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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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Doug Block
Thu 11 May 2006Link
call me dense but who do you need to pay the usage rights to, ross?
the photographer? a magazine?

and if you change the phot so much you can't recognize the celebrity,
why are you even using the photo?

Ross Williams
Fri 12 May 2006Link
I believe that you would have to pay the photographer, because they
are the copyright owner.

The celebrities are still recognizable, they look more like
charactures now... but the photos aren't recognizable.

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 12 May 2006Link
Ross, you should look at the Fair Use Statement for Documentary
Filmmakers, authored by the Center for Social Media and a number of
film organizations. Depending on how you are using the images in
your project, they may come under fair use.
<http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/resources/publications/documentar
y_filmmakers_statement_of_best_practices_in_fair_use/
>

Christopher Gallant
Wed 17 May 2006Link
Hi everyone,
I also have a usage question. I need to use some footage from some of
the old roman empire b+w epics - ya know "cast of thousands"kinda
ficks. There are a few really old ones from the 30's and 20's which
might be less problematic(?) I would love to write whomever owns the
rights to ask but I have a tight deadline for the finishing of this
documentary... It's for my thesis project. I would like to show the
film more widely later on, but for now I just need to show it on
campus and have a small community gallery/space showing to fulfill my
requirements. Using this footage, a minute or two, will make the
project concept work sooo much better. What's your advice?


David Seidman
Sun 21 May 2006Link
I'm a longtime print journalist and non-fiction author who wants
to work in documentary film/video. I've joined IDA, I've started
pitching ideas to various production houses, and now I'm here.
What else should I do to find work in this field?

David Seidman
davidseidman@earthlink.net

Robert Goodman
Sun 21 May 2006Link
Find work - look elsewhere. Most of us support our habit by working in
peripheral areas. For example, shooters do everything from corporate
work to commercials to weddings. The ranks of the doc makers who earn
their entire living from making docs is slim. The Maysles earned more
from commercial work than they ever did from making docs. Michael
Moore likely earns more from book sales than doc films. Lots of people
teach. Some are independently wealthy. As several famous nonfiction
filmmakers have told me - this is a hobby not a profession.

sorry to disappoint.

Steve Holmes
Mon 22 May 2006Link
Excellent advice from Robert, as usual. To find work in this field
as a producer, which is what I infer you want to do, you have to
make your own work. You'll find no ads that say, "Wanted:
Documentary makers." Almost everyone on D-Word has created labors of
love that they have funded by themselves or through grants or co-
production deals and then attempted to sell and distribute. Find an
idea or topic you can stay in love with for at least several years
and begin to pull together funding possibilities and a filmmaking
team. That's how you find work in this field.

Robert Goodman
Mon 22 May 2006Link
Actually find an idea or topic that will remain interesting to people
for the next 40 years - we call them evergreens. An evergreen brings
in a trickle of money year after year. Anything less and you'll never
get a return on your investment.

Doug Block
Mon 22 May 2006Link
David, hopefully you can keep doing your print journalism to fall
back on. A first doc generally takes years to make and then get out
into the world (don't forget that part).

Karen Nedivi
Wed 31 May 2006Link
I just started working on a documentary as the cinematographer, that
will take place in the cloud forest in ecuador. I don't have
experiecne shooting abroad on film. They are planning on buying either
the arriS or the SR (money) and will be either sending film or
bringing film with us. We also are worried about the bext way to
develop the film, since we will be there for over 3 months, and if it
is better to do this locally though a kodak, or send back to AMerica
to a lab.
If anyone has experience with shooting abroad and have any
recommendations or warnings, it would be very helpful, or online
resources. We will contact kodak and labs to ask them what they
suggest, but I would like to find out information from people who
actually had the experience.

Julia Guest
Thu 8 Jun 2006Link
Karen this sounds like a very expensive, high risk medium to use in
a steamy jungle. You will face problems with condensation for a
start. Have you consider going Hi Def instead? I doubt a lab in
Ecuador is going to be adequate to process the film, so you will
also not see your results till you get back.

Luke Walden
Fri 7 Jul 2006Link
Hello all. This is my first post here, and I'm wondering where should
I go and whom should I ask to get some really experienced advice about
technical issues around post production for an indie historical doc
that combines contemporary 24P DV interviews/B-roll with a wide range
of archival footage formats and stills. I'm trying to plan and budget
for an edit that will cause minimal headaches in an online for
broadcast and also for possible film transfer. We will most likely
edit in Final Cut and online on a high end AVID at a decent post house.

I've done a lot of internet
searching and talked to several post houses in New York, but I don't
feel like I've yet gotten answers that really take into account the
possibility of mixing all that archival material with 24p footage and
what that might entail in terms of technical issues, workflow and
onscreen look. Perhaps the person I need is on this very board! But
if not, where to look?

Thanks,
Luke

Doug Block
Fri 7 Jul 2006Link
as noted in the intro topic, since you clearly qualify as a
professional, luke, you'll find qualified pros to answer that question
in the professional community here: www.d- word.com/community/join.

but you could also post this question on the shooting people website:
www.shootingpeople.com

John Burgan
Mon 10 Jul 2006Link
For FCP/24p questions you could start by browsing through these
sites:

<http://forums.creativecow.net/cgi-bin/new_view_posts.cgi?forumid=8>

<http://www.2-popforums.com/forums/>

Joe Wilson
Wed 19 Jul 2006Link
Greetings Folks,

I'm new to this world, and am up to my neck (or is that in over my
head?) in my first big project:
(http://qwaves.com/QWAVESnew_10/Heartland.html).

As I begin fundraising, I'm wondering if there are recommendations on
which org(s) work well as a fiscal sponsor .. ? (So far, I'm looking
at International Doc Assoc., Film Arts Fdn., & Southern Doc Fund.)

Also, as I begin to grapple with approx. 70 hours of footage, I'd love
to connect with (and hopefully hire) a talented writer, experienced in
documentary work, to help me flesh out the narrative / structure for
the piece. Any suggestions on how / where to reach out / connect with
writers? (I'm particularly interested in someone with experience in
queer film and/or activism.)

Thank You for any comments or suggestions that may come my way:
qwavesjoe@yahoo.com

Ethan Yarbrough
Thu 3 Aug 2006Link
Hello all. I'm new to the forum, and new to documentary filmmaking.
I have a subject I'd like to pursue that will require multiple
interviews with multiple subjects. My question is just a basic one:
how do you find people willing to participate as subjects of a
documentary? Do you put an ad in the paper? Ad on craigslist or some
other online board? I want to follow a few willing subjects for some
time, but I just don't know the best way to find those subjects.

I appreciate any tips you all can offer.

E

Joe Scherrman
Fri 4 Aug 2006Link
Anybody know Kevin Costner's Publisist? I would like to get an
interview with him. How about any producers or contacts at netflix?

Doug Block
Sat 5 Aug 2006Link
Ethan, hard to answer that question without knowing your specific
topic. But often you go to experts first and either interview them or
ask who they might recommend you talk to.

Steve Holmes
Sun 6 Aug 2006Link
And as you explore your topic, you'll soon figure out who the
experts are. Wouldn't bother with an ad, but a notice on an online
forum or newsgroup dedicated to the subject might help.

Dustin Ogdin
Tue 26 Sep 2006Link
I hope I'm posting this in the right place. Moderators feel free
to move if you'd like.

I recently found a fiscal sponsor for my project. I want to do
fundraising on my website through paypal. The problem is that my
sponsor is not very tech-savvy. Is it ok for me to collect
donations on my website through MY paypal account, and then give
the funds (or their percentage) to my sponsor? I know the
opposite situation is the typical scenario (sponsor gets money -
takes out their share, then gives money to me.) My sponsor
doesn't have a problem with this - they trust my honesty. I'm
just curious to know if it is legal?

Thanks for any input!

Robert Goodman
Wed 27 Sep 2006Link
It's legal just not tax-deductible. Contributions have to be made
directly to the organization. If people give you money and you give it
to the organization, then you can take the tax deduction. The pay to
line on the check determines whether it's a charitable contribution.

Why not set up the fiscal sponsor with an account?

Dustin Ogdin
Wed 27 Sep 2006Link
Thanks for the clarification, Robert (and for the quick response).
My fiscal sponsor is not too tech savvy, but I'm definitely going
to try to get them to set up an account. Thanks!

Gary Parker
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
I'm new here. I posted the newbie intro and came over here. I helped
produce a documentary for a local TV station back in the 70's and
haven't been doing anything since. As I said in my intro, I have
several historical documentaries that are in pre-production. One of
the most important things that I'm looking for is a good producer so
I can get the financing for the completion of the first project. The
companies that I plan to approach for funding are not willing to
give money to someone with no track record. I have two production
companies in mind but, as usual, they say they will get back to me.
I'm not holding my breath. What kind of advice can you give me about
getting the financing started? Should I just contact the companies
with the story and hope for the best? Thanks for the suggestion for
Shooting People in a previous post. I signed up there.

Gary Parker
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
Doug, I watched the trailer for the 51 Birch Street doc. I'm very
impressed! You have a great one there. I would love to see it but,
the Nov. 3 showing in SF is in conflict with me being in Ohio at
that time. And all the others are too far away. I'll be working on
the history doc I'm trying to put together. I'm basically doing
everything right now. I'm writing narration, shooting script, review
of existing film and interviews, document selection and placement,
interviews with experts in the field, etc. This project will take a
few years to complete.

Doug Block
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
Thanks, Gary. It's scheduled for a one-week run in SF, and if enough
people show up, it can easily be held over. So don't give up yet.

As for getting fundraising started, I suggest you attend as many
markets (IFP, Sunny Side of the Doc, BritDoc), festivals and pitching
forums (Toronto, IDFA is the best) as possible and start to introduce
yourself around, familiarize yourself with the Commissioning Editors
and see how it all works.

Ken Mackenzie
Thu 28 Sep 2006Link
Hello, by the looks of the posts here this sounds like a good place
to get some advice. I am a post production professional (with a
steady job!) that is interested in writing my first doc. I have...a
million questions but I'll keep it to two (for now!). The first: If
I am one of the main subjects within the story how much should I be
involved with in the process? (ie bringing on another writer or
interviewer). The second: Where can I get some solid advice or
resources on the form of documentary writing?

Justin Frimmer
Fri 29 Sep 2006Link
I am in the process of doing a investment memorandum and have a
question regarding the way documentary films are sold and revenue
distributed. Is the documentary model the same as the fiction
model, in that net receipts are distributed between the distribution
company and the producers/investors? Or does the distribution
company simply buy the rights, giving them all the receipts? For
example, the film Wordplay "sold" for 1 million. Is that 1 million
the end of the revenue for the filmmakers as far whatever
domestic/international/theatrical/dvd rights were agreed upon or
will the filmmakers get a percentage of film receipts as well?

Joe Scherrman
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
I'm having trouble updating my personal info. When I submit it comes up
error.
Also
I am looking for informantion about fiscal sponsors. I have one
interested but they want to know how. Also looking for an example of a
contract between my LLC and the fiscal sponsor 501c3.
I appreciate the help.

Joe Scherrman
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
I googled fiscal sponsor and got a wealth of info.

Doug Block
Sat 30 Sep 2006Link
Ken, there's no set rule to your first question. As for documentary
writing, most docs these days aren't pre-written or scripted. Tend to
be shoot first, "write" it in the edit room (if there's even narration
at all, that is).

Justin, it's pretty much the same regarding the kinds of sales to
distributors you refer to (the big "Wordplay" ones), that are the big
exceptions, btw. It's one in a thousand docs, at the least, that make
that kind of a sale. And in almost all cases (including Farenheit
911, I've heard), the advance is the last money the filmmakers ever
saw. And don't forget that in that advance the filmmakers are
required to pay for the deliverables, which can take a huge bite out
of it.

Robert Goodman
Sun 1 Oct 2006Link
Never believe the "sales $$" sold for hype. I really really doubt
Wordplay sold for $1 million.

Elena Ghanotakis
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Hi,
I am working on a documentary following rape survivors through
a rape clinic in South Africa. I am shooting the project in HD
format. I would like to backup all of the footage on an external
hard drive. Does anyone have advice about which is the best
external hard drive on which to do this? I am looking at Western
Digital, Lacie and Seagate. Also, is it better to go with a
larger drive, i.e. 1TB or break it down into 2 500GB drives. Do
the larger drives have more problems?

Would appreciate any feedback!

Elena

Robert Goodman
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Single drive 1TB units not generally available.
The cost/GB sweet spot is around 350GB. Seagate.
Are you backing up HDV, HDCAM, DVCPROHD, or HDCAM-SR footage?
All have different needs - from USB to Fiber Channel connections and
from a single drive to RAID arrays.

Elena Ghanotakis
Sun 8 Oct 2006Link
Thank you for your response. Both Western Digital and Lacie make
a 1TB External Firewire Drives. Here is a link to the Western
Digital 1TB Drive:

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=267


I am trying to back up HDV NTSC footage.

Robert Goodman
Mon 9 Oct 2006Link
It's not 1TB drive - it's two drives in a box. Read the description.
I'd forgo the huge single unit and get multiple drives as you go. HDV
uses the same space as miniDV - a 350GB drive holds a lot of footage.
Cheap so you can buy two and make two backups.

Gary Ballen
Mon 16 Oct 2006Link
This is the first Documentary I have been involved with. We are
doing a piece on the history of the Negro Baseball League and the
Negro Baseball League Museum. We are putting a business plan
together and I have to research potential income streams for the
following,
1. aquisition from a network and cable station
2. potential sponsorship income
3. Advertising Income
4. DVD sales
5. E commerce
6. cd soundtrack income
7. Grant $
8. Military Sales
9. Infomercial Sales
10. Licensing Income
11. Ancillery $$

I would really appreciate any help I can get on this.

Thank You,

Erica Ginsberg
Mon 23 Oct 2006Link
Is the museum sponsoring your project? How many visitors do they
get a year and what partnerships do they have with other
organizations -- both baseball and African-American orgs? I would
think your best bets are grants and DVDs sales through the museum's
existing network of contacts. Depending on how the project is
developed, you may be able to sell it to PBS or a cable channel, but
don't expect to make back any money from those sales.

Gary Ballen
Fri 3 Nov 2006Link
The museum is not sponsoring us but they are supporting us, it will
be an authorized documentry if that means anything. We are looking
for funding right now, got any cash?

Thanks,

Gary Ballen

Joe Scherrman
Sat 4 Nov 2006Link
Shaking the Money Tree, 2nd Edition: How to Get Grants and Donations for
Film and Video: Books: Morrie Warshawski by Morrie Warshawski.
Barry, I enjoyed talking with you the other day. I know you are pressed
for time so grants may be out of the question. I'm on my first doc that
needs funding. It seems to me that finding a 501C3 partner is my best
bet. Good luck and keep me in the loop. We're both doing baseball
related stuff.

Erica Ginsberg
Sat 4 Nov 2006Link
Ha, Gary. Last place you want to raise serious funds is from other
doc filmmakers. We're all in the same sinking boat. Good luck!

Ana Da Silva
Mon 6 Nov 2006Link
Hello!

I'm new here and looking for further guidance. I want to get into
documentary film making to cover issues in children rights
(broadly). I studied Communications for both my BA and my MA and
have a day job to pay the bills. I've been reading more and more
about docs and I want to do it for a living (or try anyway).

Any ideas on where to go from here? If you ask me what I'd like to
be doing (in the field) in 10 years, I'd say producing and still
writing, which is what I'd like to do soon.

I hope this is a clear intro and I hope you guys will be able to give
me some constructive advice.

Thank you very much!

Ana

Robert Murdock
Wed 8 Nov 2006Link
Hi all,

I have a question, well a few I guess. I recently started an
attempt at making a short documentry. Topic: online gamers. Next I
hope to do a wildlife short.

Here is my issue. I have some notes scribbled down, for example:

1. Opening intro
2. interview with.. XXX
3. comentary on convention
4. footage from convention

...etc.

Is there a better way to lay out what I want to accomplish? I know
that most people do not like software that helps with these things,
but, what do you all think?

What type of software package would help me most with getting the
layout of my documentry down? Do I need a screenwriter software?
Movie outline? Final Draft.. or?

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

RObert

Robert Goodman
Wed 8 Nov 2006Link
Any word processing software will be fine for a treatment.

Doug Block
Wed 8 Nov 2006Link
ana, you could try any number of things. you could take classes.
you could intern for established doc makers. you could simply pick up
a camera and start shooting. there's no set path.

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 9 Nov 2006Link
I'd go with word processing and skip the specialty software. For a
treatment, you don't need to go shot-by-shot. I assume you are
asking about a script or at least a paper edit guideline.

Some folks live by using the same format as for a fiction script.
Personally I prefer the side-by-side version where I put my visuals
in the left column and the audio (interview bites, sound on tape,
music, etc.) in the right column. You may find you like doing it in
word processing or you may find that color-coded index cards on a
wall work better for you.

I'd recommend investing in the book, "Directing the Documentary" by
Michael Rabiger for further ideas on how to do a paper edit. Some
folks find it very old-fashioned since you can now do all the layout
directly in to a nonlinear editing program, but doing a paper edit
can be really helpful as you are starting out to help you get your
head around the story you are trying to tell.

Christopher Gallant
Sat 18 Nov 2006Link
I'm half way through my first documentary rough cut and I'm in need of
some music. I'm a graduate student so I definitely need royalty free
music. The types of music range from woody allenesque jazz to 1960s
lounge music to classical piano interludes to kitschy italian
concertina music. Have any ideas? I also was wondering if there was an
easy place to access music which has had its copyright expire? Any
advice welcome.

Doug Block
Sun 19 Nov 2006Link
christopher, most any question like that can be answered by doing a
google search.

"royalty free music for films" --> www.royaltyfreemusic.com

Christopher Gallant
Sun 19 Nov 2006Link
Doug,
I appreciate the advice. I have actually already tried that. The point
of my question was to weed through the 6,220,000 hits that Google
throws your way for a "royalty free music" search and see if there was
a prefered royalty free music clearing house. Is this site,
www.royaltyfreemusic.com, your best pick and if so have you ever used
it? If it is then I guess you're not in bad company as Google also
picks it as its number one site. Any further helpful advice would be
appreciated.

Doug Block
Sun 19 Nov 2006Link
hopefully someone else will pipe in, christopher. i've only used
original music in my docs.

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