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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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Kai Hagen
Fri 22 Sep 2000Link
I hope so...I have a pretty basic question, but it is only loosely
documentary-related (don't ask!)...

I think I am soon going to have to produce a basic three minute video,
for a highly specific purpose. I have an old and adequate camcorder,
but I am thinking it would be far easier to edit with a new digital
video camera than by simply recording bits in order off the camera to
video tape (told you this was basic).

Is it relatively easy to edit - and learn to edit? Would it look
better? Can I get a just-decent-enough video camera for a few hundred
dollars?

Doug Block
Mon 25 Sep 2000Link
Basic editing isn't really that difficult, Kai, though you certainly
need practice to get good at it. It's also getting easier and easier
to find good, inexpensive desktop editing systems. But you need an
edit system of some kind to do what you're looking for.

The new I-Macs have an edit program that comes with it and would be
perfect for your needs. Or you can buy iMovie 2 for any Mac with
firewire capabilities:

http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-
APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore.woa/91/wo/AaO431PjxGKKIGZFXN/0.3.0.3.28.59
.0.iMoviePromo.0.2.0.3.1.1.0?73,55

More and more streaming video websites are offering downloadable
editing software, as well. Some are free.

The cheapest digital camcorders will probably run you close to
$1,000, but you can try ebay for a used one.

Billy
Tue 26 Sep 2000Link
It would be far easier to edit with a digital source. There are
programs for Mac and PC that will do a very good job for little more
than $100. Doug is right you will have to spend close to $1000 for a
new digital camera and I personally would not buy one second-hand
unless I knew who I was buying from. Perhaps you might rent or borrow
one for a specific project.

Doug Block
Wed 27 Sep 2000Link
Thanks for the followup, Billy. Why doncha tell us all about the
glory of you in the Introduce Yourself thread: LINK NOT IMPORTED

Kai Hagen
Wed 27 Sep 2000Link
Thanks for the insight, guys.

I wish the camera was cheaper, but that is about what I expected. I
think I might at least look at a used one or two - but renting or
borrowing seems like the best option for a one-time, three minute
project.

I've got a G4, Doug, purchased last year. I wonder if I have the
software I need. Probably not...as I suppose I would have known it
(even though I didn't need it).

John D. Williams
Fri 10 Nov 2000Link
I was wondering if a topic could be created here to alert us to
places/times/dates where we can see documentary films. A topic named
something like:

ITEM TITLE
Festivals & Screenings: Where you can see documentary films

Description:
This topic is where film festival dates and individual screening
dates for films on television or colleges, etc., etc., etc.

Does that sound like a good idea? I know about some of the bigger
festivals (Sundance, Hot Springs, etc.), but if I knew someone's film
had a screening date at UT-Arlington just 45 minutes away, that would
be nice to know about. And if I should happen to learn that TCU is
showing a Robert Flaherty film which is open to the public, it would
be nice to have a topic where I could share that info.

Sure, we're spread out all over the country and if someone posts that
their new film is playing in Boston I'm not going to hop on the next
plane, but if, for example, I knew Doug Block or Robert Goodman or
some other D-Worder was going to be at Chico State University while I
was visiting my parents -- hey, I'd go see them -- Doug or Robert,
that is ... and my folks, too. :-)

A place to know about television and/or cable network screenings
would be especially helpful.

Just an idea.

Jen Williams
Fri 10 Nov 2000Link
I think it's a good idea. Maybe the Shameless Self-Promotion topic
could be expanded to include the promotion of others as well. For
example, I wanted to alert anyone who might be interested that Ken
Burns' documentary on jazz will begin airing on 1/08/01 on PBS, but I
wasn't sure where to post it. Also, if people go to a big festival
that maybe not everyone could get to, they could give reveiws of the
films or talk about the techniques they saw. I know *i'd* be
interested in something like that.

_______________________________________

John D. Williams
Fri 10 Nov 2000Link
Guess we "Williams'" think alike. :-)

Robert Goodman
Fri 10 Nov 2000Link
Sounds like an excellent idea. Just open a new topic and start
posting notices. I'm sure any of us with films playing will post a
notice.

Doug Block
Sat 11 Nov 2000Link
John, Jen, Robert, your wish is our command: LINK NOT IMPORTED

Mark Spiegel
Fri 4 May 2001Link
Hello fellow Doc enthusiasts... Is it my imagination, or has no
one posted here for 6 months? Okay...heres another suggestion.
How about a place to post/read listings of doc talent divided up
by region and/or city? I would love to have a place to find a
partner to work on my project, or create a local doc community to
share ideas up close and personal. Any interest?

Linda Goin
Sun 20 May 2001Link
I introduced myself over in The D-Word LINK NOT IMPORTED (don't know if
that linking method will work - lousy at that). I'm located in
Schaumburg, IL, outside of Chicago. Moved here from Colorado in
November, 2000, since it's easier and less expensive to fly in and
out of O'Hare than any other airport I can think of. It's actually
easier to get to other parts of the country from here than it is to
get into downtown Chicago.

I don't travel as much as I used to, but I'm flexible. Most of my
clients live a good distance away - we're all wired to the Internet,
so that saves some travel time and money. Would be interested myself
to see who's in this area, however.

Tony Esposito
Wed 27 Jun 2001Link
Hello everyone, while taping construction sites for my project about
growth in NC, I have been approached by workers wanting to know what
I'm doing, and why. I'm taping from across the street, so they can't
say I'm trespassing. At first they try to bully me, then, when I
stand up to them and politely state what I'm doing, they back down.
Has anyone else run into this when filming, and how did you handle
your situation? Does anyone have any good war stories?

Thanks in advance,
Tony Esposito

Doug Block
Wed 27 Jun 2001Link
Tony, why don't you try politely stating what you're doing FIRST?
Might save you a lot of aggravation. Not to mention, it's just common
courtesy. And who knows what interesting footage it might lead to
once you start talking to some workers.

Robert Goodman
Wed 27 Jun 2001Link
Try talking to the project manager (usually in the construction
office). The guys on the site are probably worried that you're taping
them to make sure they're not goofing off, performing work that would
invalidate a disability claim, attempting to bust the union, catch
stealing of construction materials, spying on them flirting with
passersby for a divorce case or anything else that goes through
anyone's head when you're being surveilled.

Tony Esposito
Wed 27 Jun 2001Link
Thanks for the input Doug and Robert. I'll give your ideas a try. I
suppose I could film on the weekends when there are no workers there.
My coworkers at the local NBC affiliate also pointed out they may
think I'm with the INS looking for illegal workers.
Thanks again
Tony Esposito

Adele Wood
Wed 14 Nov 2001Link
Hi. I'm Adele and I've been asked by our local cable access
coordinator to make three thirty minute shows on emergency
preparations for winter storms or terrorist attacks. My family, (my
16 year old daughter and my boyfriend), and I, are all going to take
the cable show production course in the next week. I'm a total
beginner at producing though I hosted two cooking shows once. I also
have a BFA. Here are my questions: I'm writing the show in my head-
the kernal of what I'm trying to communicate. Is the best approach to
schedule time where I sit down and write the show? Is it like writing
a letter where it takes time to phrase things so that the logic of
what you really want to say finally comes across in an elegant way?
Or, because televised video is not text, you need to think and write
differently? Do I only need to write an outline and then wing it? I
want to help people see how they can put together some supplies in
case they have to live on their own for a few days up to a couple of
weeks. Thank you listening. I would appreciate even a small amount of
help. Thanks, again.

Doug Block
Wed 14 Nov 2001Link
An outline is helpful, Adele, for sure. But unless you're an expert
in terrorism yourself, you might want to start by rounding up a few
experts and videotaping interviews with them. Then tape them (or
someone) demonstrating some of the things they advise.

Remember, tv is a visual medium and you need to think about conveying
information visually.

Taking a course is a great idea, too.

Good luck!

Ben Kempas
Wed 14 Nov 2001Link
The 1950s saw some great films of this kind ...
They offered advice for the unlikely event of a nuclear attack, and
all they told people was to "duck and cover".

Maybe that could be a way to start for you: Buy some of the old
library footage only to invite people to follow a more up-to-date
approach instead. If you make people smile, they will remember much
better what they've been told.

Signed, Ben under the breakfast table with a newspaper sheet on top of
his head.

Adele Wood
Thu 15 Nov 2001Link
Both great ideas! Especially the newspaper over the head as a
radiation deterrent. In the early sixties, at my boarding school
outside DC, I asked about the Civil Defense signs over the doorways
to the basement laundry rooms. I knew a basement was not going to
protect us, and my seeing and commenting on the absurdity of the
signs was highly unappreciated by the "authorities". The fifties
films would be good and I like the advice on interviewing experts,
because this is not my field. Thank you!!!

Doug Block
Fri 16 Nov 2001Link
Welcome ;-)

David Herman
Fri 16 Nov 2001Link
The newspaper over Ben's head is to hide his identity. Otherwise he
is a brilliant filmmaker. I know. I saw one of his efforts on the web
recently. Super stuff. Maybe he could post the URL.

Jeff Carr
Fri 21 Dec 2001Link
Hi all. I am working on a documenatary on my school. I am currently
only 16 but so far I have been able to wing it. I was wondering if
anyone knew of any good places to look for writing a good proposal
for getting my documentary shown on our local television station. I
have already talked to the producer, and he said he was interested in
the program, for my school is closing down and re-locating. He has
asked me to write up a proposal. I was planning on writing up
keypoint sheets, for them to look at, and then doing a powerepoint
presentation, and presenting storyboards of my project. Ifyou know
of a place to look for writing proposals,could you please let me
know, Thanks

Robert Goodman
Fri 21 Dec 2001Link
www.communicator.com

James Hannon
Tue 5 Feb 2002Link
Hiya, it doesnt look like this Topic gets much use lately, so I'll
send out a scout message to see if anyones still watching...

If theres a better place to ask, let me know...I know the D-Word
Community Forum is a bit more popular, but theres no direct Newbie
help topic that ive seen...People have been great answering my
questions in the separate topics tho...

Thanx
-=James aka "Newbie James" LOL

Ben Kempas
Tue 5 Feb 2002Link
Well, {LINK NOT IMPORTED} is "popular" in the sense that it is public.
{LINK NOT IMPORTED} is for members only. Topics in the Community
tend to be more specific than the ones in this rather general forum.

Post wherever you feel comfortable. We don't bite. Well, I don't.
Maybe Doug does?

Doug Block
Wed 6 Feb 2002Link
Naaaaahhhh, not me.

James Hannon
Thu 7 Feb 2002Link
Well, glad to see that two of you dont bite! Thats always a plus in
any conversation ;)

Ok, Ill ask a probably-covered-numerous-times question here...

Ive got a lot of jpeg/gifs of the band I am doing a documentary of
back from the 1960's - They're not the greatest quality, and the
original pix are pretty much lost (and werent the greatest quality
either) - You can see some of the pix i have here -
http://richardandtheyounglions.com/ryl-legend-page1.asp and
http://richardandtheyounglions.com/ryl-legend-page2.asp

These will definitely be going into my docu in some shape or form, and
i was wondering the best way to show them..

For example, if youre looking at the website, theres a pic of the
Original Kounts on page 1.. If you're not looking at the site, theres
a promo pic of 5 guys hanging around a cannon..

I was planning on doing a closeup of the guys faces as they get
introduced by the story (only 3 of the members of the pic have agreed
to be interviewed, and only 2 will have video interviews (the third
will send me an audiotape)

Being that i only have this pic as a computer file, how would i best
film what i explained? Print an enlarged pic out on a good printer,
then film the enlarged photo? Have the pic maxed out on screen and
film a portion of the screen? Or if you have a better solution, im
all ears...

Any ideas? I am shooting using a Sony VX-2000 DV and editing with
Final Cut Pro 2(still learning) on a Mac G4/867 with beautifully
working Firewire...

Thats my current dilemma :) Thanx!
-=James

Robert Goodman
Thu 7 Feb 2002Link
Stage Tools, After Effects, soon to be announced version of XpressDV
with built-in rostrum camera effects.

James Hannon
Thu 7 Feb 2002Link
Hi Robert, whats a rostrum camera effect? Rostrum in the dictionary
is like a birds beak or an elevated platform, and i cant see the
connection there... I also dont have any of those programs to see the
effect...

P.s. if your message wasnt directed at me, ill keep quiet now...;)

Take care
-=James

Robert Goodman
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
Rostrum camera is what we used to call an Oxberry or any camera
mounted on or over a motion control platform. You mount the
photograph on the platform which can be moved in the X, Y, or by
adjusting the height of the camera - in the Z axis.

These are all programs that allow you to do the same thing using
software. For examples - see any Ken Burns production.

James Hannon
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
Ok, now i know the effect you mention - It was actually what i had in
mind - just didnt know the name of it..

So the software packages you mentioned can do this effect on a
jpeg/gif already loaded on the system? I recently got an old copy of
After Effects (i think 3.1) that I havent used yet - Ill look in there
and see what it can do...

Thanx a bunch!
-=James

Robert Goodman
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
uncompressed images work better. Try Tiffs or Picts.

James Hannon
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
Ok, will do - just started looking at after effects 3.1 - couldnt find
it so i hit the google newsgroup search (used to be Deja) and found
out that rostrum effects ony came out with version 5...

Oh well, ill see if i can find it on ebay...

Thanx!

Nina Gilden Seavey
Sun 10 Feb 2002Link
I was going back through postings in this discussion and was struck by
the filmmaker who was having trouble shooting at construction location
- people on the site where he was filming an independent project were
hostile and suspicious to his activities.

I was surprised that no one mentioned to this individual that in order
to use the footage that he was shooting that he needs releases from
these people or he can't use the material at all.

Thankfully, we have privacy laws in this country that allow action
against people who surveil us in any location of our lives without our
consent or a court order -- this prohibition even applies to
well-intentioned filmmakers.

If this filmmaker does not go back and try to procure permission from
the individuals he was filming, they can sue him. If it has gone to
air, his errors and omissions insurance can be revoked and he will
have a hard time getting any future support to have his work seen
anywhere.

One of the great challenges, it seems to me, in making documentaries
is garnering both the cooperation and trust of those who we are
filming -- in all circumstances. The onus is on the filmmaker to
engage his or her subjects in the filmmaking process, for both ethical
and legal reasons.

Nina Seavey
Director, The Documentary Center
George Washin

Tina Difeliciantonio
Tue 19 Feb 2002Link
Hi,

I'm hoping someone out there could help me find an old version
for Mac of Photoshop 4.0.

Does anyone know where I could acquire this version of the
program?

Thanks!

Doug Block
Wed 20 Feb 2002Link
No need to double post, Tina. Especially when both are in the wrong
topics :-) I've emailed you with instructions.

Rob Green
Thu 21 Feb 2002Link
Hi, Nina.
Reading the construction site discussion, I thought the same
thing, but isn't there some legal allowance for filming public
events? Where, as the lawyers say, people "have no reasonable
expectation of privacy?"
In an operational sense, I agree that it's always best to have a
signed release, but I have the impression that in certain cases it
isn't strictly necessary.
Am I wrong?

Nina Gilden Seavey
Sun 24 Feb 2002Link
Robert - As you say, there are public figures for whom you do not need
release -- individuals who, by virtue of their public standing are, in
fact, a sort of public property. Government figures would fall into
this category, sports stars may or may not, recalcitrant famous but
reclusive authors probably not, and the list goes on. It is a tough
line to draw - and a harder one to defend in court.

In addition, say you are filming a public person in an event and there
are other "non public" people walking around in front of your camera
and you capture them on film - you can't use them without a release -
even if the focal point of the shot is on this "public person."

But I have a good, and legal, solution to this provided to me by my
very excellent entertainment attorney, which I have been using for
years.

When we are filming in a public arena - an event, a stadium, a crowded
room, a construction site, etc - at the entrance - on a large poster
board - we put up a notice that entering into this space implies
release by all who choose to enter. You shoot that sign with people
reading it (as evidence that it was placed in a location where people
can see it) and you are in the clear.

Sometimes I also put flyers in plain site that people can pick up and
read that lets them know what the film is about and who we are. This
helps to keep questions to a minimum so I and my crew can focus on our
work.

Similarly, I have recently shot in concert locations and have had an
announcement come over the public address system reminding attendants
that we are shooting and we film this announcement as evidence of
informed consent as well. You must be able to show due diligence in
letting people know that the material you are shooting can be
considered for public consumption and that, as individuals, they may
be put on the screen.

But you must attend to these legal details or you can have both
problems with distribution and worse, you may end up invading the
legitimate privacy of individuals who do not wa

Robert Goodman
Sun 24 Feb 2002Link
I think there's a bit more room than Nina indicated. People attending
public events have minimal right to sue if they are not the focus of
the film. Merely showing someone in the crowd at an event doesn't
require a release. Everyday, the news media photographs people at
events without prior notice or releases. You do need a release if you
isolate someone in the crowd or in the case of construction example
which is not a public event (demonstrations, sporting events,
political rallies, performances in Central Park). There is also the
rule about identifiability. The person in the crowd must be clearly
recognizable and on screen for long enough for someone to recognize
them. The other issue that comes into play is what you say about the
images or the purpose to which the images are used. No one sues
because you shot them unless they happen to be there with someone
else's spouse or use the material to illustrate something contrary to
why they were there in the first place.

So, photograph someone at a political rally for nuclear disarmanment
and use the footage as crowd support for the KKK and you will have
problems. Of course, you will have the same problem whether you have a
signed release from the person or not.

Rob Green
Tue 26 Feb 2002Link
Nina - I've done the poster thing, too. The flyers are a good tip.
I'll keep it in mind. I think the situations the *other* Robert G.
mentioned are more like what I was thinking of. Where people
are truly in *public*.

In a pinch--with interview subjects who weren't able to read a
release, for example--I've also explained what we're doing and
gotten their agreement on camera.

I'm actually not sure if that would be legal or not. Just wanted to
show due diligence.

Thor Henrikson
Wed 27 Feb 2002Link
Just to chip in on the release discussion, I recently shot at a
large tournament in Stockholm and was lucky enough to be able
to get the organizers to mention in their welcome speech that a
film crew was there and if anyone objected to being filmed they
should talk to us us directly, we filmed this verbal (bilingual)
notice and no-one came to talk to us. Hopefully having that tape
will be enough. I realize that a troublemaker could always say
that they did talk to us and we ignored them, but I feel we are
covered. At a previous international tournament our PC had to
collect over 200 signatures from participants from 10 different
countries (and languages), something we did not want to repeat
having to do.

I did learn something about shooting in airports on this shoot
that I never knew before. Apparently airports are 'public spaces'
and a location release or permission is not required to shoot
there, (although with security being what it is it is best to call
ahead and let them know you are coming and what you'll be
doing there.)

My question is, if someone is in an area considered a public
space (ie; an airport) do they have any expectation of privacy? Not
that we were shooting close ups of strangers but as our
character lined up and said his good-byes there were strangers
standing around him who will end up on screen in the
background. What would the situation be there when it is in what
is considered "public space" and there is obviously a film crew
present and working?

Ben Kempas
Wed 27 Feb 2002Link
Thor - Welcome to the D-Word. This is the public forum {LINK NOT IMPORTED},
maybe you want to post your question inside {LINK NOT IMPORTED} as
well.

You can introduce yourself in {LINK NOT IMPORTED} and post
your question in the Legal Corner {LINK NOT IMPORTED}.

Carissa Potenza
Wed 27 Mar 2002Link
I'm a recent addition to the D-Word community as well, but
thought I'd inquire of this forum:

I'm re-directing my career (after 4 years in production at MTV
News & Docs), and am tremendously interested in outreach
campaigning for social impact docs. I'd love any suggestions or
advice about this area of work, as well as any ideas of who are
the best folks to contact to find work in this field. Thanks so
much!

Doug Block
Thu 28 Mar 2002Link
Carissa, you might want to peruse the MediaRights.org website for ideas. And read the Outreach salon we did here recently {LINK NOT IMPORTED}.


Carissa Potenza
Thu 28 Mar 2002Link
Thanks, checked them both out already, & they're great
resources!

Jesse Turner
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Hello

This is Jesse Turner, I'm a film student in Victoria B.C. I am
looking for everyone's personal definition of the "documentary". If
it isn't to much trouble I would really appreciate it if you
contacted me with your full name, an e-mail adress, and your personal
definition (please don't be afraid to be unique and poetic, though
you don't have to.) This is a study I am doing, your work will NOT be
exploited, I am just a very curious individual looking for a
proffesional opinion on the subject. Thank you for your time and
considerations, I am eager to recieve this information and look
forward to becoming closer to this community of brilliant individuals.
(I also think that this topic would make for a good conversation).

thank you.

please send name, doc-definition, and e-mail to james_pare@shaw.ca

Ben Kempas
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Please don't double-post. Most of us do read all topics. Thanks :-)

Doug Block
Mon 6 May 2002Link
My definition of documentary is pretty loose, since I love docs that
stretch the form and blur the line between fiction and non-fiction.

I guess I'd define it as, hmmm... I think I better think some more
before I answer ;-)

Doug Block
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Actually, post your answers here instead of emailing Jesse. He can
always come back, and it would be valuable to have the answers
archived.

Jesse Turner
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Thanks people. This will be a great help.

John Burgan
Mon 6 May 2002Link
"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a woman, it's a
semi-documentary." said Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures: quoted
by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.

I don't necessarily concur with this opinion, but there you go.

Doug Block
Tue 7 May 2002Link
How's this...? "A work, such as a film or television program,
presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a
factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news
films or interviews accompanied by narration."

Actually, got this at www.dictionary.com. And it's about 20 years
out of date!

Today, it's more like... a story with a sweeping dramatic arc,
featuring fascinating characters in a highly unusal situation of great
conflict, where the filmmakers had complete access at all times.

Sound like fiction films? Well, check out the HBO schedule sometime.

Jesse Turner
Tue 7 May 2002Link
Thanks these are all fantastic. I look foreward to any others you
may have. Many thanks again, you guys are great.

Ben Kempas
Tue 7 May 2002Link
Documentaries are made out of curiosity and manage to keep the
viewers' curiosity alive.

Documentaries are made out of responsibility and manage to make the
viewers aware of their responsibility.

How's that?

Paul Robinson
Sat 11 May 2002Link
I have a pretty simple question. I am in the middle of shooting a
documentary on a local heavyweight bower and have had several
inquires already about it. My question is regarding license fees and
broadcasting rights, how much ? One partcular inquiry came from a tv
station in Indonesia ! I would like to have some idea of the price
range before I blunder in and blow the whole deal! Any information
would be greatly appreciated

Doug Block
Mon 13 May 2002Link
Don't know for sure, Paul, but I doubt it's much. You should read
the Jan Rofekamp conference we just held, and especially the link to
his report on the state of the international marketplace.

Rachelle Cournoyer
Mon 13 May 2002Link
Look in the international TV trade magaziness, MIP TV issue. They
give dollar values for television sales in various countries that are
fairly reliable in giving a ballpark.

Craig Highberger
Wed 22 May 2002Link
I am working on a biographical documentary of a person who was a now
little-known performer (now deceased). I have many photos from the
subjects personal collection, performance stills and studio shots
(for PR). Several dozen I want to use are unattributed... and most
are decades old and none of the surviving friends or relatives have
any idea of who the photogs were. I remember seeing a documentary
several years ago that had something in the end credits along the
lines of acknowledging these unattributed photos... anyone have any
thoughts on this?

Doug Block
Wed 22 May 2002Link
Welcome, Craig. How can you acknowledge an unattributed work? Or,
to put it a different way, what's the point?

Craig Highberger
Wed 22 May 2002Link
HA! You are correct Doug... but what I saw was something atune
to: "The producers have made every effort to attribute
photographs used in this film from the private collections... yada
yada..." which is to ward off lawsuits. In my case this is the
situation... I have made every effort but still want to use these
unattributed photos. Just wondered if anyone else has been in
this position. It is maddening. Thank goodness, just today I got
in touch with a retired big name photog who has many shots that
I need in his files... but I would love to hear from anyone who has
used unattributed photos as cutaways. Thanks!

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 23 May 2002Link
I think I saw this done recently in Alan Berliner's "The Sweetest
Sound" (http://www.pbs.org/pov/sweetestsound/). He used a lot of
archival family film shots at the beginning (the kind of strange
stuff you find at garage sales) and then ended the film with
something along the lines of "If you know any of the folks in these
films, contact me."

As for your question, I think that if the photos are from the
performer's personal collection, he (or his family) owns the rights.
When you say "studio shots," I assume you mean like a Sears studio
rather than Warner Bros. If the latter, you might need rights from
the movie studio.

Craig Highberger
Thu 23 May 2002Link
Thanks, Erica, that is just what I was thinking of - thanks for the
link too! Craig

Olympia Stone
Thu 30 May 2002Link
Hi, my name is Olympia Stone and I have worked in the tv
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
appreciated--thanks!!!

Craig Highberger
Thu 30 May 2002Link
Olympia, I am in the same situtation and found wonderful examples on the PBS POV documentary website:

There are lots of examples of the materials prepared for PR including synopsis, fact sheets, etc.

Good luck! Craig


Doug Block
Thu 30 May 2002Link
The IFP website has a sample application for attending the IFP
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
also help.

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!

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
Mon 3 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
Thu 13 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
Wed 31 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
Tue 13 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
Tue 13 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
Fri 20 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
Sat 28 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

Doug Block
Tue 8 Oct 2002Link
Veena, we're crazy about movies here, too! If you have a specific
question, feel free to ask.

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 9 Oct 2002Link
Stephen, would a church be considered a public space or an enclosed
space?

Veena Almad
Wed 9 Oct 2002Link
hi people,
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....
luv
veena

Ben Kempas
Wed 9 Oct 2002Link
The thing is that with documentaries, you rarely have a screenplay
writer.

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?

Doug Block
Wed 9 Oct 2002Link
Veena, the Distribution panel covers the gamut of all indie film, but
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
else knows..?

Veena Almad
Wed 9 Oct 2002Link
thanks people....
for caring abt me and writing....
veena

John Greer
Thu 10 Oct 2002Link
Erica,

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.

Peace,

John

Michael Oko
Thu 10 Oct 2002Link
Hi~ I am in the process of trying to finish my first independent-- ie
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
advise?

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!

Mike Green
Fri 11 Oct 2002Link
hmmm, there are people alot more pro than I and perhaps they'll jump
in but...

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.

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