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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
Tue 27 Nov 2007Link

No need to sign your posts, Tom. It appears LIKE MAGIC automatically above every post.


Brian Boyko
Fri 30 Nov 2007Link

Tom: With the Canon HV20 shooting HD video for $800 or less in some areas, I so no reason to go HD. You can always downrez to SD but you'll want an HD copy of your tapes to "futureproof" the footage.

Me, I'm shooting in HD because I don't know what I'm going to do with the footage yet.


Brian Boyko
Fri 30 Nov 2007Link

Speaking of which – anyone know where I can get a Ph.D. in Documentary Film in an English-speaking country outside the United States?


Malgosia Askanas
Tue 4 Dec 2007Link

Dear All,

On the dust jacket of Vladimir Dedijer's book "The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican" it says that Gottfried Niemietz, who wrote the Foreword to the book, "has worked on two documentary films about the [then] current civil war in Yugoslavia, which have been broadcast worldwide via satellite." Coud anybody tell me what those two films were, or point me to a possible source of this information? Many thanks for any help you can provide.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

I did a quick search but came up with two lawyers by the same name. It is possible he is one of them. Just google (german word for lawyer is Rechtsanwahlt).

Fastest way to the right person is to contact the author or publisher of the book.

If GN has 'worked on' a doc, then maybe just as consultant or researcher or similar that might not show up on a google search.

Alternative, look up films on Jasenovac, and related, then scan credits. Tis possible he will show up that way.

http://www.jasenovac.org/videos.php – Jasenovac research centre in NYC
good luck.


Monica Williams
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

Hello everyone,

I could use some advice on organizing my last phase of production. I have already shot an extensive interview with the author of the book I'm adapting. I have a pretty good idea of the structure I will be using for the film, but I'm not locked into it. I now have images to research and gather and some more people to interview. For a historical/essay documentary (Ken Burns and Adam Curtis are my best models) which should come first – the interviews or the gathering of images. I can see the good in doing both first. I have a background in art history and the 20th century, so I have a pretty good idea of what images are out there. Thanks!


Riley Morton
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

Never having made a film in the Ken Burns style myself, here is how i would approach the next steps on (what i know about) this film:

view post production as the place where the film will likely find its voice. as such, you'll want to assemble the foundation and structure of the film AS you acquire the Broll and illustrating material. Even if you know right where to go for all the images that you hope to use in the film, it will undboubtedly take much longer than you anticipate to get the rights to use all those stills and Broll/archival material. Of course, you may claim fair use on all that material, and decide not to pay for rights – but that is a bigger question for you and an entertainment lawyer to answer together after much research.

do this simultaneously with shooting interviews and other scenes that you want to include. But I'd recomend starting right now. You say that you've got a structure that you want to use in the film – sounds like using this big interview as the skeleton. Open up a new FCP project, and save it as "Evil01" import all the usable clips from your big interview, and start laying it down on the timeline in the structure that you imagine. How does it flow so far? Did you get everything you needed from your subject? what else do you need to add? which concepts need to (or can) be explained by other interviewees/sources? which examples in history have stills/film that you can cull from? are you finding the right balance to make the material engaging for your audience? start work on getting all those assets, and by repeating the questions above over and over for many many months, you can start to see your film take shape in the way that you want to get your message through. a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – and making a great documentary is in many ways a longer journey than that. you've already taken a few big steps, which is more than 98% of wannabe doc makers take, but now its time to jump in the difficult questions of how to best tell your story. it seems to me that jumping into post production, along with creating the beginnings of a paper edit and maybe a white board to outline structure – and you are well on your way! its going to be a great learning experience – and hopefully you'll have a great film in the end as well!


Monica Williams
Thu 6 Dec 2007Link

Thanks so much Riley for the thoughtful and valuable advice! It makes perfect sense to go about it this way and I don't know why I was thinking there had to be an order. This is a huge journey, I'd say closer to a million miles. I began two years ago with no idea the work that goes into these films. I Can't believe how much respect I've developed for the people behind this craft. Hope everything is alright in Seattle – stay dry!


Riley Morton
Thu 6 Dec 2007Link

my basement got a touch damp – but its dry now...;)

good luck, Monica- keep us posted.


John Burgan
Fri 7 Dec 2007Link Tag

Brian – here's a list of graduate courses on documentary


Jo-Anne Velin
Fri 7 Dec 2007Link

follow to the bar please...


Evan Thomas
Fri 7 Dec 2007Link

Hey there,

Can anyone point me in the direction of some decent info about streaming my documentary online, i mean how to actually set something like that up. I'm making a documentary short that i'd like to show exclusively on the web.

I now find myself in need of finishing the film and creating a website from which to stream it. I want to go 100% DIY and just put it out there and maybe charge a minimal fee. I guess i should be trawling website development forums (!)


Lisa Salem
Fri 7 Dec 2007Link

Hey Evan

Check out: http://nomadsland.com/content/view/56/138/, http://arincrumley.com (look for the video podcasts from the London Film Festival 'Power to the Pixel' event and especially watch the two videos where Lance Weiler of 'Head Trauma' and Susan Buice / Arin Crumley of 'Four Eyed Monsters' detail the processes they went through for getting their films out there – levering their web presences as much as possible). And after you've looked at those, and best of all, check out http://workbookproject.com for all things DIY filmmaking. It's a big subject and you'll probably initially only want to take on a small section of it by the sounds of what you're trying to do, but it's good to know the bigger picture before starting out I think. Nomadsland might be a simpler way of catering to your needs though too and I've given you the link for their 'About' page. http://www.selfreliantfilm.com is another one to look at.

Edited Fri 7 Dec 2007 by Lisa Salem

Doug Block
Sat 8 Dec 2007Link

Good suggestions, Lisa. Have you introduced yourself yet? There's no info about you in your profile so no idea whether you qualify to be a Member. But sounds like you know your stuff, so consider it. You'd have access to many more discussion topics here.


Evan Thomas
Sat 8 Dec 2007Link

Cheers Lisa. I've had the workbook project bookmarked for a few months and it's one of my favourite sites to visit. Thank you for the link to the "Power to the Pixel" panel discussion, i just watched it, very interesting and just what i needed to watch right now.

I think i know what i have to do but i need to learn the technical stuff so i can put it into practice. I'm off to scour the web.


Lisa Salem
Sat 8 Dec 2007Link

Hey Evan – I kinda realised that after I posted.... It might also be useful to check out the videoblogging Yahoo group – at the least it'll lead you to great info about optimum compression settings etc... – just type in videoblogging on the Yahoo Groups homepage and you'll find it – but I realise that's not really what you're after...

And cheers Doug – I just did the formal introduction and will get onto the member/bio stuff too... :)


Brian Boyko
Wed 12 Dec 2007Link

I've got a problem. A key person in my documentary on New Zealand politics sat down to do the interview but refused to sign the release form. We did the interview anyway. On camera, he gave us permission to use the interview in New Zealand's Film Archive and for Online Streaming – unedited – but would not sign the contract.

He's a public figure and it shouldn't be a problem – I don't he'd sue us, but I can see how this can scare off distributors.

Here's what I'm thinking about doing. The problem is not permission to use his words. It's journalism – and so long as he is quoted accurately, it's not a problem. The problem is using his voice and image- the talent release, as it were.

That says to me that my best option, if I want to use him (and he's so key I kinda have to), is to buy a Getty Images picture of him, dump that on the screen, and hire a voice actor to say the exact same thing he said the same way he did during the interview. Because I have permision to use the unedited material online, people can see that the quotes are accurate.

The way I think this would work, artistically in the film, would be to shoot footage of a NZ flag, and have a scrolling screen with a stentorian voice reading:

"Mr [...] was willing to sit down with us for an on-camera interview but was not willing to sign a release so that we could use his voice and likeness in this movie. Because of that, his voice has been reenacted in this documentary.

Those interested in seeing the original footage can go to the New Zealand Film Archives Reference # "X", or go to "www.youtube.com/X" – both of which Mr. X has given permission for."

What do you think?


Joe Moulins
Wed 12 Dec 2007Link

You'll be able to use the interview. If it happened as you describe it, he very obviously consented to be interviewed.

He's a public figure. And a dick, by the sound of it.

Make him look bad.


Brian Boyko
Wed 12 Dec 2007Link

He is... a man used to getting his way.

I'll do the rough cut with the full video interview. If a distributor balks, I can tell them what happened and offer the voice recreation option.

– Brian.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 12 Dec 2007Link

When working in news for (Australian) ABC in Europe, I was told on-camera consent is adequate. Did he specifically say no to the images? If not, check with legal eagles but I think you're covered.


Wolfgang Achtner
Wed 12 Dec 2007Link

Bryan,

You write that this man is a "public figure." Do you mean that he is a politician or a member of a local/national government? I'm just trying to figure out what you mean by "public."

By definition, if a given person is a public figure and they have agreed to an interview, everything they say is on the record and can be used.

In most countries, the only restriction that I can think of would be filming someone inside their homes without consent.


Brian Boyko
Thu 13 Dec 2007Link

This man is a politician. He holds a ministerial position in the national government of New Zealand. He has obviously agreed to the interview.

There are two complications. 1) The interview took place in his party's caucus room, and we do not have a location release. It's not his home or personal office, but it is an area not open to the general public. 2) The man is VERY well known in New Zealand. He is a famous and very controversial figure here. He holds high national office. But if people in the U.S. don't know who he is, would he be considered a private figure in the U.S. market?


Joe Moulins
Thu 13 Dec 2007Link

I don't claim to be an expert on ...anything, really, but I do suspect you are overthinking this, Brian. This sounds like a cut and dried case of a Big Swinging Dick messing with you.

If you ask this question in the legal forum you may get a more nuanced response, but I don't think you have anything to worry about in this case.


Brian Boyko
Thu 13 Dec 2007Link

Thanks – yeah. When we go over the raw footage, we'll see what we have him on tape saying. :)


Wolfgang Achtner
Thu 13 Dec 2007Link

Brian,

This is really a no brainer.

A Minister is a public figure. He agreed to go on camera (this is proven by the fact that you have the recording). You can use video. End of subject.


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