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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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Robert Goodman
Sat 10 Mar 2007Link
do you have shooting experience? Have you made other films? If not,
you are better off hiring someone to shoot for you. As for HD - what HD?
HDV - if so, don't bother. DVCPROHD? - perhaps you should buy a HVX200
for $10,0000 and pay someone on a deferred basis to shoot for you.
HDCAM/HDCAM SR? - This might be a great deal to gather very high
quality footage for a reel to raise money.

DV - the story had better be so damn good the market won't care 3-8
years from now that you shot it on a dead 4:3 tape format in a world
gone 4K high def in 16:9.

Alisa Katz
Sat 10 Mar 2007Link
Thank you Steve and Robert, ideally I would shoot myself, but dont
trust my shooting skills just yet. I am waiting to hear back from a
production manager oversees to see what is available on the local
front. But I am just torn between comfortably knowing that my DP is
onboard with what I are trying to accomplish and that I know the
footage will be good, especially for a marketing piece, and spending
too much to the point where I set a high priced precedent before I
even get any funding. The DP has a full HVX package, but not sure how
HVX can handle a full day of shooting as I think the drive and cards
he has can only accommodate up to 3 1/2 hours of shooting. You really
think HDV isnt worth it? As an aside, I was offered a free DVX 100b
for the week, but again, there is that DV vs HD question. Steven, Out
of curiosity, how much did you end up spending for your recent trip/
shoot?

Steve Holmes
Sun 11 Mar 2007Link
DP in Tokyo was $1900 for three half days, I believe. My records
aren't in front of me. The rest was airfare, lodging, meals, the
regular travel expenses. I agree with Robert that if you can do HD,
do HD. Have you priced out the difference?

Robert Goodman
Sun 11 Mar 2007Link
2000 for a week's rental of an HVX200 is way too high.
Any rental house in NY or LA would rent it to you for 900 for a week.

Steve Holmes
Mon 12 Mar 2007Link
Sorry if I made it sound as if it was just camera rental. It was not
just the camera, but a two-man crew with audio and lights package
and a vehicle. Still wish I could have done better, but I didn't
know the language or have any contacts besides the crew recommended
by a D-Worder.

Alisa Katz
Mon 12 Mar 2007Link
Thank you both again. I am rethinking my plan as this will be my first
trip of what I deem to be at least 1 or 2 more in depth ones. And
being my first time as a director, I will try to coordinate a local dp
with an HD package to be on standby out there, and save myself the
cash for when I know exactly what I need. Rather than having a pricey
dp the whole week that I will be anxious about getting my money's
worth from. In the meantime I was thinking about purchasing the new
Canon HV20 HDV (for about 1K) to bring with me as a 'back-up' for
research, which I hope will relieve that 'wish I had my camera'
feeling on the days that I am dp-less, realizing it wont be the best
for the major interviews as it is only 1 CMOS, but could be great for
some research and filler shots that I wont require matching. Does
that sound like a good plan in your professional opinions?

Steve Holmes
Tue 13 Mar 2007Link
Alisa: Robert is the camera expert. I'd listen seriously to anything
he says.

Jennifer Ryan
Sun 25 Mar 2007Link
Hi, I'm looking for any and all advice about getting practical advice
& experience making docs. I've got 9 years experience as a journalist
(am in London now) and while I'm a total beginner as far as docs go,
I'd rather just get thrown in at the deep end rather than take a
course (is a course going to tell me that I'd love or hate this kind
of work? I think not.) Any thoughts would be most welcome. Thanks!

Doug Block
Sun 25 Mar 2007Link
J, with your background in journalism, you have a big head start.
Might help to read a good book in the basics of documentary
storytelling, so you begin thinking about telling stories in images
and sounds instead of just words. Directing the Documentary by
Michael Rabinger is considered one of the best:

<http://www.amazon.com/Directing-Documentary-Fourth-Michael-
Rabiger/dp/0240806085
>

Would do you some good to read the conferences here, too.

Jennifer Ryan
Mon 26 Mar 2007Link
Genius, thank you very much! Jennifer

Doug Block
Mon 26 Mar 2007Link
Genius, yes. Glad someone finally noticed ;-)

Michaela Manson
Wed 2 May 2007Link
Hi,
I'm making a documentary film about an accordian festival and i've
contacted the co-ordinator about permission to film....do i need to
get permission from every individual who will be in attendance at
the festival or is there some sort of blanket permission form for
everything that i can get the organizer to sign?


it's basically just entirely DIY/Indie doc so what else should i be
aware of when making it? tips and tricks would help!

Thanks in advance!

John Burgan
Thu 3 May 2007Link
Assuming it's in a private location, post large signs at the entrance
(with the organiser's permission) stating that the festival is being
filmed for a documentary, not forgetting your company name & contact
details. Wording should include something like "Entrants consent to
being filmed and recorded by (****company name) for possible inclusion
in the documentary film (**** title)".

If in any doubt, consult a lawyer (especially if you're in the US)

Ross Williams
Thu 10 May 2007Link
Hi guys, I finished my documentary The Turning Point early this year and have since been trying get it into the festival circuit, but have been completely unsuccesful. I started by trying to get into the bigger festivals; Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW & Tribeca and wasn't too surprised by getting my extremely tiny film rejected by these, but now I'm also getting rejected by all the documentary and smaller festivals I've been entering as well. I've been rejected by about a dozen festivals now.

The film did play at my local festival, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and was received very well. The reviewers that have seen the film have given it A to B grades. Other filmmakers that have seen the film all seem to like it. It's not a perfect film by any means, but I know that it is a good film.

I've seen so many terrible films, narrative and documentaries, at the same festivals that I'm entering, that I just can't believe that my film isn't considered at or above the same level. I think we're getting rejected because the film is so personal, while also not having anyone even slightly famous involved. (I feel like if Gus Van Sant stuck name on there, it'd be accepted into any festival in half a second.)

So I guess I'm asking for advice how to get into these festivals? Is there a trick I'm missing? Should I just give up and start trying to distribute it on DVD myself? (The entry fees are quickly adding up.)

Anything will help... I spent three years of my life putting this film together and the fact that nobody wants to show it is killing me.


Joe Scherrman
Thu 10 May 2007Link
I just watched part of your trailer. It looks very interesting. I
would like to see more. For some reason my laptop loads the first part
then seems to stop. It’s not just yours it happens all the time.
Pisses me off.
Are you selling the doc?

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 11 May 2007Link
Ross, not every film is a festival film, but that doesn't mean it's
not a worthwhile film. Festivals are not the be all, end all of a
film's life. They have numerous reasons for accepting or not
accepting films -- length issues, other films on similar topics
playing the circuit at the same time as yours, not thinking the topic
is sexy enough, or simply not getting the film. Rather than waste
lots of dollars continuing to apply, target your festival strategy at
festivals that have shown films in the same vein as yours. Heartland
Film Festival comes to mind since their focus is on films about
positive life values.

Whether or not you get into festivals, it appears you have started to
build an audience for your film through your MySpace page and other
outreach. So think about other ways to generate screenings -
microcinemas, academic conferences, public libraries, birthing
classes at hospitals, etc. It's a lot of work to do on your own, so
you may want to re-read the D-Word Conference on Outreach with Robert
West from a few years back, but it seems like there is a definite
audience for your film out there. It just may not be a festival
audience.

Ross Williams
Fri 11 May 2007Link
Joe,

I'm not officially selling the film yet. But if you're interested I
could send you a screener copy. If you want to send me $5 for DVD
cover, disc and shipping, I'd love to send you a copy. I'd just ask
for your opinions on the film in return. Email me at:
ross@eraticate.com if you're interested. (That goes for anybody else
as well.)

Erica,

Thanks for the encouraging words. My first short film was accepted
into over 50% of the festivals I entered and won a few awards, so I
guess I was just expecting the same this time around. I'll look
into Heartland Festival and start doing more research on the
festivals I do enter. Being a film about pregnancy and parenthood,
I'm definitely planning on looking further into those avenues. I
actually had a nurse from the pregnancy ward at our local hospital
tell me they'd love to get a copy for their new parents to watch.
So I'm hoping to get it seen that way.

I was just having a bad day yesterday, so I needed to vent a
little. I plan to read more about alternate ways of distribution,
but I'd love to get more advice if anybody has any.

Thanks!

Jennifer Jajeh
Mon 21 May 2007Link
{erased by jenjajeh Thu, 21 Jun 2007 05:41:26 GMT}

Doug Block
Mon 21 May 2007Link
Hmm, there's really no standard rate, Jennifer, given that it's
really unusual to have a doc financed beforehand. I'd ask why, if he
has full funding, you're not getting a full salary and he's asking you
to defer part. I'd be curious how much he's asking you to defer (as a
percentage of what he's paying, that is).

Dan Woolsey
Thu 7 Jun 2007Link
I'm wrapping up my first feature-length doc and am wondering if there
is any specific protocol about which credits are opening credits and
which are end credits andin what order for a non-union project.
Different films I've referenced seem to do different things.

-D

Doug Block
Thu 7 Jun 2007Link
no protocol, dan. but usually "directed by comes first", copyright
comes last and most important to least important in between.

Dori Smith
Sat 30 Jun 2007Link
I'm working on learning how to tranfer audio reporting into visual and to use some of the video I've been taking at events to create short features for news.

Where does one turn if he/she is an idea person and wants to team up with film makers to share the idea and develop it?


Doug Block
Sun 1 Jul 2007Link
dori, pretty sure most tv news is produced by staffers. are you
looking to put together a few sample news stories for a reel?

Robert Goodman
Sun 1 Jul 2007Link
except for all the video news releases run as news....smile.

Daniel Burns
Tue 3 Jul 2007Link
Subject: Start a non-profit, but what happens when we're done?

Through research on the internet, it looks like many documentarians
start a non-profit company for their film. Why is that? I assume it is
for getting grants, yes?

And what happens when they are done with the film and want to sell it?
Are they limited in any way under a 501(c)3?

Thanks!

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