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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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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 can one get a list of such


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: 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
Sat 18 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.



Doug Block
Sat 18 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!

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

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

Doug Block
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
try i'm sure there are also books on the subject

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

Doug Block
Sat 2 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
Thu 14 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!

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 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
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
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

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

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?


Erica Ginsberg
Mon 1 Nov 2004Link

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
Tue 2 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,, 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

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

eliran {from israel}

Doug Block
Tue 9 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

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.

Doug Block
Wed 10 Nov 2004Link
i recommend you draw up the contract yourself, austyn, and get an
entertainment lawyer to check and see if you've missed anything.
that'll keep the cost down. you might check out volunteer lawyers for
the arts, too.

Nathan Scholtens
Thu 18 Nov 2004Link

Can anyone recommend a solid book on interviewing technique?
I know that interviews can be approached as science or fine art;
with many phases of questioning, each one framed in specific
ways, targeting answers, drawing the _subject_ from the
subject... I am looking for the heavyweight material (no Cliff's
notes/amateur's guides). Whether you have a personal favorite
book, guide, collection of essays, etc.--or if there is a
discussion on the subject in this forum's archives--I look
forward to reading up on all your recommendations.



Doug Block
Fri 19 Nov 2004Link
The Craft of Interviewing by John Brady is the best book on the
subject I've ever read:


Nathan Scholtens
Tue 23 Nov 2004Link
Thanks Doug, I ran to the library immediately after receiving
this recommendation Saturday morning, and ran through the
book--cover to cover! It is an excellent guide! I also checked
out--on a tip from an Amazon reviewer--a book called
"Creative Interviewing" by Ken Metzler. Don't be scared off
by the 'artsy' sounding title, creative interviewing is defined
by Metzler as interviewing that 'creates' responses and a flow
of ideas that could not have existed with just _one_ of the
two participants. John Brady's guide is experiential,
anecdotal, like a self-help book. Metzler's book is more
personal (using personal rather than general anecdotes) and
more academic at the same time. It is less prone to the
pitfalls of being outdated (as my Amazon reviewers so
eagerly pointed out), but let me add that it has the most
obnoxious illustrations; reminiscent of junior high textbooks,
or any elementary foreign language book. Both guides,
together, have been invaluable in the preparations made for
my first interview for my new documentary, to be conducted
tomorrow afternoon. Cross your fingers for me!


Nathan Scholtens
Tue 30 Nov 2004Link
Click below to view hidden post. Show hidden content

Doug Block
Tue 30 Nov 2004Link
congrats, nathan. you didn't really have to hide that ;-)

Marc Maurino
Tue 7 Dec 2004Link
Hello there. I introduced myself to the D-word forum at 3.886 and
have spent the last few weeks reading tons of back posts and archives
on line and printed out. I read the entire history (from page 1
forward) of this particular topic and I am so impressed by the
generosity of spirit and talent offered forth by so many of the
regular veterans who post here. It was almost like a master class in
documentary filmmaking to read hundreds of posts more or less back to
back (over a few days) and I'm eager to put some of my questions out
here. (BTW, I have joined the D-word community thanks to Doug's
offer, but I'm hoping to continue to just read a lot over there and
shoot some interviews on my current project before posting there.)

So as I stated in my intro, I am intending to join a medical
delegation of Jewish doctors to the occupied territories of Palestine,
focussing for now on my physician friend who has a very literate blog
about the occupation, Israeli/Palestinian politics, and medical care.
After much discussion it looks like he is comfortable moving forward
with himself as the ("for now") focus of the piece. His trepidation
is that his interest is in healing and bearing witness, not being a
star, and I understand and share that mission but feel I need someone
to be a charismatic and compelling subject to vivify that journey, and
he agrees. We are now waiting to learn more details about the
delegation, and I am in preproduction. So here come the
questions--I'll try to keep them short, direct, and a few at a time!
Thanks in advance.

I'll likely be shooting alone using my Sony DCR TRV 11. (I've
considered bringing a DP or sound person or finding one there; while I
still may, I need to be sensitive to the fact that I myself am already
tagging along with doctors as they do important healing work, and I
don't think I can quite have a crew along, not that I could afford it
anyway.) So I'm going to be a one-man band with a one chip camera (I
can't afford a 3 chip, adn if I could I don't know that the occupied
territories is the first place I'd want to go with it.) I have a
lavaliere mike for staged interviews;
1, any recommendations on affordable shotgun mikes I can mount on the
2, any recommendations for modifications to make to the camera to
return the proper ratio (16:9???) imagery to best boost my chances of
looking professional/selling to TV, cable, foreign markets?
3, any and all advice about one-man shooting, and anywhere on this
site that this has been addressed in detail? I searched a bit in the
Community Nuts and Bolts and as I said throughout the forum but I'd be
grateful if this has been done before to be steered to the right place.
I think that's it for now. I'm getting some books and checking
out other websites (AIVF, IFP, etc.) Any recommendations on any good
how-to will be appreciated; I am checking out Mark Litwak for the
legal et al and some of the books and sites that have been mentioned
here before in the last few years. Eventually I'll also be doing a
lot of looking for like minded filmmakers already in the middle East
for advice and or support; any that are out there now or know of
someone who is please let me know!

I'm trying to write up an overview/interview list/theme
exploration of what I'm trying to do to take place of a script (that I
would be used to!) I'm sure I'll have more basic pre-pro questions as
time goes on. Thanks!

Doug Block
Tue 7 Dec 2004Link
hey, marc, check the d-word community's audio topic for shotgun mike
recommendations. there's also been plenty of discussion of 16:9
modification in the cameras and camcorder topic.

as for one-man shooting, nothing beats practice, practice, practice.
and don't forget close-ups, wide establishing shots and cutaways. all
are easy to forget about amidst the hubbub of shooting.

Ray Wood
Sun 12 Dec 2004Link
Hi Marc, Sounds like an interesting project. Is this connected with
Doctors without borders?. I believe I saw a piece on them in the
past. I would offer a suggestion: There are people in the industry
from that part of the world or live in that part of the world. I
would try and make as many contacts as possible. You can probably
find a sound person over there. I like the thought of you shooting,
just keep in mind that you will have to wear alot of hats. Clearly
defining what your objectives are will prove important. You will have
to focus yourself outside of the lense. While still getting quality
footage. Good Luck and keep me posted.

Marc Maurino
Mon 13 Dec 2004Link
Doug and Ray, thanks for your great words of encouragement. The group
I'm going with is not Doctors W/o borders, but the sentiment is the
same. I'm looking for people already in country--that's great advice.
The "defining objectives" part is hard . . . I'm sort of used to
having a script! I'm trying to work up a list of interviews, ideas,
etc., but I'm also going to just be "tagging along" a bit, so we'll
see what comes up. This whole project has come up for me in the last
few weeks with our trip scheduled in just a few months, so I unf.
don't have the chance to even take an intensive doc making class or
even attempt to raise money or find a producer; right now I'm sort of
looking for a mentor/associate producer that I can ask all my
questions--thank goodness for D-word! I'll be sure to keep you
posted. Thanks again--the encouragement means a lot!

Maureen Futtner
Wed 15 Dec 2004Link
Hi Doug & everyone,

Regarding releases -
if I'm shooting/interviewing someone on several different occasions,
is it enough to have that initial release from our first meeting or
do I need to ask them to sign a release each time?

Thanks for being here, by the way.

Doug Block
Wed 15 Dec 2004Link
Thanks, Maureen. Nice to have you here, too. You're gonna like my
answer - you just need one release. I highly recommend that you make
xeroxs of your releases and keep them in separate locations.

Marc Maurino
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
Hi folks, a few questions that have come up as my project progresses.
First, what would be considered "not too low to be an insult" to
offer an editor in payment for getting involved in my project now
(before anything is shot) and expecting
involvement/collaboration/editing until it's done? (At this point I'm
imagining 30-60 minute short, POSS a feature.) I'm looking to get
someone quite experienced with editing both technically and shaping
narrative, preferably someone with fairly extensive doc and/or feature
experience. My thoughts were offer $1000 if it turns out to be a
short, $2000-2500 if it turns out to be a feature, and possibly some
points share (how much?) on the back end. (Yes, I know, points
sharing on a no budget doc is not going to be a whole lot if anything
at all!) Am I going to insult a professional with that?
Question 2: I'm looking to focus my doc on one character but
extensively look at and film a larger social justice group that he's
part of; they naturally are interested in a doc about their group and
goals, but also are interested in "ownership" of it b/c it will
reflect on them. Financial investment will be mine alone, and while
I'm hopeful (and expect) that this piece will reflect nicely on this
great progressive social justice group, ultimately it is going to be
my film, which i will direct, edit, control, etc. Naturally I know
about getting releases from everyone and all that, but here's a two
part question: any advice for how to deal professionally and politely
with a group from whom you want access but for artistic reasons can't
give control?
Secondly, do you ever get a release from a GROUP? Does an
organization have any standing regarding its image? (Sorry if this
one's been done before, I've read tons of back posts and haven't seen
it.) Thanks in advance as usual.

Erica Ginsberg
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link

Regarding the editor, the prices you mention are quite low for most
professional editors and probably no editor in his or her right mind
would accept a deal for a doc with points share unless you are
Michael Moore or Ken Burns. That said, there are often professional
editors who are looking either for a labor of love, a project which
addresses a pet social concern of theirs, or something to expand
their portfolio (i.e., someone who does mostly corporate work or
Discovery Channel-style docs looking to work on a creative doc) for
lower pay than they are used to getting. You might even find someone
to barter with (e.g., an editor who wants to direct a film, but who
needs a cinematographer). Key is finding someone who you can sell
the project on with your enthusiasm and passion. You may end up
having to work around his or her higher paid schedule if you go this
route, but it may be worth it to you financially and professionally
to find someone who is as passionate as you about the subject.

In terms of ownership, has the group actually asked you to make a
promotional film about them? As you spend more time with them and
get their trust (presumably your main character can help be an
advocate for you), you can diplomatically state that what you are
making is a documentary and you want the film to reflect the reality
of what they are doing without being compromised by coming across as
an advocacy film. Very often, a doc can be an even more powerful
advocacy tool than an informational video because it is made with an
outsider's eye (a recent example is SEEDS about the Seeds of Peace
Camps; you may wish to contact those filmmakers for their
experiences - link to the website is at
<>). You can
always promise to have a sneak preview fundraising premiere of the
film on behalf of their organization or share some of the proceeds of
a screening or allow them to have a certain number of free copies of
the film to sell or give as a gift to funders, but the key is that
you need to retain creative control.

Marc Maurino
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
Thanks for your great advice Erica. This is just the answer I needed
and provides me a great tool for being frank and direct with the
group. I haven't been asked to make a promotional film; I want to
document my friend's journey, and he's part of the group, so while it
will reflect well on them, on not looking to make an informational or
advocacy piece; more of an exploratory film. I will def. contact
Seeds of Peace filmmakers as well, if only b/c our projects share
some of the same impulses.

On the subject of editors, I knew the $ amounts were a pittance, I
also agree, I need to sell someone who both sees it as a labor of
love and wants to be part of the creative team, and also someone
maybe looking to step their own game up a notch. I hope my doc
subject is compelling enough to find someone who will say, yeah,
that's worth my time. Thanks again for all the generous advice!

Doug Block
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
marc, figure any editor with real professional experience and talent
comes at a minimum of $1500/wk. you can get someone less experienced,
of course (at your peril), but it'll be hard to keep them on for any
length of time just because it's your labor of love.

Marc Maurino
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
Thanks Doug, for us newbies having an idea of what professionals
should reasonably expect is a great post-production planning tool.
Happy holidays to all!

Jim Wharton
Tue 28 Dec 2004Link
Okay, I am new to the site and have introduced myself on the other
thread so here goes the question.
I am prepping a doc about 2 unsolved murders and the effects of non-
closure on the family members. Much of the content will be their
ongoing search for answers and frustrations with the investigating
agencies. In shooting the interviews, I want to give a face to the
victims and show my audience who they were. I know that "talking
heads" can be VERY boring. Any tips on composing these interviews to
make them really interesting?

Doug Block
Tue 28 Dec 2004Link
it's not the composition that makes an interview compelling, jim. it
helps, of course, as does lighting, as does focus, as does good sound.
but worry about the interview itself and trust that the subject matter
is inherently interesting. there are lots of terrific docs out there
that rely on talking head interviews. this fella named errol morris
has made few.

Robert Goodman
Wed 29 Dec 2004Link
Jon Else's films are also another resource.

Maureen Futtner
Thu 30 Dec 2004Link
HI, again, oh Brain Trust.

Looks like I'll be posting to this site often in the next few
months, as I'm embarking on a new project.

OK - making a road trip from San Francisco (my home) to Santa
Barbara in mid-Jan to interview a man I hope to be a supporting
character for my documentary. In this initial visit I probably only
have 1 "session" of 4-5 hours with him, and have never been to Santa
Barbara. We are a 2-person crew, relying on natural light - hoping
to shoot outside. My subject lives in an apartment building, but I
was hoping to shoot him in a park or outside a cafe and walking,
maybe to the beach - out and about. My problem is I don't know
Santa Barbara at all. Is it ok to rely on your subject to "scout"
for you? I have already asked him if he wouldn't mind thinking of
such places where we might go. We'll probably shoot a little in his
house, but ideally I want the atmosphere of his city.
So, how does one "research" such a thing? Maybe we should show up a
couple hours early and scout on our own? Should we just rely on our
subject's recommendations? Visit websites? Any ideas?

Thanks, in advance. And happy & safe new year to all!

Doug Block
Thu 30 Dec 2004Link
maureen, i'd simply ask him to take me to some of his favorite local
spots. done all the time - by me, at least. while you're out and
about you can keep your eyes open but i'd go where the subject is most

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 30 Dec 2004Link
I'd recommend you ask him for ideas in advance and, if you can, get
to SB a day or two before your shoot to check out the locations to
plan how you want to set up the shot. A subject may have a favorite
park or cafe but may not be thinking about such things as noise or
available light. For instance, he may like to go to a certain park,
but always sits in a part of it that is very crowded and noisy.
Might be better to find a quieter spot for the interview or perhaps
consider one section for the interview and another for him
interacting with other people (if you want anything more verite).
Also not sure whether the city plays a sub-character to this
character; if so, the extra time will give you the opportunity to get
some beauty locale shots.

Jim Wharton
Sat 1 Jan 2005Link
Doug and Robert, thank you very much for your input!

X Ali
Sun 2 Jan 2005Link
Hello All & a happy 2005
Read a few of the very useful and practical guidelines offered here
and am very excited. Am based in Nairobi Kenya and am in pre-prod.
for a docu. on the youth and issues that affect them especially in
high school and college.

Has anyone done a similar project or any thoughts?


Doug Block
Sun 2 Jan 2005Link
hi xali,

if you've had any professional experience as a documentarian please
feel welcomed to join the d-word community, which requires another
regisration step (you've already done part one):

that's where you'll meet your docu colleagues.

Maureen Futtner
Thu 6 Jan 2005Link
Yet another question about releases, however this one is about web
pages. My project is begging for some footage of internet sites.

At our facility, I have access to a scan-converter so that means I
can get fairly decent images off of computer and onto tape. But my
question, of course, is ... are the "release rules" regarding web
sites the same as they would be for using still photos, archival
footage, etc. Do I have to email the web master of each site and
get their permission?

Any info/experience regarding this stuff would be very helpful.
Thanks so much. - Maureen

Doug Block
Fri 7 Jan 2005Link
When I made Home Page I made sure to write each web site I filmed and
get the owner's permission. They were personal web sites, though. It
was pretty simple. I would try in your case, too.

Maureen Futtner
Fri 7 Jan 2005Link
Thanks so much for your wisdom, Doug. I appreciate this forum so
much. You're going to see me posting more and more in the coming

All the best, Maureen

Michelle Plett
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link
Hi, i'm new here. I recently introduced myself on another posting.
I'm working for my cousin and she'd like some questions answered if
possible. We're working on a documentary called Childless by Choice.
We're interviewing couples who have made the choice not to have
children. As neither of us have much practical experience, we need
some help. Thanks in advance.

1. Are d-makers copyrighting their treatments or proposals before
sending them out to funders and prospective partners?

2. Do we need Errors and Omissions insurance for a TV Doc that will
be marketed toward both US and Canadian broadcasters?

3. What percentage of a doc budget is typically allotted for post-
prod and marketing? If a dco budget is $100,000, what percentage is
likely to go towards post production, how much to market it?

4. Should an indy filmmaker put in a lump sum payment for her
services (into the budget), even though typically the filmmaker
doesn't get paid until there is money left over?

5. Do you need a location release in addition to a talent release
when you interview in peoples homes? what about in a hotel?

6.Is there a ay to convert film from PC Adobe Premier to Mac Final
cut pro without losing?

Thanks so much

Robert Goodman
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link
My answers to your questions.

1. No.
2. Yes.
3. Post - depends on how much material you shoot and how quickly you
can edit. Marketing - depends on profile - high profile project -
typical marketing expenses can run from $30,000 to 100,000 after
completion of the project and before a distributor starts spending
money. Also include money for outreach activities - reaching the
affected communities.

4. Better to create line items knowing full well you'll never see a

5. No location release needed for people's homes. Insurance is
needed in case you break or damage something. Hotels - as long as
the hotel isn't recognizable I wouldn't bother. Get you into more
difficulty asking than just doing it.

6. Not sure what you are asking. Adobe Premiere doesn't use film. It
edits digital media files that must be captured if analog or
transferred if using firewire into the program. The media files are
not compatible with Final Cut Pro. The timeline may work. So you
might be able to edit and create an edl that can be transferred to
FCP. The media will need to be re-transferred into the mac.

Michelle Plett
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link
Thanks for the info..

as far as #6, that's what I meant...sorry, should have been more
clear or read my post over again!

Doug Block
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link
ditto what robert says. v. good advice (as usual).

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link
ditto ditto. I'd just add on question 1 that, while you can't
copyright an idea or a proposal, you can protect yourself a little by
keeping good documentation of the different stages of production and
perhaps finding a way to make sure that the story will be unique to
you (i.e., you have special access to the subject, etc.)

Outreach can be a major part of the budget depending on what you are
planning to do. You should consider it separately from post-
production. Not sure where you are based, but you might want to
check out an upcoming workshop on outreach strategies that is being
sponsored by the Center for Social Media in Washington DC on February
7. More info at
< > Also
there was an online forum on outreach here in D-Word a few years back
with Robert West from Working Films. The thread should still be

Doug Block
Wed 12 Jan 2005Link

Michelle Plett
Thu 13 Jan 2005Link
thanks! I'm going to get Laura (the director) to get out to that!
She's in Virginia.

Michelle Plett
Thu 13 Jan 2005Link
Where do i find out about E & O insurance?

Doug Block
Fri 14 Jan 2005Link
I highly recommend Dennis Reiff & Associates. Just give them a call
and ask:

Richard Levitt
Wed 26 Jan 2005Link
Hey there!
I'm in the prep stage for a doc on a former CIA station chief who
helped turn central Africa into the wonderful and happy place it is
today. Brushing aside his usual disdain for agents who have gone
public, he's talking--and it's only to us! We're getting some quick
interest, and we are in the process of putting together a preliminary
budget--around $500k--for a potential investor. A basic question
please: What would be a sensible amount to enter for a
producer/director in terms of salary--given the overall budget? I
know there are no rules, but let's have a figure for the budget and
if the universe allows, I may actually see some of it!

Doug Block
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
That's always a tricky question, but I figure anywhere between 50 to
75k wouldn't raise any eyebrows. you'll have considerably more
trouble explaining to an investor how he or she will see a profit with
that high a budget on a doc.

Richard Levitt
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
Thanks for you quick response! I suspect I will make it through with
much less than that, but it's good to have some general numbers. My
partner, who is in fact used to working on small budget productions,
reminds me that no filmaker she ever met got paid during production;
but frankley, the scope of this film is more expansive and, in
addition, there would be no other source of income during the making
of the doc. Is it completely unreasonable to expect at least
something to live on?

Doug Block
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
absolutely not. most experienced funders actually worry more about
filmmakers who don't put ENOUGH salary for themselves to live on. it's
a big red flag pointing to their inexperience. still, even the most
experienced often pay themselves last. like, um, me...

Richard Levitt
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
Thanks again!! Two more questions--two major producers want to see a
three-minute pitch reel (it might, in addition to everything else,
help us retain creative control over this project--which one producer
has already tried to grab away). Our DP suggests we go with the 24p
package he has, for the pitch and maybe the doc itself. Not knowing
where this will be distributed (cable television has expressed an
interest), should we be thinking higher in the quality universe?

Also, the person who recommended an investor, wants a hefty
commission--have you heard of that before and, if so, how was that

Robert Goodman
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
finder's fee - worth 5-10%.
which 24P package - a DVX100A? a SDX900? a VariCam? a Cinealta? 16mm?
35MM? If the answer is DVX100a, I'd suggest unless you don't get
your 500K, moving up the production scale.

Doug Block
Thu 27 Jan 2005Link
hey, you're talking to a guy who had a film shown on hbo, at sundance
and many other fests, and even limited theatrical that was shot on
good ol' hi-8! so a dvx100a seems perfectly tasty to me.

Robert Goodman
Fri 28 Jan 2005Link
doug - not what I meant. If the budget is $500K think the
expectation is that you will shoot on something better than Hi8. Now
if you're talking Pixelvision I could understand. And was I talking
to you?

Robert Goodman
Fri 28 Jan 2005Link
re-read the posts. Doug you didn't ask the question. Richard did. If
I were the investor, I'd opt for better quality for my $500,000.
Just my 2 cents.

Doug Block
Fri 28 Jan 2005Link
assuming richard raises 500k, as opposed to 2 cents ;-) given that
he may well need to shoot in stages, should add that nobody's ever
been arrested for upgrading camera quality mid-stream. or mixing

Karen Loeb
Fri 28 Jan 2005Link
I'm wondering if anyone out there has some advice about how to get
advice on writing a budget for a full-length documentary film. Are
there any online mentorship programs? I'm in Canada, by the way....

Doug Block
Sat 29 Jan 2005Link
I've always liked the Michael Weise book on Film and Video Budgets:

Robert Goodman
Sat 29 Jan 2005Link
I'd second Doug's suggestion and also suggest you look at the CBC's
website. There's a wealth of info there and I believe at the Film
Board website.

Christopher Gallant
Tue 1 Feb 2005Link
Hello all,
I'm starting taping on a documentary concerning my father and a
boyhood story. I've watched Alan Berliner's "Nobody's Business". Any
other suggestions on material to watch, books, etc? Any advice

Doug Block
Tue 1 Feb 2005Link
"my architect" and "capturing the friedmans" are the most obvious
recent choices. i'm doing a similar film and i think the main
question is can you treat your own role in the film with the necessary
objectivity and distance? in other words, can you treat yourself as a
character in a movie? other than that, my own rule of thumb is that
no one in the film can come off looking worse than me. a sense of
humor about oneself never hurts, either.

but my best advice is find a great editor. or, if you can't afford
one, find one to be a consulting editor.

Erica Ginsberg
Tue 1 Feb 2005Link
Also POP AND ME in addition to Doug's recommendations above.

Maureen Futtner
Tue 1 Feb 2005Link
I am mailing a letter requesting an interview with a gentleman named
Ernest Callenbach - known mostly for his visionary 70's sci-fi
novel "Ecotopia".
Frankly, I'm a novice filmmaker and am wondering if established
people like Mr. Callenbach would want to be offered, from the get-
go, an honorarium? I have no budget and little money, but if that
might help me get an interview w/him, I might be able to up front
offer $75-100.

ANy thoughts on this? Is that simply insultingly low? Should I not
offer at first and see what happens?

Doug Block
Wed 2 Feb 2005Link
maureen, i've been involved with many docs and have never paid for an
interview, never offered pay, never been asked for pay. more than
likely he'll be more than happy that a filmmaker knows who he is and
appreciates his work, and wants to put him in her film. if he's so
inclined, offer to take him out to lunch or dinner, instead. and
shoot a really terrific interview.

Richard Davis
Sun 6 Feb 2005Link
Could anyone suggest a source(s) one could refer to in order to
attempt to forecast potential revenues from televised doc's in the US
and Canada? I'm budgeting and need to ball park potentials and wish
to provide precendence for support of proforma. Thanks.

Doug Block
Mon 7 Feb 2005Link
richard, read jan rofekamp's archived conference here on "selling in
the international marketplace."

Tim Pope
Thu 10 Feb 2005Link
Hello everyone. I am venturing into my 1st documentary and I was
wondering what kind of inexpensive choices I had for recording
dialogue. I will be interviewing subjects at their homes and
dictating from notes to use as narrative. I was told that minidisc
recorders such as the Sony MZ-B10 were good and inexpensive ways to
go, any advice?

David Randle
Fri 11 Feb 2005Link
Just came into the forum from cafe Utne what a tresure chest of minds. Great

Ben Kempas
Sat 12 Feb 2005Link
Thanks, David. So why don't you tell us a bit more about yourself in
the Introduce Yourself topic {LINK NOT IMPORTED}?

Christian Saladores
Wed 16 Feb 2005Link
hey all, im very new at filming anything. i've done most of my
research from the net, but if anybody can lead me to a site or book
perhaps on how to come up with a good line of questions... i only have
one day of shooting and i've never done anything like this... but i
know i have to be prepared.

the topic is mostly concerned on the elements of hip hop and most of
the potential interviewees are teenagers who have there own
distinctive lingo...

cheers, any help will be most appreciated

Doug Block
Wed 16 Feb 2005Link
there's a great book on interviewing that i've noted here before (you
can check back posts), i think called "the craft of the interview" by
a guy named brady. do a search on amazon and i'm sure you'll turn it

Tim Pope
Mon 21 Feb 2005Link
I guess everyone is too busy to help the "newbie", guess everyone
here was born a professional and never needed help from their peers.

Doug Block
Mon 21 Feb 2005Link
calm down, tim, everyone IS busy, and i'm simply no sound expert. i
generally use a senheisser directional mike as an auxillary mike
plugged into the camera. works for me but it'll cost you at least a
few hundred dollars. the most inexpensive way, of course, is to use
the built-in camera mike, but i don't recommend it. nor do i
recommend cheap mikes. sound is too important.

Tim Pope
Fri 25 Feb 2005Link
Sorry about the rant, plan "A" wasn't working and this project is
looming closer, so I resorted to plan "B". I appreciate the response
and the advice is well taken. Thank you

Kyoko Yokoma
Fri 25 Feb 2005Link
Hi all

I just posted in intro-section, but this is probably the place. I am
trying to finish my first doc. It's about a New York- based Japanese
dancer who lost her whole family in earthquake in 1995, and later
marry with a son of Holocaust survivors. The film is 80min. long, and
moving but also humorous. I started filming in 1995 with a little hi-
8, and finished filming with DV in 2004. The editing is almost all
done with my pocket money, but need funding for some rights
clearance, lawyer, insurance and so on. Because I am basaed in
Toronto, but the story has nothing to do with Canada, it has been
hard to find suitable funders. National Film Board threw me a small
grant though. I am wondering what's the choices for funding for an
almost-finished doc?

Doug Block
Fri 25 Feb 2005Link
lots of choices, kyoko. i highly recommend you read two forums here:
selling in the international marketplace and fundraising for docs. you
should also join the d-word community:
good luck with the film: "moving but also humorous" is always a great

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