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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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James Longley
Sat 13 Feb 2010Link

No worries. Good luck.


Doug Block
Sun 14 Feb 2010Link

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


Tom Dziedzic
Sun 14 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.


Boyd McCollum
Sun 14 Feb 2010Link

In reply to Sacha Broute's post on Fri 12 Feb 2010 :

those things are "cams" as in helmet cams, wrist cams, crash cams, etc. Small little cameras that attach to various points on a body or bike or bag or whatever. See here and here for examples.


James Longley
Sun 14 Feb 2010Link

Sacha -

... 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:

GreenCine's list – a good list, but keep in mind that people who include Tokyo Olympiad on their lists have not actually watched it.

some person's top 10 list

Academy Award-nominated documentaries – not always the best arbiter of quality but a good list

Edited Sun 14 Feb 2010 by James Longley

Jo-Anne Velin
Mon 15 Feb 2010Link

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!


James Longley
Mon 15 Feb 2010Link

And for those people who like links to click on, the National Film Board of Canada's website is here:
http://www.nfb.ca/


Sacha Broute
Thu 18 Feb 2010Link

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!


Hashin Hassan
Fri 19 Feb 2010Link

Hi,

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?

Thanks

(Return to Gaza)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs10Q9f3s1E


Doug Block
Fri 19 Feb 2010Link

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.


James Longley
Fri 19 Feb 2010Link

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.


jeff falk
Wed 24 Feb 2010Link

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


Doug Block
Wed 24 Feb 2010Link

Good idea, Jeff. Care to share what your film is about?


jeff falk
Wed 24 Feb 2010Link

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.


Fran Burke
Mon 1 Mar 2010Link

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?
Thanks!
Fran


Laura Moire Paglin
Mon 1 Mar 2010Link

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.


Tom Dziedzic
Mon 1 Mar 2010Link Tag

Fran, FYI Ro-Co Films has partnered with OWN to review doc features, you might start there:

http://www.rocofilms.com/


Fran Burke
Mon 1 Mar 2010Link

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.


Doug Block
Mon 1 Mar 2010Link

Hi back, Fran. Welcome. You definitely want to contact Annie Roney at RoCo.


Matt Marxteyn
Tue 2 Mar 2010Link

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.


Maranatha Hay
Tue 2 Mar 2010Link

Hi all,

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?


Doug Block
Tue 2 Mar 2010Link

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.


Maranatha Hay
Tue 2 Mar 2010Link

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.


Doug Block
Tue 2 Mar 2010Link

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.


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