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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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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?

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