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.
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.
Thanks so much to Riley and Jo-Anne for the wonderful advice! Both of you are always very helpful to me.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
So...am 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."
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...
If I can contribute anything, let me introduce my fellow enthusiasts to another site if you haven't already joined it. http://doculink.org/mailing.html 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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,
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :-)
Dean, part 2 of your question – working remotely with an editor. While it's not ideal, I think the technology today makes it much easier. One solution would be to have duplicate drives and file structures. As the editor works on a cut, they can send the project files to you so you can view what's going on. There's also tools such as Skype, etc. that would allow you to videoconference in and also see a virtual desktop.
There are times when an editor just needs to work alone to actually implement changes that have been discussed with the director. This is especially true in the rough cut stage. As you near a fine cut, there is more value in being there day to day. It all varies and depends on lots of factors.
Thanks Boyd – I'm also a first-time filmmaker and am struggling in post. I think a lot of what you've said could apply to me too – v helpful. Cheers!
Has anyone here entered a documentary in the Cannes Film Festival?
What was your experience like? Does entering in Cannes have advantages over entering it in Sundance?
JB, that SyncVUE is amazing. We should post about that in The Future of The D-Word topic and its potential for future collaborative projects.
Matt, Cannes shows very few docs, especially if you're not named Michael Moore. And much more expensive than Sundance, which is mighty expensive itself. Cannes has a market, too, but that's mostly for distributors selling shlocky films.
Hey I have a lot of respect for Cannes EXCEPT for the fact that they practically disregard the entire genre of documentaries. I take it Michael Moore has some direct connections.
Hahahaha yeah, plus it's the French. Oh well c'est la vie!!!
I've really been enjoying digging through this site since I joined a few weeks ago. Thanks to these forums and your profiles, I've gotten to know lots of documentarians and films though your posts and links to your respective websites. I've also been scouring the public areas of the site to gain more insight into the world of documentary filmmaking. Unlike most of you, I am a fan of the genre rather than an aspiring filmmaker. I admire the fact that so many of you are willing to share your experience and knowledge with others in such a supportive, non-condescending way. I'd like to ask a "What would you do if you were me?"-type question that pertains to documentaries. Since it requires some explanation and may be long, I'll leave most of it hidden. Thanks!
Hi Doug, I just saw 51 Birch Street and congratulations!
What a courageous film. For me, courage is such an admirable and rare quality in film nowadays and I'm delighted I saw it.
I had one of those rare life experiences laughing and crying at the exact same time when you clasped hands with your dad at the end.
That's quite a combo, to laugh and cry at the exact same instant; thanks so much for that!!
I have kind of a dumb technical question. When you were behind the camera participating in interviews, did you have a lavalier mike for yourself and a shotgun mike for the talent?
Robert Goodman, I just saw Stone Reader and loved it! I know you didn't direct this (you were the producer) but one of my favorite parts of the movie was the recurrence of various footage of butterflies throughout the film. Was this done to mark out different "chapters" of the movie?
This continual insertion of butterflies into the film reminded me of the recurring scene in Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie where the protagonists are repeatedly seen talking and walking in the French countryside....
Again Stone Reader is great film, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Some great political points too (about ITT and the purchase of the publishing house) very subtly and ably presented.
Thanks so much for helping to bring that to the public. Because I'm a huge fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I think I'm really going to enjoy the book The Stones of Summer, the subject of the movie.
Mossman's quite the scholar.... evidently 1605 was THE year for Shakespeare!!!
I plan to attend a local sports-related consumer show next month, with
an eye toward getting interviews and other shots. I'll use footage shot
in a public-access TV show, and for other things. Any tips or hints?
The eqpt will be loaned to me by the public access station. I will have
interviewees sign releases.
What sort of open-ended questions should I ask? What sort of shots? I'm
brand-new at this, so any help is appreciated.
In order to help you, you need to provide us with more information.
What do you mean by "sports-related" consumer show? Is this a fair, a sort of market with equipment on sale/ What sport(s)? Who do you want to ask questions? People selling equipment, members of the public, buyers?
What is your motivation for filming this event? Why is it important? Is there anything special about the event or the equipment being sold/exhibited here? Is this the first time or is this a yearly event? Is there any special significance for the locals? Will any (sports) celebrity be attending?If so, you need to obatin info about this person(s).
Will someone be demonstrating a sport using some kind of equipment? How big is the arena/sports ground, etc? Why are the organizers putting on this event?
These are things I would try to find out if I had to film this event and in order to figure out what to film and what questions to ask.
The following guidelines are the A, B, Cs of news coverage and they apply to documentary storytelling as well.
Whenever you decide to shoot something, you must ask yourself; "What am I shooting?" and "why am I shooting it?
Then your story must always answer the 5 Ws and 1 H: "Who, what, why, when, where and how."
Everything you need to do (what to shoot, who to ask questions, what to ask) depends on the answers to these questions.
Matt – I will pass along your comments to Mark. There are so many layers in the film it is hard to know where to begin. I can only say that I am very proud to have helped bring Stone Reader to audiences.
First, let me say this won't be a documentary per se, although I hope to earmark some footage for a project I've dreamed of for years.
This is an annual golf show in Minneapolis. It is a fair, where golf courses, club vendors, and a few related others get together on a snowy Feb. day to help people get the snow off their feet and dream of spring.
I'm mainly interested in doing interviews of folks from the golf courses that will appear, doing the 5W and an H in shorter clips. First end product would be a show for local public access TV, with saved footage for the other project I mentioned. After all, they'll be gathered in one location so it'll save time driving all over searching them out.
There will be demos here, and it's in the Metrodome, the huge playing field for the Minnesota Twins and Vikings.
Thanks for the questions. I've written and photographed for magazines for years, but this will be my first foray into the visual documentary-related forum.
regardless of the duration of your story, the mechanics are always the same.
Ideally, each story should have a beginning, middle and an end and answer the 5Ws and 1 H. Given that you intend to do several shorter pieces, you could do one more generic piece and several others, each of which could deal with a particular aspect of the fair that you and/or your audience might be interested in.
It seems like you should be able to put several interesting pieces together.
If you know anything about golf – and I presume that you do – if you answer the questions I outlined (What is this story about and what do I want to show you) it should be rather simple to come up with some interesting questions to ask. You can ask the equipment vendors about gear, the players about form and playing tips, the visitors about ther expectations for the new season, etc., etc.
From what I imagine you'll find there you should be able to put togteher some visually interesting and exciting stories. Try to put some nat sound pieces together.
I can already visualize dozens of stories. Try to imagine YOUR stories visually and that should help you figure out what to shoot.
Chris, quickly read through your proposal. Leaving aside the odds against pulling it off, are you aware of a feature doc that came out a few years ago called My Date With Drew? If not, check into it. It was a small but charming film, came and went and barely made a blip commercially.
In all honesty, hard to imagine any established docmaker being tempted by your proposal. In the end, though, who are any of us to tell someone not to dream?
Thanks for your kind words, Matt. As for the mic, I used a Senheisser ME 63 mounted on the camera. It has the ability to screw on a number of mics with different patterns. I used one with a figure 8 pattern, that captures sound equally in front and behind the camera. So one mic was able to record both of us talking. Came in very handy. Only problem is if I film verite for long stretches without talking myself (and I never know when I might), it picks up a lot of extraneous room noise from behind.
In reply to Chris Hinrichs's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 4:16 UTC :
Chris, I'd make a couple of quick suggestions. First would be to reframe your proposal in tone and presentation.
By tone, I'd suggest not looking at all the reasons why it shouldn't work. I noticed on your site that you're an architect. Think about the proposal in the same way you propose something to a client. You don't tell them all the things that will go wrong (being overcharged by contractors, termites, fire, water damage, floods, famine, family arguments, etc...).
By presentation, while it's okay to have a paragraph teaser, I want to know what the story is. If it's not part of the story, don't tell me. Currently the way you build it up I'm expecting the greatest idea I've ever heard and no idea can live up to that. Obstacles that need to be surmounted are not part of the story, unless...
...that is the story. Which would probably make a very interesting documentary – "Guy faces insurmountable odds to make incredible idea a reality. Does he or doesn't he?"
I would also recommend trying to hook up with someone in your area, a friend with a camera or an aspiring filmmaker, and work together on moving the project forward. As Doug mentions, it's unlikely that established docmakers would be tempted, or being tempted, it may not be in the way that you're envisioning.
You also may want to start smaller. Instead of an A-list star, why not a local celebrity in your area. They're much more approachable and the idea would be the same. It might make the idea more attractive to more established filmmakers and celebrities.
Doug, Thanks for taking a quick look. If you read the whole thing I specifically address My Date With Drew and how the two are very different films. Perhaps I need to do a better job of articulating just how different it is. Believe me, I know it's an incredibly tough sell. I know the chance of it ever getting made is next to zero. That's what intrigues me the most – the impossibility of it. I hope you find the time at some point to look at more of the material, but I completely understand that it's not for everyone.
By the way, I wanted to compliment you on 51 Birch Street. I saw it a while back and thought it was excellent. I recommend it often.
Boyd- Thanks a lot for your thoughts. It's the kind of feedback I'm looking for. I will consider the things you've said. Your comments about the tone are well-taken.
I suppose the best thing is for people who have thoughts to e-mail me directly so I don't hijack this forum. You can e-mail me @ email@example.com
chris, in an effort to procrastinate from further fundraising activities, i read your entire proposal for your "dream doc".
i can safely say that you're CRAZY! having said that, i think it's a good kind of crazy, and the shared gene that most of us aspiring and established docmakers possess. plenty of people have been told their projects have absolutely no chance – and a fortunate few have actually persevered and finished their projects with great success.
however, i would really challenge you to re-evaluate WHY you are doing this project. at the same time, i would challenge you to think about why you are not doing a DIFFERENT documentary project. To me, this project seems too frivolous and insubstantial for someone like you, who admits to admiring the direct cinema and verite work of masters like Maysles, Kopple, James, etc... i'm no psychoanalyst, but you seem like you might have a more "worthy" doc in you to produce. by "worthy", i don't mean that it has to be intensely depressing or socially conscious – it can have humor and spontaneity and whatever else fits your personality – but it has to have something at its core that inspires you.
The "impossibility" of making something is not reason enough to try. You need to combine "impossible" with "irresistible" to really have a film worth making. if you write a proposal that convinces everyone why you "can't NOT make this film", then you actually might have a chance. right now, i read your proposal, and just see a guy who says "why not make this film"? there's a big difference.
i don't want to discourage you, just refocus you... btw, if i didn't think you had it in you to actually make a doc film, i wouldn't have wasted my time writing this reply. good luck!
In reply to Doug Block's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 :
I'm intruiged by those Sennheisers. I like the modular concept very much, the interchangeability. It did an excellent job of picking up your voice from behind!
When you didn't speak for long periods and extraneous noise made it on to the sound track, did you squelch it in post?
What do you think of my proposed setup of a Sennheiser shotgun mike (i.e. unidirectional) with a lavalier corded mike on myself, since I will be tethered to the camcorder anyway?
I was thinking this might solve the problem of excess noise coming from the back end.
Your thoughts? Thanks for your help!
Re- looking for an editor,collaborating at a distance, transcription.
Boyd, thanks for your suggestions.
Everybody else- thanks for the tips.
Question: everybody seems to agree that it's a good idea to have interviews transcribed. Have people had luck going on Craigs list? I know there are professional services but they seem to run $150+ per hour of tape, and we have a lot of tape. Since the transcripts are just a searchable tool not a finished product, I am wondering if this is one case where cheap = good??? Thanks!
Matt, your setup sounds fine. Probably better than mine, actually. I just like to put the camera down from time to time.
dean, no reason to have to pay $150/hr for transcription work. i've found quite a few for $115/hr and under. in fact, there are some who charge per hour (only $20-25) and since they usually don't take more than 4 hours to transcribe each tape, it's the most affordable for me to be billed per hour of labor.
it also depends on what kind of footage you have. if it's all interviews, then pretty much anybody who can type fast (and who has the capability to insert TC simultaneously) can do it. if it's verite footage, and you actually want descriptions of how people are moving, what kind of shots are being employed, and every single comment noted, then i do think it matters who your transcriptionist is. but most people either don't have that kind of footage, or don't need it transcribed.
if you need some references to transcriptionists, i'd be happy to email them separately to you. you can then contact them yourself, and have them send you samples that you can review to see if they're a good fit.