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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.

Robert Goodman
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

It depends on the film. Cinema verite style films – certainly. Others not so.


Christopher Wong
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

for me, it's hard to say which stage is more crucial. sure, you can always save something in the edit, but if you've shot it well, it makes the whole edit much easier. for instance, there are a few scenes in my documentary where the shooter got VERY little coverage and so we are left with absolutely zero choices in the edit room for those scenes.

good shooters AND good editors are worth their weight in gold. having said that, just because you pay someone their weight in gold, doesn't mean that they are the right fit for your project.


Jo-Anne Velin
Tue 15 Jan 2008Link

Monica – usually you can have some luck if you contact the press person in-house and tell them this is editorial, not commercial, if this is the case: Europe generally views access to old pictures differently than in the US (sweeping but I'll get shot down by other d-worders here if I am really off the mark), so you may find access has to be controlled but will not be costly. They have credible security concerns, but some of the best collections are in small institutions that are not hard to deal with (Brugges is cool). The Louvre gets bombarded and I was told by someone there that many professional news crews, for example, behave very badly – bulls in china shops. Our cameraman's behaviour was complimented, though to my eye he was conducting himself with normal courtesy and respect for the other people visiting. apparently not the norm...

Explore also the images that they can make available to you without you having to go and shoot yourself. Several collections are slowly being digitised, though this may be limited to stills...


Dale Archibald
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

H'm. It only took me two days to start complaining.
The reading restriction (i.e., not being able to read certain professional sections unless you're a member) strikes me as the same sort of glass ceiling I ran into when I wanted to start technical writing. That is, I couldn't become a tech writer unless I was already a "tech writer". Even though I had written about technology for periodicals for 20 years. Luckily, the head of the department looked at my resume and allowed me to try out eight years ago, and I've done it since (increasing my annual income by several times).
Now I want to learn how to become a documentarian (documentiste?), but it appears most of the information categories are only available to those who are already professionals. Same sort of glass ceiling.
Isn't it possible to allow enthusiasts to at least read through the posts, just to gain insight? Just don't allow them to make comments until they've won their spurs? Yes, I have been using tags, but those don't appear complete.
Sorry if I'm missing something, and the info is really available to all. I really do like the site, btw.


Chris Hinrichs
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

I think Dale makes an interesting point. While I completely understand the rationale behind the professional forum being "by professionals, for professionals", is what's being discussed so esoteric that the rest of us, who are either aspiring or just fascinated by the documentary film process, can't at least eavesdrop? The last thing I want is to seem ungrateful because I think this site is great and the advice I've read to others is thoughtful and constructive. I just think the secrecy of the members forums is unnecessary. Is there a way to do what Dale suggests, where somehow we could read posts, but not comment? I have no sense of the technical side of this, so maybe it's too complicated to institute. Any explanation would be appreciated.

Edited Wed 16 Jan 2008 by Chris Hinrichs

Vicki Vasilopoulos
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

I'm working on clearing all the photos for my first film, most of which are old family snapshots taken in Italy. Apart from getting a materials release from the owners of the photos,I understand that the conservative approach is to clear every individual pictured in those photos – a monumental task given that everyone is abroad and scattered about. But what if you can't locate everyone? From a practical standpoint, I was wondering how others have approached this for their films.


Matthew Hickney
Wed 16 Jan 2008Link

thanks, sheng liu. Ideally I'd like a theatrical run, with a DVD distribution plan. But I am not done shooting yet, I figured I would just go for broke initially with my first cut, and then poke around and see what any advice I can get in terms of what I can and cannot do.

getting the release forms will not be a problem (I have access to, and see the subjects on a semi-regular basis) the clips I use however, will most likely be removed. But it's worth it to try right?

what would be my first step in clearing these third party clips?


Evan Thomas
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

I sympathise (never with a Z!) with Dale Archibald and his thoughts about access to the forums for non-professionals. Although i would say that it seems like the pros regularly post advice and responses in the mentoring room and also access at least at some level is free. Somebody put in the hours to spruce up this site and they did a good job and didn't bill me for it so i am grateful for that. I have been a member on other forums that charge annually.

I haven't applied for professional status myself but i might. Can't believe there isn't a box to check for Production Manager or Coordinator when applying for pro status. We do a lot of work
even if it isn't necessarily editorial. Although i guess everyone doesn't have the luxury of larger factual production teams??? Do i have to be an "other"?


Dale Archibald
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Evan, it is a fascinating site, and I do appreciate the work put into it. And, as I said, I suppose I could use the tags to work my way through everything.
I could probably fudge and say I'm a writer (which I have been since 1970), but I have had little documentary or video experience (if you don't count a stint doing puppets for a local cable TV show).
Last night I took the Introductory course to the Minneapolis Telecomm Network, so I'm on the path to enlightenment.
I simply think it would be helpful to look through the seminars in a more organized manner, and you can't do that if you're an enthusiast.
On another note, I noticed the lists on one of the bookseller sites for video and filmmaking. Interesting, what with the books on various aspects of the craft, lighting kits and all.


Jo-Anne Velin
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Evan and Dale, I am just a 5-year member of D-Word, not one of the three hosts/monitors, but recall that one of the concerns when putting the revamped D-Word together this past year was how to offer anyone at all who is interested in documentary some sort of platform so people with some experience in documentary can share their support, solutions, and other help with those who are new to it. Or who want to discuss whatever they like. The public/private division has nothing to do with fees; it's more about protecting privacy and some of the personal information that members exchange. While it might never be perfect, it's a fix.

D-Word doesn't charge fees and nor does it raise money with advertising, but the hosts did initiate a voluntary fundraising exercise a while ago to help pay for the intense programming needed to make all the bits flow together better. This included a much easier to use public zone. Enjoy the freebie!

Dale, I have often consulted titles published by CMP Books. Their publications on digital video sound and lighting were recommended to me – probably all updated since I read them.


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