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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.

Yacine Helali
Mon 20 Feb 2012Link

Lillian, you'll find this and a lot more in this article from Chris Jones, 'The Perfect Guerilla Film Makers Camera Kit For Under £1k':

http://www.chrisjonesblog.com/2012/02/the-perfect-guerilla-film-makers-camera-kit-for-under-1k.html

Hope this helps,

Yacine Helali
www.vetofilms.com


Lillian Baulding
Tue 21 Feb 2012Link

Thank you very much Yacine!

Best,
Lillian Baulding


Jesse Zook Mann
Tue 21 Feb 2012Link

In reply to Arv Acharya's post on Sun 5 Feb 2012 :

i was just watching the bbc doc the first world war. lots of stuff from the ottoman empire – might want to see their sources and see what else you can dig up.

http://www.amazon.com/First-World-War-Complete/dp/B0009S2K9C/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

the episode is jihad – its also on youtube


Damien Pollard
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

Hi Everyone,

I'm in a very similar situation to Mike above. I recently filmed a short doc about a small-time rock band in the UK, the first half of which was filmed in a rehearsal studio that they frequently use. I phoned the managers of the studio prior to filming and they said that they were happy for me to film there and take shots of their building.

However, during the first day of shooting there, they refused to sign a location release. They said that they were still very happy for me to film there and that I could film what I wanted and do what I liked with the final film. They didn't want to sign anything however, as they felt this would, potentially, leave them exposed to me later using the footage in a way that was damaging to them. I've spoken to them a couple of times since filming, as have the band, but they're sticking to this line. Apparently bands film at their studio quite frequently and this is the stance they take in all cases. I'm a stickler for crossing t's and dotting i's legally, so am not comfortable accepting verbal consent alone.

I'm planning on putting the film up on Youtube and Vimeo. I have no current plans to send it to festivals or secure broadcast distribution. Is this lack of a written location release something I should be worried about? My specific questions are:

Could the studio hypothetically take legal action simply because I have filmed on their premises, or would they need to show that I have damaged their reputation in doing so etc?

Would it be possible for me to put the video online and ask them to sign a release form just for that edit of that film (ie so that I'm covered, but they are also reassured that I can't then go and re-edit the rushes into something damaging to them).

I am in the UK and the doc was filmed here. I have signed releases for the other locations, all identifiable contributors and all the band's music.

Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated – this issue's held the film up for too long! Thanks a lot!

Damien


Jill Woodward
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

Personally I'd put it on the web and forget about it. Secondly, I think it's only broadcasters that require such extensive paperwork, not even festivals, generally. However, hypothetically any studio or any person could take legal action at any time for any reason whatsoever.


Doug Block
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

If it were me, I wouldn't worry about it a bit, Damien. But if it's keeping you up at night, you might want to get something informal with them via an email, even if it's just to explain their rationale as to why they don't want to sign a formal release. At least it's something where they state it's ok for you to film. But it's very unlikely they'll now turn around and sue.

Edited Tue 28 Feb 2012 by Doug Block

Damien Pollard
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

Thanks a lot Jill and Doug, I really appreciate your thoughts.

I doubt this makes a difference, but I forgot to mention that I did not include the studio's name anywhere (eg interviews, on-screen text or shots of signage). It would be recognisable only to those who are already familiar with it.

That's very useful info (and good to know) about festivals Jill, thank you.

Thanks a lot for that suggestion Doug. I'm planning to email each contributor/location individually as soon as the film is uploaded with a link and message of thanks for their help. With the studio I thought I'd add a note saying that I appreciate their desire to look after their reputation and invite them to watch the film and let me know immediately if they have any objections. If they do not have any then at least I can move forward with evidence that I've taken reasonable steps to consider and account for their interests even without a signed release.

Thanks again both!


Doug Block
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

With the studio, I wouldn't rush to send them a link. But if you do, I'd absolutely never invite them to raise any objections.


Jill Morley
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

Damien, you also may want to consider an on camera release where they just tell you on camera that it is cool for you to shoot there. Not sure how that will hold up, but it's something and might make you feel better. Also, if you are worried about legal action, which seems unlikely, you could just take the video down if that happens or put it on a private site with a password. Best of luck!


Damien Pollard
Tue 28 Feb 2012Link

Thanks Doug, I certainly take your point. The studio were friendly and helpful throughout filming, and polite in their refusal to sign, but no need to open the door to problems! Maybe just a general email if any then.

Thanks as well Jill M. Filming is complete (and they're miles away from London!) so I think the window for an on-camera release is unfortunately closed. Thanks for the suggestion – I was actually curious as to whether taking the film down if trouble ever arose would be enough to solve the problem?

Thanks very much again everyone, I appreciate this is a lot of attention to be paying to what is essentially a long Youtube vid, but I can see this being a recurring issue in the future and for others!


Matt Dubuque
Fri 2 Mar 2012Link

Good evening,

I would like to submit my first very short film that I finally completed to my satisfaction yesterday for the comments and hopefully withering criticism of various mentors here.

I have generally found that the harsher the criticism, the more I can learn from it and because I am able to take such criticism with a minimum of disappointment, I have been able to substantially improve this film from the miserable state it was in last year.

This short is entitled "Twitter Time" and it explores possible responses to the exponential acceleration of our experience as discussed in Raymond Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near".

Here is a link to the film, best viewed in HD.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H2xjhOnZIc&feature=plcp&context=C368cc22UDOEgsToPDskLyB6JLNpVhnISV2eeWuqZv

What follows in the next post is my discussion I intend to include in the "Director's Cut" DVD of the film for submittal to film festivals.

I look forward to your comments and criticism and, again, your discussion of the worst aspects of this project are most welcome.


Matt Dubuque
Fri 2 Mar 2012Link

Below is the discussion I intend to provide for the "Director's Cut" portion of my short film Twitter Time, as discussed in my immediately previous post:

Way back in the 20th century, a sound bite was used to refer to an abbreviated form of communication that became a widespread shorthand used to communicate more quickly and efficiently in an accelerating world.

Since that ancient day, nobody really has time for lengthy sound bites anymore, instead preferring to communicate in short, 256 character Twitter feeds.

As we connect the dots from the now archaic sound bite to the much shorter Twitter feeds of today, what may we look forward to in the future when nobody has time for Twitter feeds anymore?

I describe this trend as the exponential acceleration of human experience and it closely mirrors Raymond Kurzweil's discussions of the "coming singularity" when future information flows collapse into a black hole of ever accelerating processing machines that he claims is our destiny.

How can we respond to these cultural trends? Is it our lot to simply embrace, welcome and accelerate them, or are there alternatives that may provide more comfort, humanity and, ultimately, sustainability to our lives?

Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than simply accelerating its speed.

That's what this film is about.

The theme of this film is that the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan told us before Facebook went public.

The first part of the film deals with the inherent limitations of text-based communication systems such as email, Twitter and Facebook. Communicating in such media is inherently myopic and limited, as nuances of relationship, irony and subtlety are inevitably lost in the mad rush to discuss our world through the narrow prism of no more than 256 characters for a Twitter feed.

We are bombarded with so many fragments of messages and heavily commercialized memes that this tends to shorten our attention spans and harms our capacity to remember. It has been said that the United States is the complete opposite of the Balkans because nobody remembers anything. I'm persuaded that aphorism has the ring of truth due, at least in part, to the acceleration of our existence intensified by expending ever-increasing amounts of our time immersed in a strictly alphanumeric-intensive domain. It's a zero sum game.

The various data streams in the first portion of the film are exemplars of the phenomenon of information overload that we all face in this medium.

How can we respond to this spiraling, meaningless complexity that saturates this domain?

It is the function of the second part of the film to discuss this.

The second part of the film explores other media distinct from alphanumeric, textual formats, in increasing order of richness and resonance.

The medium of still photographs is presented in the second part of the film as an initial contrast to alphanumeric text-based communication software systems discussed previously.

The photographs are generally "letterboxed" in this film, which means they are surrounded by black horizontal and vertical borders to denote that the subject of the film not only contains references to the actual contents of the photographs, but also to the medium of photography generally, which is richer in its content than a life devoted to alphanumeric text processing only. One photograph is worth a thousand words and can convey nuances of emotion, humour and relationship typically lacking in Twitter feeds from cultural icons such as Justin Bieber.

Another medium covered in the film is that of film itself. I introduced the film with numeric countdown leaders and make liberal use of pure black visual spaces to indicate that I ask the viewer to not only immerse themselves in the various moving images presented in the film but also to explore the relative merits of the medium of film and video itself. The medium is once again the message here and the communicative domain of film can show subtle emotive and perspectival shifts over time not easily obtained from solitary photographs alone.

Finally, although constrained by the diegetic space of the film, I ask the viewer to contemplate what I call direct experience, be it the love of a woman, a walk in the woods, an exercise in tree planting, gentle conversation or whatever.

I find these final examples of more direct knowing to be a wonderful antidote to the exponential acceleration of human experience most clearly amplified by a life saturated with the endless task of processing alphanumeric text messages that are often, ultimately, trivial. A response to a life lived in "Twitter Time" if you will.

I posit that tree planting is just one of a myriad of options we have to stretch out, enjoy, celebrate and learn from our beautiful lives. Planting over 100 trees has clearly made me a better person and this will be covered in my next film "100 Trees", which describes the current benefits we enjoy around the world from various tree planting programmes instituted from the 12th century England, 16th century Tokugawa, Japan, to the 19th century projects of Johnny Appleseed and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on to more recent tree planting exercises that I have been fortunate enough to participate in.

That film is described here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dPUp1m1pLA

Thanks for viewing the film and I look forward to any thoughts you may have.

I can be reached through the incredible, untapped potential of email at onehundredtrees@gmail.com.

Edited Fri 2 Mar 2012 by Matt Dubuque

Andrea Swift
Wed 7 Mar 2012Link

Looking for a Native American Documentary-maker

Hi all,

A NYFA thesis student from Bulgaria will soon begin shooting a doc about an Omaha Sioux family who are trying to maintain and nourish their traditional ways against rather daunting societal, economic, and now medical odds. She and I would both like to get her connected to a Native American documentarian for mentoring as she goes. It could be as significant or minimal as anyone is willing to do. She has great craft mentors through the school. And she will have the guidance and advice of several Omaha people. Still, while some of her faculty have made docs with and about Native Americans, none of the Omaha advisers knows anything about filmmaking and none of us has the prospective that an actual Native American might lend her. She'd love to find someone Omaha but will thrilled with anyone who could combine some knowledge of film making with a Native American personal perspective.

Anyone?

Please email me at aswift@nyfa.edu if you, or someone you know, might be willing to help.

Thanks!
Andrea

Edited Thu 8 Mar 2012 by Andrea Swift

asdfadgasd dafggfda
Mon 26 Mar 2012Link

Hi All,

I have a few questions to ask. I'm working as a producer on my first Doc Feature "Two Blind to Ride" and I need to create a budget for grant writing.

We're thinking the length of the doc would be 60 minutes to 90 minutes.

1) Is 60 minutes better or 90 minutes? We're hoping for Cable, VOD or a content provider like Hulu as distribution.

2) What camera system would be good for this. Our DP wants a Red. We have DSLRs, but we don't think that's a good system for a project like this.

What would you recommend? I'm thinking of a Canon C300 since the output format is Mpeg-2. Would this be a good format for deliverables? What format/codec requirements is most common? Quicktime ProRes?
HDV? This would help us in choosing a camera.

3) What would be a good ballpark figure in budgeting for Post Production?

Thanks


Doug Block
Mon 26 Mar 2012Link

Can only address your first question, Ferdinand (which, of course, impacts the 3rd). If you're not looking for theatrical, you're far better off with 60 minutes in terms of being able to sell it to cable (and for international broadcast, as well). It will also cost you considerably less to make.


Riley Morton
Mon 26 Mar 2012Link

In reply to Ferdinand Casido's post on Mon 26 Mar 2012 :

re: your second question – i'd really hesitate to use RED for ANY doc project, and especially one where you'll be in remote/difficult locations for any length of time. you certainly don't need 4k for cable/hulu, and the cost of all the extra cards, hard drives, and costs in post production just aren't worth it, imo.
c300 makes a lot of sense for a project like this, as the image can be just as beautiful as the RED (but at a much more reasonable 50 mbps) making it possible to shoot on cheap CF cards, and less hard drive/power concerns while in the field)

but there is also something to be said about having a solid 1 piece camera that is compact, and doesn't need to change lenses. something like a Panasonic hvx 200, or hmc150, or ... will stand up to abuse in remote spots, and won't break if there is excessive dust, snow, etc... C300 is great, but it remains to be seen how well it will stand up to abuse in the field.

don't worry about delivery format until you are getting into post production. just acquire the best images you can now with the budget you have.
good luck!


Angela Alford
Tue 27 Mar 2012Link

I'm in the middle of my first crowdfunding campaign on my first film entitled "Granny's Got Game". It is a sports doc with a twist – the athletes are seventy year old women who have been playing basketball together for almost 20 years. It is an inspiring story.

I've learned a lot in the archived "Crowdfunding" topic here on D-word. I did a month of prep before launch and reached my first goal in just 10 days. That was awesome. But contributions have dropped off dramatically the last couple of weeks despite have a surge of publicity and views on the campaign page. I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong. I'd really appreciate any feedback and suggestions people are willing to give. You can view the campaign here:
http://www.indiegogo.com/GrannysGotGame


Doug Block
Tue 27 Mar 2012Link

Angela, as a Professional member you don't want to be posting in the Mentoring Room, which is dedicated to Enthusiasts without access to all the other topics. Besides, Professional members rarely check out this topic – some do but most don't. We never encourage people to double post, but in this case you should re-post this in the Fundraising topic.


Angela Alford
Tue 27 Mar 2012Link

Thanks, Doug!


asdfadgasd dafggfda
Tue 27 Mar 2012Link

Thanks Doug and Riley,

I think we're moving away from the RED. Anyone with experience on the Sony FS100? That's a camera system we're looking at. Seems to have everything we need. Any pros cons and using that camera?


Robert Goodman
Thu 29 Mar 2012Link

Too many buttons. Otherwise a nice camera.


Riley Morton
Thu 29 Mar 2012Link

i haven't used it – my big concern would be ergonomics. i'd make sure i tried it before committing.


Laura Moire Paglin
Sun 8 Apr 2012Link

Yes – you certainly can't hand hold it without some sort of stabilization (which I'm still working on). I think you can get used to the buttons – although in cold weather, I'd probably find it impossible to use. Just like with the DSLRs you'll need to transcode the footage, which is a pain. You'll need ND filters since there isn't one built in. I'd also probably (and am planning to buy) the Atimos recorder – so you can record in Prores and or have a back up to those flimsy cards.


Kevin Hallagan
Wed 2 May 2012Link

Compared to the cameras you guys have been talking about, I feel foolish asking about the ones I'm looking at.... but I'm going to do it anyway.
I am going to start my first Feature Doc this fall if not sooner, but I honestly only have about $5000 in my bank account and have no car, need to pay for food, rent, etc. so I'm looking at most in the range of the Canon 5D Mark II or the Pentax k-5... Snapsort helped me narrow it down to those two, but something about it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know it's my first doc but I feel like these cameras are just unprofessional. I don't want to be seen as a student making a movie, but I also don't have a car so getting my gear from place t place needs to be a compact operation and I can't afford anything nicer... any suggestions?

thanks
-Kevin

Ps. here's the Snapsort comparison: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EOS_5D_Mark_II-vs-Pentax_K-5


Kevin Wells
Wed 2 May 2012Link

In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :
If price is a constraint and you want to use a dslr, I would suggest one of the cheaper dslr's. I love my 5D Mark II, but something like a 60D or t3i would work just fine (and have an adjustable lcd screen). Also, the Panasonic GH2 can produce a wonderful image – you have to take the crop factor into account, but it's a nice doc camera as well. For all of these you'll need an external audio recorder – Zoom H4n is great.

I would recommend a shift in thinking over whether a camera is professional or unprofessional. They are tools – if you can get something cheaper that helps you do what you need to, get it. People take cues from how you conduct yourself. And often times, using a dslr helps on a doc shoot because you are hassled less from police, guards, etc because it's unassuming...


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