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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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Olympia Stone
Thu 30 May 2002Link
Perfect and just what I was looking for --thanks so much!!!

Virginia Williams
Fri 31 May 2002Link
I've got a question about digital transfers. I want to do a 'clone'
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

Doug Block
Sun 2 Jun 2002Link
It's a large world out there, Virginia. Where do you live?

Erin Nesbit
Wed 12 Jun 2002Link
This is probably going to be an incredibly basic question for most of
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!

David Herman
Wed 12 Jun 2002Link
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/fcp_homepage_index.html#tutorial
for everything auhoritative you NEED to know about fcp
cheers

Steven Austin
Tue 30 Jul 2002Link
I'm not so saavy about this forum yet, please forgive me if this was
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
domain.
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
philnoir@earthlink.net

Thank you.

Doug Block
Tue 30 Jul 2002Link
It would help if you could ask more specific questions, Steven. And
maybe one at a time?

Donna Barker
Mon 12 Aug 2002Link
I'm researching a possible film topic and have spent hours trying to
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.

Doug Block
Mon 12 Aug 2002Link
Donna, have you tried doing a Google search? First, by your subject
+ "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.

Donna Barker
Mon 12 Aug 2002Link
Thank you Doug, both for your honest welcome to the list (although I
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.

Doug Block
Tue 13 Aug 2002Link
I always try to scare away the newbies, Donna ;-) Way too many of
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 p.o.v.'s.

And yours will be better, of course.

Donna Barker
Tue 13 Aug 2002Link
So, Doug, maybe we could carry on this therapeutic exchange off-
list. How much do you charge to provide witty words of encouragement
to newbies in need?

James LaVeck
Mon 19 Aug 2002Link
Hello all,

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.

TIA

James LaVeck

Rebecca Romani
Thu 5 Sep 2002Link
Olympia~ hope your festival circuit is going well. I had the same
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.

Byrd Mcdonald
Thu 19 Sep 2002Link
Hey D-Word, thanks for your continued existence.

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
different festivals.

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.

Doug Block
Thu 19 Sep 2002Link
I think there was one year where three different docs about women
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.

Byrd Mcdonald
Thu 19 Sep 2002Link
Thanks Doug.

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.

Byrd

Robert Goodman
Thu 19 Sep 2002Link
Wish you the best of luck with Sundance.

Byrd Mcdonald
Fri 20 Sep 2002Link
Thanks Robert.

I know the chances are slim. You gotta keep hoping.

I'm done rendering. See ya later.

Byrd

John Greer
Wed 25 Sep 2002Link
All, Anybody !!,

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
example:

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
matter.

John

Doug Block
Wed 25 Sep 2002Link
I'm not an entertainment lawyer (okay, disclaimer out of the way)
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.

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 25 Sep 2002Link
I would echo what Doug says. I've asked two different lawyers and
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.

John Greer
Fri 27 Sep 2002Link
Dough & Erica,

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.

Peace

Stephen Goldberg
Tue 8 Oct 2002Link
Doug and Erica:
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.

Veena Almad
Tue 8 Oct 2002Link
hi people,
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...
bye
thanks
luv
veena

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