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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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Cameron Page
Tue 3 Aug 2004Link
Hey, I'd love to participate in the political documentary forum, but
for some reason no text box appears when I go to that topic, even
though I do get a text box in all other topics. Anyone else having
this problem? Is this maybe why there are no comments yet?

Cameron

Doug Block
Tue 3 Aug 2004Link
It hasn't started yet, Cameron. It runs from Mon, Aug 9 to Fri, Aug
13. Until then, it's "read only."

John Philp
Thu 19 Aug 2004Link
HI all. I've been working on a film by myself for about a year and now have
found someone i want to bring on as an assistant producer/associate
producer type. of course i don't have any money, and i'm wondering what i
can offer to keep their interest. deferments? percentage of any money they
raise from grant bodies, etc.? or should i just pay them a nominal amount (i.e.
$75/day)?

this is someone with no experience in docs but great experience as a writer,
etc. i.e. someone who deserves to be paid. what's usual? what's fair?

Doug Block
Thu 19 Aug 2004Link
hard to keep an assoc. or ass't producer without paying something.
you could do a partial deferment. and/or % of funds raised. or,
better yet, make him or her co-producer and pay them nothing ;-)

John Philp
Thu 19 Aug 2004Link
thanks doug. but by making them co-producer what percentage of the rights
do i have to cough up? i've worked for a year now on this and i'm not quite
prepared to give up 50 percent just yet.

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 19 Aug 2004Link
John, do you have anything you could barter? Shooting one of your
AP's scripts, for example?

John Philp
Thu 19 Aug 2004Link
hmm. interesting idea, which i will float to her. thanks for the suggestion.

Doug Block
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
john, you don't give up any percentage of the rights to a co-
producer. they don't get ownership. there are many arrangements but
one example is: a small fee + % of all funds raised (10% is
reasonable) + a small profit share (10%).

Cynthia Hill
Mon 23 Aug 2004Link
Hi everyone,

Does anyone have any pointers on creating a good four-six-minute
preview reel for a documentary film. The goal is to raise money for
completion funds. Thanks!

Doug Block
Mon 23 Aug 2004Link
cynthia, contact fernanda rossi, who gives workshops on trailers and
samples. she's great and offers a free 20-minute consult, too:
http://documentarydoctor.com/workshops.html

are you the cynthia hill i knew in ny about, oh, 5, 6 years ago?

Cynthia Hill
Mon 23 Aug 2004Link
Thanks. We are trying to bring Fernanda Rossi to our university
(University of Florida) to conduct a seminar for our students and to
help us with our current project. Thanks for the tip.

Cindy

Doug Block
Mon 23 Aug 2004Link
i guess not ;-)

Katie Oros
Fri 27 Aug 2004Link
hi! i've come up with an idea for a documentary which will consist
mainly of conversations with different people from as many different
areas as i can travel to and i'm wondering how i can break up
something like this to make it interesting visually. finding all the
right people and taking the time to interview, film, edit, etc. is a
task in itself, but who wants to watch a bunch of interviews back to
back? i was going to try to include sound bytes of famous/deceased
people with some artsy old footage of them while the quotes play, but
other than that i'm not too sure what to do.
i want what the people say to be the film's emphasis so i can get
their messages out there, but i kind of also want to show my journey,
how i happen upon some of these people... like it's a film about a
quest for knowledge or something.
any advice?

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 27 Aug 2004Link
Take a look at documentaries on similar themes to see how other
filmmakers have dealt with the traveling journey film and how to make
it visually appealing. Three which come to mind that you should be
able to find on Netflix or at the video store are Sherman's March
(Ross McElwee), The Journey (Eric Saperston), and "Pop and Me" (Chris
Roe). There are many others but my brain is fried, so maybe some
other folks have some suggestions.

Chad Perdue
Fri 10 Sep 2004Link
What goes along with winning an award at a fim festival? Is there a
cash prize, distribution, or just a pat on the back?

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 10 Sep 2004Link
Depends on the festival. Some offer cash awards or some kind of
certificate/trophy. Others just a pat on the back. Certainly
winning an award at a top-tier festival is a huge advantage towards
getting distribution.

Edward Tyndall
Mon 13 Sep 2004Link
I recently produced a 45 minute historical documentary. The History
Chanel is looking at it now (have no idea what such a film would
sell for). One of the funders of the film has approached me about
backing a small production companey. I'd really like to do it ( and
get out of my bar job) but am having trouble proving that such a
companey could support itself producing documentaries.

Would we just try and form a relationsip with ditribution companies
and then produce films we think they will buy? Would we make films
and take a chance on the festival circuit? I figure we would have to
make about $120,000 a year to support the operation (2 small
saleries, equipment, rent etc.). Would this be
possible selling 1 or 2 films a year? Any advice would be great. I'm
trying not to let my enthusiasm detroy my ability to be realistic

Edward

Robert Goodman
Mon 13 Sep 2004Link
If you make commissioned docs for cable or corporate clients you
could create a viable business plan. Don't think that you can make
docs for the festival circuit with the hope that someone will pick
them up for distribution.

Edward Tyndall
Mon 13 Sep 2004Link
Dear Mr. Goodman,

Thank you for the info regarding the business plan and the festival
circuit. Would it be best for us to have an agent that markets our
concepts to distributors. If so...how can one get a list of such
agents.

Thanks,
Edward

Doug Block
Mon 13 Sep 2004Link
edward, there aren't agents for docs, per se. there are sales agents
for selling to international television. and there are sales reps
(usually entertainment lawyers like John Sloss) who help build up buzz
and broker deals with distributors. but these are for the most
compelling and noteworthy docs of the year. you're selling a pipe
dream if you think this is a viable business.

Stephanie Vevers
Wed 15 Sep 2004Link
Is there a technical forum for doc topics?

Question: How to best transfer PAL mini-DV footage to VHS-NTSC for
viewing copies with TC. Is there an inexpensive multi-format VCR or
a good gizmo to use with a DV deck while making transfers to VHS-
NTSC? Alternately, how about burning and using DVDs of footage for
logging and transcribing?

Robert Goodman
Fri 17 Sep 2004Link
yes Stephanie there are topics for production nuts and bolts,
editing and post and a few others where you could ask this question.
PAL miniDV would need to be converted to NTSC and recorded on the
format of your choice. The best option may be to take your PAL
footage and burn a DVD with time code. That will play back on NTSC
or PAL players.

Doug Block
Fri 17 Sep 2004Link
actually, robert is referring to the d-word community, not the d-word
forum, which is where you are, stephanie. if you have professional
experience making docs, than you (and all others) are welcome to join
the community: www.d-word.com/community. if not, just continue to ask
technical questions here.

Robert Goodman
Fri 17 Sep 2004Link
whoops I forgot where I was in virtual space.

Eva Neide
Fri 17 Sep 2004Link
Hi everyone? I am shooting a documentary in The Amazon jungle in
Brazil and i would like to get some feedback on some accessories i am
adding to my gear. I already shot 40 hours using the DVx 100, an ME
64 and 66 Sunheyzer mics, a 3221 manfroto tripod with a 501 head. I
had some problems with the tripod and heads and would like to try
something else this time. I also would like to get an additional
shotgun mic (different from the ones above)and one weireless. I am
recording the sound on camera without a mixer. In addition, this time
i would like to add a small light on top of the camera for some
especial situations. Does anyone have any advice to give me about
these accessories? Of course i need to stay on the low budget
category. Does anyone knows about the new Sony wireless mic? And is
there someone who is a DVX100 fan? Please lets talk!

Thank you all and feel free to ask about my experience in shooting in
the Amazon.

Tchau,

Eva

Doug Block
Fri 17 Sep 2004Link
eva, you're better off getting this info in the community (i know
you've joined), which is geared to discussions among professionals.
the forum is better for one or two specific questions and is geared
more to doc neophytes.

Aaron Michels
Tue 28 Sep 2004Link
Hi, people. I'm new here and I have a quick question. I'm working on
DVD authoring (DVD Studio Pro/FCP) a series of lectures for a lab I'm
associated with and I'll probably need about 300 copies of the the
finished product. who do people recommend to print DVDs at that scale?
I'm trying to give a cost estimate per disk.

thanks a bunch!
-aaron

Chad Perdue
Wed 29 Sep 2004Link
I have a question. where can someone get stockfootage of
Pagan/religious rituals.

Doug Block
Wed 29 Sep 2004Link
did you try www.archive.org?

John Philp
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
hi everyone,
massive questions, i know, but can anyone point me toward a good website
or someting that discusses documentary financing methods and the
differences between them. i'm a little confused abour presales versus co-
production financing versus corporate funding, etc. and what's the best for my
film.

Doug Block
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
try www.marklitwak.com. i'm sure there are also books on the subject
at amazon.com.

Robert Goodman
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
Lots of good books available.
Pre-sales: Broadcaster signs an agreement to pay a fee before doc is
finished. Money paid when doc is finished. Guarantees them input and
right to air.
Co-production - Broadcaster, production company - supply money and
help guide production.
Foundations - provide grants to fund all or part of a doc.
Corporations - provide money to fund all or part of a doc.
Corporations pay you to make a doc.

Doug Block
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
with a pre-sale, part of the license fee is paid on signing a
contract. in fact, could be up to half.

Robert Goodman
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
thanks - doug - meant to include word "most" Still recovering from
Reykjavik.

Doug Block
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
heh heh ;-) (inside joke - you had to be there)

Dana Flor
Tue 5 Oct 2004Link
I'm wondering if anyone could tell me what exactly is the role of the executive
producer in a documentary? What are his/her responsibilities?

Robert Goodman
Wed 6 Oct 2004Link
prestige. money. guidance.

Dana Flor
Wed 6 Oct 2004Link
I'm assuming by prestige you mean that the EP lends his/her prestige to the
doc? In terms of money-is the EP generally responisbility for funding the show
or looking for the funding? And guidance, how much is the EP involved in the
content of the show, or does this vary from production to production? Thanks
for your help!

Doug Block
Wed 6 Oct 2004Link
it varies, dana. they could simply lending their name, but usually
they try to raise money. sometimes people buy their way to an exec
producer credit, but that's kind of rare for docs (drat!).

Andrés Livov
Wed 13 Oct 2004Link
Concerning documentary scripts required for certain european funds
(eg.Berlinale's World Film Fund):
What kind of script are they asking for? they fund creative feature
docs intended for theatrical release,
Should one attempt to write a script the way a fiction film is
written? I'm thinking of films such as "The Story of the Weeping
Camel" or "To Be and To Have".
Thanks for your help!
A.

Jessie Logan
Tue 26 Oct 2004Link
I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask this and if not I
apologize. I'm trying to get funded for a documentary on a troubled
family and I've put together two trailers in hopes of getting
investors interested in my project. The trailers were shot with a
very consumer camcorder and I've seen and heard better microphones on
the headsets of the employees at MacDonalds.

I was able to get two of the people from the family talking and from
that made the trailers. My question is would some of the experts or
who ever would care to please go have a look and let me know what
they think. It's at www.mvmaker.com first page has two links for
each trailer. I need these to be good enough to attract investors so
any comments are welcomed. You can email me at mvmaker@mvmaker.com
with your comments or post them here.

Thanks in advance JFL

Gregory Kellett
Mon 1 Nov 2004Link
Hello y'all,..
.
I think that it is obvious to most of us that
too many documentaries do not get the
exposure they need and deserve.

I just got back from the United Nations
Asssociation Film Festival where I saw
several
great works which will unfortunately
bearly see the light of day outside of
the festival circuit.

A couple of buddies of mine (who are
computer saavy) and I have been toying
with the idea of creating a website for
the consolidation of documentary trailers.
A searchable catalog of sorts, where
the viewing public can go to get a sneak
peak at what is out there, learn about
the film makers and how to buy and
or rent the work in question.

This site would specialize in
documentaries.

We are trying to guage if this something
that fellow documentary filmmakers would
use?

In order to have the site support itself we
would need to charge something along the
lines of $100 per film per year. Streaming
Quicktime clips would be the main format
used. As a filmmaker and avid documentary
viewer, I know that this something that
I would personally use, but we are trying
to guage how other filmmakers feel about
the project.

Any thoughts?

Gregory

Erica Ginsberg
Mon 1 Nov 2004Link
Gregory,

I cannot speak for all documentary filmmakers, only for myself. I am
all for greater exposure for documentaries and the ability to put
trailers online. I am not sure I would pay $100 for this service
though since I doubt that many of the people who are actually in a
position to buy documentary films for television, festivals, or the
educational market find those films through the Internet.

Doug Block
Mon 1 Nov 2004Link
personally, i'd stream a trailer on my own website before i'd pay to
have it on another. unless you proved over time that buyers were
coming to the site and actually following up. it's a nice, idealistic
concept, gregory, but i'm skeptical if it would work.

Gregory Kellett
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
Thanks for your input Erica and Doug.

So I suppose my question then is, where do people go when they have a
friend say to them,.."Damn,...I just saw this great documentary you've got to
check out"....or when they even just feel like perusing what documentaries are
currently out there.

If not 100 dollars then less?...The site does have to support itself, which I
realize will be directly related to it's marketing and ability to catch the eye of
the small but growing community of documentary fans. It could actually be
used by festivals and filmmakers as a direct link to streaming previews.

I just can't help but think of how a centralized location where film makers can
display a little teaser or two of thier work alongside their resume, web site and
a "where to find" link could be a great service to documentary makers as well
as their viewers and funders. Am I kidding myself? Is there some sort of
disadvantage to having one's work up alongside those of others?

Help me out here.

Robert Goodman
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
usually the film's website. there are also places like doc-u-rama,
mediarights.org, and the distributors.

Jessie Logan
Sat 6 Nov 2004Link
Greg I guess the bottom line is.....can the site assure exposure to
the people that count. Think of it like this......The filmmakers that
will benefit the most from a site like the one you mentioned are
those who have a limited budget and a hundred bucks to some can mean
the difference between making the rent and getting kicked to the curb.

I for one would pay the money only if I was convinced that my film
would get the right exposure and a fair shot. The idea is admirable
and has been done with other sites, and some of those are no longer
around. For a $100 you can obtain your own site and brand identity
which may seem more professional and less desperate to investors.

Imagine sending a potential investor to a large site with hundreds of
doc clips all begging to be seen. Would be kinda hard to pump that
investor up for your project if they get the impression that "what
chance do we have if all these people can't get their's
made/finished/distributed."

The key word/s are exposure, exposure, exposure.

Eliran Malka
Mon 8 Nov 2004Link
hello nice people!!!
i am writing a script for a documentary about the lack of intimacy
in the western culture and some new directions in that field that
can be helpfull for the viewer.
the problem is that we have matter of fact 2 narrarive in one movie.
one, is a story based narrariva, verite style. the second is a
topical narrative which is basically visual article about the
history of the intimacyless.
questions :
do you have some advices about how can those two different styled
naratives be one next each other.
the second help i need is about refernces on the topical documentary
style.

thanks,
eliran {from israel}

Doug Block
Mon 8 Nov 2004Link
hey eliran, the isssue isn't that you have two different narratives
going, it's that you have two different styles. and it's difficult
for anyone to offer real advice until it's in a rough cut stage. it's
a tough thing to pull off and better if you don't try, but it's
certainly been done before.

Austyn Steelman
Tue 9 Nov 2004Link
I am currently in pre-production for a documentary I will be shooting in Minneapolis in
December that will be featuring two hip hop musicians affiliated with Rhymesayers
Entertainment. I would like to produce a DVD of the documentary once it is finished so I
am trying to find some sort of profit sharing contract that I can sign with the musicians I
am working with to specify who gets what if the doc. ever makes any money. I have
searched through "The Complete Film Production Handbook" as well as a book of
contracts for independent filmmakers and haven't found what I am looking for. I would
draw up the contract myself but I am afraid I might miss some legal detail that will bite me
later. Does any one know where I might find a mock up of a profit sharing contract that I
can use?

if so my e-mail is austynsteelman@hotmail.com.

I also posted this question in the classified section, but it seems like this is more the place
to post questions. Still getting used to this site.

Thanks for your help.
Austyn

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