the worldwide community of documentary professionals
You are not signed in.
Log in or Register

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.

Resultset_first Resultset_previous 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Resultset_next Resultset_last
Ron Rice
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Laura,

My two cents... as far as subject matter is concerned, documentaries
are secondary resources and should be treated like all other secondary
resources: books, journal articles, etc. One should not think of the
documentary film as a primary historical resource just because it
seems somehow more "direct". All documentaries are subjective.

HOWEVER, documentaries ARE a primary source in one respect. They
record the dynamic processes of reportage, storytelling, sense-making,
etc. It's important to study not just the content of documentaries,
but also how documentaries express that content, and how these
expressions are fundamentally linked to the socio-political conditions
in which they were formed.

-Ron

Skip Hobbie
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
I agree with the above postings. You can look at a doc as a secondary source on whatever
its subject matter might be. OR you can look at a doc as a primary source about the
context in which it was made. Not a real michael moore fan, but for an easy example.
Farenheit 911 can't be taken as more than a very biased secondary source about 911 and
the bush administration, however it can become a primary source for the context in which
it was made. By examining Moore, his slant on things, how he was funded, why he reacts
the way he does, what was going on at that time, you can use the film as a window for
looking at the political climate of that time period. Thus the doc isn't a great historical
source about the events of 911, it is a great primary source about a school of politcal
thought and dissent that arose during that time period.

Maureen Futtner
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Hi, Documentary Mentors.

I have nearly all the footage for my doc, minus about 3 more
segments. I am at a stage where I'd like to cut a trailer (or at
least begin to think about it) - potentially to be used for funding. I
understand 3-5 mins. is the target length.
Can anyone give me some more tips on what to think about/look
for as I begin thinking about the trailer? Maybe that's too broad a
question, but I guess I'm trying to figure out to highlight all the
characters or highlight the plot or simply the theme.

Hope this questions makes sense. Thanks, in advance, for your
help. I really appreciate this forum

Maureen

Doug Block
Fri 22 Apr 2005Link
first of all, there is no target length for a sample (and it's a
sample and not a trailer that you're talking about). the most
effective sample i ever saw was 25 min. long, but that's an exception.
i'd say try to keep it under 10 minutes, but if it's compelling than a
longer one is fine.

commissioning editors will mainly want to see that you have
fascinating characters and a great story. if you can show an arc to
the story, better yet. in fact, the more it plays like fiction, the
better they seem to like it, in general. of course, some docs are
issue driven, not story driven, so those just need to be interesting
as hell.

finally, don't waste too much time at the beginning with music
setting a mood. they'll want to know within the first 30 seconds what
your film is about. the first minute of the sample is absolutely
critical. don't fart around with it - get to the point with some of
your strongest material.

Steve Holmes
Sat 23 Apr 2005Link
I wouldn't go as far as to complete the arc. As I recall with one
sample, I showed the beginnings of two or three arcs, took 'em a
ways and left 'em hanging. Goal was to raise more questions than
answers. "Then what happens?" "Fund the show and you'll find out."

Doug Block
Sat 23 Apr 2005Link
totally agree, steve. hint that you have an arc but don't complete
it. many filmmakers haven't shot the ending anyway before making the
sample, so it's not like you could if you wanted ;-)

Laura Scott
Thu 19 May 2005Link
I'm a first time filmmaker looking for a exec. producer/production
partner. I have a short list of broadcaster prospects for my one hour
TV doc on couple who have chosen to remain "childfree"(currently in
production) and I'm wondering if I should pitch this to producers
currently working with the broadcasters, and if they're interested,
let them pitch it to their colleagues or should I find a more
independent producer who doesn't have a stake in whatever broadcaster
we may end up with? Any thoughts, ideas on how I should approach this?

Doug Block
Thu 19 May 2005Link
laura, my guess is most producers working with broadcasters are
either staff, which means they generally don't take on indie projects,
or are working on a specific project of their own with them.
personally, i'd take it to an established producer who's worked with a
variety of broadcasters.

finding them and interesting them is another matter, of course ;-)

Laura Scott
Sat 21 May 2005Link
Yes, that is the trick. I have just begun to pitch it to "supplier"
producers who have worked with a number of broadcasters. It seems they
are pretty open to being pitched on projects that they think might
appeal to the broadcasters that they have relationships with. So far
two of the three I've pitched were interested enough to request
synopsis, tapes, budgets, etc. so we'll see.
For me the biggest challenge is finding someone who understands and
appreciates where you are going, creatively, with the project and is
on the same page with the marketing plan as well. Finding your
soulmate in the classifieds is easier by far ;-)

Doug Block
Sat 21 May 2005Link
that's why networking at festivals, markets and other industry events
is crucial. everyone looks to make contact with the various
commissioning editors but meeting other producers is just as
important, maybe moreso for international co-productions.

James River Martin
Sun 19 Jun 2005Link
{LINK NOT IMPORTED}: Steve Holmes {LINK NOT IMPORTED}:

"We better take this over to "The Mentoring Room." "

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

I'm now 99% decided to break my initial project into two. The Big Idea
I had in mind was, to be done right, a pretty high budget operation.

I'm thinking of doing a very low to low budget thing, mosly on my own.
It would focus on "the resistance", mostly protests and demonstrations
... and some narration and/or interview material slipped in. The
footage would, theoretically, mostly come from others who were at the
events and happened to be equipped with a video camera. I'd play
writer-director-editor-producer. I'd write a grant proposal and have
it funded as a project of a non-profit org. I have connections there.
Then I'd have a start. A start which will help me to take on the
bigger project. Also, I'd have gotten access to important footage for
the Bit Idea project.

What do you think?

Steve Holmes
Sun 19 Jun 2005Link
Who's your audience? Has anything like this been done before? If so,
how will your project be different? Do you plan to include new
interview footage? I expect you'd want that to provide a frame for
the story.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
Who's your audience?

Well, the smaller initial project would have a lot of "the choir" as
an audience. That is, those who are hip with and grooving on the anti-
car culture movement worldwide (mostly English-speaking nations). The
audience would also be their friends and family, and people standing
on the edge looking in from out there: Curious folks.

"Has anything like this been done before?"

Not exactly, to my knowledge. Though other films are sort of similar.

>>> Back in a bit.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
"If so, how will your project be different?"

The docs I am aware of, and which are similar are either differently
or more narrowly focussed. There are one or two docs on Critical
Mass, there are docs which are critical of automobile saturarated
suburbia, and so on. I'd tell a similar story from a much different
angle and approach, the story of "the resistance" in the form of many
and diverse demonstrations and protests world-wide. To my knowledge,
it hasn't been done.


more in a moment.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
"Do you plan to include new interview footage?"

Probably. Almost certainly. But perhaps not.

"I expect you'd want that to provide a frame for the story."

I think you are most likely right about that. Nevertheless, I *might*
do something closer to a "Baraka" (Fricke) or "Koyaanisqatsi"
(Reggio) --- Not exactly, but closer(?).

One possible alternative way to handle it is to publish a booklet of
the same dimensions as the DVD, and that booklet could tell the story
in words while allowing the imagery and sound to stand independent.

I'm leaving a door like this open until I've lived intimately with
the footage and played with some editing and what not. I am both a
scholar and an artist, and if the artist takes the lead ... well, he
might want to go elsewhere than the direction the scholar might
prefer.

In any case, it is perhaps too soon to lock in a plan ... If I'm
going to be editing and all. I can work intimately with the material
and follow it where it wants to go, this way. The Big Idea requires a
pretty focussed script which is also flexible. But I think I'll do
something small before I try to do a half million dollar blockbuster.

Steve Holmes
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
I dunno, James. If I see a bunch of people jumping up and down being
passionate about something, I want to know more about *them.* Their
issue becomes secondary. What drives, er, buses people to get worked
up enough to be part of the "resistance"? Why not sit home and watch
videos, or better yet, take a drive in the country? Programs with no
narration or interviews work only when the subjects can't talk. When
they can, I want them to do so.

As to your Big Idea, half a million is a lot to spend on any doc.
Unless it's one of the well-publicized exceptions, you'll never come
close to making back a tenth of that. With DV and editing on home
computers, shows can be done for far less.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
Your paragraph 1.

Well said, and good point.


Your paragraph 2.

I'm very much inspired by two wonderful docs called (a) Manufacturing
Consent, and (b) The Corporation. I've watched both many times,
making a study of them. And I've watched the Additional Features, or
whatever they are called, on the DVDs--The parts not shown in the
theatre. These were huge projects, with lots of people working on 'em
over a long span of time. I never did learn how much they cost to
produce, but I did learn that they were partly funded by grants from
the Canadian government! Those Canadians!

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that "The Corporation" had a half
mil or more budget, especially including promotion.

Of course, I can remain inspired by these films and shoot a little
lower. ;)


James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
What drew you into the world of documentary filmmaking, Steve?

Steve Holmes
Tue 21 Jun 2005Link
I lost a bet.

No, I went to journalism school at Missouri with emphasis on
broadcast journalism, worked in public television for a local
station in Kansas City and started my own company, which is always
on life support.

James River Martin
Fri 24 Jun 2005Link
I tell ya, there are some zippy images in my story!

"http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_nakedbike
rs.html
"

Kathryn Burg
Fri 1 Jul 2005Link
Does anyone have information on what sort of guidelines one should
follow when drawing up consent forms? I'm going to be shooting a
choir that's going on tour to England and Italy this summer. I
want to shoot mostly outside and inside the churches where they'll
be singing, although I will also be shooting the choir as they
take hikes and tour around the cities as a group. I know where
they'll be singing and where they'll be staying, but the tourist
spots will be on the fly. My crew consists of me (the recording
crew has requested separate informal permission from the
churches).

I was planning to send forms to the known locations in advance and
bring extras for the tourist spots. I've been told by the
directors of the tour that the churches might shy away from
signing official consent forms prior to filming (they may even bar
me from shooting at all), but they may be more open to it after
seeing the final cut. I'm planning to enter the final product into
film festivals, so I don't want to prevent myself from doing that,
but I don't want to scare anyone off, either. Any thoughts? Any
advice you could give or resources you could point me to would be
much appreciated. I leave in just under a month.

Steve Holmes
Sat 2 Jul 2005Link
Welcome, Kathryn! Not sure about sending the forms. It gives the
more paranoid recipients time to worry and stew. Forms can look
intimidating when people don't know what's going to happen during
the taping. Gut feeling is I'd send them in advance only if someone
requests them.

Why might the churches bar you from taping? Image concerns?
Preserving the sanctity of the concert? I saw a doc of a choral
concert tour which includes the concerts. Your best selling point is
you and your sensitivity to their concerns and the promise of a
credit and festival exposure.

As to the on-the-fly tourist spots, can you find out a few minutes
in advance where the group will be going, then go in and ask
permission first? Be sure to promise a "Thanks to" credit.

Will you have a release form in Italian?

Kathryn Burg
Tue 5 Jul 2005Link
Thanks for your thoughts, Steve! I get your gut feeling to not
send them in advance. Do you then think it's more appropriate to
ask them to sign the forms once I'm there in place or after I have
a cut to show?

Apparently, the churches sometimes take issue with the presence of
"equipment" during a solemn service. They have a legacy of
tradition backing them up (one is the staunchly traditional chapel
at Windsor Castle). I'll suggest tucking me and my camera out of
the way, but not too out of the way, if that's necessary. The
rehearsals are often a bit more interesting anyway, so as long as
I can convince them to let me shoot during those times, and at
services for at least some locations, I will live with it. And is
it true that I can use footage from a location without permission
as long as it's not recognizable?

For most of the tourist spots, I will know a bit in advance, so
I'll be sure to speed myself ahead of the group with form in hand
-- and polished sweet talking skills.

Luckily I speak Italian, so I'll be able to create a form for
those spots. I have a few English examples to work with, but if
you have any suggestions, or any links that might be good
reference, please pass them on. Thanks, again!

Steve Holmes
Tue 5 Jul 2005Link
Kathryn:

I would have them sign the releases at the taping site. If you wait
until you show them a rough cut of the show, some of them might balk
because of how they feel they're being portrayed. It might not have
anything to do with the content or tone, but perhaps as trivial a
concern as someone's Bad Hair Day.

<<And is it true that I can use footage from a location without
permission as long as it's not recognizable?>>

Under American law, you don't need a personal release if a person is
not recognizable. I have no clue about how Britain and Italy view
such things. It's a good idea to have a location release.

Join this discussion now. You need to log in or register if you want to post.