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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 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
Tue 22 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
Thu 21 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
Thu 21 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 Thu 21 Jan 2010 by Doug Block

Faraz Mohammad
Mon 25 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
Sat 30 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
Fri 12 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 Fri 12 Feb 2010 by Sacha Broute

James Longley
Fri 12 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!


James Longley
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

No worries. Good luck.


Doug Block
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

Sacha, great that they have doc classes on Pluto these days. Certainly didn't back in my day.


Tom Dziedzic
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

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.


Boyd McCollum
Sun 14 Feb 2010Link

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.


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