link too! Craig
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.
link too! Craig
production world for a long time and am making my first
documentary. I am just beginning the film festival application
process. Does anyone know anything about how to write a good
synopsis of your documentary for these applications? Is there a
book I can buy? Any advice, tips, information would be greatly
There are lots of examples of the materials prepared for PR including synopsis, fact sheets, etc.
Good luck! Craig
Market's No Borders section. Go to: www.ifp.org. You could also go
to IFP's office in NYC and look at back copies of their market
catalogues. AIVF's office in NY has an extensive library which could
There's also the Sundance website, where they have the past few
year's catalogues archived. For your purposes, that might be best of
all. I think it's www.sundance.org.
Good luck, Olympia!
of a large format dv tape going to a mini-dv. I don't want a composite
transfer bc I don't want to lose a generation. Does anyone know where
to get this done? Thank
you, but maybe you can woo me with your expertise?
I'm interested in any info on setting up a Final Cut Pro system that
I'm not likely to get from the Apple people, or any opinions from
people who've used the system in different forms. Specifically, what
types of decks, drives, other accessories are best or preferable? It
might be helpful to know that the project for which I'm inquiring is
being shot on PAL/16x9/DVCAM.
Thank you all!
for everything auhoritative you NEED to know about fcp
posted elsewhere. (it contains a new question)
I'm a filmmaker (12 years in the industry) and I'm about to embark
on my first documentary feature.
My topic is rather unique, so I can't reveal it online. Due to the
timely nature of my piece and my relative inexperience in the field,
I'd like to ask some seasoned pros a few key questions regarding:
1. co-productions, ie. finding the right partner(s) to help finance
and/or distribute my feature doc.
2. acquiring film clips and still photos, fair usage laws and public
3. the discovery of copyrights for films already made, plus
discovery of underlying literary rights of such films.
Any help would be appreciated! I can be reached at
maybe one at a time?
find comprehensive doc film libraries so I can check out what other
films have been made on this topic. I don't feel like I'm hitting
gold yet. Any sites you would recommend? Thanks.
+ "documentary film". Then under "documentary film, distributor".
Then you might contact the more prolific doc distributors (ie.
Filmmakers Library, California Newsreel, First Run Features) and
collectives for self-distributed docs like New Day Films.
notice by your bio that you are a thriving working doc
filmmaker...afraid of the competition, perhaps!? ;> ) and for the
quick reply to my querry.
My approach was exactly as you described, using Google. I'll check
out the distributors. Aside from the Canadian National Film Board
that approach hadn't occurred to me. Gotta dust off my research
skills I guess. And maybe there just haven't been many films made on
the topic I'm working on.
them out there. Those damn cheapie dv camcorders are to blame!
But clearly there's no scaring you off, so God bless.... And, yep,
ya gotta do your homework.
By the way, I wouldn't be scared off even if there have been other
films done on the subject. There's always room for diff. approaches
And yours will be better, of course.
list. How much do you charge to provide witty words of encouragement
to newbies in need?
I have a 43 minute English language doc for which I am looking to create a
Spanish language version. I have a good translation, which will be read by
the subject of the doc, who is a native speaker. My question is this: can
anyone recommend some good NYC firms that would be good to work with
on creating the new soundtrack, from recording the Spanish dialogue,
matching to picture, etc. I am looking for people with lots of experience in
this specialty area.
problem as well as asking myself is this realy as interesting as I
would like to think it is (answer:well, that depends...)Anyway, I
looked at past program descriptions of festivals I was interested in
to dtermine what kind of work they show, but more importantly how do
the programming people describe the material. That was really helpful.
I have visited these forums sporadically over the last year, but rarely posted.
I'm posting now because I'm having a major melt down and I want other
opinions or some perspective.
i'm in the painful final stages of completing a documentary I've worked on for 3
years about people in the haunted attraction industry. The film profiles
various men and women who have been building and directing "haunted
houses" for years. It's a portrait of a strange, unusual industry, but more
importantly a portrait of the creators, and what makes them do what they do,
and what makes patrons pay money to be scared.
In researching haunted houses, I of course read about "hell houses" and even
went to one in Denver for a week, where I shot some of the best footage I
have. (For those not familiar, hell houses are church ran haunted houses that
intend to scare morality into patrons through skits involving abortion, drugs,
homosexuality). However, the hell houses always stuck out as not belonging
in my movie, which is very much a valentine to Halloween and people who
draw some creative energy from this time of year.
Then, George Radcliff's HELL HOUSE emerged and begain getting raves at
My issue is that i fear people are going to compare my film to HELL HOUSE in
some way. HELL HOUSE is a wonderful movie (I've seen it), but very different
from my film. however, they are both about haunted houses, just opposite
ends of the spectrum.
I know this happens every day, that people get "scooped" before their film is
done. But, I am looking for advice on how to position my movie so that it
doesnt' get compared to HELL HOUSE and doesn't get perceived as a small
subject which another movie has already covered.
boxers came out. All were very good and quite successful.
Moral is, I think you position your film as if Hell House never
existed. There's always room for different p.o.v.'s about the same
(or similar) subjects.
I'm in the trenches of finishing the film, and sometimes it's hard to put
everything in perspective.
Back to the trenches, Sundance deadline on the horizon.
I know the chances are slim. You gotta keep hoping.
I'm done rendering. See ya later.
This issue is driving me crazy because everyone I ask has a diferent
answer. So here goes nothing...... Do I, or Do I not need a signed
release from all living persons that is in a shot segment. For
I shoot footage of an event. The footage shows groups of people doing
various things. Some shots show individuals taking part in
activities. Some shots are wide shots showing multiple activities
going on. In all but the widest shots people are recognizable. The
footage will be used as part of a doc.
Question: Do I need a signed release from every recognizable person
in every shot used? Some say I do, but can't tell me why. Some tell
me no unless the person has a speaking role.
In films or docs where street sceans are shot from a moving vehicle
showing hundreds of people walking, talking, working, and playing. Do
they go back and get signed releases from all those people !!!???? I
don't see how that is possible. Thanks for any help at all in this
but... personal releases are less about fear of lawsuits and more
about the need to get Errors and Omissions insurance, which any
broadcaster or distributor would want before taking on your film.
If someone sues, it's more likely they'll come after the one with the
bucks, not the poor indie docu filmmaker.
Sure, it's safer to get as many releases as you can, particularly if
they say something on camera. Or, if it's a sensitive or
controversial situation. But, generally speaking, the main concern of
the lawyers scrutinizing your film is do you have the releases of the
featured people in your various scenes.
In crowd scenes, I don't worry too much. Am I 100% guaranteed to
pass the E&O test? No. But, I calculate the slight gamble against
the knowledge that it's impossible for me to get everyone's release.
As a fallback, in post-production, you can always fuzz out the face
of those people in crowds you didn't get releases for.
gotten two different answers. The one I like better is to get
releases (1) for those with "speaking parts" and (2) for others if
the environment is one that could be controversial or embarassing to
the subjects (a strip club, an infertility clinic, a communist party
meeting, etc.). Of course, a park may not seem controversial, but if
you catch a man and a woman holding hands and they just happen to be
having an illicit affair, well how are you to know? But it's not
something to worry about too much. As Doug said, when it comes to
documentary filmmakers, it's not like we have so many assets to drain.
When filming a speech or a performance, you can also put signs at the
entrance or have the speaker announce your presence and what you are
doing this for so those in attendance have at least been given fair
warning. I know this could be an issue on an upcoming shoot I have
where I'll be filming a church service where there may be many
illegal immigrants in the pews. I am planning to ask the priest (who
speaks the language of the congregation) to announce the filming one
week in advance so those who do not want to be filmed can opt to go
to a service at a different time.
Thanks for the response. This is one of those areas that seems
to be a catch 22. There seems to be no 100% right or wrong
answer. If there are large groups of people in the footage, there
is just no way humanly possible to get to all of the people unless
the whole thing is staged. Well............... I guess the only option is
to get as many releases as possible and pray about the rest !
What else can you do. Thanks.
Im a lawyer and and a filmmaker. Im also shooting in a controversial
environment.The release in a situation like the "illegal immigrant"
context has no legal effect. You cant be sued by someone doing
something illegal for filming them while doing it. Its simply to
get cooperation and access when filming. Also people doing anything
in public have no "expectation of privacy" thus releases are legally
unnecessary. Still for my peace of mind I try to get a release from
anyone I shoot in an enclosed space.
this is veena almad drom india. i am a student of mass media and i
am crazy abt movies....direction do let em know if anything on
direction and screeplays....
and i wish to know some filmmakers plz help to know anyone from
it....as i have an internship coming up...next summer..so i have
choise but to do it...for film making...
question, feel free to ask.
i wanted to know how does a movie start i.e. feature
film ....i.e. 1st the screeplay writer approaches or the company
(prod. houses)... and whom to approach for working in movies...
thanks crazy film people....
There is just no general rule for all this.
So what's your ideal vision of what you want to do?
What kind of project are you thinking about?
The D-Word focuses on docs. So we probably can't give you much help
in how to get a screenplay produced.
I think there are a bunch of listserves and discussion boards for
screenwriters, though. You can try a Google search, or maybe someone
Good Question. Is it the fact that the person is enclose in a
building that makes this situation "private", or is it because of the
fact that a "religous" ( my spelling sucks) or personal act is
taking place and that makes it "private"? I recently shot over 6
hours of footage of native american and african cerimonial
activities. It was outside but it was spiritually based. I wonder if
that could be considered "private"? hummmmmmm? Another
legal grey area.
self-funded-- doc. Two questions for the "pros" (this is my first
posting, hope its the right forum):
1. What are the latest thoughts on Final Cut 3 with a new G4. Is
a dual processor G4 867 going to do the trick, or do I need
additional speed (1 gig or 1.25). What are other common pitfalls
in purchasing and configuring a new final cut setup? And of
course, any tips on where to shop to save some dough? Or is
my best bet to go to Tech Serve and load up on what they
2. A question on length. At this point, I am doing the project on
spec and hope to enter festivals, and mostly to use as a selling
card for myself. Of course if someone wants to buy it, great! My
gut says that 1/2 hour is a good length. Do I need to worry about
timing it out for commercial breaks in the event that a network
would be interested in airing it? Is there a standard reference for
this? Also, should I try to expand it to 1 hour-- is that a more
"saleable" length? Any thoughts would be appreciated!
1. G4867 is plenty fast enough. make sure you load up on RAM.. it's
hard to get too much... go to www.kenstone.net and read all about how
to set up your system... it's a fabulous concise set of guides. It
will answer all your fcp3.0 and other questions about systems. As
for saving dough... buy from someone legit who'll talk to you if you
think you'll need support. I bought my system from promax.com and
they provide good telephone support because I had no experience with
macs... but you pay more for your system (a few hundred dollars
more).. but they assemble and burn it it before shipping. Or try
bhphotovideo.com. If you're mac savvy, shop around.
2. my 2cents: do a 30 minute project; there are more slots in
festivals for shorts; the pbs length is 26:45 I believe. you can
check pbs.org producing for pbs link; and it's faster to do than
creating a 60 min program that works. It's not usually possible to
stretch a 30 minute program to 60 mins... it's sometimes possible to
cut shorter versions of a longer program. 60 minute programs are
commercial norm but unless you break the mold your first 60 minute
project will not likely find its way onto pbs or cable.
with your 30 minute project, plan ahead, think about what you want to
do and how you want to represent that with video images. try not
to 'overshoot'. Then think about your edit and outline things before
you start logging tape into your mac. But most of all, enjoy it and
learn from it. That's what your first project should be about.
I have a camera and a good idea just have
the fear of where to start.
I want to make a doco about my experiences at
festivals and touring around
there is lots of juicy material and want to shoot it up
close and personal like
part diary style part fly in the crowd style still working
on this aspect.
However i really could use some advice re preprod
and what i need to think
about re working out an angle and a premise so that
i can be more directed
with my shooting.
It seems if i just shoot everything i may not get what i
want in the end.
and eveything i have read on the net leads me to
suspect that a great deal of
careful planning before hand will help.
It will be self funded as basically all the material is
there and i just need to go
and get it and follow myself around with a camera.
it is very Doable kind of
like a cops but on the subject of performing arts festivals.
so any tips or links for info would be very appreciative
i have the next 6 months for preproduction and planning.
I would like to eventually try and find a buyer for the project as a one off or as
a series type thing.
Basically the first one would be a kind of pilot or a great short.
there will be lots of great footage of crazy performers interviews etc.
I have been doing this for six years and only just realised there was the
potential for a great doco there.
it will help you sharpen your camera skills.
But keep in mind - always - what is your story? And what are the
themes? Is there any particular point or message you want to convey?
And then look for situations that might illustrate it.
Most doc makers start in without knowing where, exactly, in the
overall story they are at. They trust that if the subject matter is
right, it will eventually all come together. Sometimes it actually
that is the part i am having trouble
what are my themes and what am i trying to convey
getting it into a form where i can articulate it is
tough for me so that advice
helps i will now ask myself these questions and
see if the answer is in my
brain somewhere i hope so!!:)
thanks for the welcome nice to be connected to a
community of this kind.
doesnt feel so lonely anymore.
BTW, I've found a book called "Art and Fear" extremely helpful in
overcoming creative blocks. You might want to check
Anyone else care to weigh in (see above). Thanks!
The question of whether a church is legally a public or private
space for the purposes of determining whether a release is necessary
has probably been addressed by some court somewhere. My guess is
that the stronger argument is that worshippers have a reasonable
expectation of privacy in the interior of a church which cant be
seen from outside and that their permission to be filmed should be
secured. But pretty much anything done in public or which can be
seen from the outside ie through a window is fair game.
I shot some bmx guys in a skate hall last night and
it all came out great except it was fluro lighting and
my new mx500 doesnt seem to like low light situations a whole lot.
I got the cam because it is really small and inconspicuous
for the kind of doco stuff at festivals and the like i wanted
to shoot now i am worried that all my lower light stuff will
be excessively grainy.
Maybe this becomes an aesthetic i can use.
I am reading lots of stuff now about the gl1 being better in
low light etc.
the shutter speed doesnt go below 1/50 but it does have gain
up settings and manual whitbalance.
Any comments would be cool. I just didnt really have the budget
for another grand for the gl2 .
not what I'd call fantastic. I haven't shot enough with other cameras
to make a comparison. If it has a gain up setting, I'm not aware (and
I shoot a lot with it), but cameras that effectively give you a gain
up effect with a shutter speed give you that pixellated look when you
move the camera (which is sometimes nice, but not always). As for
manual whitebalance, it has no affect on low light shooting.
Anyway, my gut reaction is you take your own advice and use the
excessive grain as an aesthetic. Could work very well.
refining our concept, approach and goals for a documentary
we've become obsessed with making. Probably not the best
idea to put all our eggs in one basket, but we've learned a lot and
hopefully we'll find ourselves able to be flexible if the need
The project involves a pretty big, but not neccessarily
controversial (i.e. Walmart) corporation as the setting and the
vehicle to understanding people within the environment and
ultimately ouselves as a whole. I suppose similar to Neiman
Marcus in Fred Wiseman's film. We have finally made contact
with them and are sending them information on the idea. They
were abrupt and skeptical, although polite in our phone
Our approach to the film is one of personal, intimate
open-mindedness and we believe the film will be a celebration
of the place and certainly not critical or exposing in style. What
tone should we use in our letter and correspondence? For
example: sheer desperation, PR-style convincing,
sentimentality? I know that sounds false, but as I write the info
sheet out I can't help but fear that one step in the wrong direction
could blow everything. Also, the advice we were initally following
was to just send a letter of introduction but our telephone
conversation was so abrupt and marred with miscommunication
that we feel we should provide enough info to prevent any
misunderstandings. What we really want is to meet with this
person face to face, in the hope that our honesty and passion
will prevail. In moments of fear, I feel why in the world would they
care enough about us and honest personal filmmaking to say
yes. Any ideas?
Also, the info sheet we're writing is a page and a half bulleted
with headings, etc. Does that sound right? What other materials
or ideas should we include?
Whoever's out there, thank you very much for all your help.
Heather & Margaret
too. What could they possibly gain from having two unknown, indie doc
makers probing around with their video camera? These companies spend
millions in advertising and take their branding and corporate image
very very seriously.
If I were you, I'd think long and hard from their point of view about
what you could offer them by doing this doc. What promotional value
could it have for them? How will it enhance their image? My guess is
that the doc you wish to make isn't alligned with the public image
they wish to convey.
I assume you want total editorial control, so there is probably zero
chance they'll go for it. However, given that, you have nothing to
lose. My approach would be as honest as possible (it's almost always
the best approach in trying to get access, anyway). Explain what
you're attempting to do and convey your passion for your project as
best as you can. You never know.