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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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Kristen Kellogg
Tue 6 Sep 2011Link

I am returning to Bali to film my first documentary. Last year I had the idea, but realized there was still too much I needed to learn before shooting. I took the last few months and worked with a local filmmaker who produces commercials and also makes documentaries. I am now feeling confident and ready to make my film. I am looking for another filmmaker who would like work with me. I could shoot it on my own, but would be great to have another camera and set of ears and eyes. Any suggestions for looking for someone who might be interested. The dates are October 26th-Nov. 11th. Any suggestions to finding someone who is in the area would be greatly appreciated!

Edited Tue 6 Sep 2011 by Kristen Kellogg

Reid B. Kimball
Fri 9 Sep 2011Link

Hello,

I apologize for this being so long, but hopefully it's not overly complex a question. In summary, I am trying to decide if for my first documentary I should go big or make it small and then at a later time do my grand vision.

I am faced with a decision that I need some help with from those who are more experienced than I.

I am directing and self-funding my first ever documentary. It’s a passion project and I am teaching myself the art of documentary filmmaking, along with all the technical equipment and editing skills needed along the way as I develop the film.

I work on the film part time with my other part time paying the bills and film costs. I realized the other day that if I want to accomplish my grand vision for the film, it will likely take me 2 or 3 more years at this current rate of production.

I’m confident I can do that, but I am worried about the film coming out in 2 or 3 years. My topic is health related, one that I feel can help nearly 60 million in the US alone who suffer from devastating digestive conditions such as IBS, Celiac and Crohn’s disease, the latter I have.

The grand vision of my film is about people with those digestive conditions who use alternative medicine instead of the conventional approaches when they don’t work.

Additionally, it will ask the question, if people like me and the patients I interview can overcome an incurable disease like Crohn’s disease without using conventional medications and surgery, why aren’t more people doing this?

That question will lead to exposing the systemic healthcare and government failings that are prohibiting patient access to healthy food and alternative treatments.

There are also concepts about modern western society being out of alignment with the natural laws of life and so we are seeing more diseases.

Lots of interconnected and heavy topics, and I feel they are important to make the film help as many people as possible. But people need help right now, people are dying frequently from the ravages of Crohn’s disease which eats away at a person’s intestines.

The other option I have is to make a smaller, tighter focused documentary that only discusses the patients and the treatments that have worked for them along with a few key medical experts. I could probably wrap production this year if I haul ass and release it next year.

But I’m afraid of doing that because I want to make my grand vision and I fear that if I make a smaller version first, something will happen and I’ll never get to make that original version of the film I really wanted. Are my fears warranted based on your experiences?
What do you think I should do?

Stay colonized,

-Reid B. Kimball


Rob Rooy
Fri 9 Sep 2011Link

Reid, is there any way you can go for the more tightly focused documentary now, and then still do the big one later? You say you're worried that if you go the easier route, "something will happen" and you won't get around to making your grand vision; isn't also possible that something will happen anyway if you embark on a much longer path to completion?

As someone who has also learned by doing, I would encourage you to choose the more immediate goal first. Especially if you want this film to be seen and be of immediate benefit to others who suffer similar diseases. And, as a newly minted filmmaker, all the things you learn the hard way on the smaller film can greatly benefit you on your next film, when you get to start with a clean slate! My experience is that docs can take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think they will. Unless you're a real glutton for punishment, I'd start small(er).


Reid B. Kimball
Sat 10 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Rob Rooy's post on Fri 9 Sep 2011 :

Rob Rooy, thanks for your advice. I've been thinking about this more and am leaning towards the shorter version.


John Burgan
Sat 10 Sep 2011Link

It's good advice – learn to walk before you run. Good luck Reid and keep us posted.


Reid B. Kimball
Sat 10 Sep 2011Link

Thanks John.

I have a gear question now. I'm using a Sanken CS-1 shotgun mic that requires 48v phantom power. Can anyone recommend a battery operated 48v phantom power supply? I find it's drawing too battery power from my Zoom H4n.

I'm looking for AA battery powered and ultra portability.

Here's a great example of what I'm looking for, but I think it only works for Sennheiser shotgun mics.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/92927-REG/Sennheiser_K6RD_K6RD_Low_Sensitivity_Battery_Phantom.html


Bill Jackson
Mon 12 Sep 2011Link

Reid, this one looks good to me. Phantom Power I haven't used it, but it uses a 9 volt battery and seems to be a good design.


Karina Whitmarsh
Wed 14 Sep 2011Link

Just started out and need to put a production log book together. How is this done. I'm the director and my one and only producer just told me he is going to join the Navy. I'm all alone now and need to continue making my doc. film. We never started one out in the first place..been only working with him for the last 2 months and only two shoots, so not much work to be done..however now I'm wearing all the hats. Help, please.


Doug Block
Wed 14 Sep 2011Link

Karina, as you're a professional member, you should probably ask this question in the Editing topic where you're bound to get more eyeballs. This is more for "enthusiasts" who don't have access to much beyond this topic.


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 15 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Bill Jackson's post on Mon 12 Sep 2011 :

Thanks Bill, that's probably the one I'll end up getting.


Jennifer Reiman
Fri 16 Sep 2011Link

Hi everyone :)
I am editing a political documentary which is my first full length project, and find myself in need of some good tips. I have a lot of creative control as to the direction of the film as well.
I watched 'The Cutting Edge' and found it very helpful. I would love some suggestions on more educational videos, and free courses to take.
Other than that, if anyone has some time they would like to share to help me along, please message/email me, or let me know if you are available for a phone chat or two.

Thanks :) positivecontact (at) inoutbox.com


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 16 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Jennifer Reiman's post on Fri 16 Sep 2011 :

Jennifer, can you tell me more about 'The Cutting Edge'? I doubt you mean the movie about the hockey player who becomes a figure skater, :)


Jennifer Reiman
Sun 18 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Fri 16 Sep 2011 :

Heh heh..no.

Here's a link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0428441/

It's a must see in my opinion! Informative and entertaining :)

Edited Sun 18 Sep 2011 by Jennifer Reiman

Jennifer Reiman
Sun 18 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Fri 16 Sep 2011 :

Btw, I wasn't able to find the whole movie streaming online, but I did find it via bittorrent file on xxxxxxxxxx :)

Edited Sun 18 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

John Burgan
Sun 18 Sep 2011Link

Jennifer, we don't appreciate links to illegal downloads at The D-Word, which is why your post has been edited.

As it happens, The Cutting Edge, The Magic of Movie Editing is available new and second-hand at Amazon

As you are currently editing your first full-length project, it might be worth thinking about how you plan to survive in a business where the fruits of your labours are made available for free. It's basically the difference between a hobby and being able to pay the rent.

Edited Sun 18 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Doug Block
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Great point, JB. Ditto.


Jennifer Reiman
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Hi John,

I was wondering after I posted that if someone would say something.

First, just because a file is available for download through a bittorrent site does not mean it's 'illegal', and also in my case, I will make my documentary available for people to see for free, as well as purchase hard copies, as many in the genre I am working in are doing.

I support people in the industry by buying documentaries from them (usually after I have watched them) and I often give them away to people.

That being said, I appreciate you communicating with me about your edit

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by Jennifer Reiman

John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

The movie in question is not available legally through any bittorrent or download site, Jennifer – if you believe it is, please email the link and we will happily post it. It may be available on Netflix to subscribers in the US for online streaming – but that's not bittorrent.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Jeremy Ansell
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Actually John it is available. You can watch it on Youtube and it has a standard license. It can be found via a simple search. The first part has over 90,000 views and was posted in 2006 so the assumption would be that it is legally available to watch for free.

Documentary filmakers might want to think about how they plan to survive in the business without considering other ways of distribution. This is the reality, embrace and think outside the box.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by Jeremy Ansell

John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Although some sections are there on Youtube, the whole movie is not available to watch, as you acknowledged in your original post.

The bittorrent link that you posted which we removed was certainly not legal – is that what you meant by "thinking outside the box"? :)

As it is, D-Worders are already exploring alternative methods of distribution online, such as our Distrify and The D-Word Topic.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Jeremy Ansell
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

That was my original post? I've not posted a bit torrent link. I wouldn't encourage illegal downloading but I would encourage 'thinking outside of the box' when it comes to distribution and not just assuming that making your film available for free is not part of a viable distribution plan. This is a model that threatens the more established filmmaker and it shouldn't. You get what you pay for.


John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Sorry Jeremy, the illegal link was posted here by the other poster which we removed – and I think the smiley shows that she knew it was content you didn't have to pay for. I mixed the two posts up – my mistake.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Nick Ravich
Wed 21 Sep 2011Link

ARCHIVING/LONG TERM STORAGE FOR DIGITAL ORIGINAL MEDIA

Hello all-

For some reason having a really hard time getting folks to talk to me about this issue so wanted to throw it out to the D-word community (doesn't seem to have been really covered in past forum posts.)

I work for a small, non-profit arts organization that produces a pretty high profile nat'l documentary series for PBS. We’ve got a growing amount of digital original video material (multi-GB, broadcast-intended digital video files; mostly XDcam EX and P2 original) and we need to get serious about more long term/archival preservation – a system where I can reliably expect to access the media 5/10/20 years down the line. Currently all this media lives on multiple, but non-networked, non-RAIDED external drives; given the life expectancy for these kind of drives, I realize they’re really only a short term solution. Up to the last couple of years, almost all of our original footage was shot to tape; we’ve been creating protection masters, and storing masters and protections in separate climate controlled facilities. Obviously digital material requires a different solution.

One important thing to know about us – we have serious aspirations to preserve all of our originally-produced footage beyond the life of the organization, to eventually make publicly available for researchers, students, etc. So this is not a client-mandated need but instead something generated internally, motivated by our contemporary art and media centered mission. Being smart now about how we ensure the longevity/future usability of this material is crucial for us.

I know the terms "archival" and "long term" probably bring up more questions than answers but I'm wondering how folks in similar positions – smaller production companies producing a consistent (if not broadcaster level volume) of digital original material, who own their media and have a vested interest in preserving it – have dealt with this. Transferring to LTO5 tape? Some kind of cloud/network-based solution? In house? Out-sourced?

Honestly, very surprised there isn't more discussion out there about this. Really hoping I can spark something here.

Sincerely, Nick


Doug Block
Thu 22 Sep 2011Link

Hope to see some answers myself, Nick. It's a huge problem.



Daniel McGuire
Thu 22 Sep 2011Link

The guy at that forum wrote:

"That said, I can't afford LTO. I archive my stuff on external hard drives, and copy it over to the next latest and greatest drive every several (~5) years. With hard drive capacity continuing to increase (at virtually no higher price), this is a viable method for the mid-term."

Given that the cost of storage is minimal – a hundred hours of SD or HD footage fit on a 1TB drive that costs around $160, (That's a fast, G-Drive), why would you use magnetic tape? Clone or back-up the drives every 5-10 years, depending on usage. If you are getting to be an old fart, perhaps begin discussions with a film or university archive to handle your footage after you die- with stipulations for tape back-up or whatever.
To me the real problem is how to organize it. I'd like to have a workflow so that, say, 100 hours on a drive would also be mirrored (with BITC) to a private youtube account – each tape divided into 6 10-minute sections – so that other people – researchers, collaborators – anywhere in the world could be roped in to log, translate, and work on editing sequences.
If you have historic and valuable footage, you might be able to have a university buy the collection library.


Scheffee Wilson
Thu 29 Sep 2011Link

I'm producing a documentary about the lifestyles of the women in Brazil. I working with a small budget and looking for some advice. I may need a super affordable documentary producer. Someone who has experience with small budgets and a foreign women subject. Please contact me.
TheGolfTrip@Live.com
I really need some advice.


Chan Park
Mon 10 Oct 2011Link

Hello,

I have been making a documentary, titled “Tango Your Life,” whose trailer can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0atvWyQ4rrs, if you care to watch it.

Basically I filmed and used in my documentary film many dance scenes, which come with copyrighted music, being played during the filming sessions. As these were dancing scenes, it’s not possible to avoid the music.

When I approached a law firm here in Buenos Aires, their interpretation is that I sync the copyrighted music to the film. That means, I have to pay the copyright loyalty to two groups: one representing composers/authors and the other for record companies. The loyalty is extremely high enough to put me out of the game.

When I asked the firm about “fair use,” their response was:
1) Fair use is provided by our law only for the limited use of a work for educational o scientific purposes. Other uses are not comprised within this exception. If you proceed to sync fractions of music themes with your documentary without having prior authorization from their authors, you could be subject to a lawsuit.

Then I discovered “Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use,” under which I believe the music recorded and used in my documentary falls under the protection of “fair use.”

I admit there are some incidents in the film, where the music was used beyond “fair use.” For example, some scenes start with a dance scene, which later is overlaid with an interview while the music continues to play to the end of the interview. This kind of scenes will be fixed to comply with “fair use.”

So my question is, “If the documentary shows dance scenes that come with copyrighted music, does it fall under “fair use?”

Please provide your advice here or to tangozen@hotmail.com. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Hey Chan, since you're a professional member, I suggest you copy and paste your whole question in the Legal Corner , where you're more likely to get the kind of reply you're looking for.

Edited Tue 11 Oct 2011 by Marj Safinia

Chan Park
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Thank you, Marj. I am new to the forum. I'll do...


Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

We normally strongly discourage double posting in more than one topic, but in this case I think it's appropriate.


Benjamin Prawer
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

Hi mentors,

I'm making a documentary tentatively titled "Life is Good," and am currently looking for a non-profit to fiscally sponsor the project. We have donors who want to give money, but need a non-profit to funnel the money through. Topics in the film include: life optimism, sailing, aerospace, hypothermia, young death, living life to the fullest.

Here is the log line:
In the wake of Tyler Lorenzi’s unexpected death, an adventurous list he made of must-dos in his hometown of San Francisco inspires four of his best friends from different walks of his life to take a trip to the Bay Area in his honor. As two of his college sailing buddies, his best friend from high school and the young woman whose life he saved undertake the difficult task of paying tribute, they try to emulate Ty’s outlook on life as they each struggle to find meaning and transformation in their adventure.

Info packet attached. Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks!
-Ben


Marj Safinia
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

Hi Ben. Lots of organizations offer fiscal sponsorship. Try the International Documentary Association for a start: http://www.documentary.org/community/sponsorship

There are many others too...


Benjamin Prawer
Tue 25 Oct 2011Link

In reply to Marj Safinia's post on Mon 24 Oct 2011 :

Thanks Marj, much appreciated!


Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Hi, I joined the D Word earlier in the year when I started some of the research for my first documentary and have found some great information, but I confess that my visitation has been sporadic. I completed "Curing Addiction" in September and have submitted to some film festivals and working some circles to start with. I was wondering if anyone knows of some good educational distributors for colleges and other institutions that I could contact.


Doug Block
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Lucas, go to "Search Posts" at the top of the page and plug in "educational distributors". Should turn up some previous suggestions.


Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Thanks,Doug. I did try to do that over the summer but a few of them were no longer in business. I will do that again and look for other ones that I'm sure I missed.


Marshall Burgtorf
Tue 1 Nov 2011Link

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. I discovered a developing story in Iraq 2 weeks ago. I approached the parties involved about tagging along to tell their story. They made a spot for me and one of my investors purchased airfare today.

Here is the issue. In the past when I have traveled in countries such as Kenya or El Salvador my "press pass" was simply a badge provided by the organizations I was traveling with. Do I need some kind of official press pass? I will contact the US Embassy as soon as it is morning in Baghdad but I thought someone here might be able to help out. Thanks.


Vijay Dewan
Thu 3 Nov 2011Link

Lucas,

You might want to check out New Day Films. I honestly do not know much about them, but am working on a science-related doc myself and know they did the education distribution for Kansas vs. Darwin. Here's the website: http://newday.com/ and their wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Day_Films

Best,

Vijay


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 10 Nov 2011Link

Hi everyone,

I am trying to use Excel to enter my IN and OUT timecode information. I am having trouble getting my format to appear correctly. My timecode is based on 60 frame/sec so it may look like 00:04:34.51 but freakin' Excel will change it to 04:34.50, truncating the hour 00 and rounding down the frame number. I have tried setting the column cell type to Number, Text and custom (which I don't understand well) with no luck.

I did search for Excel macros for timecoding info and most are based on 24 or 29 frame/sec. It would be a bonus to have a timecode macro that can calculate the elapsed time between IN and OUT but that is not essential.

My main issue is getting the formatting right because I am copying and pasting from a word doc with the original timecode format.

Right now I have to copy from my word doc, paste into notepad, then copy from notepad and paste into Excel for the format to appear correctly. Talk about a productivity nightmare.

Thanks.


Robert Goodman
Thu 10 Nov 2011Link

why are you using Excel to do time code?


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 11 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 10 Nov 2011 :

Hi Robert,

I am trying to use Excel because my volunteer producer who is much more experienced than I says it's a must. Have another approach you like better?


Robert Goodman
Sat 12 Nov 2011Link

A must for what?


Reid B. Kimball
Sun 13 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Sat 12 Nov 2011 :

A must for logging video footage to keep track of who said what and the images contained in b-roll.


Robert Goodman
Mon 14 Nov 2011Link

there are far better programs for logging video footage than excel. Avid has one, Imagine Products makes expensive ones, and there are bunch of others floating around. These days I wouldn't even bother. Just do it in your editing program – if space is an issue – bring everything in low res. That way you can organize bins too.


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 14 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Mon 14 Nov 2011 :

Thanks Robert, I will investigate those other options you mentioned. Love learning about new tools!

I'll experiment with bringing in low res video too.


Todd Leatherman
Fri 18 Nov 2011Link

Hello all-
I'm a documentary film student (about to graduate in December) who is looking for an internship here in NYC. Aside from the standard job posting sites, does anyone know of a good way to find and research available internships in the field?
Thanks!!


Annmarie Pisano
Wed 30 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Todd Leatherman's post on Fri 18 Nov 2011 :

Hey Todd,

I might be looking for a few interns at Corra Films (www.corrafilms.com for more about us). Can you send me a note at annmarie@corrafilms.com?

Thanks!


ben epperson
Wed 30 Nov 2011Link

In search of the "perfect" camera:

I am a photographer in Knoxville and have been roped into this crazy adventure in the spring. It's called The 555.
Basically all of the crazy motor heads here are travelling across the country again. The only catch is that they must use motorcycles under 500 ccs, costing less than $500 to rebuild and orginally built before 1975.
and they want me to sit in a homemade side car and film the trip for two weeks
I am looking for a camera that is in the spirit of the 555
grimy, beat up, sturdy, drunk, a one man show
Can anyone recommend something?
What kind of camera does a crazy person take on a dangerous motorcycle adventure in hopes of capturing the truth about "The 555"?

ps. how the hell am I going to get sound for this if I'm the only one doing this project?
help

ben epperson


Robert Goodman
Sun 4 Dec 2011Link

canon 2Ti with a Atomos Ninja.


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