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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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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.

Dale Archibald
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Thanks, Jo-Anne. I'll take a look at them.

I do enjoy the site, and appreciate the work and care that goes into it. I shall continue to graze around the edges.

Erica Ginsberg
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

To all who have expressed comments about access to the member-only areas of this forum, the hosts will hopefully chime in soon. But I can say that I don't think those sections are made private simply to keep the discussion only to professionals or to create a clique. They were separated more to provide a safe space for professionals to share their experiences and challenges with few worries of their comments being seen by anyone (ANYONE, not just enthusiasts). The public forums come up in Google searches while the private forums do not.

That said, I think a great solution would be for the hosts to send out a monthly or even quarterly e-mail message to all D-Word members with some highlights of discussions held in the private forums which could be beneficial to all without compromising privacy. For example, right now there is an interesting discussion going on in one of the member-only topics about house parties as a fundraising tool and it would be great for some of the highlighted recommendations to be shared with the enthusiasts who could benefit by this information for their first project.

P.S. Not trying to be too self-promotional here, but can't help myself. I am the co-founder of a doc organization called Docs In Progress. While some people know us for putting on work-in-progress screening programs in the Washington DC area, we also have two initiatives which may benefit doc filmmakers based anywhere and with ANY degree of experience. One is a quarterly e-newsletter we publish. It's free and you can sign up for it on our website at (next issue to come out before the end of January will feature articles on rights and clearance issues and a story about a unique approach to online fundraising). The other is a work in progress screening we are coordinating in collaboration with NomadsLand on February 17 where the filmmaker will participate via Skype. More info on how to submit is here:

Ryan Ferguson
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Erica – I think that's a great idea, but it also sounds pretty time consuming for whoever has to compile that newsletter. Maybe another, more user based, solution might be to add another button by the tag,edit,help, etc. that basically makes your post available to enthusiasts. There could just be one public thread that is a 'members selects' compilation thread. That way it would be up to the actual author of the comment (or a moderator, I guess) to decide whether the post should be available to the world (of course the default would still be that every post is private). While I realize most members would still hesitate to ever do this, a good way of alleviating that would be to automatically make those posts anonymous in the public forum. Yeah, it's out of context for enthusiasts, but they would just have to take the info or leave it and know it's coming from pros. This may be enough to appease everyone (except the poor web designer who would have to implement these changes). Just a thought. I think it's definitely valuable to take measures to keep the public D-Word vibrant.

Chris Hinrichs
Thu 17 Jan 2008Link

Thanks Jo-Anne, Erica, and Ryan for your clarifications and comments. I'm a curious guy in general (probably why I enjoy docs so much), so I'm interested in what you all are discussing. However, if there is sensitive stuff in there, I will be content with the areas of the site that are available to me. I'm sure that a ton of work goes into maintaining this site while at the same time keeping it free, and for that I thank the hosts.

Monica Williams
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Thanks so much to Riley and Jo-Anne for the wonderful advice! Both of you are always very helpful to me.

Matthew Hickney
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

hey guys, I have a quick legal question. If I shot a sporting competition (such as an MMA fight) , what type of legal document must I attain from the promoters of the competition to have the right to use it in my film?

I have release forms for individual participants, but is there a separate form for business, locations, ect?

and legally speaking, do I need to worry about locations like suburban streets and intersections, small chain stores like bi-mart (small chain in eastern Washington and parts of Oregon), and things like gas stations?

if there is a separate type of release I need to get, links to the documents I can download would be awesome...

thanks guys, I really appreciate it!

Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Sorry to act the role of a gadfly, but I guess I just don't see what sort of secret rites and protocols could cause "Let's show this to other adults, but don't let the kids see it." I understand there might be a reluctance to have everything on the site (e-mail addresses, etc.) available to search engines and spammers, but if forums are archived without editing the info is outed anyway.
So, as part of my learning curve, could someone explain to me what shouldn't be shown to enthusiasts? Without a complete description, of course? Or have a set of clear guidelines posted? I'd like a guideline as to whether I can put a website name down as a resource. I avoided doing so in an earlier post because I didn't know the guideline.
This is a marvelous site, one I came across by reading Wikipedia, and I've been looking for info on documentary filmmaking for some time now. I'd like to help it be better.

Doug Block
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Dale (and others), as The D-Word's founder, let me jump in here with a brief policy explanation. The D-Word has always been an online discussion forum for documentary professionals worldwide. We make no apologies for the fact that we're somewhat "exclusive" or "clubby". We want a place where we can converse with our professional colleagues rather than be bombarded by basic questions from students and beginners.

In recognition that we all have to start somewhere, we've always had a public area of The D-Word, where Enthusiasts, as we now call them, can read the many guest conferences we've done over the years, and to ask questions in the Mentoring Room topic. We definitely plan to expand the public area of The D-Word in the coming years, particularly as we start to implement video hosting on the site.

As far as determining if someone qualifies as a pro, it's somewhat subjective as one of the co-hosts goes through every registration for membership. If there's any question, he either brings in the other co-hosts for their opinion or asks the registrant for more info. And if we do wind up rejecting an applicant for the professional area, we always allow them to either make a stronger case for themselves or re-apply at a later date when they presumably do have more experience.

As for making Members posts available for non-members to read, it would greatly curtail the freedom we feel to post our opinions. Especially since posts in the public area can be googled by the general public. But we're very open to new ideas of how to make the public area more vibrant, as Ryan puts it. So it's good to get everyone's thoughts and suggestions.

Edited Fri 18 Jan 2008 by Doug Block

Christopher Wong
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

as some encouragement to Dale and other like-minded enthusiasts, you can be a first-time filmmaker and still qualify as a member. i still haven't finished my first film, but when i applied, i had reached a certain level with my doc in terms of funding and some industry recognition (along with my other film/video experience) where the hosts were comfortable that i would add something to the conversation, and not bog down the conversation with questions that were too basic. so when you are at a point that you are ready, apply for the full membership. in the meantime, the members will still be ready and willing to post helpful responses in the Public section.

Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Doug, thanks for taking the time. I'm really not checking out the incisors of a gift equine, just trying to learn as much, as fast, as possible.
It occurs to me that if the enthusiast/member difference must be kept up, perhaps you could offer a "guest member" or "trial member" listing. Have it for a short period of time, e.g., three or six months, and only allow it to those the Hosts approve.
At the end of that time, the person must show they've advanced toward becoming a professional: perhaps they've finished some paid classes, or have created and submitted==at least worked on==a 3-5 minute doc.
You might even put such trial balloons into a special area for viewers to comment on. Sort of myD-wordspace.
Christopher, thanks for the comment. I've been working on a film concept for some time. Since I'm a writer/editor/webmaster of over 30 years, I've been trying to master the storytelling/screenwriting aspects first. By the end of the month I'll start a class in Field Production, learning to use the cameras and mikes, lights, etc.
Since I'm sort of a "braid your own shoestring to start on" kind of independent cuss, I plan to self-finance my low-budget doc(s), although if I can land some funding I will be happy to accept it. I a filmmaker? I've certainly got the inclination.
I suppose I should let this lapse for awhile. I, too, don't want to "bog down the conversation with questions that [are] too basic."

Christopher Wong
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

dale, don't worry, you aren't bogging anything down. and i admire your perseverance and grit. i spent 7 years just "training" – community college courses, internships, editing awful local car ads – so that i would be confident in my own skill (camera, audio, etc.) when the right documentary idea came along. i'm sure you'll be up to speed MUCH faster than that. until then, keep asking the "basic" questions...

Le Sheng Liu
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

If I can contribute anything, let me introduce my fellow enthusiasts to another site if you haven't already joined it. features an e-mail group where members have discussions on anything relating to documentary development, production, etc etc etc. It is still meant to be by professionals, for professionals, and they do ask that you don't spam the list. But as a beginner I've found it pretty useful and enlightening and if I've ever posted something too petty or amateur, the worst that has happened is that no one responded. No big deal.

But as part of my efforts to be a member here someday, I am seeking employment and actually wanted to know if anyone can recommend any job sites that specifically feature positions in non-fiction entertainment. This would greatly narrow my search to the kind of work I want to move into. Post any websites you know of here or e-mail me

Thank you!!!!

Edited Fri 18 Jan 2008 by Le Sheng Liu

Dale Archibald
Fri 18 Jan 2008Link

Thanks, guys. I'll check out for sure.

Jason Boritz
Sat 19 Jan 2008Link

Hey Everyone new to this site.
I am needing to create revenue projections for our
investor and our lawyer for a documentary I am producing. I am
relatively new to this process. Was wondering if anybody had samples
or advice on how to properly create revenue projections for a

Thanks ahead of time,
Jason Boritz

Matt Dubuque
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

Hello everyone-

Does anyone know of online resources (other than Netflix) where I can view older movies and documentaries online for a fee?

I'm particularly looking for access to some of the harder to find, non-mainstream items, older foreign documentaries and films, etc.

No file-sharing recommendations please. These usually don't have the harder to find, less mainstream titles and I also want to respect the rights of the copyright holders.

Thanks so much!


Matt Dubuque
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

I've been using Final Cut for my post-production and I just don't prefer the Apple layout and user interface. I was raised in a Wintel environment and I'm really learning towards switching to Adobe Premiere Pro for my next project.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Does anyone know any compelling reasons why I would not switch over to Adobe? What are the biggest reasons for NOT doing so? What are the biggest disadvantages of Adobe Premiere Pro vs. FCP?

I will be filming in HD.

Your thoughts?



Robert Goodman
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

A. You can make changes to FCP to better suit your needs.
B. The latest version of Premiere Pro is a very good editing platform though it tends to be like most Adobe products with lots of hierarchical menus. Best to learn the keyboard shortcuts.

Doug Block
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

No need to sign your posts, Matt. It's done automatically.

Dean Hamer
Sun 20 Jan 2008Link

The situation: We're starting post-production on our fist feature documentary, which tells the story of what happens when the filmmaker (my partner) puts his same-sex wedding announcement in the local paper of his ultra-conservative small home town. It includes casual interviews with people on both sides of the debate about gay rights, verite footage of the filmmaker engaging with the local "Family" Association and School Board, and several interesting characters.
The need: A creative collaborating editor who can look at our 100+ hours of footage and help shape it into a coherent story with the appropriate tone and voice: think Jesus Camp meet Roger and Me.
The problem: although our hometown of Washington DC has many talented editors and a wonderful documentary community, nobody with the exact right mix of skills, interests, political outlook and time available to work on this project has emerged. We are in discussions with some really terrific, experienced people in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere – but the question is, how does it work to edit a project when you live in different cities? Should we expect to move there for a few weeks? Or months? Have any of the experts had experience editing long distance? I'd appreciate your thoughts and any advice on how to work together over a distance.

Matt Dubuque
Mon 21 Jan 2008Link

Thanks Gentlemen!

I very much look forward to seeing your films "Stone Reader" and "51 Birch Street" very soon!

I posted a brief intro of myself at:

Edited Mon 21 Jan 2008 by Matt Dubuque

Dean Hamer
Mon 21 Jan 2008Link

To Matt- Re Adobe versus FCP – From a technical point the two programs are extremely similar, as are the layouts and even many of the keystrokes. In my experience the critical question is: who are you going to be collaborating with? Adobe seems to be used mostly by event and corperate-style videographers whereas FCP is used by almost all academic institutes and many indie filmmakers. If you're going to work completely by yourself it doesn't make much difference, but if you're going to collaborate on graphics, color, music etc., best to find out what your collaborators prefer. As to disadvantages, the big problem with Premier has always been instability; it shuts down a lot – maybe thats changed with the newest version. As to FCP, the biggest disadvantage used to be the price of MACS – but that has already changed with the new Mac Pros.

Matt Dubuque
Wed 23 Jan 2008Link

Thanks Robert. That's a very helpful point. No need to drill down through endless menus. I'll be sure to learn some of those critical keyboard shortcuts!

Dean, I don't want to underestimate the amount of skill required to do the various parts of post-production (as well as filming) or disrespect the great amount of skill required to make a memorable, moving documentary.

But my films are primarily going to be focused on content, not technical wizardry. I'm working with stories which move me very deeply that I believe will resonate with others deeply as well.

I will be doing most of the post work myself, as difficult as I know that will be. I am a quick learner and relish all the various challenges that I surely will face.

Edited Wed 23 Jan 2008 by Matt Dubuque

Boyd McCollum
Thu 24 Jan 2008Link

Dean, I'm not sure if you've done this or not, but get your interview footage transcribed. It's a lot of work up front, but it pays huge dividends down the road.

It may be best to sit down with a writer instead of an editor. Figure out the story you want to tell and the structure you want to use. You probably already know the story you want to tell, so write it out. Heck, you basically nutshell the story each time you post on the topic. As an editor, I don't need to watch a hundred hours of footage to get to that basic statement.

Starting with your basic statement, make a one or two page synopsis. Then make a treatment/paper edit, including what visuals, narration, music, etc. that you think will go into different places. Then sit down with a documentary writer or editor to look over what you have and get feedback from them. You can post what you come up with here and get excellent feedback.

Don't put it on your editor to reinvent the wheel. Especially if you know exactly what kind of wheel you want. If it's some Goodyear XKG All Season radials with white side walls, 205/85, etc., then say so.

Take a look at your Need and Problem statements again. You're setting your editor up for failure. I even have the 3 reasons why they will fail – not creative, not collaborative, and/or not the right mix. We could rewrite the statement to read – unprepared filmmaker seeks editor to do the hard work and accept the responsibility for things not working out right.

Editors are creative and collaborative and they don't need to be the "right" mix. The more specific you define the mix, the harder it is for anyone to meet the criteria. It's the filmmakers job to be the "right" mix, that's why they are telling a unique story.

It's really the filmmaker, especially the less experience they have, that lacks those qualities. It's not that the filmmaker isn't creative, or collaborative, rather without the experience, it's more difficult for them to clearly see the vision floating in their head, and then to clearly communicate that. The problem arises when the editor is unable to "divine" what the filmmaker is "seeing".

I hope I don't come across as harsh, and it's definitely not my intent, but one of the most common problems I see over and over again is the filmmaker him/herself getting in the way of making their film as good as it can be. And I'm the first to admit that I've been guilty of that on more than one occasion! But no one said the learning curve was easy or pleasant...

Anyways, my $0.02 – which won't even purchase fumes at the gas station :-)

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