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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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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
Thu 12 Nov 2009Link

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


Tony Mohareb
Fri 13 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
Wed 18 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.


Nicholas Varga
Wed 25 Nov 2009Link

HAHA! We have the same exact expectation/motive for keeping our projects on those websites. My problem is that even the people I know who are business owners, and are able to donate money through a 501c3 and write it off, don't have profits this year to be able to justify doing it for me. I am taking a beating every which way I turn. It's frustrating more than anything because I can sit and edit for 16 hours straight and do not hesitate to come in the next day because I love to do it. However, my hands are tied because I need the money to do narration and can't go any further until it's done so $$$ is what's holding me up. This is for the very same reason why I HATE the industry. You work on any fictional film or tv show and there are 10 people there to do a 3 person job, all getting paid union rates. I want to blow my brains out because I HATE sitting around and am the only person who actually wants to work and it pisses people off! Oh well, gotta love creating change rather than getting rich!!!


Nigel Walker
Wed 25 Nov 2009Link

Nicholas, So you will let a funder decide whether you continue or not? Turn a closet in your house into a sound room (blankets and foam), buy a digital recorder and mic (Zoom H4 or better), post on Craigslist for VO talent and learn how to record narration yourself. The internet is full of tutorials to do every one of these things.


Scott P. Harris
Thu 26 Nov 2009Link

Hello, I made my first short, a nine minute piece about a very unique high school physics teacher, that recently premiered at the San Francisco Doc Fest. I was contacted this week by a woman who represents the feature that I was paired with. She said that their film was finishing it's festival run (it opened at Silverdocs) and they are starting to take it to colleges for screenings and putting together a dvd. The director liked my film, and he wanted to use it as an opener when he does the college screenings, and he wanted to put it on his dvd. That's great news for me, and I'm happy to have my work seen by more people, but when the issue of compensation came up, she offered $200. That seems a bit low to me. Do you have any idea what I should be asking for?


Christopher Wong
Thu 26 Nov 2009Link

that's stunningly low, even for a short. if she just happens to be taking your film on a tour, it might be almost worth it. but if she's actually packaging your film in a DVD, i think you should probably negotiate for a share of the DVD revenues. maybe something like a $1.00 per DVD? under such an arrangement, you might not even make $200 total, but at least it will be a fair deal...


Willemijn Cerutti
Thu 26 Nov 2009Link

Hello cameraman or woman, I need you to make a shot at DESIGN MIAMI the 5th of December for a documentary. Can I hire you? Please email me soon at willemijn@zeppers.nl Our company is based in the netherlands. Please mail me soon!


Christophe Cousin
Fri 27 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Jessamy Meyer's post on Sun 12 Oct 2008 :

Hello, I am now looking for a fixer in Laos for a french program if you might be able to help.

Thanks in advance.

Chris


Nicholas Varga
Fri 27 Nov 2009Link

Nigel,

Please don't get me wrong...I work forward everyday on the project whether there is money available or not. As an editor, as the film is already in the can, EVERYTHING left to do is up to me to accomplish or oversee getting done being that the others involved know nothing about production. We do need narration, the film needs to be scored, GFX...there is a TON of post to be done. The point I am at now, after sifting through 1000 hours of footage, capturing what I know I need, organizing and beginning post...it is VERY hard to move forward to make the project the quality I envision it with 0 dollars. I am a firm believer in doing things the "right" way, the first time without cutting corners. So for me to hire craigslist talent when I know "who" I want to narrate it is working backwards in my opinion. I will never "throw in the towel" but am committed to accomplishing what I deem necessary without too much compensation of quality for the project. Do you know what I mean...


Nigel Walker
Fri 27 Nov 2009Link

I do and I respect the amount of work you have put in already and the commitment to your project.

My point is you will be surprised at what you can accomplish on your own and given the choice of not moving forward because you don’t have the money to get specific narration or getting narration that is good enough, which are you going to choose?

If your goal is make more films then the most important thing is completing this one as quickly as possible and taking what you have learnt to the next project so that one is better.

I looked at your project online. You have an interesting topic, character (likable?) and good access but you need to think about putting a shorter fundraising trailer together. The work by Fernanda Rossi is a good place to start.

Good luck with your project.


Nicholas Varga
Sat 28 Nov 2009Link

Nigel, thanks for looking online at the topic...

I agree a short TRAILER for the film needs to be cut. It is the next in line. Essentially what you saw was me putting the RAW footage into "buckets" so that an investor can see how high impact the reality footage is and who it involves. Needless to say, in moving forward, a TRAILER is the NEXT thing I plan on doing.

As far as the character being likable, you and I both agree that the audience is more than likely NOT going to be sympathetic with him...which sucks because of his image! What I want to do is find a woman who has been a true victim of domestic violence to narrate "on camera" her own experience and then furthermore tell Ben's story of how he is inevitably a "victim" from false allegations of abuse so that the audience sympathizes with him. Ben by himself telling the story isn't as powerful as someone else telling it for him.

Custody is HUGE right now and his case is HISTORICAL by having the first woman ever in the US convicted of perjury on the stand in a custody case. This film has to be done right so that it is "THE" Custody film of its kind. I know where I want to go with it, I simply need the resources...

You rock for taking the time bro! I will let you know when the trailer is complete!!!


Lenville O'Donnell
Wed 2 Dec 2009Link

Nicholas:
My advice would be to finish your film, by hook or by crook, as polished as you can make it, THEN approach the narrator of your dreams. I have some experience in this. If you want an A-list or otherwise very successful or well known narrator, they will not agree to narrate your film until they have seen your final cut, with sound design and final score. Big names need to be assured, by seeing the finished product (with everything except the VO), that the work is of the highest quality, and that they will be proud to have their name associated with it FOREVER, which is what you are asking. It is a big ask. But you can be successful with it if you make a fine film with excellent (scratch) VO that is well-written, and approach a potential narrator who has a connection with the subject matter in some way.


Tailinh Agoyo
Thu 3 Dec 2009Link

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

try indiegogo.com


Tailinh Agoyo
Thu 3 Dec 2009Link

In reply to Nicholas Varga's post on Sat 28 Nov 2009 :

also DocuMentors is doing a free teleseminar tomorrow about getting funding from ITVS.
http://documentaryhowto.com/free-documentary-teleseminar-registration


Nicholas Varga
Fri 4 Dec 2009Link

Thank you all! Great advice and much appreciated!


Diane Johnson
Wed 9 Dec 2009Link

Hello I have a question about what is needed to be handed over to a network in order to qualify for distribution. Is it true that you have to give proof of E&O insurance? What else is needed?

Has anyone here worked for a production company who has a first look deal with a major network or someone here who is a UPM and can help me out?

Thanks!


Lenville O'Donnell
Wed 9 Dec 2009Link

Many networks have their "deliverables" posted online in a "producers" or "filmmakers" section. The required deliverables vary from network to network. Google the networks you think might be a home for your film and see if they have that stuff online. PBS does. Happy Hunting.


Robert MacDonald
Mon 21 Dec 2009Link

Hi, I am about to film my first documentary on the difficulties that face young disabled people in Glasgow and to portray the extreme difficulty in accessing the services they need to live even a modestly fulfilling existence. I just need info on the correct standard procedures to do this. This is very low budget so it's just me and my equipment.
Many thanks.


Doug Block
Mon 21 Dec 2009Link

Not quite sure what you mean by "correct standard procedures", Robert. Do you mean filming your subjects publicly? Would help if you can give a bit more info.


Robert MacDonald
Mon 21 Dec 2009Link

How would you start to organise a low budget documentary? You've been approached by a disabled person who wants to interview 4 other disabled people and follow them for a day each to highlight the difficulties they face. This is intended to be a hard hitting DVD to target various government bodies, ie NHS.


Mark Barroso
Wed 23 Dec 2009Link

There's no standard way of shooting. I would suggest you do several inventories:

1. What can I record with the equipment I have? Work with those limitations. If you only have the microphone on the camera, for instance, you need to shoot wide and close. If you try to shoot from a distance your sound will be horrible. Another example would be low light – some cameras don't do well so count on shooting in well lit places or out of doors.

2. Who, when and where can I shoot? Who's in the movie and who's not? The more focused you are in the beginning will translate into less work sorting everything out in the edit room. Sounds like you want to confront a government official. If so, figure out how you're going to do this. Ask for an interview? Ambush outside the office?

3. What am I not good at? If I can't shoot or edit or anything related to the process then I need to get help. (Have you taken a class in filmmaking?)

These are some ideas to get you started. Good luck.


Faraz Mohammad
Wed 20 Jan 2010Link

Hi,
I am starting to shoot my first documentary soon in NYC and I am currently looking for some advice:
1) I am looking for camcorder to shoot the movie, I cant afford anyting expensive but would appreciate some advice on which camcorder to buy. I went to B&H and the salesman recomended Canon HV40.
2) I need someone to help me edit the footage as I have no experience in that area. As I am paying for everything from my own pocket I wont be able to pay for the job but I will def put their name in credits.
Thanks

Edited Wed 20 Jan 2010 by Faraz Mohammad

Sahand Sahebdivani
Thu 21 Jan 2010Link

Dear Faraz, as in most other businesses, freelancers like editors are overworked and underpaid, desperate for the next gig to come to pay the bills. An experienced editor would have a hard time working just for the credits, even if it was a high profile project with good quality material to work with and most likely to help advance his/her career.

Why not try 1st-2nd years editors in film school? They might be inspired by the subject of your doc and want the experience. While you wait for someone to reply to the notes your sticking up, also start messing around with all the good semi-pro editing software out there.


Hashin Hassan
Thu 21 Jan 2010Link

Hi,

I'm currently working on a written assignment based on new media technology and its impact on documentary film and its makers. I would really appreciate it if you could answer one or two of my questions based on your own experience.

Q1
Have you experienced the shift from analogue to digital? If so, what has changed in your work routine? How different do you work now?

Q2
What equipment do you use (currently)?

Q3
Do you choose equipment that you are comfortable with and meet the standards of broadcast? Or are they determined by the nature of the documentary you are making?

Q4
Do you feel it is necessary to be constantly aware of new technology or do you think that current standards are sufficient for you?

Thanks


John Burgan
Thu 21 Jan 2010Link

Hashim has just updated his biography to give a bit more of his background. Perhaps it would be easiest to email him directly if you are able to help.


Matt McLaughlin
Fri 22 Jan 2010Link

I just completed a fairly refined 55 minute rough cut of my documentary on men in the pornography industry. I have an inside contact at HBO and currently waiting for it to be screened. But I am also shopping it around at other networks in the hopes to receive finishing funds.

Has anyone been in my position with a rough cut and sold a documentary to HBO, Showtime or any other network? If so, I would love to talk with you further about the business side of a deal like that.

Thanks! Matt


Doug Block
Fri 22 Jan 2010Link

I've worked with HBO on my last 3 films, Matt. Email me with a bit more detail about the project and I'll share some insight. My email address is in my profile (he says, testing your linking acumen).

Edited Fri 22 Jan 2010 by Doug Block

Faraz Mohammad
Tue 26 Jan 2010Link

Hi,
I am gonna be shooting my documentary using Canon HV 40. What would be the ideal stand to put the camera on to avoid shaking ?
I was thinking of tripod stand but then someone recomended monopod bcz I will be moving around alot following the character at their work place.
Can anyone give better suggetion which stand should i use ?


John Burgan
Thu 28 Jan 2010Link

The BBC is looking for people to tell us the story of their world in a two minute film, with winning films assembled into sequences by leading figures in documentary film.

No-one sees the world the way you do. Make a short film about life from your perspective – and enter in this competition to be judged by professional documentary makers.


Albie Garcia
Sun 31 Jan 2010Link

Only the second time I have posts anything, usually a reader. I am working on a music doc of a small town and have done several intvs and shows. I have two questions not related at all.
1.) When getting clearances in the intv. process. Do I still need to get another clearance from the same band to shoot the performance. Essentially, do I need two clearances one for the show, the other for the intv.
2.) Many co-workers have donated thier time helping me with this project. One in particular is really pressing her ideas. I keep reminding her of the direction that we should be taking. Nine months in she says she is not sure if she can continue, becasue she doesn't believe in the project. I have been the only person who has invested in this project (financially speaking). Trying to keep an open mind.
Ideas? sorry this is so long.


Justine Jacob
Sun 31 Jan 2010Link

In reply to Albie Garcia's post on Sun 31 Jan 2010 :

1 – your release for the interview can include the shows – I would include all the shows in the release for the band and have each band member sign one.

2. Not sure what your question is. Have you done crew deal memos with each person working for you? Even if they work for free, you should have them sign a work-for-hire crew deal memo that says you own everything they do for you. But, again, not sure what your question is.

Edited Sun 31 Jan 2010 by Justine Jacob

Magee Clegg
Tue 2 Feb 2010Link

Hello,

I have a 22-minute documentary, "A Box with a View" about the influence of cable television in a farming community located in South India. The short has been received well so far. Most recently it was nominated for best international documentary at the Queens International Film Festival in NYC, but now I am in a situation where I do not have enough money to continuing submitting to Festivals. You can watch the full documentary at this link: http://www.vimeo.com/5024075

Is there anyway to team up with a company that promotes films like mine and the deal would be for them to take a cut if the distribution rights are sold? Any Suggestion would be a great help! Thank you so much.

Magee


Kelly Nathe
Tue 2 Feb 2010Link

Does anyone have any experience working with Lombardo Films?

They've expressed interest in distributing a film I'm working on and would love to hear from any of you who have experience with them.

Thanks!

www.lombardofilms.com


Sacha Broute
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Hi, I'm new to this stuff and just had a question. You know in some TV shows when people film their travels when they go someplace in the world or something like that? Well the camera they've got is something attached to them, and the lense stuff sits right in front of them to film wherever they want it to film, without having to hold the camera. It's hard to explain, but thats the big picture. I was wondering if someone could tell me what they are called, or where i could buy one. Thanks!

Edited Sat 13 Feb 2010 by Sacha Broute

James Longley
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

It could be they are using one of these cameras.


James Longley
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Actually, since I have now read and re-read your post several times, it occurs to me you may be trying to describe the kind of camera support systems made by Steadicam and other companies.

When they are designed for professional use, these types of camera support systems can be quite expensive and cumbersome. If you are just starting out as a cinematographer, you may find it more expedient to use a small, light-weight camera, and practice holding it steady to achieve the shots you want.

A small monopod can also be extremely helpful in stabilizing a light-weight camera, and is an inexpensive solution for steady filming. A good monopod for a small camera will be one that weighs enough to provide a counter-weight to the camera, so that the balance point lies just below where the camera attaches to monopod. This counter-weight will allow you to "fly" the camera through the air with your arm, avoiding much of the vibration, pitching and rolling movements normally found with hand-held videography. Another good trick is to use an elastic camera strap in conjunction with a monopod to further stabilize the camera.

Tiffen makes a product called the Steady Stick that some people have found quite handy.

Edited Sat 13 Feb 2010 by James Longley

David W Grant
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

I've placed my video information on Without A Box and have the opportunity to upload it to IMdB. It's half hour, made with Final Cut Express. IMdB asks for Quick Time format, up to 2 GB (which they say will handle feature-length).
My .mov file is 6.59 GB and won't upload (I let it run all night). What to do? [IMdB's Help section does not speak to this. I looked at Apple's Final Cut Express discussion and see mention of using a 'Sorenson Squeeze'. I did use File/Compress on the .mov 6.59 GB file but the disk is full so it did not compress.
Is there a simple answer to my issue? (Feel free to just direct me to the right place to look.)
Thanks.


John Burgan
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Check out Encoding for YouTube Using Compressor


David W Grant
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Thanks, John, that's quite a detailed article. I'll study it and probably succeed. / I did, by the way, manage to use the File/Compress ... but it only reduced the 6.59 GB to a mov.zip of 5.83 GB.


Sacha Broute
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Thank you so much for replying so quickly-even though I have a lot of time. The 'Steady Stick' seems to be the one they use, but even if it isn't, it looks better. And you're right, I'm far from being a professional, I'm just growing interest in filming documentaries and things, and my High School seems to have some good classes I could take that could help me. Thanks again!


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