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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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Adele Wood
Tue 13 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
Tue 13 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
Tue 13 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
Thu 20 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
Thu 20 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
Wed 6 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
Fri 8 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
Tue 19 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.

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