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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

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Doug Block
Thu 10 Nov 2005Link
what is it exactly that you're looking for from this production
company, jamila? and why don't you try to arrange for a meeting in
person? i would think that would be much more effective.

Jamila Gaskins
Thu 10 Nov 2005Link
Doug,

I've never produced a film before so it's all new to me, budgeting,
crew, etc. I've begun my research and have contacts across the
country willing to help with the story, but I am in need of help
putting it all together. The person I spoke with at the company said
I should proceed with a query letter. But I'd love a meeting
instead. I agree it would be much more effective.

Ross Williams
Thu 10 Nov 2005Link
I'm editing a personal documentary right now... when I began shooting
it, I didn't have much plans of trying to get it released or
anything, but as it's coming together I think I'll at least try to
show it at festivals... and if it all works out, I'd love to sell it.

Since I wasn't planning ahead for that I didn't get release forms
from any of the places that I was shooting. (I did get some release
forms from people that I knew I wouldn't be able to track down again.
And plan on getting release forms from my friends and family that
appear in the film.)

My question is, what sort of legalities are behind the places that I
shot. The majority of it takes place in our old apartment?... will I
need to get a release from the owners. My biggest concern is the
hospital where we shot some footage?... If I don't tell the viewer
where we are exactly and never have any identifying features, do I
still need a release form?

Can anybody answer these questions or point me towards a website or
book that'll answer them for me?

I'm a newbie at the legal side of it, been shooting guerilla style
for years.

Thanks!

Doug Block
Fri 11 Nov 2005Link
i'm not a lawyer but... i don't get location releases for my docs,
personal or otherwise, unless it's a really obvious place (say, yankee
stadium, disneyland) that would sue my ass in the blink of an eye. do
get releases from your friends and family. like, right away.

www.marklitwack.com is a good site for legal stuff.

Marc Maurino
Sat 31 Dec 2005Link
hi there, i'm afraid this may have been asked before but after some
fairly extensive searching i can't find if it has or not. i'll be
shooting a short doc that will be some talking heads, some action, not
too much big landscape, some handheld stuff. my ultimate goal is film
festivals and public television, and i'm shooting on one chip mini DV.
do folks have any opinions on shooting 16:9 vs. 4:3? I think
widescreen (16:9) looks so much better, and I imagine it would be more
appropriate for television also. (PS I'll be editing in FCP.) Any
opinions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Doug Block
Sat 31 Dec 2005Link
as far as i know, hbo and pbs still want 4:3, while many foreign
broadcasters, like the bbc, for instance, want 16:9 (though zdf/arte,
which i pre-sold my current doc to, was fine with 4:3). it's easy
enough to make a 16:9 master from 4:3 footage - might be harder the
other way around.

that said, by the time you're done, u.s. tv may be going more towards
16:9. it's a hard issue.

personally, i'd opt for a 3-chip dv camera rather than one chip.
that's a huge quality difference, without a huge difference in
expense.

Georg Schmitt
Sun 1 Jan 2006Link
Yes do get a 3 chip, and shoot in 4:3 since most consumer cameras fake
16:9 mode is worse than just cropping the picture later in post.


Hey, I have a different format question, that is 52 or 58 min.?
Here in Europe we have a 43:30 slot, but since I own the international
rights on the project I´m working on right now I opt for a int.
distribution. I have heared about both lenght´s reffered as one TV
hour, now I´m not sure what would be best?

In addition I´d like to ask a similar question about festival formats.
Is there a min. lenght for major sections or festivals.

Thanx so much for your help, I hope that hasn´t been discussed 100
before.
G.

Doug Block
Sun 1 Jan 2006Link
i believe sundance lumps any film over 45 min. into the doc feature
category. others, like berlin, wants an hour or more (don't know if
they consider 52min an hour, but i think they would 58). i'd look at
the websites of the various festivals you're considering and read
their eligibility requirements.

an int'l sales agent i've used, films transit, has told me he doesn't
have a problem with anything between 52 and 60 min. for sales to
broadcasters with one hour slots. in the u.s., pbs generally likes 57
min.

John Philp
Tue 3 Jan 2006Link
Hi. Great forum.
I'm working on a doc about yoga that is 90 percent shot, 25 percent
edited. I have a few private investors interested, each good for a
small fraction of the budget, i.e. $10,000 of $400,000. What can I
tell these investors to ‘expect’? I’ve heard “first monies will repay
the capital contribution of the investors” is a good thing to say,
but I have no idea what it means. I’ve also heard a 50-50 split of
the profits between investors and producers is typical. But that only
seems to make sense if one investor funds the whole thing. Very
confusing.
Also, I’ve been told I need to provide a “limited offering
memorandum” and maybe a “Limited Partnership Agreement”. Does anyone
know a good, NYC-based lawyer who could cheaply draft such an
agreement?
Thanks,
JP

Marc Maurino
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
thanks for the advice about 4:3 and 3ccd. I'm taking both bits of
advice, i'll shoot in 4:3 and do my best to borrow a 3ccd from the
local cable access channel when I can.

onward for more advice: first of all, is there a reliable "search"
function to go through the discussions so that if a question was asked
before we can find the answer? i've been trying to figure it out to
no avail.

secondly: has anyone ever made a documentary about good friends, and
if so, how did it work out, did you explicitly lay out any ground
rules (ie, tonight is pizza and beer, no filming or talk of filming),
were there any lessons you learned the hard way, what worked and
didn't work; as a corollary question, has anyone ever directed a doc
in which you had a significant interest in the outcome of the
subject's journey? how did that work, what did you learn/caveats,
etc. any real experience advice or opinions are welcomed.

here's the quick background: i'm embarking on a film about the nine
month run-up to the opening of a montessori school, as a married
couple will (hopefully) find the funding, get the space, and get
children signed up. there will be informational meetings with
interested parents, meetings with real estate agents, signing a lease,
renovating a space, planning the curriculum, signing up children, etc.
the married couple also happen to be our neighbors, our very good
friends, and we intend to send our child to the school.

i'm interested in doing a doc not as a promo piece but to document the
nine month journey starting now (they've already been working at this
a long time) to the start of the school in september. the subjects
are game as it appeals to their desire for transparency as they build
this school, and because they trust me. i intend to do several
interviews but also to document a lot of their journey such as the
real estate stuff, etc., etc. i support what they're doing
wholeheartedly and have been on an informal steering committee of
parents for the past year; plus, of course, i've been to dinner at
their house or them at mine countless times and shared thanksgiving
and christmas at my house, our children are friends, etc.

am i looking for trouble, or will some good ground rules keep us all
friends a year from now?

Georg Schmitt
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
Thanks Doug,

that was a great help!
Since I finally found my password again,
I eventually may give up my longtime lurker existence;-)

Greetings from India
g.

Doug Block
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
john, there are some good books out there that would deal with
limited partnerships. too complicated to give a quick answer (not
that i fully understand it). just curious why a doc on yoga costs
400K (i imagine investors would be, too). are you shooting on
location all over the world?

marc, my most recent film, 51 birch street, is all about my parents
marriage and our family history. i dealt with your issue basically by
saying trust me, and by honoring their honesty with me by making as
honest and truthful a film as i'm capable of making. i did NOT bring
them into my shooting or editing process, but did allow each family
member a chance to see an early rough cut (my father first) and let me
know if there was anything in there they thought was unfair or untrue.
fortunately, they were all fine with it. and now that it's out doing
festivals (and especially because the response has been so
overwhelmingly positive), they're very proud of the film.

Marc Maurino
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
doug, i just read through the entire "51 birch street" web site, and
i was moved and touched by your honesty and the depth it appears you
went to in a family way on that project. i can't wait to see it.

i'm intending to have another (and perhaps more after that) in depth
conversations with my subjects to talk about what may happen if and
when we hit some rough patches. what if i capture them fighting?
will they say "camera off, please?" and if so, will i feel that my
efforts to make an honest film are getting so hamstrung that i can't
be honest, and then feel compelled to trash the project and then be
regretful and annoyed with them . . . these are worst case scenarios,
but i feel compelled to visit them now rather than later.

i think your trust and honesty approach is key, and i intend to
practice it myself, to the best of my ability. thanks for weighing
in.

Ben Kempas
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
Georg, are you the guy from Stuttgart who originally signed up with
the user name "georg"? If yes, you should also use the more specific
topics inside our professional area, {LINK NOT IMPORTED}.

John Philp
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
Hi Doug, I'll look for some books. Yes, the $400,000 budget
includes i/nat. travel/production and frequent trips in the US, as
well as lots of music and archival pix issues. (The doc also
serves as a social history, in a way.) Most of the investors don't
balk at the figure but other filmmnakers do, including me
sometimes. I've always worked much lower budget, and may end up
doing this film for less as well.

Doug Block
Wed 4 Jan 2006Link
marc, i suggest you tell them if there's a time when they really want
you to stop shooting, then let you know and you'll honor their
request. otherwise, i don't think i'd set up elaborate ground rules.
just be sensitive to any emotional situations as they unfold and use
your common sense.

Georg Schmitt
Mon 9 Jan 2006Link
Yes Ben, it´s me but i have problems to log in there!
Coul´d you help me with that?
And by the way, i always was looking forward to meet you one day,
hopefully some time soon.
g.

Marc Maurino
Thu 12 Jan 2006Link
Hi folks. I'm shooting a documentary as a "one man band"--mostly with
my own 1 chip, but when i can get it from the local cable access
channel, i'll be using their JVC GY DV500 (3 ccd.) in no particular
order, a few questions:

1. has anyone ever used this JVC camera, and if so, any caveats,
complaints, or compliments? (i'm assuming it's better than my 5 year
old Sony DCR-TRV11, though truth be said, i've been blessed with that
camera.) also, since i'll be buying mini DV tapes in bulk, should i
go with JVC, or Sony, or some other brand, and how high quality do i
need to go? in bulk at BH Photo video i'm looking Sony premium DVM
60s running about 3$ a pop, which fits my (non-existent) budget.

2. The cable access channel said i'll need to buy a new battery for
the JVC, they lost theirs or something. i've done some internet
searching and found some online battery places that have compatible
batteries for about $55. am i doing the right thing here or do i need
to find a JVC-manufactured battery?

3. Naturally i want great sound and don't have a boom operator, so
i'm investing in a shotgun mic. in the BH PHoto Video catalog i'm
looking at an Azden SGM-X shotgun mic for about $130, a Sennheiser
MKE300 for $170, and a Sony stereo condenser mic for $80. Any
recommendations about these or any others you swear by? I really
don't want to go over $200, and am only willing to go that far because
I obviously know the importance of really good sound.

4. I have a something which was given to me which I realize now is a
Beach Tek Dual XLR audio adapter DXA 4 for Sony cameras. Is this
going to be compatible and/or necessary for a shotgun mic?

5. My doc is not, thus far, proving to be something where I can set
up lights and all that; I'm documenting a couple who are starting a
small private (Montessori) school and most of what I'm catching is
them having business meetings with the bank, the business plan guy,
interviews with them about their partnership and philosophy, scouting
out the (potential) school space, giving informational meetings for
parents, meeting with realtor, etc. Since I'm shooting on DV, and
mostly 1 chip for that matter, what would you, experienced D-worder,
recommend as the things I absolutely should (or should not, as the
case may be) be doing when I'm shooting? As you can see, good sound
is something I'm paying attention to, but should I absolutely have a
single light i'm setting up behind my camera, or invest in an
expensive tripod (i have a lightweight one that i set up and then
don't touch), etc? Professional experience and words of wisdom are
greatly appreciated by us first timers.

As always, thanks in advance!

Doug Block
Fri 13 Jan 2006Link
no time to answer now, marc, but i highly recommend you not post so
many questions at one time. it's a bit overwhelming for us time-
challenged folks. one quick thought, though: go with sennheiser.

Marc Maurino
Fri 13 Jan 2006Link
thanks for the advice, doug, both on sennheiser and posting
etiquette. i guess i wanted to avoid the "man, that guy is posting
new questions every day" thing, so i post a dozen at once . . . looks
like i backed the wrong horse! i'll give it a few days and then
dribble questions in one at a time from now on. thank you for taking
the time, and have a great weekend!

Ben Kempas
Fri 20 Jan 2006Link
Georg - just email me with your account details and we'll sort out
your access problems. ben@d-word.com

Stephanie Vevers
Fri 20 Jan 2006Link
Marc,

The beachtek adapter is not needed with model MKE300 sennheiser
mic which already has a 1/8" connector.

If the mic you choose has a 3-pronged connector you do need the
beachtek adapter. It is a good device and I have used it a lot
with a Sony TRV900 camcorder. It also allows you to take a line
feed from pa and sound systems.
You would need a cable to go from the mic to the beechtek. A
short cable for ease of use.
A long cable for remote location from camera, if you need to tape
a panel discussion or pass mic around.
You have to be concerned about mic noise of course. Connections
and handling introduce noise. Headphones?

Try to review your footage as you go, learn from your mistakes.
don't zoom with impunity. do change shot setup or angle, rather
than stay in an poor one.
But don't wear out your tapes with viewing. Dump onto hard drives
or make vhs viewing dubs?
Hard drives are going to be an investment.
Start thinking about editing now.

B&H sells generic batteries too.

http://www.beachtek.com/dxa4.html to download info and
instructions if you need them.

THere are some good books out there,
Directing the Documentary, by Michael Rabiger, seems popular.

Marc Maurino
Sat 21 Jan 2006Link
Stephanie,
Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed and intelligent
response. The "review . . . learn . . . and dump" as you go advice is
really good. I have a spreadsheet form that I fill out after shooting
and I'm going to start logging as I go, as I anticipate shooting a few
hours a month for nine months, and don't want to wake up in september
with thirty hours staring at me! :)

I just had my first experience with the beachtek the other night,
borrowed a few shotgun mikes from the local cable access station (and
stands) and ran them into my beachtek, monitored it all on headphones.
good experience, and when I have a static environment, i think i'll
go with mikes on stands; but for more mobile shooting (or tighter
quarters) i think i'll go with Sennheiser. I really appreciate the
advice! Thanks for being so generous!

Marc Maurino
Sun 29 Jan 2006Link
quick question on ethics and doc filming--if you've got a good scene
going but your subjects are just a little too far apart (physically)
to both be in your frame, is it ethical/permissible/fair to ask them
to scoot closer to one another to fit into your frame? in this case,
it was a married couple discussing a budget, and i was crammed into
the corner of their dining room, and they were comfortable just
sitting a little closer and pushing their laptop over a little.
anyone have any thoughts on this? thanks in advance.

Doug Block
Sun 29 Jan 2006Link
sure, i've done that. had no great moral scruples, either. but,
shhhhh, don't tell anyone ;-)

Marc Maurino
Mon 30 Jan 2006Link
thanks, doug, we'll keep it our secret. :)

Deirdre Fishel
Sat 18 Feb 2006Link
Hi,

I just switched from using a SONY PD 150 camera with which I was
using only SONY DV cam tapes to a Panasonic DVX100B. B and H said
definitely start using the Panasonic tapes because you don't need DV
cam and they are much cheaper. But my SONY deck has only been used
with SONY DV cam tapes.

My friend and teacher Cynthia Wade said definitely stick with only
SONY DV cam tapes. Does anyone have any experience with this?

I know there are issues with drop outs when mixing tapes. But am
I now locked into the DV cam tapes? I'm about to start a long
project so with tapes and dubs I'll probably shoot minimum 300 tapes
so using the Panasonic mini DVs would represent about a $2700
saving. On the other hand I want to use the best tape and not have
problems with my deck.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

D

Doug Block
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
welcome, deirdre. we go way back, you know. i'm about to register
you into the d-word community. be sure cut and paste this question
there. many more working doc makers will see it there and you'll
definitely get answers. but i've heard over and over you should stick
to the same brand of tape stock and preferably the same as the
camera's manufacturer.

Didi Francis
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
Hi there

Im in the process of coordinating a long distance endurance event in
Africa raising money for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. I am looking at
approaching documentary production companies to film the event.
However, I am unfamiliar with documentary companies and am looking
for advice on who to approach. In particular i need to approach a
company with expertise in sports, social issues and simultaneously
capture the beauty of Africa.. anyone with suggestions pls help! thanks

Erica Ginsberg
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
Deirdre, do you have the option to dub from your new Panasonic camera
into the editing system? I wouldn't use Panasonic tapes in a Sony
deck. Not sure about using Sony tapes in a Panasonic camera, but I
am sure somebody around here will pipe up about that soon.

Doug Block
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
Didi, I highly recommend you contact David Jammy or Harriet Gavshon
at Curious Pictures in Johannesburg. They're considered the top doc
producers in SA and are great to work with. Please say hi from me:

http://www.curious.co.za/

Didi Francis
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
Thanks so much Doug, i will do so.

Didi

Ben Kempas
Sun 19 Feb 2006Link
Ask Don Edkins of Day Zero in Cape Town. He produced "Steps for the
Future", a series of films about life in Southern Africa in the
presence of HIV/AIDS.

http://dayzero.co.za/steps/

Didi Francis
Thu 23 Feb 2006Link
Thanks Ben, I will do so as well. Thanks for all the help, really
appreciate it.

Didi

Ross Williams
Tue 28 Mar 2006Link
I'm nearing the end of my production of my first documentary. And
I'm looking into clearing some songs to include in the festival
release. I'd like to get a Guster song (smaller band on the Warner
label) and I'd like the rights to cover a Talking Heads song, not
one of their big hits. (I've already got a band working on it.)

Does anybody have any experience doing this? I've read that it's
very diffucult to do, and it's easier to go through a music
clearance company. Does anybody have any advice on how to go about
this? Any music clearance company recommendations? Any guess at
how much this will cost me? I've got an extremely small budget.

Thanks guys.

Doug Block
Thu 30 Mar 2006Link
ross, it's tricky stuff and i'd consult an entertainment lawyer. most
do a free consult with the first call. a d-word member, denise ohio,
wrote a good article about music clearances:
http://www.holytoledo.com/clear_music.htm

Ross Williams
Fri 31 Mar 2006Link
Thanks Doug, this was the sort of site I've been looking for but
have been unable to find. And now that I've read it, man... what a
pain in the ass.

Doug Block
Fri 31 Mar 2006Link
you mean you thought making docs was EASY???

Ross Williams
Fri 31 Mar 2006Link
Never thought it was easy. But I enjoy the creative part of it.
This legal stuff makes my mind go numb. It's something I'm doing
completely on my own. So I'm just taking it kind of slow, learning
as I go, making sure I get it right the first time. Next time
around it'll be easier cause I'll have much better idea of what I'm
doing. And hopefully I'll have some partners to help me out.

Steve Holmes
Fri 31 Mar 2006Link
Ross: From the website of entertainment lawyer Mark Litwak:
http://www.marklitwak.com/faq/music.html. Do a search on his home
page for "music" and you might get some other answers. Good luck!

Cliff Knopnik
Tue 11 Apr 2006Link
Hi,

Can any Pros help point me into the right direction?

I'm planning out (writing script, gathering resources, etc.) a
documentary/drama and am interested in finding resources on what you
can / can't include in documentaries from existing works, and how to
go about purchasing licenses for copyrighted works. For example: How
do you include a news clip about current news? How do you get the
rights to include a clip from an old John Wayne movie, etc.

Thanks in advance for the help!

Cliff

Steve Holmes
Tue 11 Apr 2006Link
Cliff: It's a tricky area. You're wise to tread carefully. There's a
concept of "fair use" which says you can use *limited* copyrighted
material, if certain conditions are met, in a new work. Those
conditions include how big a percentage the copyrighted stuff will
be in the new project, how the use will affect the market for the
material you include and whether you're likely to make any money off
of the new work (as a doc maker, the answer to that last question is
probably "no").

It is a grey area. Your best bet is to hire an attorney who's
familiar with the subject. Lawyers for the Creative Arts does pro-
bono work, I believe. Other than that, check the U.S. Copyright
Office's page on fair use (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html),
the Cornell Law School page
(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000107
----000-.html) or see if entertainment lawyer Mark Litwak has
information on his site (http://www.marklitwak.com/resources/). As
the Copyright Office says, your safest bet is to get the OK from the
copyright owner, which generally isn't hard if it's a local station.
A John Wayne movie would be tougher.

Cliff Knopnik
Tue 11 Apr 2006Link
Thanks. I'll check down those avenues and see how much public
domain / original stuff I can use.

Any resources for licensing music that you would recommend? I would
like to use a Louis Armstrong song in the opening credits. Is there a
central company that can get this license or do I have to go directly
to whoever currently owns the rights to it?

Cliff

Steve Holmes
Wed 12 Apr 2006Link
BMI and ASCAP are the biggies. I'll bet they have websites.

Lucio Terra
Mon 17 Apr 2006Link
Hello, I`m planning on starting a wildlife documentaries producing
company, have several ideas quite advanced, and I am now facing the
more costly (in money terms) part of the project which is buying the
initial camera and sound equipment. I`m on a tight budget, looking
for a reasonably priced camera which is "professional" enough to
achieve high quality images. My inmediate target is local TV, which
is not that quality-demanding (I`m from Uruguay, SAM), but I don`t
want to throw away my chances of going international through
cable/satellite TV just because I use lower end equipment.

I been going through the Canon XL1S and the Sony PD 150 and VX2000
models. Do you think they are enough? Do you think I could be fine
with less than that? Which camera equipment do the big ones (BBC,
Discovery Channel, NatGeo) use?

Any guidelines will be greatly appreciated, cheers

Maria Vougioukalaki
Mon 24 Apr 2006Link
ok i should post here i guess..
im working on my thesis on Pennebakers Monterey Pop(1968) anyone
any advice??any links, books on direct cinema or even the film
itself(im too optimistic i know..) thx in advance!!
maria

Doug Block
Mon 24 Apr 2006Link
Maria, there's this thing called Google...

Jon Foy
Mon 24 Apr 2006Link
Hello,

A two part question:

I've been searching out archived news clips (mostly local) and feel
like there's more out there than I find. I've tried: Lexis Nexis,
Vanderbilt, Google (of course), and searching engines on each local
news station. Any other places come to mind?

For acquiring the footage: I'm looking for two local news segments
from 2003 (Pittsburgh WTAE, Cleveland WKYC) and I've tried the
stations (won't release them) Multivision, and an assortment of
local archive houses. Any other ideas? Anyone know of any ways (by
hook or by crook) to get the stations to hand them over? I know
that this must be a common problem for doc film makers.

Much thanks in advance, -Jon and the Resurrect Dead film crew

Steve Holmes
Mon 24 Apr 2006Link
Jon, what's their reason for not releasing the clips? Money?
Privacy? Too lazy to dub them? Is there an organization that studies
your subject and might have clips or access to them? If you're
talking about the crop-circle project, how about the Coast to Coast
radio show which looks into a lot of mysterious phenomena?

Joshua Moro
Mon 24 Apr 2006Link
Hello, we are considering producing a feature length doc that
utilizes dramatic Alaskan landscapes and wildlife as major
characters. We are novices and so don't think we can go with film
and instead think HD will be more realistic. Are there different
types of HD? What is a good example of a doc or program recently
shot on high-end HD?

Steve Holmes
Tue 25 Apr 2006Link
I don't mean to be disrespectful, Joshua, but if you're novices, can
you afford HD shooting and editing? I haven't worked in that medium
and will defer to people who have, but I know it's high-end stuff.
So I don't seem to be just a naysayer, here's a place for info. on
HD: http://www.hdnnc.org/index.php. It's a group that promotes the
use of HD. You might get some answers there.

Joshua Moro
Tue 25 Apr 2006Link
No worries about disrespect. We've made one 50-minute doc, shot on
location in China, Montana, Seattle on widescreen digital beta. It's
had a good amount of success at the second-tier festivals and we are
currently looking at broadcast deals. We still think we are novices,
but have an opportunity, story and some connections to make a leap
into the feature-length doc world. From what little we know about
HD, it seems a great option for capturing the details of vast
landscapes and wildlife. Maybe not for interviews or indoor footage,
though. Thanks for the info!

Michael Lieberman
Thu 11 May 2006Link
Hello. I forgot my user info last fall, and am finally back.

I was/am making a documentary about an Iraq War veteran, and am in the post-
production stages. I was curious, as I was sent here last fall for a discussion, lost my login
info (and my job, moved, etc.), and am now back.

At the time, I asked a bit about grants and producers. I've been turned down by a few
grants, mostly because I suppose this is the *wrong* time to be making a film about a
veteran, given the timeliness and the vastness of films about this subject. Oh well.

I've self-financed this project from beginning to end and have spent under $1000. I have
no distribution or festival plan, and work most of my time so I am unable to edit as I'd
like. I know this sounds, well, like alot of other filmmakers doing the same thing. But I
was wondering if there might be a few pointers someone would consider offering. I have
no experience or helpful people around me regarding this, even though I know
filmmakers who have found distribution. When I ask them, I get a cold shoulder or my
question ignored, as if they're protecting their precious resources.

I've tried some local fundraising, and haven't found any organizations or individuals
willing to put any financial backing. I've offered clips and a small edit (like 20 minutes)
and nothing still. I don't hope to change minds about the war and refuse this idea of fair
and balanced reporting about the war, because this project isn't about that at all. Could it
be that, given how most feel about the war, that putting money behind a project with this
subject matter is considered fruitless, given most disagree with the war and my subject as
well?

Sorry for the ramble, but I've about given up finding any funding at all, or a producer. At
this point should I do everything myself?

Doug Block
Thu 11 May 2006Link
yep, join the club, michael. we all go through this. the best
advice i can give is to read some of the books and articles out there
on fundraising, starting with morrie warshawski (check out his
Fundraising conference with carole dean here):

<http://fdncenter.org/cleveland/cl_interview_warsh_verdon.html>

Doug Block
Thu 11 May 2006Link
I mean, his Fundaising Conference on The D-Word is here: {LINK NOT IMPORTED}

Steve Holmes
Thu 11 May 2006Link
Michael Lieberman wrote:

<<I've been turned down by a few grants, mostly because I suppose
this is the *wrong* time to be making a film about a veteran, given
the timeliness and the vastness of films about this subject.>>

I know of several Iraq films out there, including two by our own
James Longley and Julia Guest, but timeliness usually means it’s the
*right* time to be doing something.

Where are you in the process? I’m confused. Are you looking for
distribution of a completed film or fundraising to finish it? Those
are two different animals.

<< even though I know filmmakers who have found distribution. When I
ask them, I get a cold shoulder or my question ignored, as if
they're protecting their precious resources.>>

Strange. I can understand being coy about some funding sources,
especially if a filmmaker feels he has a special “in,” but people
around here are quite open with advice about the pros and cons of
distributors.

<<I've tried some local fundraising, and haven't found any
organizations or individuals willing to put any financial backing.>>

Where are you located? Is there a filmmakers’ group nearby that has
occasional workshops on fundraising and distribution? There’s no
money in doc distribution unless you’re Michael Moore. Most doc
makers get their funding through grants or their own checkbooks.
Very tough to sell this as an investment. You need people who will
put money into it for emotional reasons. They believe in the topic.
They believe in the veteran. They believe in you. Maybe some group
such as Vietnam Veterans against the War. They might not have money,
but should be able to steer you to people who can help you with
cash, in-kind, endorsements or contacts.

Try the Foundation Center (<http://fdncenter.org>). Its site allows
you to search by key word for potential funders. The group also has
placed copies of its core collection of grantwriting books in
libraries around the country. Get the nearest location through the
website.

Ross Williams
Fri 12 May 2006Link
In my documentary I want two quick shots of two seperate
celebrities. Unable to afford paying for any usage rights, I'm
wondering about how to get around this.

How I've worked it now, is I've changed photos of them very
significantly, cut them out, messed with them in photoshop and
animated them. I don't know if anybody would ever be able to
recognize them from the original photo.

I thought I'd heard somewhere that if you change a photo more than
50% than it's considered a new image. Is this true? I can't find any
evidence of this anywhere.

Has anyone dealt with this before? Or point me to a website that
would explain this?

Thank you.

Doug Block
Fri 12 May 2006Link
call me dense but who do you need to pay the usage rights to, ross?
the photographer? a magazine?

and if you change the phot so much you can't recognize the celebrity,
why are you even using the photo?

Ross Williams
Fri 12 May 2006Link
I believe that you would have to pay the photographer, because they
are the copyright owner.

The celebrities are still recognizable, they look more like
charactures now... but the photos aren't recognizable.

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 12 May 2006Link
Ross, you should look at the Fair Use Statement for Documentary
Filmmakers, authored by the Center for Social Media and a number of
film organizations. Depending on how you are using the images in
your project, they may come under fair use.
<http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/resources/publications/documentar
y_filmmakers_statement_of_best_practices_in_fair_use/
>

Christopher Gallant
Thu 18 May 2006Link
Hi everyone,
I also have a usage question. I need to use some footage from some of
the old roman empire b+w epics - ya know "cast of thousands"kinda
ficks. There are a few really old ones from the 30's and 20's which
might be less problematic(?) I would love to write whomever owns the
rights to ask but I have a tight deadline for the finishing of this
documentary... It's for my thesis project. I would like to show the
film more widely later on, but for now I just need to show it on
campus and have a small community gallery/space showing to fulfill my
requirements. Using this footage, a minute or two, will make the
project concept work sooo much better. What's your advice?


David Seidman
Sun 21 May 2006Link
I'm a longtime print journalist and non-fiction author who wants
to work in documentary film/video. I've joined IDA, I've started
pitching ideas to various production houses, and now I'm here.
What else should I do to find work in this field?

David Seidman
davidseidman@earthlink.net

Robert Goodman
Sun 21 May 2006Link
Find work - look elsewhere. Most of us support our habit by working in
peripheral areas. For example, shooters do everything from corporate
work to commercials to weddings. The ranks of the doc makers who earn
their entire living from making docs is slim. The Maysles earned more
from commercial work than they ever did from making docs. Michael
Moore likely earns more from book sales than doc films. Lots of people
teach. Some are independently wealthy. As several famous nonfiction
filmmakers have told me - this is a hobby not a profession.

sorry to disappoint.

Steve Holmes
Mon 22 May 2006Link
Excellent advice from Robert, as usual. To find work in this field
as a producer, which is what I infer you want to do, you have to
make your own work. You'll find no ads that say, "Wanted:
Documentary makers." Almost everyone on D-Word has created labors of
love that they have funded by themselves or through grants or co-
production deals and then attempted to sell and distribute. Find an
idea or topic you can stay in love with for at least several years
and begin to pull together funding possibilities and a filmmaking
team. That's how you find work in this field.

Robert Goodman
Mon 22 May 2006Link
Actually find an idea or topic that will remain interesting to people
for the next 40 years - we call them evergreens. An evergreen brings
in a trickle of money year after year. Anything less and you'll never
get a return on your investment.

Doug Block
Mon 22 May 2006Link
David, hopefully you can keep doing your print journalism to fall
back on. A first doc generally takes years to make and then get out
into the world (don't forget that part).

Karen Nedivi
Wed 31 May 2006Link
I just started working on a documentary as the cinematographer, that
will take place in the cloud forest in ecuador. I don't have
experiecne shooting abroad on film. They are planning on buying either
the arriS or the SR (money) and will be either sending film or
bringing film with us. We also are worried about the bext way to
develop the film, since we will be there for over 3 months, and if it
is better to do this locally though a kodak, or send back to AMerica
to a lab.
If anyone has experience with shooting abroad and have any
recommendations or warnings, it would be very helpful, or online
resources. We will contact kodak and labs to ask them what they
suggest, but I would like to find out information from people who
actually had the experience.

Julia Guest
Thu 8 Jun 2006Link
Karen this sounds like a very expensive, high risk medium to use in
a steamy jungle. You will face problems with condensation for a
start. Have you consider going Hi Def instead? I doubt a lab in
Ecuador is going to be adequate to process the film, so you will
also not see your results till you get back.

Luke Walden
Fri 7 Jul 2006Link
Hello all. This is my first post here, and I'm wondering where should
I go and whom should I ask to get some really experienced advice about
technical issues around post production for an indie historical doc
that combines contemporary 24P DV interviews/B-roll with a wide range
of archival footage formats and stills. I'm trying to plan and budget
for an edit that will cause minimal headaches in an online for
broadcast and also for possible film transfer. We will most likely
edit in Final Cut and online on a high end AVID at a decent post house.

I've done a lot of internet
searching and talked to several post houses in New York, but I don't
feel like I've yet gotten answers that really take into account the
possibility of mixing all that archival material with 24p footage and
what that might entail in terms of technical issues, workflow and
onscreen look. Perhaps the person I need is on this very board! But
if not, where to look?

Thanks,
Luke

Doug Block
Sat 8 Jul 2006Link
as noted in the intro topic, since you clearly qualify as a
professional, luke, you'll find qualified pros to answer that question
in the professional community here: www.d- word.com/community/join.

but you could also post this question on the shooting people website:
www.shootingpeople.com

John Burgan
Mon 10 Jul 2006Link
For FCP/24p questions you could start by browsing through these
sites:

<http://forums.creativecow.net/cgi-bin/new_view_posts.cgi?forumid=8>

<http://www.2-popforums.com/forums/>

Joe Wilson
Thu 20 Jul 2006Link
Greetings Folks,

I'm new to this world, and am up to my neck (or is that in over my
head?) in my first big project:
(http://qwaves.com/QWAVESnew_10/Heartland.html).

As I begin fundraising, I'm wondering if there are recommendations on
which org(s) work well as a fiscal sponsor .. ? (So far, I'm looking
at International Doc Assoc., Film Arts Fdn., & Southern Doc Fund.)

Also, as I begin to grapple with approx. 70 hours of footage, I'd love
to connect with (and hopefully hire) a talented writer, experienced in
documentary work, to help me flesh out the narrative / structure for
the piece. Any suggestions on how / where to reach out / connect with
writers? (I'm particularly interested in someone with experience in
queer film and/or activism.)

Thank You for any comments or suggestions that may come my way:
qwavesjoe@yahoo.com

Ethan Yarbrough
Thu 3 Aug 2006Link
Hello all. I'm new to the forum, and new to documentary filmmaking.
I have a subject I'd like to pursue that will require multiple
interviews with multiple subjects. My question is just a basic one:
how do you find people willing to participate as subjects of a
documentary? Do you put an ad in the paper? Ad on craigslist or some
other online board? I want to follow a few willing subjects for some
time, but I just don't know the best way to find those subjects.

I appreciate any tips you all can offer.

E

Joe Scherrman
Fri 4 Aug 2006Link
Anybody know Kevin Costner's Publisist? I would like to get an
interview with him. How about any producers or contacts at netflix?

Doug Block
Sat 5 Aug 2006Link
Ethan, hard to answer that question without knowing your specific
topic. But often you go to experts first and either interview them or
ask who they might recommend you talk to.

Steve Holmes
Sun 6 Aug 2006Link
And as you explore your topic, you'll soon figure out who the
experts are. Wouldn't bother with an ad, but a notice on an online
forum or newsgroup dedicated to the subject might help.

Dustin Ogdin
Wed 27 Sep 2006Link
I hope I'm posting this in the right place. Moderators feel free
to move if you'd like.

I recently found a fiscal sponsor for my project. I want to do
fundraising on my website through paypal. The problem is that my
sponsor is not very tech-savvy. Is it ok for me to collect
donations on my website through MY paypal account, and then give
the funds (or their percentage) to my sponsor? I know the
opposite situation is the typical scenario (sponsor gets money -
takes out their share, then gives money to me.) My sponsor
doesn't have a problem with this - they trust my honesty. I'm
just curious to know if it is legal?

Thanks for any input!

Robert Goodman
Wed 27 Sep 2006Link
It's legal just not tax-deductible. Contributions have to be made
directly to the organization. If people give you money and you give it
to the organization, then you can take the tax deduction. The pay to
line on the check determines whether it's a charitable contribution.

Why not set up the fiscal sponsor with an account?

Dustin Ogdin
Wed 27 Sep 2006Link
Thanks for the clarification, Robert (and for the quick response).
My fiscal sponsor is not too tech savvy, but I'm definitely going
to try to get them to set up an account. Thanks!

Gary Parker
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
I'm new here. I posted the newbie intro and came over here. I helped
produce a documentary for a local TV station back in the 70's and
haven't been doing anything since. As I said in my intro, I have
several historical documentaries that are in pre-production. One of
the most important things that I'm looking for is a good producer so
I can get the financing for the completion of the first project. The
companies that I plan to approach for funding are not willing to
give money to someone with no track record. I have two production
companies in mind but, as usual, they say they will get back to me.
I'm not holding my breath. What kind of advice can you give me about
getting the financing started? Should I just contact the companies
with the story and hope for the best? Thanks for the suggestion for
Shooting People in a previous post. I signed up there.

Gary Parker
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
Doug, I watched the trailer for the 51 Birch Street doc. I'm very
impressed! You have a great one there. I would love to see it but,
the Nov. 3 showing in SF is in conflict with me being in Ohio at
that time. And all the others are too far away. I'll be working on
the history doc I'm trying to put together. I'm basically doing
everything right now. I'm writing narration, shooting script, review
of existing film and interviews, document selection and placement,
interviews with experts in the field, etc. This project will take a
few years to complete.

Doug Block
Fri 29 Sep 2006Link
Thanks, Gary. It's scheduled for a one-week run in SF, and if enough
people show up, it can easily be held over. So don't give up yet.

As for getting fundraising started, I suggest you attend as many
markets (IFP, Sunny Side of the Doc, BritDoc), festivals and pitching
forums (Toronto, IDFA is the best) as possible and start to introduce
yourself around, familiarize yourself with the Commissioning Editors
and see how it all works.

Ken Mackenzie
Fri 29 Sep 2006Link
Hello, by the looks of the posts here this sounds like a good place
to get some advice. I am a post production professional (with a
steady job!) that is interested in writing my first doc. I have...a
million questions but I'll keep it to two (for now!). The first: If
I am one of the main subjects within the story how much should I be
involved with in the process? (ie bringing on another writer or
interviewer). The second: Where can I get some solid advice or
resources on the form of documentary writing?

Justin Frimmer
Fri 29 Sep 2006Link
I am in the process of doing a investment memorandum and have a
question regarding the way documentary films are sold and revenue
distributed. Is the documentary model the same as the fiction
model, in that net receipts are distributed between the distribution
company and the producers/investors? Or does the distribution
company simply buy the rights, giving them all the receipts? For
example, the film Wordplay "sold" for 1 million. Is that 1 million
the end of the revenue for the filmmakers as far whatever
domestic/international/theatrical/dvd rights were agreed upon or
will the filmmakers get a percentage of film receipts as well?

Joe Scherrman
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
I'm having trouble updating my personal info. When I submit it comes up
error.
Also
I am looking for informantion about fiscal sponsors. I have one
interested but they want to know how. Also looking for an example of a
contract between my LLC and the fiscal sponsor 501c3.
I appreciate the help.

Joe Scherrman
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
I googled fiscal sponsor and got a wealth of info.

Doug Block
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
Ken, there's no set rule to your first question. As for documentary
writing, most docs these days aren't pre-written or scripted. Tend to
be shoot first, "write" it in the edit room (if there's even narration
at all, that is).

Justin, it's pretty much the same regarding the kinds of sales to
distributors you refer to (the big "Wordplay" ones), that are the big
exceptions, btw. It's one in a thousand docs, at the least, that make
that kind of a sale. And in almost all cases (including Farenheit
911, I've heard), the advance is the last money the filmmakers ever
saw. And don't forget that in that advance the filmmakers are
required to pay for the deliverables, which can take a huge bite out
of it.

Robert Goodman
Sun 1 Oct 2006Link
Never believe the "sales $$" sold for hype. I really really doubt
Wordplay sold for $1 million.

Elena Ghanotakis
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Hi,
I am working on a documentary following rape survivors through
a rape clinic in South Africa. I am shooting the project in HD
format. I would like to backup all of the footage on an external
hard drive. Does anyone have advice about which is the best
external hard drive on which to do this? I am looking at Western
Digital, Lacie and Seagate. Also, is it better to go with a
larger drive, i.e. 1TB or break it down into 2 500GB drives. Do
the larger drives have more problems?

Would appreciate any feedback!

Elena

Robert Goodman
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Single drive 1TB units not generally available.
The cost/GB sweet spot is around 350GB. Seagate.
Are you backing up HDV, HDCAM, DVCPROHD, or HDCAM-SR footage?
All have different needs - from USB to Fiber Channel connections and
from a single drive to RAID arrays.

Elena Ghanotakis
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Thank you for your response. Both Western Digital and Lacie make
a 1TB External Firewire Drives. Here is a link to the Western
Digital 1TB Drive:

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=267


I am trying to back up HDV NTSC footage.

Robert Goodman
Mon 9 Oct 2006Link
It's not 1TB drive - it's two drives in a box. Read the description.
I'd forgo the huge single unit and get multiple drives as you go. HDV
uses the same space as miniDV - a 350GB drive holds a lot of footage.
Cheap so you can buy two and make two backups.

Gary Ballen
Mon 16 Oct 2006Link
This is the first Documentary I have been involved with. We are
doing a piece on the history of the Negro Baseball League and the
Negro Baseball League Museum. We are putting a business plan
together and I have to research potential income streams for the
following,
1. aquisition from a network and cable station
2. potential sponsorship income
3. Advertising Income
4. DVD sales
5. E commerce
6. cd soundtrack income
7. Grant $
8. Military Sales
9. Infomercial Sales
10. Licensing Income
11. Ancillery $$

I would really appreciate any help I can get on this.

Thank You,

Erica Ginsberg
Tue 24 Oct 2006Link
Is the museum sponsoring your project? How many visitors do they
get a year and what partnerships do they have with other
organizations -- both baseball and African-American orgs? I would
think your best bets are grants and DVDs sales through the museum's
existing network of contacts. Depending on how the project is
developed, you may be able to sell it to PBS or a cable channel, but
don't expect to make back any money from those sales.

Gary Ballen
Fri 3 Nov 2006Link
The museum is not sponsoring us but they are supporting us, it will
be an authorized documentry if that means anything. We are looking
for funding right now, got any cash?

Thanks,

Gary Ballen

Joe Scherrman
Sat 4 Nov 2006Link
Shaking the Money Tree, 2nd Edition: How to Get Grants and Donations for
Film and Video: Books: Morrie Warshawski by Morrie Warshawski.
Barry, I enjoyed talking with you the other day. I know you are pressed
for time so grants may be out of the question. I'm on my first doc that
needs funding. It seems to me that finding a 501C3 partner is my best
bet. Good luck and keep me in the loop. We're both doing baseball
related stuff.

Erica Ginsberg
Sat 4 Nov 2006Link
Ha, Gary. Last place you want to raise serious funds is from other
doc filmmakers. We're all in the same sinking boat. Good luck!

Ana Da Silva
Mon 6 Nov 2006Link
Hello!

I'm new here and looking for further guidance. I want to get into
documentary film making to cover issues in children rights
(broadly). I studied Communications for both my BA and my MA and
have a day job to pay the bills. I've been reading more and more
about docs and I want to do it for a living (or try anyway).

Any ideas on where to go from here? If you ask me what I'd like to
be doing (in the field) in 10 years, I'd say producing and still
writing, which is what I'd like to do soon.

I hope this is a clear intro and I hope you guys will be able to give
me some constructive advice.

Thank you very much!

Ana

Robert Murdock
Wed 8 Nov 2006Link
Hi all,

I have a question, well a few I guess. I recently started an
attempt at making a short documentry. Topic: online gamers. Next I
hope to do a wildlife short.

Here is my issue. I have some notes scribbled down, for example:

1. Opening intro
2. interview with.. XXX
3. comentary on convention
4. footage from convention

...etc.

Is there a better way to lay out what I want to accomplish? I know
that most people do not like software that helps with these things,
but, what do you all think?

What type of software package would help me most with getting the
layout of my documentry down? Do I need a screenwriter software?
Movie outline? Final Draft.. or?

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

RObert

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