michael, you know the old time/money/quality equation, right? you can get two of the three. so given that it's gonna be great, be prepared that it will take a long time. just hang in there.
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.
In reply to Kaoru Wang's post on Fri 16 Apr 2010 :
Kaoru, as I had mentioned before you went to Sundance, you have a great idea and how you tell the story is more important than getting grant app samples. If you can mold a compelling story, the grant will come. How you write a grant for your app will be different from someone else's project. I'd focus on galvanizing the story and be innovative on your distribution strategy. Most of us are still swimming in DIY confusion, so if you think you have a handle on it already, then write it down. I also think your logline is still too vague. I think "Society" and "a world that doesn't exist" are too general. Once you get a better handle on your story, then the logline will be easier to write. Mostly, funding takes time. We all get rejected, sometimes multiple times, before landing funding. If your heart is in the story, it'll get done, with or without, funding.
In reply to Marina Pessoa's post on Mon 5 Apr 2010 :
Marina, in Lima and Arequipa you don't need to bother with permits unless you're looking to film in a national park. The Peruvian national parks usually ask for between US$ 500 and US$ 1,000 a day. If you are in that situation, get in touch with the park beforehand as there is almost always a way of working around these fees. As for a van driver in Lima, unless you are planning on setting up to shoot from the van, you're best off just using taxis. You will never be without one in Perú.
Hi, I am currently directing a documentary film on the Indian side of Kashmir on local artists in the aftermath of the conflict. I was wondering if any filmmakers had any fool-proof methods to list and organize Mini-DV tapes and also to import and organize footage on FCP? I feel like somtimes I don't know whether I am organizing things properly and in a useful manner for when I start to edit. Anyone have any tips?Thank you!
You are smart to think about this now. It will save you a lot of frustration down the road. I don't know your level of knowledge, but make sure you number the tapes and change the "reel number" when digitizing so that the clips correspond with the tapes. Use the log notes or comment section since they are searchable. Name the clips by subject, date or however you want to organize your movie.
There are loads of tips out there, and I bought this DVD to get me started. It's pretty good, albeit overpriced, but I was desperate at the time.
I'm a PhD student who's a budding visual anthropologist/documentary filmmaking. I've saved up money for a camera, and I'd love some advice.
I've saved close to 10k for a camera. That being said, I won't be doing the bulk of my shooting for my dissertation for another 2-3 years. I'm tempted to spend around 2k for a camera now, save my money, and make the big splurge in 2-3 years time. I figure the technology will be better for the price if I wait.
Should I do that, what is a good camera in the 2k range? I'd love something with two audio inputs and something gives me multiple options for fps and something with a detachable lens. I'm guessing a 2/3rds chip is insanely greedy given my price range, although if it wasn't too much more or if people thought it was that much better, I'd think about it.
Any thoughts? I've been making movies for a year, so the world is still new to me, but I'm trying to learn as much as I can so any word of advice would be appreciated.
In reply to Noam Osband's post on Sun 25 Apr 2010 :
Noam, my advice is to save your money until you are ready to make the big purchase. The technology landscape is changing so rapidly that postponing your purchase for 2-3 years until you need the gear will save you money and buy you significantly more product when you are finally ready to spend. If you must get your hands on something now I would suggest one of two routes.
(1) Get the Canon Rebel DSLR (T1I), and a decent lens or two for it, and start getting comfortable with the format and the shortcomings. That's what I would do if that money was burning a hole in my pocket. Then in a couple of years you can upgrade to the best bang for your buck equivalent to the 1D/5D/7D and you'll already be comfortable with the format and have lenses that fit your upgrade. You will not go wrong with DSLR as a format choice. The adoption rate there with filmmakers is phenomenal.
(2) Alternately, go low end and get a flip HD camera. It is small, cheap, and gives decent enough output. The advantages are that you are more likely to carry it with you, and it would not be obtrusive when you do break it out. This would allow you to cheaply spend the next couple of years getting comfortable busting out your video camera and thinking about shooting always. In my opinion, documentary is as much about the quality of the equipment as it is about the visual eye of the cinematographer and just being there with a camera shooting. This would allow you to spend a few years learning on the cheap and developing a visual eye, so when you are ready to spend more bucks you have developed a better sense of what your priorities are.
Also don't neglect sound in your budget. You'll need an external sound recorder and higher end mics, which means less to spend on a camera. If you did end up spending $10k on a setup, I'd recommend 60:40 ratio of spend on video to audio at least. Audio is far too neglected by new filmmakers, and it's at least half of your presentation in a film.
I'm skeptical of the DSLR's because you can only shoot 12 minutes at a time. Similarly, the HD camera is way below what I want equipment-wise, both in terms of image quality, but far more importantly, sound. I'm hoping to find a camera that has XLR inputs. With that in mind, are there any cameras you can think of that do HD, have XLR inputs, and get good HD images in the 2-2.5k range?
thanks for the help!
In reply to Noam Osband's post on Tue 27 Apr 2010 :
I was skeptical of the 12 minute limit too, but it's proven to be less of a practical concern than I anticipated. There is a long history (and workflows) for dealing with those types of issues ... super-8 and 16 both had carts with similar constraints. You are doing yourself a disservice ruling out the platform for that reason alone. Also, the Panasonic GH1 does not suffer from the exact same issue.
I don't know of anything that meets your criteria. Any camera in that price range, even if it has XLR in, is going to make audio sacrifices. You're better off with an external recorder and sync sound, using the camera for dual-system to make the sync easier in post.
Don't rule out a flip video camera either. If you spend the next two years indoctrinating yourself to bring the camera everywhere and to use it always and focusing on your technique, you'll get a lot more for a lot less – and you'll know exactly what you want/need when the time comes to buy the full setup. It's less about the gear and more about the mindset and "eye" than you might think.
Thanks for help with thinking about a camera. Some audio advice would be helpful too. Vis-a-vis audio, my thinking is that I'd like a shotgun mic, two wireless lavs, and a sound mixer. I'm thinking of a shotgun attached to the camera and not a boom pole because much, if not most, of the shooting I'll be doing in the near future will be a solo job.
A few questions then:
1 – In looking at a camera, should I only want something with XLR inputs or is something like a Beachtek sufficient if the camera has no XLR inputs
2 – Even if it does have XLR inputs, is an audio mixer a good idea? It seems from speaking with the people I've spoken to that it is.
3 – In many ways, what I buy depends on my budget which isn't yet set. I'm willing to spend a couple thousand on audio if it is that much of a step up from cheaper things, although I'm not planning on buying top of the line. I have no sense for how much better a $1,000 shotgun is from a $500. With that in mind, any recommendation for any of the audio equipment?
In terms of what I'm shooting, I'd like versatility. The longer project/dissertation is a documentary about migration to Arkansas which will include both individual interviews and crowd scenes at events. I'd love to have versatility with my equipment so I feel like I can have a decent chance at getting good sound no matter what I'm shooting.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!
In reply to Noam Osband's post on Wed 28 Apr 2010 :
Noam, my best advice is find an audio geek local to you, pick their brain, and see if they can demonstrate the differences in quality of different pieces of gear to you.
So, I’ve been doing research all week on buying my first shooting setup, relying in part on the friendly advice from this site, and I think I’m close to making decisions and I figured I’d ask to see what people thought.
Panasonic AG-HMC40 and its XLR adapter (I considered the Panasonic AGHMC70U, but reviews I read seemed to steer me in the other direction. Let me know if you disagree!)
I’m going to get a bunch of SDHC-6 cards. I have not heard any recommendations about brand.
Either the Manfrotto TRIREMOTEKIT Aluminum Video Tripod Kit or Manfrotto BO055XB503H 055XDB Pro Tripod with 503HDV Fluid Video Head. The first one has the ability to do remote panning and tilting, although I wonder if that’s a feature I’d ever use.
For a shotgun mic, I’m deciding between the Rode 2 or 3. I have the money for the 3, and I’m inclined to do so for that reason.
For wireless lavaliers, I’m thinking either Senn Evolution G3 100 wireless or the Sony UWP-V1. Both have been recommended to me.
I’m also tempted to bring around a handheld mic for interviews on the go, when I can’t wire someone with a lav. I’d use the shotgun on the camera and have them hold a handheld. In that case, I’m considering either buying a EV-RE50 or just using the Shure SM58 I have at home for music recording.
Regarding cables, are there any brands one recommends for XLR cables?
As for my work, I’m doing documentary work in rural Arkansas and will often be shooting solo, so I’m not going to get an audio mixer.
Regarding all of the above, I have more money to spend if someone thought I really should upgrade something. However, I’d just as soon not spend it so that I have money for more gear in the future. I’m planning on buying a much higher quality camera in about two and a half years, and any money I don’t spend now can go to that. I also think I'm going to buy new and look for used for peace of mind, although if someone thinks that's dumb, please don't hesitate in telling me so.
Sennheiser G3 is solid- used on plenty of pro productions, which the Sony isn't. Get yourself some manicuring scissors and moleskin, and do a little research to learn how to best mount the lav- that will make a bigger impact on your sound than the choice of brand. Wouldn't recommend having subjects hold a mic. If you don't have time to place a lav, just get your Rode on-cam mic as close as possible (keeping in mind the pickup pattern of the mic) and try to find the quietest place nearby. You'll probably need a sound-isolating shock mount for your Rode or you'll hear camera handling noise and possibly lens noise. And you'll need wind protection for it if you'll be shooting outside- get something like this that fits your mic. Turn off auto gain control on your cam and set levels manually.
D-word can help with tech stuff, but is better suited for creative issues. You'll find more detailed tech advice at a place like dvinfo or dvxuser. Good luck, and come back and post some of your work when you're ready!
Also, take a listen to your mics before you invest in them. They'll last you awhile and you don't want to get stuck with one that doesn't sound as good as it might seem from reading a review. I just did that with a MKH-416, NTG-3, and NTG-2. And while I liked the sound of the MKH-416, I couldn't justify its price in relation to the other two, and of the two Rode mics, I was surprised to find that I liked the NTG-2's sound quality better for what I was planning to do (and ended up saving even more money that I used for a boom, shock mount, softie, etc.). If you make a trip to NY in the future, Pro-Sound in NYC will let you audition a bunch of different mics. There might be a place in Philly that will even do that (a rental house, perhaps), though I can't speak to that from experience. Good luck!
B and H in New York will also let you test all the mics that you consider. THey have an audio room.
You could go to Videosmith in Philadelphia. They are a dealer for Sennheiser, Lectrosonics, and other manufacturers. In the past, they've come very close to matching B&H prices with the added advantage of being local and offering local support. Tell Chris I sent you.
Hi everyone I am in need of some guidance. I am working on a documentary "Life In The Balance" and so far we have received over $30,000 in grants and have a funding trailer set up and 501(c)(3) status through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas. yeay...BUT we need more money and soon, we wanted to shoot this summer so we can get into post by the fall ... Does anyone one have any advice on where to go for money, who to ask.. our project focuses on a testing procedure that can determine what cancer treatment will actually be effective to the the individual, basically tailored chemotherapy. Any and all advice will be welcome..Follow the link below to view our funding trailer which we created from research footage shot on a basic consumer camera If you or anyone you know are interested i will certainly send more info and a proposal your way..
i have also provided a link to our information/donation page through Fractured Atlas
perhaps you know this already, but since you are working in NYC, you should probably start applying for funds from both the NY Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation . there's no way that you would get money from them in time to shoot this summer, but it's good to get those applications in the queue now. since your doc also deals with science, you might want to try for funding from the Sloan Foundation
thanks so much I'm going to look into those 3 straight away, i have heard of them but i know that they won't provide funding in time... i think im gonna have to hold some fundraisers if you or anyone out there know of people who would like to invest in such a project let me know..
Yixi, you have enough experience to register for full membership here. It will give you access to our discussions on fundraising and many many more.
hi everyone! i'm currently a grad student in new york (working on my mfa for doc studies), but i'm coming home to the boston area for summer. anybody have any suggestions for summer work?
But seriously, Stephanie, if you mean an internship or, heaven forbid, paid work with a Boston area doc filmmaker, I recommend you post something in the Classifieds topic. And give people here a good reason to want to hire you.
In reply to michael gatti's post on Sun 18 Apr 2010 :
Michael Gatti...My suggestion to you if you need stock footage to make your film complete, gather the footage from any source you can find and cut the movie that you want to make. Later on down the road, you can show the finished film to investors or you may find that you can fair use that footage if it meets the right criteria. Don't let stock footage hold you back. Watch Bigger Stronger Faster and look at all of the big movie clips we were able to use and not get into trouble. A great lawyer can go a long way...I really think your doc is a great idea. It's something that frustrates me everyday...maybe people at the call center in India can also help you with your dilemma...haha...Good Luck!
In reply to Elayne McCabe's post on Wed 21 Apr 2010 :Why don't you ask me??I've sent you so many friendly mails offering my help to you and knowing your situation it's hard to believe that you did not reply then only to the one I asked my things back.Did you really got all my mails or has somebody tampered with your account?Please reply to my emailadress.Thanks
Sorry if this is off topic for here but I can't find an answer anywhere.
It's about editing audio in Vegas Pro 9.
I added a sound track and recorded voice over to it quite OK.
But something has changed and now when I select Arm Record it arms record for ALL tracks not just the one selected.
So the question is : How to select which track gets armed for recording ?
Again sorry if this is off topic but I have tried all the Sony help services.
I wanted to make sure early-career filmmakers participating in this discussion are aware of our Reach Film Fellowship program at Cinereach. It's for emerging filmmakers making short films with socially relevant themes and provides not only funding, but also mentorship and advising from industry veterans. All the info can be found here: http://www.cinereach.org/the-reach-film-fellowship. Deadline to apply is July 12.
Prospective applicants, please feel free to contact me if you have questions. I'm firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a first time independent documentary maker and am currently working on a feature length project. I'm almost at a point where my filming/editing/writing skills have taken me as far as possible and was wondering whether there was any other type of lab support programs, similar to the one Sundance run where I could work with experienced professionals in developing/finishing the film.
Being a first time film-maker and based in Australia, it's tricky to get placement in the few that i've found – generally for basic requirement reasons.
Teaming with a production house could obviously provide the equipment and know-how to complete the film, but I'd like to remain independent and in control for as long as possible. Which essentially is because I want to experience and learn the entire process, from start to festivals, or sale.
I have quite a unique project, in that I lived in one of the few remaining prehistoric, hunter-gatherer societies still surviving for an extended period. From what I can see there is very little known about these people, and their culture. So there's attraction in that aspect. I've been so intrenched in the whole experience for such a long time, that some external perspective from credible industry professionals would be invaluable at this point.
If anybody knows of any programs as such, that will support first time film-makers to help produce the best film possible with professional advice, guidance & potentially the equipment , I'd love to hear from you.
I'm in Australia, but happy to travel if it's what i'm searching for.
Its support that I can be involved in and learn, not grants that i'm after.
Sounds like you need to bring on an experienced producer or executive producer, who is keyed into the film industry and can guide you through completion. You're saying you're not interested in grants, but regardless, all the things you're seeking (professional assistance, equipment, etc) would be much easier to acquire if you had a budget with which to acquire them. Additionally, though granting is highly competitive and is in no way a sure thing, it does force you to collect your thoughts and sample work in order to pitch your project to those with not only funds, but connections and other means of helping you to the next stage. Even grantmakers without an official lab program, will have an incentive to help you advance your project. Receiving a grant also demonstrates the potential of your project and helps rally other support. This is one of the best ways to take your project to the next step.
If funds are really not an issue for you, I suggest you hire an experienced Producer who has worked on similar project and has a connection to international broadcast networks, etc. If your project is not funded, why not apply for grants? It can only help.
In the meantime, Cinereach has a grant deadline for feature fiction and nonfiction films. It is open to international filmmakers at any stage of the production process. Sounds like you are new to the field, but if you have compelling sample work to show, and it is in line with the Cinereach mission, it is worth filling out our short, two-page letter of inquiry form and submitting a work sample. Here's the how to apply page:
You might also want to explore Britdoc, The Fledgling Fund and others like them. We also have two resource lists on our web site that you can explore:
Best of luck,
rob, i have no idea what kinds of filmmaker mentoring programs are available in australia, but you should definitely apply for a Sundance production grant. even if you don't need the funds – is that possible? – getting a grant from Sundance means that you then qualify for their filmmaking labs. (they only invite filmmakers who have received money from them.) with your incredible access, and hopefully your filmmaking ability, Sundance would certainly be interested in your documentary. so, get an application into them ASAP!
In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :
In reply to Reva Goldberg's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :
Hey Chris & Reva,
Thanks for your time.
Let me clear something up, I probably should have written 'first and foremost, it's support i'm after, even before grants'. Of course a grant would be fantastic! It's all borrowed money thus far.
Anyhoo, I wasn't aware of that with the labs at Sundance Chris, I will look at sending in an application for the July period.
Some great points Reva, I guess I have just been avoiding the time and energy commitment into chasing grants as I have been able to get by up until now. So with a new-found inspiration I have structured a written proposal to apply, just need to work on the budget; which is a little daunting as I have never seen quotes or estimates for post production services before. Will be great to have once completed though, as you pointed out.
I look forward to thoroughly researching cinereach in the coming week also.
I am almost finished the film's website which will help support my proposal too, and with building awareness going forward.
I gather you're working with Cinereach at the moment Rena?
What about yourself Chris? Are you a film-maker?
All the best,
Rob – click on a D-Worder's icon to get their background and films
Also no need to sign your posts with your initials as your own icon gives your name.
Yes, I guess I can say that I'm a filmmaker now that I just finished my first film last year. My doc (WHATEVER IT TAKES) just aired nationally on public television here in the U.S. For my film, I received a production grant from Sundance in 2007, and I attended Sundance's Story/Composer's Lab in 2008.
Good luck in getting your application in. It's obviously a VERY competitive process, but you definitely have a unique subject and rare access which should help your application stand out from the crowd. Don't worry too much about the budget numbers – they don't over them in great detail at this point. But if you need approximate budget numbers, feel free to ask this community for figures.
In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Thu 27 May 2010 :
Yeah I had a look through the WIT website, congratulations on your success. I look forward to viewing the film. I spent some time scribbling out a rough budget this afternoon so I've almost got a proposal together now. Definitely an exciting stage or the process.
I'm looking at applying with Cinereach too.
Thanks for your help.
just so you know, documentaries produced here in the U.S. routinely cost anywhere from $300,000 – $500,000 to make. so, make sure that you compensate yourself fairly in the budget (for each and every job you performed, even if it was a one-man band), and don't budget for too low a figure. if your figure is TOO low, that might be a red flag to funders that you don't know what you are doing... for me, i remember originally budgeting for $120,000 (when i was young and clueless); however, my final budget came in at just under $400,000.
Mmm interesting, thanks Chris.
I've listed the following budget categories for the films completion;
- Color Grading
- Animation, Graphic Design
- Format Transfers
- Festivals (Appl. fees, Shipping, Other expenses)
- Travel (Airfares, Accomodation, Expenses)
- Legal Fees
Is there anything I'll left out that you think should be added?
The figure is currently hovering just above your 'young and clueless' total so I may need to reevaluate. Starting with the figure allocated for my own workload!
In reply to Rob Henry's post on Thu 27 May 2010 :
Best to become a member. It'll give you access to invaluable information on the nuts and bolts of all aspects of doc filmmaking. I've learned boatloads.
In reply to jade wu's post on Fri 28 May 2010 :
Thanks Jade, I have applied.
I'm trying to figure out a light tripod setup and i wonder if you guys have any thoughts:
My plan is to get either a Manfrotto 503HDV head or a Libec H38
I want to combine it with one of the following 3 legs I found used on B&H. Any advice would be welcome. I feel like I'm sure one of the links below is going to be laughably wrong for me:
Is a documentary showcase like IDA's DOCUWEEKS a good opportunity for filmmakers?
All of the Libec stuff I've seen is utter crap. I would avoid their products. Gitzo makes great stuff. Should last a lifetime.
Noam, I actually checked out those Gitzo legs today at B&H. I'm not sure what camera you're using, but I wouldn't put much weight on those- they're pencil thin. I needed a lightweight travel tripod for my 5d, and put the Manfrotto 701 head (not recommended unless you really need to cut down on weight) on the Gitzo 2531LVL legs. This setup also gives you a ball leveling mechanism, which is crucial for fast setup, so you don't have to spend a bunch of time messing with the legs. Whatever you get, you should get something with a leveling mechanism (usually in video, you get a head with a ball level base, and attach it to legs that have the proper size bowl- probably 75mm for you).
I just finished my 2nd short documentary! 'Filipino Rice Policy', It discusses the corruption behind this massive monopoly in the Philippine rice trade and the future of Agriculture Policy in the Philippines. I would love to hear your criticism and thoughts on what I should do with it. It's only 23-minutes
you can email me at: email@example.com
I'm currently working on a series of small segments for my website, all of which are documentary-style segments that have to do with cars and motoring. During some of the filming, we will be on a race track that a friend of mine manages, and some of the other filming will be done on the road leading to the track. It's a very remote road that not that many people go on, but what I'm worried about is if someone does drive down the road when we are filming. I'll have basically myself along with a camera car, and two people setup on tripods along the road. How worried should I be about if someone drives by when we are filming, or something like that? It would be quite difficult to chase them down and ask them for a release, obviously..
Wouldn't worry a bit about that, Matt. If they don't speak on camera, or featured prominently, I don't go after them with releases.
an art school (that i am not a member from) is interested in giving me financial support for a documentary about a new school classical music concert from one of their students. they were very vague about the amount of money they wont to spend on my film.
so my question is: do you think it is more clever to get there with a detailed and rather expensive budget or should i go and propose a small budget?
its my first business talk like that and i would be thankful for some directions in the policy of such meetings..
thanks for the help,
They probably have no idea of the amount of work this can entail – have they said, for instance, how long they want the finished film to be? Also a "new school classical music concert" is not necessarily even a film.
The bottom line is to decide what is in it for you – a calling card, for instance or because you like the music student? Either way, it's unlikely you will make much money from this. Try and draw up a ball-park figure of the projected number of shooting days.
yes, it is because the student is a good friend of mine.. and i am definitely not doing it to make much money, but of course, i'd like to get the most from them, also to get the best result out of it.
since they leave me a lot of freedom in deciding how the final film is gonna look like, i think i'll go in there and draw up three different possibilities, a cheap, a middle and an expensive one.. and i will take it from there and see how they react.
but thanks for the hint with the shooting days,, i think thats a good approach to the discussion.. and i will definitely do that..
I am starting on my second documentary, and running into some difficulties that I didn’t come up against on my first one. I have been in preproduction for a documentary about this monument in the Nevada desert. The man who made the place-it was his home and somewhat of a commune in the 1970s, died in the late 80s and willed the place to his son. His son has made it into a park for people to visit while traveling by. I want to make a documentary about how the place affected the people, who lived there, help build it, and traveled by. The son and I have been talking for a year, and we finally met last weekend for a video tour of the place and an interview with him. He wouldn’t sign the release, and sent me a release he would be willing to sign. The altered release he sent me said that he would only allow me to do the documentary if I only covered certain things. It was very limited to me as the filmmaker. I traveled there 24 years ago and spoke with his father, the artist, and he let me take pictures, while he told my father his story. The artist had 16 children, 5 of which, wear raised at the monument.
My question is, do I need the owner to sign the release? What rights does he need to give me (if any) to use the place and his fathers history in my documentary?
I would think that his siblings stories are just as valid as his, and I have the right to tell their story if the share it with me. Also I have experience with the place, so can’t I be telling my story and reference the place?
Thanks for any help you want to offer
My wife and I are working on our first full length documentary and would love your feedback. We've been successful with short documentaries so we're trying our hand at a longer project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZf5WMplJhQ
Hey Doug, I'm not sure what kind of feedback you're really looking for. It'd also depend on how you define documentary film and who your target audience is. Perhaps you should have a showing with some people in your target audience and get feedback from them. Right now the film feels like a marketing piece for the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Even from that perspective, the film feels much too long. Part of the problem, for me, is that it's really unstructured, repetitive in what is being talked about and the images you're showing, and takes a long time to present any new information--and the information that is presented is insufficient to sustain a 1hr20 film. You may also want to place the park in a larger context. Anyway, just some thoughts. Good luck with your project.