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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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Michael Lieberman
Wed 10 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
Thu 11 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
Thu 11 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
Thu 11 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
Wed 17 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
Sun 21 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
Fri 7 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
Wed 19 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
Sat 5 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.

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