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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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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
Mon 11 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
Fri 15 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?

Doug Block
Sun 7 Aug 2005Link
I'm no lawyer and you should really run that by an entertainment
lawyer specializing in new media. My guess is it's fine, especially
if you're not getting a lot of hits on your vlog. But the more
popular it gets, the more it could become a potential issue.

Randolfe Wicker
Sun 7 Aug 2005Link
Then becoming involved in this new venue of vlogging just might put
you on the "ground floor" mapping out the new legal and social issues
involved.

I can only wonder what those who "work" at making documentaries and
struggle to ear a living doing it think of people who essentially give
their work away through vlogging?

Actually, I see vlogging as a truly democratic playing field when it
comes to video competition. You don't need a lot of financing or
intermediaries to vet your work.

You don't have to package your work to fit certain standard formats.
All you have to do is produce something that attracts an audience
and/or provokes controversy.

For that matter, once you have succeeded in attracting a following and
establishing a name, you should be able to grow from there into
commercial venues if you so wish.

Doug,thanks for the comment. The key words were "entertainment lawyer
specializing in new media".

Doug Block
Mon 8 Aug 2005Link
i think vlogging is pretty exciting, actually. if i had the time and
energy, i definitely do it - don't see the downside at all. but i
think for one to be successful you not only need talent as a filmmaker
but a really keen marketing sense. or agressive linkmaking, at least.

good luck, randolfe.

Jasmine Adams
Mon 8 Aug 2005Link
Legal Issues.

I'm considering a documentary on teenagers who are acting out and
engaging in behaviour that is generally deemed socially unacceptable.
Where so I stand on this leagally? As they children are minors I
assume that the parents will have to sign the release forms...however
I am caught on how, exactly, to represent myself to their parents.
The whole point of the doco is the actions and behaviour of these
children that the parents don't know about.

I know doco makers have been caught on this in the past, so hopefully
someone here may be able to give me a heads up on exactly how to
approach this.

Erica Ginsberg
Mon 8 Aug 2005Link
Would recommend you take Doug's advice given to the vlogging question
above and consult an entertainment lawyer. You might also contact
the filmmakers of several films which have dealt with "minors
behaving badly" to see how they dealt with this slippery slope.

Doug Block
Mon 8 Aug 2005Link
ditto what erica said. you do NOT want to proceed too far without
good legal advice. be very careful with minors (and their possibly
outraged parents)!

Randolfe Wicker
Mon 8 Aug 2005Link
Doug, you suggest "aggressive linking". Are there some good resources
for learning about that.

I have heard that one should link to "anything" or "anyone" who links
back to you. In the past, I was very judicious about whom I linked
to. I felt a link on my site was almost an endorsement.

Is there a particular book or series of articles which lays all of
this out? I have two websites but am unable to do anything with them
since the fellow who used to work with me on the computer left.

Doug Block
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
just google on "vlogging"...

Randolfe Wicker
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
I've done that some time ago. I've found helpful tutorials at
freeblog. There seem to be groups of vlogger who link to each other
to build traffic.

I was wondering if there are any specific resources as to "linking
stragedy"--whether selective links are better than unselective ones, etc.

There was a "counter" on a very excellent vlog, "vlog of a faux
journalist", and I was surprised at how little traffic her site received.

You can get a sampling of hilarious comedy with "the message" at
http://www.jonnygoldstein.com/2005/08/06/yanni_goldthtein_holithtic_healer_holithtic_videoblogging.php

Steve Holmes
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
Randolfe:

Are the people in the footage identifiable? Some folks might not
want the world to know they went to an S&M fair. I'd be very leery
of using footage that features identifiable people unless releases
were signed or faces are obscured just enough to cover you legally.

As to running this by an entertainment lawyer, do a Google search
for "Lawyers for the Creative Arts" to see if it has someone working
in your area.

Randolfe Wicker
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
I was aware of this while filming. I shot footage of a long line of
people (from the neck down) waiting in line to be admitted to a
"drinking area". They had to show I.D. to get in.

However, in the public mummification tape, many people were
identifiable. It is impossible to get releases from people when
shooting a street scene.

If someone is filmed dressed in shorts and a leather vest, smacking
his hand with a small whip and then paying (tipping) to swat the
volunteer mummifee on a public street in front of hundreds of people,
what could he claim?

The crowd was very mixed so far as orientation went--straight and
gay--but nearly all were into S&M. If you are into that scene, attend
a public event and are filmed walking around, what could your
objections be?

I'll certainly keep these concerns in mind during editing. I'm not
sure how difficult or expensive "blurring" faces would be.

Steve Holmes
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
Some people lead dual lives. They might be comfortable at the fair
among people who believe as they do -- and nobody's going to condemn
them -- but might be horrified at the notion that their visit to the
fair, complete with vests and whips, was now on the World Wide Web,
where it could be seen by parents, bosses, co-workers or even wives
who have no idea what their husbands are into.

Put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn't you be leery about your
participation being uploaded for all to see?

Randolfe Wicker
Tue 9 Aug 2005Link
Well, I understand your point. However, as the first homosexual to go
on television and radio (1964 and 1962 respectively) and as the first
gay journalist to cover the emergence of an S&M community (1971), I
think you have to balance such concerns against the many people there
who willingly allowed themselves to be interviewed and videotaped.

I find it hard to square a mentality that is afraid of exposure with
someone who dressed "obviously" in a leather-daddy mode and publicly
induldged his desires in broad daylight, on a public street, before
dozens (possibly as many as a few hundred) onlookers.

Indeed, many of those participating seemed to enjoy being part of the
show. This public mummification was a humorous parody of the real
thing which would have been done privately, involved more restriction
and no shaving cream. The Saran Wrap and shaving cream buffered the
blows and made them painless. The whole thing was really a public
celebration of S&M sex.

I'd argue one shouldn't "dance in the streets" if one doesn't want to
be seen (and video-taped). I was obviously filming for a full 57
minutes. Everyone could see me. True, they might have thought I was
making home movies. That's all vlogs are--home movies uploaded to the
Internet.

Doug Block
Wed 10 Aug 2005Link
my guess is vlogs are pretty new ground concerning privacy issues.
you could always push the limits and possibly become a test case. test
cases get lots of publicity ;-)

Melissa Dopp
Wed 10 Aug 2005Link
Randolfe, I thought BDSM scenes involved "safe, sane, and consensual"
negotiations (public or private). By not seeking permission from your
subjects, are you not transgressing a basic tenet of BDSM? There is a
site for queer podcasting that will probably branch out to include
queer vlogging; I think it's called qPodder. Maybe you can push them
toward the inclusion of vlogging? I guess I'm curious about your
target audience - would folks within the BDSM scene really be
interested in your footage for archival purposes or are you hoping to
exploit sexual identities for a larger, more generalized cyber
audience?

Randolfe Wicker
Wed 10 Aug 2005Link
Well, I am not personally involved in BDSM so I don't feel I've
entered into any public or private "safe, sane and consensual"
contracts of an especially restrictive nature.

I donated to the cause of sexual freedom, showed my appreciation to
the performers by kissing the mummifee's hand and sending the two
performers copies of their performance.

I've asked them to sign releases, even offered to share any commercial
gains. However, I'm not sure either is necessary. I guess I'd have
to check case law about street performers or consult an entertainment
lawyer.

Lawyers cost a lot of money. If I'm simply sharing videotapes I've
made (for free) with others via vlogging, why is that so different
from showing it to a large party filled with friends? In both cases,
people have come to your apartment (or vlog)to see your videos.

There is a blog at http://www.tonyhayden.com where this fellow posts
weekly coverage of his most personal life. Last week, he included
footage of professional shows at a private gay resort in Orlando.

Thanks for the suggestions regarding qPodder. There is a "make your
own vlogroll" at http://videoblogging-universe.com/ which includes
about sixty vloggers including at least one transexual.

My target audience is AMAP--that is, As Many As Possible! I want to
explore the world with the whole world watching. A small ambition?

Melissa Dopp
Wed 10 Aug 2005Link
Well, the erosion of the supposed public/private split that folks
used to hang ethical considerations upon is interesting. One could
argue that your apartment space represents a "private space" while the
Internet vlogging space represents a "public space" so, there is a
difference. One could also argue that re-representing a sexual
community, in your case (as an outsider), will do absolutely nothing
to promote "sexual freedom" (if indeed such an ideal can be defined,
let alone achieved from a hetero-legal p.o.v.). Why not push the
envelope and see what legal walls you bump up against using newer
technologies to promote "sexual freedom"?

Steve Holmes
Wed 10 Aug 2005Link
Randolfe:

It's possible that the people who attended see the "contract" in a
different way. Heard the phrase, "What happens in Vegas stays in
Vegas"? My guess is that it's the same way here. Sure, people saw
you taping, but probably assumed you were doing it for your own
amusement rather than to share wtih as many as possible all over the
world.

I have a friend who is a swinger and goes to swinger parties.
Everyone there is comfortable because everyone there participates in
the hobby. Nobody's judging anyone else. Yet these same folks would
be horrified to see themselves in a video of the party that popped
up on a swingers' website.

In each case, we're talking about a subculture that is frequently
ridiculed and condemned. Those who are part of it are happy to let
it all hang out among their friends in the lifestyle, but don't want
to be "outed" on the Internet. This kind of thing ruins careers and
lives. I don't know how to obscure faces. Some more techie types may
have an answer. But it seems that would get your point across
without outing people who weren't expecting it. Otherwise, it would
be wrong to use the unaltered footage.

What everyone is saying is tread very carefully -- both to keep
yourself out of potential legal trouble and to protect the rights of
those who were videotaped.

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