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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

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Robert Goodman
Mon 31 Mar 2003Link
Riley,

For confirmation please check a recent issue of the Independent Film
& Video Monthly - I think Dec/Jan with the Open City folks on the
cover. Jason and Joanna Kliot.
they wrote a piece about distribution that confirmed everything I've
learned and made the points i posted.

Donya Archer
Fri 4 Apr 2003Link
Dear Pros-
Is it necessary to secure "life story rights" for a documentary?
Is it ever kosher to pay a subject for appearing in a doc? The
subject of my film feels he needs some kind of compensation, beyond
publicity-- He also needs the money, which I totally understand.
Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks--

Robert Goodman
Fri 4 Apr 2003Link
we all need money but paying for participation seems unethical to
most. What can and does happen is if the project is successful, the
participants share in the wealth, e.g., hoop dreams - the players
and parents received a share of the pie.

It's a very good idea to secure "life rights" because Small Wonders
becaming Playing with Strings with Meryl Streep and the life rights
holder benefited from Hollywood's interest after the doc was
successful.

Doug Block
Sat 5 Apr 2003Link
Nothing wrong with the participant reaping much, if not all, of any
profits. Not that docs make profits ;-)

Robert Goodman
Sat 5 Apr 2003Link
rarely or ever.

Rhonda Moskowitz
Sun 6 Apr 2003Link
Robert- What are life rights? Is this something that all documentary
filmmakers need to get from their subjects?

Doug Block
Sun 6 Apr 2003Link
Rhonda, as I understand it, life rights are rights to the life story
of the main character(s) in your doc, which are nice for you to secure
in writing in case someone wants to make a fiction film based on their
lives after seeing the documentary.

Not always easy to get. It brings up possible issues of the subjects
feeling exploited, so you should tread carefully and find out from an
entertainment lawyer how to go about it. Also, wouldn't do it unless
you feel your character and his or her situation is so compelling that
Hollywood is sure to come calling.

Rhonda Moskowitz
Mon 7 Apr 2003Link
Thanks Doug. You are right about treading carefully. I'm just in
the beginning stages of production, so I won't deal with this until
further down the road. Speaking of an entertainment lawyer, is there
a difference between an entertainment lawyer and a producer's rep?
Also, is this the place on D-Word where I can ask specific questions
about my film-in-progress? This is my first film.

Doug Block
Tue 8 Apr 2003Link
the lines are getting increasingly blurry with the john sloss types
out there doing both, but generally an entertainment lawyer is paid by
the hour and a producer's rep gets a percentage of any distribution
advance and, depending, other sales.

Jennifer Fleming
Tue 8 Apr 2003Link
hi there, new to the board.
i am thinking of making a doc, i have very limited resources
in terms of money.just curious what is fair compensation for a main
character(s) in terms of percentages if the film makes any money?

Doug Block
Tue 8 Apr 2003Link
it's your choice, jennifer. most doc makers don't give their
subjects a profit share. some give up to 50%. it all depends on your
relationship to the subjects, what they want, what you want to give,
etc.

just make it clear to them that the chances of making any profit is
excedingly small.

Jennifer Fleming
Tue 8 Apr 2003Link
thanks doug! that helps!

Rhonda Moskowitz
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
Thanks Doug.You are a wealth of information and very generous in
sharing it! Which would you advise for someone like me? An
entertainment lawyer or a producer's rep?

Rhonda Moskowitz
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
Hi Doug, Just saw the list of Sundance grant recipients and saw you
just received a development grant. Congratulations! That's
wonderful!

Doug Block
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
thanks, rhonda. i'd recommend an entertainment lawyer until you're
confident your film will start a bidding war at sundance next year.
then, hey, give me a call ;-)

Rhonda Moskowitz
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
Thanks. Do you recommend any particular ones in NY?

Doug Block
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
Well, I like my lawyer, Robert Freedman: 212-974-7474. He's been
very involved with AIVF over the years and is very sympathetic to
indie filmmakers. Say hi from me.

Rhonda Moskowitz
Wed 9 Apr 2003Link
Thanks Doug. Also, I called Fernanda Rossi, because I don't like my
demo reel and she was extremely helpful and knowledgable. I saw that
you mentioned her in this "Mentoring Room", and I trust your
referrals. She made some terrific suggestions and she's also
extremely nice. You are very hooked in to the documentary film scene
and are a wealth of knowledge. As I've mentioned,I'm making my first
film and I find your suggestions and this whole doc film site an
invaluable resource. (For other people reading this I am not related
to Doug, and I'm not earning any extra income from him for my
feedback, which he didn't ask for.)

Jennifer Fleming
Tue 15 Apr 2003Link
Hi There!
First time filmmaker here, I want to begin shooting a documentary
about a club and the exotic dancers who work in the club, is there
any legal protocal I should follow in terms of releases, life story
rights, and location releases? Can anyone also recommend a book or
online website that would have similar legal contracts and releases?
Any info from you pro's would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in
advance!

jenn

Doug Block
Tue 15 Apr 2003Link
Hi, Jennifer. I highly recommend you check out entertainment lawyer
Mark Litwak's website: http://marklitwak.com. Get releases from
everyone you can, including patrons whose faces are recognizable (good
luck!). Get a release from the club, absolutely. As for life rights,
it seems premature. I'd deal with that a little later down the line -
might spook your subject(s) unnecessarily.

Jennifer Fleming
Tue 15 Apr 2003Link
Thank you so much Doug! Your advice is greatly appreciated!

Doug Block
Wed 16 Apr 2003Link
Are you perchance the same Jennifer Fleming who worked on An American
Love Story?

Jennifer Fleming
Thu 17 Apr 2003Link
Darn . . . there is another Jennifer Fleming filmmaker out there? No
Doug, I am not her. I am a first-time doc filmmaker - I wish I can
claim her experience instead of her name.
Thanks again for your help. I am certain that my questions will be
posting frequently over the next several weeks as I embark on this
storytelling journey. :)

Gillian Grimm
Fri 18 Apr 2003Link
Can you give some advice on music copyright for documentaries. What
do you need to get/do to use an artists music in your film? Thanks!

Doug Block
Sat 19 Apr 2003Link
D-Word member Denise Ohio has written an extremely helpful article
about music clearances: http://www.holytoledo.com/clear_music.htm

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