haven't used it, but it appears lots is being funded through it. 95K might be too much for them, but maybe you could split it up into smaller pieces.


Nicholas Varga
Sat 21 Nov 2009Link

Thanks Pete.

I will try kickstarter as well. I don't mind breaking it up at all.


Martin Touhey
Tue 24 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Nicholas Varga's post on Wed 18 Nov 2009 :

I've had very little luck in collecting funds ($70 on reelchanges, $50 on indiegogo), but I keep them there in case some bigwig comes along and decides to drop a ton of loot in my lap. You need $95k to finish, I need $25k to start. I'm gonna check kickstarter to see what it's about. Good luck.


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