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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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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.


Daniel Sharon
Sat 13 Mar 2010Link

Hi all,
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?


Christopher Wong
Sun 14 Mar 2010Link

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.


Erica Ginsberg
Sun 14 Mar 2010Link

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.


Susheel Kurien
Tue 23 Mar 2010Link

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
thanks
SK

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX0OH-t8WZY


Ben Kempas
Tue 23 Mar 2010Link

Susheel, please don't double-post, as we've already seen this in Marketing and Distribution . I know it got a bit lost there in the middle of a longer conversation. But it's also such a niche question that I'm not sure we were in a position to answer it.

You might just want to search for other films on jazz and then contact their respective distributors individually.


Terri Hems Anderson
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

Hi guys,
This is my first post so I'm not sure if I'm doing this right but I shall give it a go! I'm currently planning a documentary that I wish to pitch as my graduation film from university. I have – I think – a good idea that needs a little work but hopefully will stand a chance at getting picked. The only problem is my subject is based in California and I'm in London. Although I plan to go several times before I shoot I think it is vital that I have a researcher over there to keep on top of things. Just wondering if anyone can offer me some advice on where to start looking for one? I mean I can't really afford to pay anyone other than expenses and obviously credit within the film. Would it be a good idea to approach film schools in the area for example?
Like I said, I'm not sure if you will be able to help me on this at all, but any advice will be greatly appreciated...before I start to panic!
Thanks


Ben Kempas
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

California is huge. Where exactly?


Terri Hems Anderson
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

Good point. Sorry.
Well one part of my doc will be shot near San Quentin


Ben Kempas
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

Is it related to that prison?

Tbe Bay Area Video Coalition might be a good starting point to find someone locally who's young and hungry. :-)

Edited Fri 26 Mar 2010 by Ben Kempas

Tom Folkes
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

Hi,
I have developed a free AI research tool. www.alexlib.info. It is currently being used by people on Wall Street and investigate reporters. After speaking with a producer at National Geo it occurred to me that it would be a great tool for documentary filmmakers. It is fairly similar to Google Squared in the way that it functions. I was wondering what might be a good method of introducing it to film makers?


Ben Kempas
Fri 26 Mar 2010Link

I went to the site but couldn't figure out how to use it. Could you elaborate...?


Terri Hems Anderson
Sat 27 Mar 2010Link

Ok, thanks for that Ben. It is related to the prison yes. The website looks promising, will go and check it out properly now. Fingers crossed!


Phil Dorman
Sun 4 Apr 2010Link

OK well here goes, HI !
Yes a newbie to all this.
My plan goes like this:-
I was describing a trip I am about to make to someone who immediately said "You should film that".
And I thought "Yeah I would watch that for sure"
But then the doubts creep in as they should and I start thinking of all the problems ....
So I call a friend with years of experience in the film industry, describe it and ask for his thoughts. "Awesome can I come..."
So I phone another friend in the film business in the field of interest and his response is "Mad if you don't ..."

So maybe It's not such a bad idea.
Basically part a road trip through the Australian Outback in my 1929 International truck. Open cab, No doors etc. See attached pic.
And the other part visiting some major truck and tractor/machinery shows on the way and interviewing the owners/restorers of various interesting vehicles.
Not everyone's cup of tea but there have been some big time successes in the field. Check out "The Back of Beyond" from 1954 and of course recently "Long way Round" etc

So, Question is what do you all think about it ?

Oh, I have no experience with filming or presentation or marketing film. But am good at learning stuff. Taught myself to be a software developer so can learn this eh ?


John Burgan
Sun 4 Apr 2010Link

Back of Beyond is a classic, Phil – what route will your journey take you?

Edited Sun 4 Apr 2010 by John Burgan

Phil Dorman
Mon 5 Apr 2010Link

Thanks John,
From home in Hunter Valley NSW drive to Dubbo for truck and tractor show (lots of footage and interviews there) then leave truck there for transport to Alice Springs via Road Train. Then fly to Alice at the end of August for the Road Transport Museum by annual event (again lots of footage and interviews there) then drive north alone to Tennant Creek then East to Charleville etc and back to the Hunter.
The drive back at least two weeks camping in the bush along the way.
Are you also familiar with a show called "Bush Mechanics" as I'm sure there will be breakdowns and fixits to include.


Doug Block
Mon 5 Apr 2010Link

I say why not, Phil? Sure to be an adventure, no matter what. Teach yourself to shoot, practice a lot, have fun.


Marina Pessoa
Mon 5 Apr 2010Link

Hi,

I'm shootin a small documentary film and I would like some indications:
in Lima Peru, I need an indication to a driver with a van, and the procedures to film Lima and Arequipa.

in US – I'm shooting in Lapeer, MI and Olympia, WA. I'd like to know if is necessary a Film Permit to shoot in this cities and a Temporary Importation to enter the USA with the equipments

Thanks for all


Lucia Duncan
Tue 6 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Marina Pessoa's post on Mon 5 Apr 2010 :

There are some cities in the U.S. where legally you need a permit to shoot, but depending on what you're shooting you can generally get away without having one. And unless you're bringing tons of equipment, don't think you'd need any special permission.


Peter Brauer
Tue 6 Apr 2010Link

basically every US city has different rules. I would say NYC and LA have the hardest rules, because there is so much shot there. Small American cities are generally very easy to shoot in with out permission. There may be exceptions, but generally this is the case.


Stephanie Caruso
Fri 9 Apr 2010Link

Hi,

I'm trying to put together my reel & create a website. Any suggestions?


Peter Brauer
Fri 9 Apr 2010Link

Just do it. And use wordpress for your web page so you can update it easily. Other then that, do you have any specific questions?


Stephanie Caruso
Fri 9 Apr 2010Link

any dos or don'ts in putting together the reel?


Tom Dziedzic
Sat 10 Apr 2010Link

Create your own YouTube or Vimeo channel and post your reel there, would be my suggestion


Cianna Stewart
Sun 11 Apr 2010Link

Stephanie – Any guidelines for reels and sites are not really universally true for all people in all fields. Take a look at the websites of people who are doing the kind of work you want to do. Look at a lot of them. Take notes. Pay attention to what grabs your attention, what irritates you, what you find easy to remember. Base your own reel and site design off what you discover that you like and what you think communicates what you want people to understand about you.


Stephanie Caruso
Sun 11 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Cianna Stewart's post on Sun 11 Apr 2010 :

thank you!


Cianna Stewart
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

You're welcome! And: have fun.


iLan Azoulai
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

Hi All,

I am in the process of my first documentary about the aftermath of sex slavery into Israel and the resulting effects on two women as they're trying to regain their family rights and social status after they have suffered the consequences of sex slavery.

i am at the phase where i need to "attach" someone to this project, advise, and an editor to put a short trailer for this. i am in the place where i need to start get funding for the project as all the trips thus far (and the continued trip at the end of the month) are personal investments. I am looking to build a "core" team that will live throughout the project and the success of the storytelling will be everyone's.

So, help will be greatly appreciated in the following:

  • Advisory and attachment to the project (for the purpose of fiscal sponsorship and grant applications)
  • Editor
  • Raising money methods and/or channels

in addition, since this is my first indie project, any suggestions, comments, help, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks


John Norby
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

Hi there!

I have a few ideas plotted out for documentaries and I'm soon planning to embark on the journey of putting everything together to actually make the film. I am very new to this, though. Despite having read multiple sources about making documentaries, I can't seem to find anything that tells me how to go about the initial stages of getting things going. To give you an idea, this is exactly where I'm at now:

I have an idea for a documentary. It involves some travel. I have the premise and the subject matter planned out, so now it's a matter of knowing where to go from there. Do I put a proposal to a production company or television station? Or do I try to assemble a team of my own first of all? Basically, I just need to know the best route – from a writer's perspective – to getting a documentary made from the intial idea.

This is the path I have chosen for myself. I am 100% dedicated to making this work and to becoming a filmmaker/documentarian. Any suggestions or help would be most welcome.

Thanks so much in advance,
John


Christopher Wong
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

ilan, if you haven't already, watch a whole bunch of documentaries (perhaps even on similar social issues as yours), and contact one of the producers of a film that you really like. tell them about your project and you just might be able to bring them aboard as an Executive Producer. (of course, make sure that they are not just a "name", but that they can actually do something tangible for your project.)

documentary producers/directors are ridiculously easy to contact (compared to their counterparts in the fiction world). for my last project, i contacted Davis Guggenheim out of the blue, and ended up having an hour-long, face-to-face conversation with him at his office. he didn't end up being my EP, but you just never know.


iLan Azoulai
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

Thanks Christopher,

i do watch quiet a bit, but it's never enough.
since you mentioned that it's ridiculously easy to contact documentarians, is there a way to contact you outside of this forum? :)

Cheers

iLan

Edited Mon 12 Apr 2010 by iLan Azoulai

Doug Block
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

iLan, you can get someone's email address here by clicking on their profile (their name and photo link to it). We just ask that you not abuse it by spamming members.


Christopher Wong
Mon 12 Apr 2010Link

sure, ilan. just put a call into my publicist. she will then refer you to my masseuse who will then text a message to my therapist. and if i'm not in session, then maybe i'll call you back...

just kidding, of course! yes, just email me anytime. if you want to talk over the phone, we can easily set that up too.


Tina Flemmerer
Tue 13 Apr 2010Link

Hi I was wondering if any of you have a contact with the German TV channel ARD for securing the rights to some archival footage.

Edited Tue 13 Apr 2010 by Tina Flemmerer

Kaoru Wang
Fri 16 Apr 2010Link

Hi! I'm a first time documentary filmmaker and was hoping to get some examples of grant applications that have been funded. I'm applying for a grant and I'm not sure how to answer questions in regards to my plans for distribution aside from a hybrid DIY and film festival strategy. I'm more familiar with the online DIY side of things but am not sure about which festivals and networks I should be aiming towards.

In addition I'm unsure about how to address visual approach and special ways to shoot interviews that lends itself to the topic. If I can get some examples, that would be so useful. Thanks!

By the way, the logline of the film is: when a society is being educated for a world that doesn't exist,
can a young college grad find the rebirth of education within "The Killer App?"


michael gatti
Sun 18 Apr 2010Link

Hi, I am making a documentary about retail and the horrors of customer service and I am just having the damndest time with finding someone or some group to give me a lil funding money. Shooting is going well, I have gotten a lot of footage that I need. But the funding is important so I can buy some stock footage that would help me out.


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