the worldwide community of documentary professionals
You are not signed in.
Log in or Register

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.

Resultset_first Resultset_previous 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Resultset_next Resultset_last
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!
Thanks

Doug Block
Wed 26 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
handled?

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
looks.

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
Fri 28 Jan 2005Link
I've always liked the Michael Weise book on Film and Video Budgets:

http://shop.store.yahoo.com/cinemasupplies/filvidbudmic.html

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
Mon 31 Jan 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
appreciated!

Doug Block
Mon 31 Jan 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
Tue 1 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
Sun 6 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
forum

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
Tue 15 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
up.

Tim Pope
Sun 20 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
Thu 24 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: www.d-word.com/community/join.
good luck with the film: "moving but also humorous" is always a great
combination!

Richard Davis
Fri 25 Feb 2005Link
Thanks Doug for your referal to, conference "Selling in the
International Marketplace". I think I need to join the D-Word
Community.

Nathan Scholtens
Mon 28 Feb 2005Link
Hi Tim, I know I'm late in posting this, but it has been a wild few weeks.

I use minidiscs frequently, both for recording sound in the field and for
conveniently transfering audio from place to place (i.e. from my home
computer to the video editing house where I work). The encoding is
mp2, I believe, it IS compressed audio; but you should be fine using
minidisc recorders in place of a NagraIV.

When I worked in fiction, a lot of low budget shoots would employ
separate minidisc recorders for each character in a scene, using
omnidirectional lavalier mics. At the end of the shoot, the producer
would just sell all the minidisc recorders (sometimes numbering 6+) on
ebay and the total sound line in the film's budget would come out
pretty close to $0. One producer I know profited on the reselling of her
minidisc recorders! Also note that minidiscs can be overwritten, so you
can get by with little expense in media.

A good minidisc recorder will allow you to set recording levels. (Check
this on the MZ-B10, I am not familiar with model numbers).

Jan Cohen
Tue 1 Mar 2005Link
Hi everyone. I am at the very beginnin stages of working on my first
documentary film project and would like to know if anyone could
suggest a source to find out if my particular idea has been filmed
before.
Thanks.

Doug Block
Tue 1 Mar 2005Link
good question, jan. i'd start by calling a couple of documentary
distributors and asking them. aivf has information about distributors
and great reference books, too: www.aivf.org

Jan Cohen
Tue 1 Mar 2005Link
Thank you Doug for your response.

Ross Williams
Thu 10 Mar 2005Link
Hey all. I just made my first post in the introduction section. Now it's time
for some questions. :-)

I'm in the post production phase of my first feature length documentary. I plan on
editing it all myself, but I'd like to have an estimate on what it'd cost to finish the
film right. I want to give the film the slickest feel possible on a minimal budget.
So I need good sound design and professional color correcting. Can anybody
give me a sort of round figure on what I'd be looking to pay for each of those?
Also what other services am I going to need to finish the film right?

I'm trying to put together a budget, so I can start looking for potential investors.

I've got more questions, but I'll save those for later.

Thanks in advance,
Ross

Doug Block
Thu 10 Mar 2005Link
budget for sound design - 0 to 10k, depending on the level of
experience you need (okay, i exagerate to make a point - figure a few
thou, minimally). but then again you don't distinguish between sound
design (which most docs don't have much of) and sound cleaning/repair,
which most docs need a lot of because their original sound sucks.

budget for color correcting - $150-300/hr (don't know what city
you're in)

btw, good luck finding investors for a first doc. if you find any,
please report back. i'd be very curious.

as for other post costs, there are a number of good books on
budgeting. try googling or check on amazon.com for the michael weise
books.

Kyoko Yokoma
Fri 11 Mar 2005Link
Hello,

My question is about licenses fee for music scores to be included in my first low
budget doc.

I want to use two jazz standard songs for about 1 minute each performed by my
friend in a party. So, I only need publishing right. They are owned by big publishers in
New York. Because I do not have any broadcasters on board yet, I would like to get
festival rights first with options for limited theatre run (Japan, US and Europe) and
DVD/North America and Japan. I am trying to use Canada's clearing system that starts
with an users' offer. I have no budget, but rather, I will have to raise budget according
to the cost, and I have no idea if it's gonna be hundreds or thousands or tens of
thousand. If it's astronomical figures, I will have to give up. How should I start ? What
is a good strategy?


By the way, I do have another music from a CD published in Germany. The score is
public domain classic. So, I need only master right for this. It's about 2 and half
minutes.

Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Ross Williams
Fri 11 Mar 2005Link
Doug,

Thanks for your answer. By "budget for color correcting - $150-300/hr" -
You mean for the hrs that the color corrector works, not the length of the
film, correct? What would your estimated time involved be for a 90 min film?

I'm working with a producer in Seattle right now. We'll see how the fundraising
goes, I'm sure it won't be easy. I'll keep everyone updated. And definitely let
people know what worked and maybe what didn't.

Doug Block
Fri 11 Mar 2005Link
kyoko, publishing rights can run from the hundreds to generally the
low thousands, but you should be able to clear it for festivals on the
lower side, i'd think. here's a great article (by a d-word member) on
music clearances:

www.holytoledo.com/clear_music.htm

ross, i meant hours the corrector works. and the hours it will take
for a 90 min film will vary according to how much correction you feel
you need (funny how the less money you have the less correction you
tend to think it needs). my film "home page" was 117 minutes when we
corrected it (later cut down to 102) and i seem to remember it took us
about 12 hours. hard to be precise because we were doing things like
titles at the same time.

Melissa Dopp
Sun 13 Mar 2005Link
Hi Tim,

You might want to look under the TOOLS section of Transom.org. Transom.org is an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the Internet. The TOOLS section includes info and guides covering the technical aspects of recording/ interviewing. There is a "Mini-Disc Guide" guide as well as "Remote Recording Survival Guide."

http://www.transom.org/tools/index.html


Kyoko Yokoma
Mon 14 Mar 2005Link
Hi, Doug,

Thank you very much for your information and the related article. It was the most
helpful and practical info I have received till now. I have read a number of music
rights related articles and some books and talked to researchers, all of which
explain the same things over and over, but none of them explain the real
procedures or actual $ amount. Thanks again.

Doug Block
Mon 14 Mar 2005Link
welcome, kyoko. denise ohio is a longtime d-word community member
and i agree it's a great article.

Sam Chance
Wed 16 Mar 2005Link
Hi all, err. I'm sam chance, struggling media student type in ol'
england and i am looking for opinions basically on the state of
documentary production at the moment in relation to digital tech.
From what i can tell so far people think that the market is gonna
become pretty flooded with all the new makers appearing through the
cheapness of broadcast quality equipment. Sorry could have worded a
lot better. I am also looking into how this is going to effect the
ethics of the documentary, e.g. how flaherty restaged a lot of nanook
of the north and if you kind find any examples of this nowadays

Well, that was a mouth full

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 16 Mar 2005Link
hey sam, we understand you just fine. yes the market is flooded and
this is both a good and bad thing - anyone can make a doc. not
everything is of good quality. but there are some very well made
docs made by lone filmmakers and edited in basements that couldn't
have been done years ago when the equipment was too expensive. not
sure that cheap equipment affects the ethics in and of itself (beyond
the ease of including downloaded elements in films).
restaging/reenactments/docudrama is neither new nor old -- will
always be an element in docs. one recent example you may want to
look at is story of the weeping camel.

Sam Chance
Fri 18 Mar 2005Link
So are they trying to do it like flaherty did in the 20's? I thought
he staged most of that?

Christopher Gallant
Sun 20 Mar 2005Link
About a year ago I started videoing my wife going through surgery for
a cancerous brain tumor. She recovered and has done very well. She's
the one who actually asked me to do the taping, saying that she wanted
it for our future children to see. She also thought it would help to
get me through the experience. I had alot of reservations, but I shot
quite a few things that have happened before her surgery and after,
during recovery. During this timke her father was ill and just died a
month and a half ago. I didn't shoot much of him during the 3 1/2
years I knew him, but there are pics and some footage. I'd like to
produce a documentary about their struggles and my observations of
their and my experiences. I don't want to have the piece be too sad.
There was humor in it all. Have there been other docs on similar
subjects, or is there anything anyone thinks I should read to help me
make some sense of this? I've already watched Judith Helfand's "A
Healthy Baby Girl". There's more but I don't want to make this too
unreadable. Any advice would be appreciated.

Doug Block
Sun 20 Mar 2005Link
sounds like a compelling film to me, christopher. particularly when
you mentioned there's a lot of humor. that makes a huge difference
when you're dealing with a potentially grim subject.

i co-produced a film called "silverlake life" about two gay men dying
of aids who kept a video diary of the last year of their lives. it
was hard to tell at the time what kind of film it would make but it
turned out very successful -- grand jury prize at sundance, premiere
program of that year's p.o.v. program on pbs, theatrical release in 80
u.s. cities, among many other highlights.

so i say... go for it! good luck.

Ray Wood
Tue 5 Apr 2005Link
If you are still around Christopher I would suggest you follow your
heart when it comes to the sturcure of your project. I have learned
in my brief time in this that the details might have to be slightly
over looked, think about how this will be you and your wifes story
the imagery is there already. Be prepared you may not be able to tell
the direction of your piece before hand.

Andrés Livov
Thu 7 Apr 2005Link
Hello,

as i'm starting to schedule the feature doc i'll shoot during this
year (my first one!) I would like to ask if anyone knows approx how
much time it takes to edit a film of the same characteristics
of "etre et avoir" or "story of the weeping camel" or "the chimera of
heroes".
The NFB recommend 10-26 weeks minimum, but i guess they have the
resources for that...

thank you!

Andrés Livov
Thu 7 Apr 2005Link
sorry, I meant 20-26 weeks minimum.

Marj Safinia
Thu 7 Apr 2005Link
Andres. it depends on how much footage you have, how easily and well
your story comes together, and how skilled the editor is. As a rule of
thumb, it usually takes at least twice as long as you would
anticipate. The more homework you can do up from in terms of knowing
your footage really well, having an idea of structure etc, the faster
it should make the first cut go, but after that, it's a process of
refinement and playing to get it right. Also, money is often a hurdle
that causes filmmakers to have to stop and start with editing, which
can drag things out.

I would anticipate nothing less than 6 months, and anything up to
12-14 months, if things go smoothly.

Steve Holmes
Fri 8 Apr 2005Link
Agree with Marj on twice as long as you budget. Also depends on the
style of the piece. Quick cuts = lots of time. I heard that, for a
rough cut, allow 1.5 hours per finished minute. Rarely make that mark
myself. Also, how disciplined are you? Willing to declare victory
when an edit decision is 90% of what it could be or do you have the
time and money to get it as close to perfection as possible?

Christopher Kadish
Fri 8 Apr 2005Link
Dear Filmmakers, (never understood why spell check doesn't like
putting "film" and "makers" together...)

In 5 weeks I leave LA in my little car to travel alone around the
country with a mini DV camera (I still have not purchased on
credit), some camping gear and an ass cushion. I am a man who has
yearned since childhood to make a film, and after 10 years as a
professional actor, I am finally doing it. When asked what my film
will be about, I say I don't know, and I won't know until I have all
of my footage. I will be interviewing people all along the way
asking them to tell me about themselves, their stories, how they
know or don't know what they "should do" with their lives, how they
have been influenced by family and friends and even God, if they
lean that way. This is my coming of age and that is a key to this.
It is my journey seeking my meaning, asking others about theirs'.
I am new at this, and do know I will need an all-inclusive
release form (documentary and feature film together). I am on a
budget of the lowest order right now (Vienna sausage and canned fish
any one?) and can't afford a lawyer's fee to make one. Does anybody
have a resource for such things? My good friend and documentary
filmmaker Jeff Chapman (rape in a small town: HBO) tells me its very
expensive and getting more and more complicated.
Since I don't know what this film will be exactly, I want to
cover my butt for both possibilities. I see it as a documentary,
but it may turn into something else. ie. filmming and recreating
one of the stories I heard or using my own family stories in fiction
form.
Please, if anybody finds it in their heart to share some good
advice, I am so very grateful and willing to hear it.
Thank you!
Christopher K.

Doug Block
Fri 8 Apr 2005Link
Christopher, if you're gonna make docs you gotta learn how to google
:-)

http://www.bus.wisc.edu/acrgender/documents/release.doc

Entertainment lawyer Mark Litwack has a very helpful website:
www.marklitwack.com

Best advice I can give you is to simply follow your heart. And
practice your shooting. Steady, steady, steady. You'll be fine.

Christopher Kadish
Sat 9 Apr 2005Link
thank you, doug. i'm doing oodles of googles. I'll check out your
links.
have a great weekend.

Ron Rice
Tue 19 Apr 2005Link
New to NLE...

Most of my editing experience was on Steinbeck and Moviola flatbeds. I
also spent a couple years cutting commercials on a A/B roll analog
video system. That was back before nonlinear editing took off
(obviously, I haven't been editing for a while).

So here I am, back in the edit room after a long hiatus, getting
started with my first NLE system: Avid XPress Pro. Did I make the
right choice? What NLE's are other documentary filmmakers using? Does
it matter?

-Ron

Skip Hobbie
Tue 19 Apr 2005Link
I'm only a student with a few films to my belt, but I'll chime in anyway. I've worked with
Xpress Pro and Final Cut HD, and I have to say that Xpress Pro is still my preference. I see
the trend amongst fellow students moving more and more towards final cut. With apple's
shake, motion and DVD Studio Pro programs all getting better and better, I think the way
FCP fits into that work flow is pretty appealling, but it probably comes down more and
more to personal preference. Avid is probably more intuitive to someone learning who
has an editing background, but FCP is more natural for people used to working with
computers. An example of this would be Avid's "bins" a film term, versus "folders" in final
cut.

Doug Block
Tue 19 Apr 2005Link
From what I've heard, their are passionate defenders of both systems,
so you certainly didn't go wrong, ron.

Laura Mchugh
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Hello,

At the moment I am completing my Dissertation which is researching
how well documentaries can be used as historical documents. I was
wondering if you would be able to tell me a bit about yourself and
the films you have worked on, and if you believe they are valid
representations of the subject matter. Also if you personally
believe they could be used as historical sources in the future.

I look forwarding to hearing your responses and your co-operation
would be much appreciated.

Thanks

Laura

P.S I’m a student at the University College Winchester, UK.

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Laura,

Others here may disagree but I generally draw a distinction between
documentation and documentary. Both can certainly be used as
historical resources, but the distinction is like the distinction
between a primary source and a book by a historian. The historian's
book and the documentary will always have a point of view, even if it
is representing a historical event or figure and captures all the
facts accurately. Because it is not just about the facts, but
how/when/where/who presents them. I produced a film called Crucible
of War which looks at postwar life in former Yugoslavia from the
perspectives of ordinary citizens. We aimed to get a good cross-
section of society in terms of nationality, gender, age, class,
profession, and life experiences. But no matter what, the film still
had a point of view by the very fact of the characters we chose to
keep, the interviews we chose to use, and our interest in documenting
their personal realities more than factchecking whether their stated
beliefs, memories, and experiences were accurate. Truth is elusive
in the Balkans anyway. No matter how balanced we tried to make the
film, in the end, the viewer will choose to see the film from his/her
own perceptions, experiences, beliefs, trusts, and distrusts. So all
this to say that a documentary, like a historian's book, can be
viewed as a valid historical source, but not necessarily in isolation
because it represents one point of view and cannot be objective.

Ron Rice
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Laura,

My two cents... as far as subject matter is concerned, documentaries
are secondary resources and should be treated like all other secondary
resources: books, journal articles, etc. One should not think of the
documentary film as a primary historical resource just because it
seems somehow more "direct". All documentaries are subjective.

HOWEVER, documentaries ARE a primary source in one respect. They
record the dynamic processes of reportage, storytelling, sense-making,
etc. It's important to study not just the content of documentaries,
but also how documentaries express that content, and how these
expressions are fundamentally linked to the socio-political conditions
in which they were formed.

-Ron

Skip Hobbie
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
I agree with the above postings. You can look at a doc as a secondary source on whatever
its subject matter might be. OR you can look at a doc as a primary source about the
context in which it was made. Not a real michael moore fan, but for an easy example.
Farenheit 911 can't be taken as more than a very biased secondary source about 911 and
the bush administration, however it can become a primary source for the context in which
it was made. By examining Moore, his slant on things, how he was funded, why he reacts
the way he does, what was going on at that time, you can use the film as a window for
looking at the political climate of that time period. Thus the doc isn't a great historical
source about the events of 911, it is a great primary source about a school of politcal
thought and dissent that arose during that time period.

Maureen Futtner
Thu 21 Apr 2005Link
Hi, Documentary Mentors.

I have nearly all the footage for my doc, minus about 3 more
segments. I am at a stage where I'd like to cut a trailer (or at
least begin to think about it) - potentially to be used for funding. I
understand 3-5 mins. is the target length.
Can anyone give me some more tips on what to think about/look
for as I begin thinking about the trailer? Maybe that's too broad a
question, but I guess I'm trying to figure out to highlight all the
characters or highlight the plot or simply the theme.

Hope this questions makes sense. Thanks, in advance, for your
help. I really appreciate this forum

Maureen

Doug Block
Fri 22 Apr 2005Link
first of all, there is no target length for a sample (and it's a
sample and not a trailer that you're talking about). the most
effective sample i ever saw was 25 min. long, but that's an exception.
i'd say try to keep it under 10 minutes, but if it's compelling than a
longer one is fine.

commissioning editors will mainly want to see that you have
fascinating characters and a great story. if you can show an arc to
the story, better yet. in fact, the more it plays like fiction, the
better they seem to like it, in general. of course, some docs are
issue driven, not story driven, so those just need to be interesting
as hell.

finally, don't waste too much time at the beginning with music
setting a mood. they'll want to know within the first 30 seconds what
your film is about. the first minute of the sample is absolutely
critical. don't fart around with it - get to the point with some of
your strongest material.

Steve Holmes
Fri 22 Apr 2005Link
I wouldn't go as far as to complete the arc. As I recall with one
sample, I showed the beginnings of two or three arcs, took 'em a
ways and left 'em hanging. Goal was to raise more questions than
answers. "Then what happens?" "Fund the show and you'll find out."

Doug Block
Sat 23 Apr 2005Link
totally agree, steve. hint that you have an arc but don't complete
it. many filmmakers haven't shot the ending anyway before making the
sample, so it's not like you could if you wanted ;-)

Laura Scott
Thu 19 May 2005Link
I'm a first time filmmaker looking for a exec. producer/production
partner. I have a short list of broadcaster prospects for my one hour
TV doc on couple who have chosen to remain "childfree"(currently in
production) and I'm wondering if I should pitch this to producers
currently working with the broadcasters, and if they're interested,
let them pitch it to their colleagues or should I find a more
independent producer who doesn't have a stake in whatever broadcaster
we may end up with? Any thoughts, ideas on how I should approach this?

Doug Block
Thu 19 May 2005Link
laura, my guess is most producers working with broadcasters are
either staff, which means they generally don't take on indie projects,
or are working on a specific project of their own with them.
personally, i'd take it to an established producer who's worked with a
variety of broadcasters.

finding them and interesting them is another matter, of course ;-)

Laura Scott
Sat 21 May 2005Link
Yes, that is the trick. I have just begun to pitch it to "supplier"
producers who have worked with a number of broadcasters. It seems they
are pretty open to being pitched on projects that they think might
appeal to the broadcasters that they have relationships with. So far
two of the three I've pitched were interested enough to request
synopsis, tapes, budgets, etc. so we'll see.
For me the biggest challenge is finding someone who understands and
appreciates where you are going, creatively, with the project and is
on the same page with the marketing plan as well. Finding your
soulmate in the classifieds is easier by far ;-)

Doug Block
Sat 21 May 2005Link
that's why networking at festivals, markets and other industry events
is crucial. everyone looks to make contact with the various
commissioning editors but meeting other producers is just as
important, maybe moreso for international co-productions.

James River Martin
Sun 19 Jun 2005Link
{LINK NOT IMPORTED}: Steve Holmes {LINK NOT IMPORTED}:

"We better take this over to "The Mentoring Room." "

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

I'm now 99% decided to break my initial project into two. The Big Idea
I had in mind was, to be done right, a pretty high budget operation.

I'm thinking of doing a very low to low budget thing, mosly on my own.
It would focus on "the resistance", mostly protests and demonstrations
... and some narration and/or interview material slipped in. The
footage would, theoretically, mostly come from others who were at the
events and happened to be equipped with a video camera. I'd play
writer-director-editor-producer. I'd write a grant proposal and have
it funded as a project of a non-profit org. I have connections there.
Then I'd have a start. A start which will help me to take on the
bigger project. Also, I'd have gotten access to important footage for
the Bit Idea project.

What do you think?

Steve Holmes
Sun 19 Jun 2005Link
Who's your audience? Has anything like this been done before? If so,
how will your project be different? Do you plan to include new
interview footage? I expect you'd want that to provide a frame for
the story.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
Who's your audience?

Well, the smaller initial project would have a lot of "the choir" as
an audience. That is, those who are hip with and grooving on the anti-
car culture movement worldwide (mostly English-speaking nations). The
audience would also be their friends and family, and people standing
on the edge looking in from out there: Curious folks.

"Has anything like this been done before?"

Not exactly, to my knowledge. Though other films are sort of similar.

>>> Back in a bit.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
"If so, how will your project be different?"

The docs I am aware of, and which are similar are either differently
or more narrowly focussed. There are one or two docs on Critical
Mass, there are docs which are critical of automobile saturarated
suburbia, and so on. I'd tell a similar story from a much different
angle and approach, the story of "the resistance" in the form of many
and diverse demonstrations and protests world-wide. To my knowledge,
it hasn't been done.


more in a moment.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
"Do you plan to include new interview footage?"

Probably. Almost certainly. But perhaps not.

"I expect you'd want that to provide a frame for the story."

I think you are most likely right about that. Nevertheless, I *might*
do something closer to a "Baraka" (Fricke) or "Koyaanisqatsi"
(Reggio) --- Not exactly, but closer(?).

One possible alternative way to handle it is to publish a booklet of
the same dimensions as the DVD, and that booklet could tell the story
in words while allowing the imagery and sound to stand independent.

I'm leaving a door like this open until I've lived intimately with
the footage and played with some editing and what not. I am both a
scholar and an artist, and if the artist takes the lead ... well, he
might want to go elsewhere than the direction the scholar might
prefer.

In any case, it is perhaps too soon to lock in a plan ... If I'm
going to be editing and all. I can work intimately with the material
and follow it where it wants to go, this way. The Big Idea requires a
pretty focussed script which is also flexible. But I think I'll do
something small before I try to do a half million dollar blockbuster.

Steve Holmes
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
I dunno, James. If I see a bunch of people jumping up and down being
passionate about something, I want to know more about *them.* Their
issue becomes secondary. What drives, er, buses people to get worked
up enough to be part of the "resistance"? Why not sit home and watch
videos, or better yet, take a drive in the country? Programs with no
narration or interviews work only when the subjects can't talk. When
they can, I want them to do so.

As to your Big Idea, half a million is a lot to spend on any doc.
Unless it's one of the well-publicized exceptions, you'll never come
close to making back a tenth of that. With DV and editing on home
computers, shows can be done for far less.

James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
Your paragraph 1.

Well said, and good point.


Your paragraph 2.

I'm very much inspired by two wonderful docs called (a) Manufacturing
Consent, and (b) The Corporation. I've watched both many times,
making a study of them. And I've watched the Additional Features, or
whatever they are called, on the DVDs--The parts not shown in the
theatre. These were huge projects, with lots of people working on 'em
over a long span of time. I never did learn how much they cost to
produce, but I did learn that they were partly funded by grants from
the Canadian government! Those Canadians!

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that "The Corporation" had a half
mil or more budget, especially including promotion.

Of course, I can remain inspired by these films and shoot a little
lower. ;)


James River Martin
Mon 20 Jun 2005Link
What drew you into the world of documentary filmmaking, Steve?

Steve Holmes
Tue 21 Jun 2005Link
I lost a bet.

No, I went to journalism school at Missouri with emphasis on
broadcast journalism, worked in public television for a local
station in Kansas City and started my own company, which is always
on life support.

James River Martin
Fri 24 Jun 2005Link
I tell ya, there are some zippy images in my story!

"http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_nakedbike
rs.html
"

Kathryn Burg
Fri 1 Jul 2005Link
Does anyone have information on what sort of guidelines one should
follow when drawing up consent forms? I'm going to be shooting a
choir that's going on tour to England and Italy this summer. I
want to shoot mostly outside and inside the churches where they'll
be singing, although I will also be shooting the choir as they
take hikes and tour around the cities as a group. I know where
they'll be singing and where they'll be staying, but the tourist
spots will be on the fly. My crew consists of me (the recording
crew has requested separate informal permission from the
churches).

I was planning to send forms to the known locations in advance and
bring extras for the tourist spots. I've been told by the
directors of the tour that the churches might shy away from
signing official consent forms prior to filming (they may even bar
me from shooting at all), but they may be more open to it after
seeing the final cut. I'm planning to enter the final product into
film festivals, so I don't want to prevent myself from doing that,
but I don't want to scare anyone off, either. Any thoughts? Any
advice you could give or resources you could point me to would be
much appreciated. I leave in just under a month.

Steve Holmes
Sat 2 Jul 2005Link
Welcome, Kathryn! Not sure about sending the forms. It gives the
more paranoid recipients time to worry and stew. Forms can look
intimidating when people don't know what's going to happen during
the taping. Gut feeling is I'd send them in advance only if someone
requests them.

Why might the churches bar you from taping? Image concerns?
Preserving the sanctity of the concert? I saw a doc of a choral
concert tour which includes the concerts. Your best selling point is
you and your sensitivity to their concerns and the promise of a
credit and festival exposure.

As to the on-the-fly tourist spots, can you find out a few minutes
in advance where the group will be going, then go in and ask
permission first? Be sure to promise a "Thanks to" credit.

Will you have a release form in Italian?

Kathryn Burg
Tue 5 Jul 2005Link
Thanks for your thoughts, Steve! I get your gut feeling to not
send them in advance. Do you then think it's more appropriate to
ask them to sign the forms once I'm there in place or after I have
a cut to show?

Apparently, the churches sometimes take issue with the presence of
"equipment" during a solemn service. They have a legacy of
tradition backing them up (one is the staunchly traditional chapel
at Windsor Castle). I'll suggest tucking me and my camera out of
the way, but not too out of the way, if that's necessary. The
rehearsals are often a bit more interesting anyway, so as long as
I can convince them to let me shoot during those times, and at
services for at least some locations, I will live with it. And is
it true that I can use footage from a location without permission
as long as it's not recognizable?

For most of the tourist spots, I will know a bit in advance, so
I'll be sure to speed myself ahead of the group with form in hand
-- and polished sweet talking skills.

Luckily I speak Italian, so I'll be able to create a form for
those spots. I have a few English examples to work with, but if
you have any suggestions, or any links that might be good
reference, please pass them on. Thanks, again!

Steve Holmes
Tue 5 Jul 2005Link
Kathryn:

I would have them sign the releases at the taping site. If you wait
until you show them a rough cut of the show, some of them might balk
because of how they feel they're being portrayed. It might not have
anything to do with the content or tone, but perhaps as trivial a
concern as someone's Bad Hair Day.

<<And is it true that I can use footage from a location without
permission as long as it's not recognizable?>>

Under American law, you don't need a personal release if a person is
not recognizable. I have no clue about how Britain and Italy view
such things. It's a good idea to have a location release.

Maureen Futtner
Tue 5 Jul 2005Link
Hi, Documentary Mentors:

As always, I am grateful you folks are out here.

I am nearly done with production on my project, and even nearly done
logging, and am embarking on making a sample tape, then it's onto my
first assembly.

I am wondering at what point do I begin inquiring about licensing
rights for photos, music, footage I MIGHT want to use? Does one
simply wait until fine cut, or is it best to start putting feelers
out there now?

I don't plan to use a TON of non-original material, but there are a
few things out there that I definitely would love - including an R&B
song from the 60s, pages from an article which appeared in GQ
magazine, a clip or two from a FoxNews Talk show ... any wisdom as to
where, how and when I might begin inquiring about using this stuff?
I realize I could be way outta my league financially, but I'd like to
know just how far out I am. More specifically -
1. Do I go straight to the artist regarding the pop song? (if I can
find her)
2. Do I go straight to GQ and FoxNews? if so, which dept. do I
contact?
Thanks, in advance, for your help.
Maureen

Steve Holmes
Wed 6 Jul 2005Link
Maureen:

When you start asking about licencing rights depends on how much
material you have and how vital it is. The more important it is, the
earlier I'd ask. For the more marginal stuff, I'd wait until I had a
good idea that I'd be using it. No use spending a lot of time
inquiring about material that won't make the final cut.

Some of the material might be covered under "fair use," but it can
be a grey area. Not sure whom to contact at GQ or Fox. You might
check their websites. I suppose I'd go to the artist about the pop
song, but I'd look into fair use, too.

Christina Frederick
Thu 7 Jul 2005Link
Hi! I'm going to be travelling with a group of about 15 students from
a Caribbean island to NYC. We're shooting video of them (and they'll
be shooting video of each other) for a community-based documentary.
They are talented teen performers who have raised the money to travel
to NY to perform a show on Broadway that they have written and created
with Broadway professionals who are volunteering their time to the
project. We've been shooting their rehearsals and local performances
for months, and the kids will be filming each other's home lives and
families. Eventually we'll assist the kids in editing their own
full-length documentary of the experience and plan to market it to CPB
etc.

My question is about permits. The kids and I will be running around
the city for one week next month, doing touristy things, meeting
showbiz professionals, rehearsing and then performing. I'll be taping
on a Canon GL1 or a palmcorder, and the kids will also be taping each
other using small palmcorder units. I might have a light tripod with
me but that's the extent of the equipment we have. Do we need to apply
for insurance and NYC filming permits? I know we'll need releases from
recognizable people and interviewees, but -- will we need special
permission to film at city landmarks and in the theater where they're
performing?

Thanks so much. I did search the forum and the web but didn't find out
much about this topic as it relates to doc filming. Maybe no news is
good news?

Doug Block
Fri 8 Jul 2005Link
my feeling is... for the city streets, just go ahead and shoot. if
you're stopped, just say you're a film teacher and this is a class
exercise. worst that will happen is they tell you to move on.

landmarks and the theater are a different matter. if you want your
film broadcast, you'll need a release.

Christina Frederick
Fri 8 Jul 2005Link
Doug,

Thanks. The research I've done indicates that any recognizable
storefront or business would need a release. As for being a film
teacher, I guess I could stop in Chinatown and get a fake ID! ;-)

I'll check with the mayor's office about landmarks. Maybe they'll have
some leads on who to contact for things like the Empire State Building
, Rockefeller or Lincoln Center... or department stores etc...

Another related question - I wonder in general if it is advisable - or
more disarming - to have the teens ask business owners for releases,
or if it's a better idea to have an adult (me) make the request. And
when asking a business owner, is it a good idea to describe where the
film will be shown? In general, are people more apt to sign releases
when they get the impression the film is going to be shown once at 3am
on cable access in a foreign country, or when they think they might
appear in the next Farenheit 911?

Doug, enjoyed your weddings website by the way. I liked those clips of
the photo session in central park, where you're following the couple
from a distance but hear family members chatting in the foreground.
Did you mix that audio in or was that ambient sound from the shot?
Really nice, really feels like being there, adds a lot of depth and
character to the scene. Inspiring, as I have raw footage of my own
wedding that I'll someday look at and edit...

Mandeep Sandhu
Fri 8 Jul 2005Link
Hi,
I am an aspiring documentary maker. I have the idea and a rough plan
about the structure of the documentary itself. This documentary will
involve interviewing subjects as well as footage of locations
relevant to the subject. I have a sony trv33 digital camcorder.
1. Should I go start shooting footage and interviewing people with it
or do I need a professional quality digital video camera.

2 For sound I have a wireless mike that I can attach to camcorder
and a lapel mike clipped on the subject. I think the make is
lavalier. Will this suffice.

3. DO I need to register a non profit company for this project.
I plan to use footage to apply for funding later on. Also are there
any advantages froma tax point of view.

4. I could use some help with this. Ideally I would like a film
student, or someone in similar capacity, to work with me on this
project. Where can I scout for people like that.

I did try to read previous posts for answers to my questions but
could not find any. If answers to these questions have been posted
elsewhere please post a link and my apologies to repeat the question.

Mandeep

Doug Block
Sat 9 Jul 2005Link
Christina, I think it depends on the owner, you try to feel it out
when you talk to them, but I generally low key it. Try to make it
seem like it's no big deal, and the release is just for in case it
happens to ever get on tv. And I'd ask myself, not have the teens do
it.

Thanks for your compliments about my wedding clips (for those who
don't know, I shoot about a dozen weddings a year to support my doc
work). The audio in my wedding shoots is all done via a Sennheiser ME
63 mike mounted on top of my camera. I actually edit in the camera as
I shoot, and do it all as a one-man crew. For examples:
<www.dougblockweddings.com/video_clips.htm

Mandeep, in brief:

1. Don't know that camera well but you might want to start on it and
use your initial interviews to make a work sample to help you raise
money (to afford a better camera). In general, if it's not considered
broadcast quality, I'd wait, unless circumstances require you to shoot
an interview sooner than later.

2. lavaliers are ok for interviews but not for the audio for verite
footage. Look into a better directional mike.

3. No.

4. Put up an ad on Craig's List or Shooting People or some other list
serve.

Good luck!

Christina Frederick
Sun 10 Jul 2005Link
Thanks Doug.

That's impressive that you edit your wedding shoots on the spot. (22
years of experience can't hurt!) Maybe the structured nature of a
wedding day helps, but I find that with most things I've worked on, I
really have to shoot and shoot and shoot to get the few moments that I
need and then really have to review everything at least once or twice
to make edit decisions. I should probably try to shoot a few short
stories in cam like that, what a great way to train yourself to see
the key points plus scene details of the story happening. Do you have
some kind of mental checklist of elements to capture, or discuss it
with your client beforehand? I imagine it's your talent plus
experience that gives you the confidence to make decisions so quickly,
and feel confident that you're capturing the moment even when you're
getting a "b-roll" shot away from the key players...

Also, how do you avoid having people react to the camera on a scene? I
often get people "jokingly" putting their palm up to the lens, or
mugging, or making an "oops" face and running to get out of the way...
do you ask people to ignore the camera?

I'm going to be helping my mother move out of her house where she's
lived for 35 years - was thinking of making that a personal project
this summer, to get her to look at her personal artifacts before she
packs them up, and describe their meaning to her, her history, her
life. Maybe that will be a good opportunity to try this in-cam editing
out!

How exactly do you edit in the camera? Do you take a few moments to
review tape after you shoot a sequence, and cue up to your next cut?
Or do you just edit your trigger finger, collecting all video
snapshots of the action as you go? What kind of cam do you shoot these
with?

I'm really awestruck that you can edit such a long piece on the fly.
Humbly prostrating at your feet! ;-) Thanks for sharing your time and
knowledge with us less experienced folks. This forum is really a godsend.

Doug Block
Sun 10 Jul 2005Link
hey christina, just got back from yet another wedding, so i'm kind of
tired, but if i don't answer now, probably won't get to it once
editing resumes tomorrow on my film (about my father moving from the
house i grew up in after my mother's death a few years ago, so a bit
similar to your idea, but i'm a little further along).

it's hard to advise people how to edit in camera. mainly, you have
to listen real hard, have a sense of editing, and a LOT of camera
experience. but it's also a lot of fun. don't think i could shoot
weddings as a side gig if it weren't for the challenge involved.

i do use my trigger finger as the chopping block. the on/off button
makes the edits as i go. i move around a lot, change angles a lot, do
a lot of combination pans and zooms. it's very zen-like, very
instinctive.

as to how to get people not to wave to the camera, i don't use a
light on my camera if i can possibly avoid it. my camera is a canon
gl-1, so it looks like a camcorder and lots of people bring camcorders
to weddings, so people usually think i'm just a guest. i try to act
really low key, never try to call attention to myself. and if they do
start to notice the camera and wave, i turn and walk away.

hope that helps. practice helps, too ;-)

John Philp
Thu 14 Jul 2005Link
Hi All,
Quick question. I'm making a yoga doc. One of my main characters is a
controversial yogi. I've shot stuff of him hosting a yoga
'championship', giving a lecture, and doing a five-minute interview
with us, all at public events where we were a credited film crew.

Problem; He has not signed a release. And while trying to get a sit-
down interview with him, his people suddenly said he's 'under
contract' to another doc and can't be in mine. Where does this leave
the earlier footage I shot, in your estimation?

John Philp

Doug Block
Thu 14 Jul 2005Link
probably leaves it sitting on your shelf, john. certainly don't know
any broadcasters that would air it without the signed release.

Garry Carter
Wed 3 Aug 2005Link
Anyone know how to get the technical requirements for the Discovery
Channel(s)? There is a login area at
http://producers.discovery.com/pmd/PMDHandbook.nsf/ but this is
for "contract" producers only. The information I seek is benign but
doesn’t appear to be published anywhere. Thanks.

Robert Goodman
Thu 4 Aug 2005Link
you could call them and ask for a copy. Though I would suggest you
really only need the details when you have a deal and a show to deliver.

Randolfe Wicker
Sat 6 Aug 2005Link
I have a question about filming on the street. I've seen
announcements by an MTV crew at a Staten Island Gay Pride Fair in a
public park notifying people that they might be filmed.

I put up such notices while filming at a similar event in Brooklyn.

Somehow, (probably because of my small camera) I managed to shoot some
film (getting verbal and signed releases) at an S&M street fair in
Manhattan.

However, the most fascinating thing I captured was a "public" humorous
"live" mummification. One fellow wrapped a 25-year-old "twinkie" in
saran wrap and shaving cream, then invited onlookers to hug him, cane
him, whatever--for which they would have to make a donation to a group
defending sexual freedom.

Various men and women caned him, hugged him, whipped him--and one even
spit a stream of water into his open mouth. Some of the males were
dressed in leather.

I learned later that MTV and some other video units had "pleaded" to
be allowed to come and film but were refused. The street fair was
technically "public". However, they had an entrance where a
"suggested donation of $5" was collected.

What risk would I take in editing this footage into a freely
distributed vlog?

Join this discussion now. You need to log in or register if you want to post.