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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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Kevin Morrow
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Hey, everybody. I'm a freelance photo researcher trying to find work in the documentary film industry. Can anyone think of a good way to find work of this sort? Even trying to find listings of documentary film companies is difficult, because they are usually in password-protected members-only sections of websites for various professional organizations whose membership dues are in the three figures!


John Burgan
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Welcome Kevin. You might like to check out Docs in Progress , a Washington DC initiative started by D-Worders Adele Schmidt & Erica Ginsberg.


Kevin Morrow
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Thanks for the good tip! I just talked to Adele Schmidt at Journeyfilms, and she was very helpful.


Susan Hoskins
Fri 15 Feb 2008Link

Legal Question: We sent out an announcement for our documentary premiere and have received a request from a University Library for a library order. We licensed all our clips, photos and music. Can we sell our dvd now? What else do we need to do?


Erica Ginsberg
Sat 16 Feb 2008Link

John, thanks for the plug. Kevin, glad you talked to Adele. Docs In Progress actually has an event tomorrow night at Busboys & Poets and would love to see you there. In the Intro topic, I also suggested some other DC-area organizations which would be worth the membership dues for you.


Matt Dubuque
Sat 23 Feb 2008Link

Has anyone read the book:

Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov?

It's at:

http://tinyurl.com/yrb48k

I just read a short passage from one of Vertov's articles he wrote for Film Truth magazine that was excerpted in Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction film by Erik Barnow, an awesome book written by the fellow who used to be Chief of the Library of Congress Motion Picture Division.

The passage that I read of Vertov (about 500 words) was a real revelation for me. Amazing!

I don't think I can obtain copies of the magazine (because it is from the 1920s and probably in Russian as well), so I wanted to ask if anyone here was familiar with this book.

It's a bit pricey, so I thought I'd ask around before purchasing it.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Edited Sat 23 Feb 2008 by Matt Dubuque

John Burgan
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

Definitely worth checking out. You can find second-hand copies via http://www.abebooks.com/


Fredric Lean
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

Hello,
what would be the best options in terms of camera to shoot a shoestring budget feature length documentary which requires a lot of outdoor shootings following a subject discreetly in different local public places and some indoors for interviews- (pretty much guerilla/ news style)?

here are the options:
-Panasonic DVX 100b
-Panasonic AG-HVX200(P2 cards + camera =outside our budget range-unless somone knows a great place to buy it cheap)
- Sony HDR-FX1 (someone told me good but not so great)
-Sony HVR-A1U
-Sony HVR-Z1U

now i have been told, since the film style will be pretty much hidden camera style (almost) , to use may be a high end HD consumer camera so i can hide it even in pocket.
does anyone know anything about the quality of these cameras below:
-Panasonic HDC-HS9 (HD & 24p)
Canon HV20 HDV (HD & 24p)
Panasonic AG-HSC1
Sony HDR-CX7

any suggestions or help?

thank you


Joe Moulins
Sun 24 Feb 2008Link

for a no-budget production I'd go with the Canon HV20, recording sound to a separate recorder.
Something like this . There may be better audio recorders for the price, but any of these recorders should give you better sound than you'd get with any of those camcorders.
If and when you move up to a better camera, the audio recorder will still be a good and useful tool.

Add a wireless mic and you'll have a kick-ass guerilla kit for half the price of a z1U.


Chris Hinrichs
Mon 25 Feb 2008Link

In reply to Chris Hinrichs's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 : Hello all! Some of you may remember me from the post linked above. For those of you who are interested or have some time to kill, I have overhauled my presentation, using some of the suggestions I recieved here. In order not to clutter up the Mentoring Room, I'll hide the rest of my message...

Show hidden content

Andrew David Watson
Mon 25 Feb 2008Link

Does anyone know of any job websites just for documentary projects? i have picked up a number of freelance gigs from sites like www.mandy.com www.mediamatch.com and local Craig's List but am looking for more documentary specific jobs. Thanks!


Matt Dubuque
Thu 28 Feb 2008Link

Thanks John, I just bought it! Abebooks (which is now my first place to look!) also had this awesome "The Man With the Movie Camera The Man with the Movie Camera: A Cinematic Analysis by Vlada Petric that has an incredible scene by scene analysis of Vertov's timeless masterpiece.

Now I'm just trying to find a copy of Vertov's "One Sixth of the World". I'll keep looking!


Le Sheng Liu
Fri 29 Feb 2008Link

Andrew, you can also try RealityStaff.com http://www.realitystaff.com/home/index.php?section=JOBS&left=Jobs

Their focus is on reality shows, which overlaps with documentary/television. Hope that helps. I have been looking for documentary-specific job sites myself and that is the best I have come across. I am also browsing Craiglist, mediamatch, and Mandy everyday!!! Good luck with ya. It's a tough world out there finding work!!


Andrew David Watson
Fri 29 Feb 2008Link

thanks Le Sheng, do you ever check http://www.entertainmentcareers.net/jcat.asp?jcat=109

There are some alright jobs on there from time to time.


Le Sheng Liu
Sat 1 Mar 2008Link

Haven't been on there in a long time. Do they charge a subscription fee? That might be one of the reasons I don't go there. MediaMatch does too but I get the $5/month student membership.


Brian Boyko
Sun 2 Mar 2008Link

This is an ethics question.

I'm finding that I've got great interviews but as my subject is really explaining an electoral system (I.e., the "Inconvenient Truth" model) rather than documenting a series of events (I.E., the "Super Size Me" model) I wanted to ask you about the ethics of truth and such.

What I'd like to do create a "frame" around the footage that I've gathered that is essentially a parody of "An Inconvenient Truth" I'd basically rent-out or borrow a classroom with projector on the weekend, and invite my improv comedian friends to be "feeding" me questions. I would make it obvious that the audience is portrayed by actors – first with a disclaimer up front which states: "While the subject is truthful, the audience portrayed in the film are paid actors."

Then during the shooting, I was actually thinking that the first question would be along the lines of: "Yeah, Brian, you said that if we came here and pretended to be an audience that is actually interested in this stuff that you'd give us 20 bucks." (Interruption from the back) "And cake! Where's the cake?!"

Is it ethical to make a documentary with obviously staged scenes to increase the entertainment value and, supposedly, to get more people interested in it, without crossing the line into "mockumentary?"


Fredric Lean
Sun 2 Mar 2008Link

SOUND HELP for documentary shooting on Canon HV20.

Has anyone had shot a doc on canon HV20 or knows well the camera?

I went to a store in NY specialized in video. I told them i needed a broadcast quality sound for the consumer HV20 Canon. it's for a doc , reality TV like.
The shooting style will be handheld mostly. On person crew (so no boom) and only one person (the subject) can be wired up but I still need to pick up the sound of people the subject will be talking too. So i will also need a shotgun mic i presume.
There''ll be indoor and outdoor (public places) shoot.
Here's the package the seller at the store, came up with:

Sennheiser EW 100 wireless lavaller $500 +tax
Beachtek XLR $179
Rode NTG 2 shotgun $269
Headphones $160.

Total = over $1000

1) is this a good package for sound quality?

2) is there anyway to get the same type of quality sound (assuming it is a good one with this package) but a bit on a lower price?

any other suggestions?


Wolfgang Achtner
Sun 2 Mar 2008Link

Brian,

My 02.c worth. What you describes seems very much a mockumentary to me.

I don't think it has to do anything with ethics, rather it's a question of what kind of a story you want to tell and whatever way you believe is best to tell that particular story.

A documentary can very well be interesting and entertaining without using gimmicks. It very much depends on the story and how you want to tell it.


Christopher Wong
Sun 2 Mar 2008Link

brian, a mockumentary is really just a fiction film posing as a documentary. i think what you seem to be worried about is your doc descend into something so silly that the main point about something serious (i.e. the electoral system) is lost.

while i'm not completely convinced that your scene (as described) will work effectively, there's nothing ethically wrong with it, especially since you seem to be taking great pains to tell the audience "This is a setup!" but if you compare your scene to some of the animated scenes in, let's say, "Bowling for Columbine", it's essentially the same thing. the only difference is you've got animated characters standing in for paid actors – the humor, the pre-written lines, and the method are the same.


Brian Boyko
Sun 2 Mar 2008Link

In reply to Fredric Lean's post on Sun 2 Mar 2008 :

Fredric, I'm also shooting on the HV20, and my next purchase is for a beachtek adapter and some new XLR mics – but I've found I've got good audio from this combo:

Audio Technica ATR55 Shotgun Mic ($50)
Shock Mount ($20-40)
A bracket to move the microphone away from the camera. ($10)

I don't use wireless mics.

There are two problems with this setup. One, handling noise – even handling the wire connected to the camera – transmits easily. But I've actually found it to get really, really good sound.

Get that setup if you can afford it – don't try to cheap out on the sound, and that actually sounds like the best option.

You may also want to spend $200 on a Samson Zoom H2 to get a second source of audio if you're doing sit-down interviews.

A deadcat/fluffydog will be useful for cutting out wind noise.

With my setup, here's the audio I got.

Outside, w/Crowd Noise: http://vimeo.com/736167
Outside, w & w/out crowd noise: http://vimeo.com/378059
Outside, w/out crowd noise: http://vimeo.com/377215


Brian Boyko
Mon 3 Mar 2008Link

Another quick question: Anyone use Keynote to graph key ideas in a documentary? How did it turn out?


Asar Imhotep
Mon 3 Mar 2008Link

Peace everyone

I was wondering if anyone had any good advice on temporary insurance for documentaries. I am working on a budget for my film in which I want to hit Ghana, Tanzania, France and Britain. With me possibly going overseas, I don't want to take equipment and things over there and not be insured. Does anyone have any experience with this? Who would you recommend as a provider and who should I AVOID?

Thanks in advance


Alex Fumero
Tue 4 Mar 2008Link

Hi Everyone,

I'm a first time documentarian producing a film about the first generation immigrant exiles to move to Miami from Cuba. They are old and I need to get their stories on video before they die. I'm going to try to hire an experienced director, but if not, I'm going to do it myself.

1) Are their any documentaries I can look to for inspiration that are like this one? I know there is a name for this type of film where you profile a certain community or group of people and interview them, but don't know the name.

2) In terms of sound, I'd like to get the wireless lapel mics. Is that a bad idea? I feel like it would make shooting that much easier.

Please help. Thanks, Alex.


James Perez
Wed 5 Mar 2008Link

Alex, for your first comment, that is basically researching a subculture. It's like a sub group of a larger culture. Profiling and researching a group within a group, in which people have something in common, can be very helpful. There is a documentary called "Wetback" that targets foreign immigrants that is very well done. Check it out.


Wolfgang Achtner
Wed 5 Mar 2008Link

Alex,

Your project sounds very interesting.

A few quick tips regarding how to go about it (regarding whether or not you should shoot it yourself; you might want to have a pro start shooting it and later, when you've learned how to shoot, you could continue by yourself).

Identify the characters, the people, men and women that you want to shoot;
Research all the information you can find about the community that interest you: this means research archives of local newspapers, and identify and read some books dealing with these issues.

A book that comes to my mind is: Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus (Paperback)
by Mirta Ojito

http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Manana-Memoir-Cuban-Exodus/dp/0143036602

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/books/review/15STARRL.html

If I remember correctly, she's working on a documentary based on her book.

You may find some useful information here:

http://www.tc.edu/latinoresearch/index.htm?id=Research+Areas&area=Immigration

2) Visit and research the neighborhood. I would assume that there is a "Little Havana" in Miami. Visit the neighborhood, reserach everyhting about it, discover who some of the most important members of the community are, when any particular religious or other festivities take place, etc.

3) Shoot all of the above.

4) identify 4 or 5 interesting characters. get to know them, interview them, shoot them at work and with their families, get photos, visit with them for several months/one year.

5) Decide what kind of doc you want to build with the material you are gathering.

6) Build your doc around the personal stories of these 4 or 5 people, interweaving blocks about the community. The fact that the situation in Cuba is moving and that this is an election year will give you great topics and great video to interweave withe stories of your 4 or 5 protagonists.

Re your second question, wireless lavalier mics are very good to interview people. I would suggest you might be interested in the Sennheiser Evolution G2 100 series; it has a good price/value ratio.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/324229-REG/Sennheiser_EW100ENGG2_C_Evolution_G2_100_Series.html


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