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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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Ana Da Silva
Fri 14 Mar 2008Link

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.


Ana Da Silva
Mon 17 Mar 2008Link

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?



Robert Goodman
Tue 18 Mar 2008Link

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.

Christopher Wong
Tue 18 Mar 2008Link

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).

David Malver
Tue 18 Mar 2008Link

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.

Ana Da Silva
Wed 19 Mar 2008Link

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!

Brian Boyko
Thu 20 Mar 2008Link

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?

Christopher Wong
Thu 20 Mar 2008Link

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.

Brian Boyko
Fri 21 Mar 2008Link

Chris: Just got rejected from applying as a full member.

John Burgan
Fri 21 Mar 2008Link

Brian – we've decided that although you have some relevant experience already, you haven't yet acquired enough to join the Community as a professional doc filmmaker.

The good news is that as you seem to be heading in the right direction, we've tagged you for a follow-up later this year. Perhaps you will have made some progress with distributing "Makers" – are you planning to submit it to any festivals?

At any rate, we hope you'll stick around and let us know how things develop.

Brian Boyko
Fri 21 Mar 2008Link

I've submitted Makers to Austin Film Festival, and the DVD is in the mail to Withoutabox. Because it's a documentary short, and I have already gotten a bigger audience through the Internet than I ever could via film festivals, I'm not sure whether I should bother submitting to more than Austin FF and SXSW (which are both local to me.)

Of course, this is the kind of advice I was looking for with the original question... ;)

Christopher Wong
Fri 21 Mar 2008Link

sorry about that, Brian. i shouldn't have assumed that you hadn't already tried to apply for membership. but i think you'll definitely be a full member in the not too distant future. in the meantime, let's all concentrate on answering your original question about teaming up with a local indie production company at a film market:

Brian Boyko's post on Thu 20 Mar 2008

Brian Regienczuk
Sat 22 Mar 2008Link

Not sure if this "mentoring room" could help with my question...
I am interested in advice on how to find right person (film maker) and fund a small documentary style effort and what might be interesting goals / benefits that makes it a win/win for company and film producer.

Some nice to have goals for company might be:
+ capture people's reactions around new product innovation at large/major event in Eastern Europe (new product concepts around several themes, dramatic event experience in major city, new products being launched, other interesting products being demonstrated/show for sales in both business to business and business to consumer arena)
+ capture value design is adding to business
+ possible interviews with CEO/CMOs from top companies
+ many other areas that could be mutually interesting if discussed... but trying to understand if this might be interesting to a qualified independent film maker or high potential starting out

There could be two cuts... both would likely be very people-focused. But, one could capture essence of business value and the other could be all around creative/design side of things.

Edited Sat 22 Mar 2008 by Brian Regienczuk

John Burgan
Sat 22 Mar 2008Link

Brian – welcome to D-Word. It's rather difficult to respond to your post as it's quite abstract. Obviously you don't want to let out any trade secrets, but could you explain more concretely what it's all about?

Brian Regienczuk
Sat 22 Mar 2008Link

Say you have a big event every year like MacWorld (AppleWorld) or an auto show (but put on by only one company, not a tradeshow)... you show off your latest products, you launch 2 or 3 new things, and you show a vision of where your company is going (concept cars, or other physical immersive manifestations). You have to entice the media and your top customers to attend and you want to broadcast and create discussion around all 3 parts of this event experience...

I am exploring how a highly experiential event with similar attributes could leverage film/documentary storytelling in interesting, meaningful ways – meaningful to the company, its stakeholders, and the film maker...

Hope that helps explain things a bit more...

Lenville O'Donnell
Sat 22 Mar 2008Link

Very interesting idea, Brian. I should think there would be several filmmakers in here who would be interested in discussing this in more detail. It is a rather large undertaking, and producing a film could be done many different ways depending on more specifics on corporate goals and the event itself. If I understand you accurately, the Mentoring Room might not really be the place for this. I'd suggest posting also in the Public Classifieds... if you haven't already... you might get more responses in there.

Matt Dubuque
Tue 25 Mar 2008Link


I would highly recommend you attend film school if you really want an in depth knowledge of the deep traditions you are working in and attempting to build upon and if you can afford it.

However, if you just want to get as much cash as quickly as possible, that may be necessary.

But consider the case of James Longley. He is thankful that he attended two years of film school in Russia, studying Soviet montage. And his films are truly masterful in their editing. Check out his mastery of Soviet montage in Iraq in Fragments. I daresay you haven't seen editing of that caliber frequently.

Longley has only made three films. However, all three have been nominated for Oscars, and deservedly so. I'm sure he would tell you that film school was not irrelevant in that score.

And ask yourself, if you have only made three films and been nominated for three Oscars, what are your career prospects?

So if you are interested in more than fast money, I would recommend you actively consider it.

Just my view. There's 100 years of film history by people more profound than myself that deserve more than cursory and casual attention.

I just don't see what's wrong with a detailed study of Vertov, Hitchcock, Bunuel, Kurosawa and Kubrick. Study, deep study and reflection, on their own terms, free of hypercommercialized and contaminating influences that command us to: "G go make money now".

The hypercommercialization of cinema (and culture generally) has its drawbacks. They should always be contemplated when making big decisions such as this.

In reply to Ana Da Silva's post on Mon 17 Mar 2008 :

Ana Da Silva
Thu 27 Mar 2008Link

In reply to Matt Dubuque's post on Tue 25 Mar 2008 :

Thanks for your opinion Matt. Making big money is not why I want to go into film. I really do love it as an art and am disappointed with the mainstream industry. The catch-22 is that not being money-driven, I'm money-less so I've started studying and researching on my own in the meantime :)

Lucia Small
Thu 27 Mar 2008Link

New to New York. My hard drive has fizzled.
I had taken my G-5 to the genius bar three weeks anticipation of trying to prevent something going wrong, and it did today.
I've been on the phone with my Boston computer guru for an hour. We need to take it to the next level...have someone who can help me...
Any great computer gurus for doc folk in Manhattan that do house calls?
Thanks! (I know this isn't real mentoring, but....)

Stefani L. Weiss
Fri 28 Mar 2008Link

I'm working on my first documentary (and my first film since film school 25 years ago!). I'm having trouble determining some of the line items to prepare a budget. I have so many questions it's hard to know where to start! I'll try a few for now and any help would be greatly appreciated!

One of my main questions would be how to determine crew costs. I will be contracting out all production and I will need to travel overseas to two different locations. Should I submit my treatment to production companies to give me quotes on their costs to do the filming? (a friend did a documentary and his production company quoted him on all his overseas costs, but he didn't have to do a budget up front, he funded everything himself. I'm not in that position!)I'm not sure that I can accurately determine any type of shooting schedule because I have not done a site visit. I should probably do a site visit before, but I don't have funding yet. I feel like I'm in a catch-22 every way I turn! In order to pitch for funding, I need the budget, in order to determine the budget, I need money! I also don't know how to factor in licensing costs on footage or photos I may have to purchase. My subject is an Olympic athlete and I have already contacted the Olympic Television Archives Bureau, but they want to know what footage I would need and how it would be used before being able to give me an approximation on cost. Until I know who will be funding the project, I can't tell them how it will be used! (They want to know if it will be cable, international, etc...what I INTEND and what may actually become reality may be different!)

Also, what is a realistic salary for writer/producer/director? I will need to factor that in to the budget as well so I at least have a salary to work with.

One more item for now would be if anyone has a recommendation on budget software/film software, etc. I've read about many different programs and mixed reviews on whether or not they are needed. I thought maybe it would be helpful to use a software program so I wouldn't leave out any important line items! One program that caught my eye online is called Gorilla...any comments on that one?

Thanks in advance for any help. I hope to one day be able to apply for membership here!

Tara Hurley
Mon 31 Mar 2008Link

Hello everyone. I am very close to finishing my film. I just had a small viewing, and general point of view was that I needed to shorten it and add some more p.o.v. of the women. (It is so hard to cut when you love the footage!!!) Anyway, I have begun to cut, and I found an area that I will add. I have a section that I want to add about what the women want to do with their lives when they get out of the business. One of the women keep saying how she wants to own a Dunkin Donuts. I know DnD never pays for product placement, and I am sure they wouldn't pay for it in my film, and I am not asking for that, I just am wondering if they could sue me for leaving them and their products in my film.
For information about my film check out the trailer at
or check the website
Thanks in advance.

Christopher Wong
Mon 31 Mar 2008Link

tara, how do you know that Dunking Donuts never pays for product placement? did you ask them? (not that i don't believe you...) i actually have quite a few Dunkin Donuts references in my film (none of them at all negative) and was considering approaching them for a long time, but just never got around to it.

in terms of them suing you just because you keep a reference to them in the film, you shouldn't have to worry about that. Fair Use covers you completely as long as the mention or appearance of Dunkin Donuts occurred incidental to your filming (and not intentionally so). and unless one of the women in your film is using one of their products in a rather blatant, lascivious way, i can't imagine Dunkin Donuts caring.

Tara Hurley
Tue 1 Apr 2008Link

I do know that they don't pay for product placement because I worked at a place once that tried asked, and they said they didn't. It is also on their website. And, the product appears in my film 2 times, one time she refers to her husband when she first met him walking in with a DnD ice coffee in his hand, and the second time she talks about how she is saving money trying to get enough to open up a DnD location.

Doug Block
Tue 1 Apr 2008Link

If they sue you it could be invaluable publicity for your doc. The bigger problem might be getting E&O (Errors & Ommissions) insurance should you want a broadcast. But I think Chris is right, can't imagine it being a huge isssue. You should join up as a full D-Word member , Tara, and ask again in the Legal topic.

Sam Rabeeh
Thu 3 Apr 2008Link

Hi everyone,

I have several treatments and not sure how to proceed.

My main concern is copyright as I want to develop the ideas further. This isn't documentary related but I hope some of you will come to bat with some opinions.

Can I copyright a treatment? Do I need to develop the ideas further into a script and submit it to the Canadian Copyright office at that point?

I want to share the treatments so I can promote their development. How do I protect myself?

I have so many other questions but I'll leave it at,


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