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.
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.
Has anyone read the book:
Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov?
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.
Definitely worth checking out. You can find second-hand copies via http://www.abebooks.com/
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)
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)
any suggestions or help?
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.
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...
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!
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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?"
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
Another quick question: Anyone use Keynote to graph key ideas in a documentary? How did it turn out?
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
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.
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.
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
If I remember correctly, she's working on a documentary based on her book.
You may find some useful information here:
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.
I am a student at Ravensbourne College and I am currently in my last of study for a BA degree in Broadcast Post Production. I am writing an essay entitled Can Documentaries be Completely Impartial? I am required to have primary research for my essay and I was hoping that some of you would be able to answer these questions for me.
What motivates a filmmaker to make a documentary and is there always a
political angle to it?
Can the editing in a film or television programme change reality? If so in what way?
Can the way something is shot change the reality of a situation? If so how?
I would also be interested in any views or opinions that you have on
Michael Moore's film Roger & Me and Rupert Murdoch's OutFoxed.
I hope that you can spare the time to help this hard working student LOL. I look forward to your replies.
IMHO there's a few things you have to consider. First there's the issue that documentaries are a form of art. One way that art, at least for me, defines itself is that it's unique because of the artist. If 2 very good crafts(wo)men paint a wall the result will be (more or less) the same, if two artists paint on the same canvas the result will be significantly different even if they try to paint the same picture.
Now compare documentaries to journalism. Even when journalists do their best to be impartial the results aren't always, there's always personal, religious, cultural biases, there's the stress of deadlines, there's the wishes of the editors or sponsors, there's the conscious or subconsious choices you make to cut things out of the story, highlight other things, for the sake of clarity but which end up "coloring" a story.
Now, even though it's a gross oversimplification to say journalism is purely a "craft" and documentary making purely an "art", one can assume that the personal "coloring" is even a bigger issue in documentary.
So I personaly think that, no, documentaries or journalistic pieces are never fully (or at all) unbiased. This is not an issue for me. I very much like to hear the personal in the story. For instance, when I read a piece of N. Chomsky, I don't think, now I will know the truth and the whole truth about this subject, I will rather think, now I know N. Chomsky's take on this subject. (Though sometimes I forget and have to remind myself, and so does the general audience, but this is another topic altogether)
Now, another issue to consider is the following, documentary makers are not always trying to cover a story, sometimes they are trying to change the world, the society, people's believes. I have not seen OutFoxced, but Micheal Moore, for me, is very much an activist filmmaker. I might agree with his messages, but I don't assume he will give me a biased account of what even he perceives as the truth. To make the power of his story stronger will he use material that supports his story and leave out material that gives a different opinion.
Again, I don't think this is bad. A film like SuperSize Me, in which the filmmaker eats at McDonalds for a month and becomes a repulsive monster might be infantile to some, but can be quite entertaining and potentially life-changing for others.
"Can the editing in a film or television programme change reality? If so in what way?
Can the way something is shot change the reality of a situation? If so how?"
Both editing and shooting can change the reality in 1.000.000 ways. In my native Iran there's regular anti US protests, but always shot in a way to hide the fact that these are actualy small groups protesting. A huge anti US protest is good for both Iranian media as well as foreign media.
Now imagine you are filming a neighbourhood, everything decision, from material you shoot on, framing, music, editing, etc. etc. changes the story. Imagine a grainy home video type of image going over the graffiti, while the soundtrack is gangsterrap. Now imagine filming on oldfashioned 16 mm, made even warmer in post production, with beautiful music (think wonder years). Same neighbourhood, but two totally different emotional reactions to the footage.
Anyway, one could go on, but I hope this helps.
In reply to Asar Imhotep's post on Tue 4 Mar 2008 :
Can anyone help me out with the Insurance question?
Hi, I´m looking at how to put together a marketing package for a documentary about film piracy in Mexico. I´ve never done any marketing and I´m not sure where to start. I know I want to send it out to TV stations both in the States and in Mexico, as well as PR´s for magazines and Newspapers as well as radio stations. I could really use some help in getting myself pointed in the right direction.
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Fri 7 Mar 2008 :
Thank you so much. I will check them out. They seem to have a simple process. Thanks again.
Has anyone used public domain footage from www.archive.org in their productions? There's some useful archive for my film on there but should i get its public domain status verified before i go ahead and use it?
It's good practice to verify any footage you use, regardless of source. Lots of people think they own copyright to certain things when they actually don't.
With Archive.org you need to really read the different licensing they use – not all of it is public domain. Some requires attribution, some can be used in a noncommercial way, etc. I've seen media that had no copyright/licensing information provided. So just residing on the site doesn't mean public domain.
Get whatever information provided and if there isn't any, do some more research on it. This can be useful when getting E&O insurance. Also, it's good practice to have an entertainment/copyright attorney look over you stuff. (and do find a lawyer that specializes in this, as not all lawyers have equal knowledge. A good friend of mine is a top notch real estate attorney, and he won't touch copyright – "it's not what I do, so I can't provide solid legal opinions". )
I would like to ask a question about Sundance. Do they only select the 16 documentaries for competition or do they also select many others that do not make the competition (but are still part of the festival)? I believe this is the case from my research online. If so, do the non competing docs get decent recognition from press, industry people, make sales, etc, etc? Thanks for the great site.
Grady, they select the 16 main competition docs, the world docs, and a few docs find their way into the American Spectrum section. The world docs have their own awards and American Spectrum docs are eligible for the doc audience award.
Hello D-Word Visitors and Members,
I'm a producer/production manager new to the NYC area and am looking to find a dependable crew with documentary or lifestyle TV experience for my roster. I do have a few contacts, but it would be nice to have more incase people are unavailable.
Can anyone make recommendations for any of the following?
-DOP – HD/DV CAM w/ light kit ideally. Some studio experience is a plus.
-Sound – doc experience. Studio is a plus.
-Editor (Avid and Final Cut)
It would also be helpful if anyone can recommend vendors for post production, post audio, an insurance broker, props and gear rental shops.
I've been working in documentary production for 9 years and am leaving my contacts behind to be with my love in NYC, so any recommendations will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks soooooo much!
I've made my first short documentary. It clocks in at 26:40, cutting everything down to the bare essentials. I've got a big stack of DVDs next to me, and I've got the entire thing up online at Vimeo for those who want to watch it: http://www.vimeo.com/766987
So, um... now what? Promotion? Film festivals? Anyone got any ideas?
In reply to Ben Kempas's post on Mon 10 Mar 2008 :
Hey thanks! At least now I know someone, somewhere read it:)
Shauna, no need to double post at The D-Word. Just find the most pertinent topic. In this case, the Classifieds would have been best.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 11 Mar 2008 :
Yes, Ben mentioned he read my post 3 times. I'm a bad, bad newbie;)
Also, Shauna, since we're mentoring (and you take mentoring so well), no need to use the "in reply" button when you're replying to the post right above you.
Question on submitting an idea. I got in touch with a production company and they're willing to read my informal project idea/proposal. I feel strongly about the project and 1. would like it to come to life and 2. would like to be involved with it. I'd like to express this to the producers but can see how from their point of view that might be asking too much (especially for a newbie).
The producers are merely willing to look at the informal proposal, which to me is really great news anyway, but as with any idea there's a chance they might like it and might want to work with it. I read that there's no such thing as a copyrighted idea so should the producers like what they read, can they just use it anyway?
What's you advice on submitting ideas when you don't have the means to produce the project yourself?
get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you share your idea with them. Definitely not iron clad, but my guess is it would be enough for them to not steal your idea outright.
ana, it's not a problem that you don't have the means to produce the project yourself. just make sure that you have an angle into the project that clearly shows why YOU should be involved with it. whether that means you have exclusive access to the main character of the film (e.g. your father is the ringleader of a terrorist group) or whether you have certain skills they need (e.g. you know the hidden tribe's language), you somehow need to prove that you are indispensable to the project. but simply having an idea is not enough. (unless, of course, this is a pitch for another reality show, in which case, you can disregard all my comments...)
Thanks all! I really appreciate your suggestions. It's definitely not a reality show and I think a lot of people would benefit from it.
Film school question.
I'm considering starting over and take film more seriously (currently I'm a communications professional in New York). It's a bit scary, especially after having attended grad school to find out it hasn't made much difference career-wise. I'm mainly interested in schools in Europe.
If you went back, why did you do it (for yourself or as a job requirement)? Any input?
Film School is pointless (especially if you already have a terminal degree) unless you want to pursue a specific craft or don't have a terminal degree and plan on teaching Film. If you want to pursue a specific craft you'd be better off working with someone whose work you admire. Really the only fast track in this business.
Agreed. Like many others, I was brought up to believe that if you want to accomplish anything in life, you first have to go to a school and get a degree in that subject. True for medicine; false for film.
This goes double for documentary filmmaking. If you're persistent enough, you can get experienced doc filmmakers to be mentors and advisors for you, without paying the exorbitant film school tuition. Start watching doc films (one every day if you can), read some books (Rabiger's book on documentary), and begin shooting a subject easily accessible to you (e.g. your family).
Film school undergrad work was a worthwhile experience for me, Ana. However, a good film tech school is often an affordable alternative if your main goal is to be trained in on equipment.
Thank you! That's what I hear from a lot of folks. Networking seems to be the way to go with everything.
A question for foreigners trying out for film in the US (or in other countries): what's your experience been like and do you have any suggestions.
I really do appreciate all your time!
I had a quick question. I’ve got my short doc (26min) in the can and DVD-pressed, and it’s gotten 4200 plays on Vimeo so far (with 120,000 references – whatever that means.)
Since I did the thing myself, and have a day job, and nothing to lose, I was wondering if it would be a good idea to team up with a local indie production company that would be going to a film market anyway, and have them offer sampler DVDs, with the idea that they pick up a share of the profit if that sells. I figure it would be cheaper than going myself. What do you think?
brian, congrats on getting your doc out into the public. while i don't have specific advice for you, i think you'll get even better feedback in the Members section of D-Word. having already finished a 26-minute doc yourself, you definitely qualify. so apply for full membership.