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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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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

Doug Block
Tue 9 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
Friends!

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.

Best,

Scholtens

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

<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0394724690/102-7955436-
6986551
>

Nathan Scholtens
Mon 22 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!

NWScholtens

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
Mon 6 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
camera?
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
Mon 6 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
Tue 14 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.
Maureen

Doug Block
Tue 14 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
Mon 20 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
Marc,

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
<http://mergemedia.tv/projects/t2project_seedsdoc1.html>). 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
Mon 27 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
comfortable.

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