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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you experienced the shift from analogue to digital? If so, what has changed in your work routine? How different do you work now?
What equipment do you use (currently)?
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?
Do you feel it is necessary to be constantly aware of new technology or do you think that current standards are sufficient for you?
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.
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.
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).
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 ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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, 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.
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!
Sacha, great that they have doc classes on Pluto these days. Certainly didn't back in my day.
In reply to David W Grant's post on Sat 13 Feb 2010 :
Sorenson Squeeze is a good multi-format compression software that will get your video down to 2GB or smaller. It's not cheap, about $700 I think but it's very powerful, clean and easy to use. Also look at ways to reduce space, a smaller window, mono rather than stereo audio, 15 fps rather than 30, etc. You have to experiment with it for best results.
In reply to David W Grant's post on Sat 13 Feb 2010 :
you could try to use MPEG Streamclip which is free. Try exporting to H264 (using Export to MPEG-4). Play with the settings to keep it as close to your original footage size/frame rate as possible. You should be able to get great results with a 2GB limit for a 30 minute piece.
QTPro also give you some options--I'm not sure if FCE comes with it or not, but it's worth the $20 or so for the license just to have it.
... But be led not down the path of cultural perversion and moral vacuity that is Reality TV, with its "cams" and travel shows. If you want to know what documentary filmmaking is all about, check out the films of great documentary filmmakers – you can find some good documentaries here:
In reply to Boyd McCollum's post on Sun 14 Feb 2010 :
You can also access for free, a lot of films from the National Film Board of Canada. Their website is terrific now. They have often been at the cutting edge of documentary and animation, for over 60 years. Have fun!
And for those people who like links to click on, the National Film Board of Canada's website is here:
Thanks for the tips and the links to click on, its fun and very interesting! And yes, Pluto has grown a lot in the past few years and we even have movie theaters now!
Im making a documentary together with my fellow student and friend, Dane Smith. We're hoping to sell our documentary after its release. We're both based in the Midlands, England, UK. As this is our first big indie production, we're looking for some advice to get it out to the professional industry who may want to buy, broadcast etc.
How do we approach?
(Return to Gaza)
Greetings, Hashin. One time-honored route is to enter it into film festivals, beginning with the most prestigious fests (Sundance, Toronto, etc.) and the top documentary fests (IDFA, Hot Docs, Full Frame, Siverdocs, etc.). Another is to get it to leading internationals sales agents like Films Transit, Autlook, Cat & Docs, Roco and the like. If they take it on, they'll take it to some of the biggest and best film markets to sell to (mostly) tv buyers.
Hi Hashin, another way to get the film out is to send it to various university student organizations that are interested in supporting Palestinian rights and building awareness around the Gaza issue. When I made my GAZA STRIP documentary in 2001 I spent about a year touring various universities and film festivals, participating in lengthy Q&A sessions and debates, etc. – You can generally sell DVDs at these types of events, and many student organizations and festivals will cover your travel expenses.
These days with the Internet, it will also be possible for you to make your film instantly available in the event that broadcasters turn you down.
I am finishing up logging footage have started to edit and have come to the conclusion that I might need different eyes looking at this. I filmed from the inside looking out... I am finding it hard to be objective in my editing being so close to it. I guess I am looking for a mentor to look from the outside, in. I don't want to screw this project up
Its about an older couple (51 & 41) with two little kids (1.5 & 6), three dogs that find themselves homeless and living in a converted greyhound bus in the Senora desert, they travel the life of the depression era gold prospectors doing the same, looking for gold to put food on the table and fuel in the bus. Lots of beans and gruel for dinner not to mention the wild life for breakfast. From the Senora to the backwoods of the Serra Nevada's. Its whats going on all over the united states right now. But these people are not waiting around to be removed from their home, freeze and starve, or move in with the in-laws. There is about 10 hours of Hi-end video another 10 of cheap Sharp DV. Then there is about a thousand to 1400 Nikon D-70 raw images. I think it needs a first class narration. Its pretty heavy stuff to say the least. Like I said...I don't want to butcher it. Here is a 2 min clip I put together for the BBC MyWorld deal.
This is my first posting here, so hello.
Just wondering if anyone has had any experience with Oprah's new OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network) and knows the appropriate commissioning editor (Jamila Hunter?) to contact there with a promo?
jeff – your doc sounds really interesting. But I couldn't open the file. Perhaps you can post on vimeo – that way you don't have to worry about file formats, etc.
Fran, FYI Ro-Co Films has partnered with OWN to review doc features, you might start there:
Thank you Tom – that's been a big help. For anyone else interested, it seems like they're looking for completed features for the 2011 schedule.
Hi back, Fran. Welcome. You definitely want to contact Annie Roney at RoCo.
Wow, just checked out the catalog of Ro-Co Films, Thanks for the post, Tom. We'll definitely add them to our list for our Film Market in November.
For the past month or so, I've been mulling over an idea for a documentary feature-I've already made a short and learned a few lessons from the school of hard knocks.
I can't stop thinking about the idea and it's something I want to commit several years of my life to. But what's next? Is a proposal next? A documentary trailer? Does anyone have any samples they're willing to share?
Marantha, you're a member so no need to post this here (Developing Stories or Works In Progress would both be fine). But since you've already posted here, might as well answer so that other non-members can see.
There are any number of ways to get going on a feature doc but most people these days simply plunge in and start shooting. At some point, when they've gathered enough material, they'll then put together a fundraising sample or trailer. You can then take those to a broadcaster like HBO, apply to places like ITVS, or even put it up on your website and try to raise money from private contributions. Along the way, it makes sense to write grant proposals if your subject is the kind that's eligible for grants (ie. a social issue doc).
But no matter what, it's gonna take a huge amount of time and effort and money. You'll need a lot of patience, persistence, stubbornness and stamina, not to mention a very thick skin.
Can I run the idea by you and see if it grabs you and is good enough to start poking around or shooting? I'd really, really, really appreciate your thoughts on the idea.
Sure thing, Maranatha (sorry for dropping an "a" last time). But lets do it in the Works In Progress topic where everyone will see it and get to weigh in.
I wanted to see if anyone had any suggestions for me. I absolutely love documentary film and am trying to put myself in a position to learn more about this passion. However, I work full time to pay the bills and the jobs / internships I have found conflict with my Monday through Friday work schedule. How can I find something with a flexible schedule that will allow to pursue my dream without going broke?
daniel, if you are in the beginning stages of exploring documentary film, there are two very low-cost and time-flexible ways to do this. first, you can read a book about it – Michael Rabiger's Directing the Documentary is probably the best one out there. second, you can watch a lot of documentary films. you've probably already seen many docs, but try watching them not just for the story, but try imagining what the director or camera person is doing when you're watching a certain scene. try to think of what questions were asked to elicit a subject's response. try to imagine what footage the editor had to choose from when constructing the scene. all these things will help you to start thinking like a documentary filmmaker.
Daniel, I agree with Chris that it should not be difficult to learn about documentary from reading Rabiger's book and immersing yourself in documentaries. However, it is also important to get some practical experience. If you are not ready to give up a dayjob to get some hands-on experience as an intern or production assistant, I would suggest signing up for a class which works with your schedule. It doesn't have to be at a university. It could be at a community media center such as DCTV or a public access television station.
Networking is also a key part. Since you work in another field, there may be a skill you bring from that field that could be beneficial to a documentary filmmaker and might be a means for barter or at least doing some internship-like work which could fit around your schedule. For example, perhaps you do a lot of writing or editing – you could potentially offer to review a filmmaker's proposal. Or you are a numbers guy and could help a filmmaker develop a budget (and learn about documentary budgeting in the process). Or you are willing to work as a PA for lunch on a documentary shoot which might happen on a weekend.
There are many routes to becoming a documentary filmmaker or at least exploring if you want to become one without leaping off the cliff with no parachute.
Hi , I am in production on my documentary about the story of jazz in India. In addition to revealing the historical curve of jazz in India, it highlights the diaspora of African American jazz musicians (many from James Reese Europe's band) who came to India via Paris and Montmatre in the 1930's. My advisors include ethnomusicologists and jazz educators who feel that this film will be of interest to college libraries and jazz studies programs.
I need help understanding the size of this potential market (Colleges, libraries etc) from someone who is in the distribution business and understands this channel. Specifically I am trying to understand – how many potential targets might exist, cost of of sales and pricing etc in order to develop a reasonable assumption that I can use to support a proposal . Much appreciate any insights