If it makes any difference, the doc is a direct cinema (verité) w/out narration, that is, plays out like a normal fiction film.
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.
I just joined, and at the moment am trying to figure out some translator issues for the documentary I'm editing- lots of footage in Hmong! Would anyone know of any good Hmong translators what would be the best way to give HD footage to a translator? Disks? Hard drives??
Also, for traveling and documentary filmmaking abroad, I have some team members going to Laos. Would anyone know of a good 'fixer' in Laos?
Hoping to glean some knowledge regarding forming an LLC for a documentary.
Here's the back story:
Been working on a doc for almost a year now and I just got my fiscal sponsorship from the IDA. No doubt the dollars will be rolling in in no time (kidding kidding). But I AM hoping to do some serious fund raising and I want to make sure I protect myself financially.
The IDA fiscal sponsor form requires I submit a W-9 tax form with either my social security # or a Tax ID. Thus far I have merely opened a separate bank account and just keep track of finances with basic accounting software. Things seem to be getting more serious now and I'm considering starting an LLC.
1 – Has anyone with fiscal sponsorship from the IDA used their personal social security number? Did you encounter any problems submitting your taxes?
2- If I do decide to form an LLC, what are the advantages of forming an LLC for a general production company VS forming an LLC for a specific project. I hear a lot of people form the later.
Many thanks for any advise/ online resources you could point me towards.
Submit your short film to Pros And Con Games competition at Filmaka.com and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due November 6, 2008. More info at
Hi, I'm a Los Angeles photographer looking to find a documentary film to do still photography. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good place to find a list of documentaries currently in production or starting soon. Any words of wisdom or advice would help greatly.
Hi, I'm working with my first ITVS contract and need some advice regarding how best to distribute the funds – through a fiscal receiver or my LLC.
My situation is a bit complicated because of the history of funding on the project. Prior to my ITVS contract, I used one fiscal receiver for State grants (NYFA) and a non-profit organization for NEA funds. (NEA changed their rules several years ago and only allows organizations to apply, not individuals with fiscal receivers). I signed off on my ITVS budget giving the non-profit organization's director a salary equivalent to cover fiscal responsibilities. What I completely forgot about was that NYFA requires that they be the only fiscal receiver. NYFA is now telling me that they will terminate my contract if I don't use them as the fiscal receiver. I don't have an additional 8% in my budget to spare to cover their fee (18,000). The only option I can think of in order to not breach my contract with NYFA would be to use my LLC for the ITVS funds.
Does anyone know if I could still pay people as independent contractors if I use my LLC? What if people are working at my office? – Won't they technically need to be on payroll? (I did not allow for payroll expenses in my budget).
The only people who would be working at my office on a regular basis for the year are editing assistants and the editor.
A friend suggested I create a sequence of "best shots" from my trip to Egypt. I guess this is under "research", "Egyptian Identity", silly ideas as to what that might be....misconceptions I've seen personally or in media/film, whether negative or positive where what interested me at first...am I mixed in there somewhere as Erica suggested a while ago?
A 41MB H264 QuickTime Movie (no sound) is at:
Judy, considering that you have an ITVS contract, you might want to consider applying for member status on this website – it will open up a lot more forums and chances to get more feedback on a question like that. That said (and not being an accountant/lawyer), my best advice would actually be to talk directly with ITVS. They obviously have a vested interest in you managing to finish your project, so they'll be able to better advise (or point you in the right direction of someone else who might) and from all accounts, are very helpful in general. My understanding of an LLC is that it's akin to any corporation, so you should be able to pay people the same way anyone with a company might – but, please, don't take my word on it as I'm not a lawyer/tax accountant, I just know that a lot of films are set up as LLCs and must also deal with this dilemma. Hope some of that is helpful and good luck!
judy, i think what eli says is right. i'm not quite sure why you would process your ITVS funds through a fiscal sponsor anyways – ITVS doesn't need a tax-deductible receipt from you. the only entities that go through your fiscal sponsor are 1) individuals who want to deduct their donations from their taxes; and 2) foundations or corporations who have a policy of only donating funds to non-profit organizations. so i think you have nothing to worry about...
for the record, i have an LLC and i pay my independent contractors through it. the question of whether your crew are considered employees has nothing to do with paying them through an LLC (or other such corporation). the employee designation has more to do with whether they are truly functioning independently from your constant supervision, and a few other key provisions that you can easily google...
I'm getting ready to do a documentary about leader dogs for the blind. This project will take about two years to complete. I was told to look for grant money but, don't have a clue where to start and this project will start in January 2009. I have most of the equipment because of video work that I've done before for example Canon XL1s cameras. I will also do all my own editing in FC studio. This is the first project of this size and if I can get it done right, the org. that I'm working with could get a lot of donations and help me as well.
Thanks for your time
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Good morning Mansi;
Thanks you very much for this information. I'll check into all of this
Have a really great day!
You know Doug, Yes! Feedback PLEASE!
I should have made it clear I was looking for feedback, but this was the mentoring section so I made some silly assumptions :)
Does anyone have any incite on the legality and public domain issues in using youtube-like videos posted on the web? I know that formally copyrighted material is a no go, but what if, say, I want to use a video of Joe-Sixpack (ahem) taken at a bar and posted by his girlfriend, Josephine. Any chance Joe can bust me on this? Thanks! Rob.
One of the dirty secrets of the legal industry is the concept of "exposure." It means how likely you are to be sued by someone, and how likely it will end up costing you loads of money.
In the scenario you described, I'd say your exposure was zero, meaning not to worry about Joe Six. Now, if you were Steven Spielberg then Joe Six (and his lawyer) would probably figure you are loaded and come after you. Conversly, if Joe Six actually turned out to be Joe Pesci, he might come after you (and not just with his lawyer).
So, no responsible person would condone or encourage you to break the law. But you got me instead, the realist. Bottom line: Joe Six CAN "come after you" but it's not likely he will, and if he did, you would get a letter telling you to cease and desist before appearing before any judge.
In reply to Sam Rabeeh's post on Tue 11 Nov 2008 23:18 UTC :
Sam: your description says "Raw video and sound" so are you asking for feedback on just your camera work and sound, not the editing?
In reply to Robert Shore's post on Wed 12 Nov 2008 :
One more thing about exposure. If you are going to use it in film that becomes well-known then your exposure increases. If it's for some fraternity gag film night then not likely. You getting the idea?
I would like to get some advices or creative ideas on how to finance films through the internet.
Have you googled Sundance Documentary Fund? There are plenty of grants programs out there, but that's the first one off the top of my head, and it's actually VERY competitive. What you should also do (if you haven't already) is become a member of the International Documentary Association. They offer fiscal sponsorship to many indie docs, so you can accept donation$ through them!!! Check them out at:
If you wanna use that footage, you still need a release from the subjects who appear in it, including the Joe Schmoe who happens to be the bf of the girl who uploaded it. Also, as far as ownership goes, I think that could be a battle between the person who shot/uploaded it and Youtube, but I don't know of Youtube having any sort of exclusivity policy, so if you can get your hands on the original footage, use that instead. Youtube video quality sucks anyway!
Check out this blog from my friend. She's edited many major projects and has some good insight on how to get your film out there on the web.
Good luck to you guys!! Email me if you like'd more info!!!
Thanks for all your help on the youtube issue. Like so many things, it's clearly unclear. Another question (sorry, kind of learning as I go on this project): I'm thinking about investing in some HD cameras. I have the budget to buy something a bit bigger and fancier (thinking about the Sony EX1) and something a bit less expensive and more easily portable (maybe the Sony A1U). I am concerned about the compatibility of the images. Does anyone have any experience with this? Will the images flush visually if cut end to end? Thanks again,
In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Thu 13 Nov 2008 :
Hi Mark, you can reply on anything. I'm open to advice especially the cinematography as I had difficulty keeping things framed and even making decisions on framing as "everything was happening at the same time".
In reply to Marianne Hjorth Nielsen 's post on Thu 13 Nov 2008 :
I think your question is too general. What kind of film are you talking about?
I have personally been funding my own documentary project and I have run out of funds. When I began the project I really didn't know how extremely detailed I would have to be to complete it. In the beginning I was just thinking of a way to make money, but when I began to understand what it took to create a quality project I knew that I might be in over my head. I hired and trusted someone who I was told knew what they were doing. All that happened was I got cheated out of money. So I got my own camera, a Sony FX1 and a mac pro lap top and began to shoot my own project. I am about 80% complete but just need funding to complete it. How would I go about getting funding for it?
Friends and family are the usual starting points, Charles. Then there's everyone you know. Probably not what you wanted to hear, right? Anyway, would help to know what your doc is about.
charles, if your doc has an obvious social issue associated with it – e.g., education, civil rights, poverty alleviation, global warming – then there are a host of foundations and film organizations which have grant programs available. if your doc does not have any such link to social issues, then you'll find the grant world pretty slim pickings.
for minority filmmakers like you and me, there are always film orgs like NBPC (National Black Programming Consortium) that have grants available. these grants, however, are highly competitive.
for you, the best thing to do would be to make a fundraising trailer (2-5 minutes) and show it to individuals and other organizations who can either fund you, or put you in contact with others who can.
I'm looking for answers Doug, those I want to hear and those I don't. I'm actually going through that short list of people right now. My documentary is entitled, MODERN DAY GANGSTA "Hood Pollitics". It's about a small community in Long Beach California that is occupied by two gang factions, the Insane Crips and the Rollin 20 Crips. They share the same streets, the same friends and families, the same history. They are so closely related that they could be considered family, in some cases they are, and they are killing each other at an alarming rate. The funerals are numbing and have become common. The questions are many but the answers are few. There is no real justice for the families. The code of silence in the community is stifling. Young black men are being put away for the rest of their lives. The danger in shooting this project is real and frightening, but it's a story that must be told.
I have done time in city and county jails, state and federal prisons. I was a product of everything that is wrong with that community, and although I was never involved with either of the two gangs, I was a part of the same social and psychological retardation process that has affected many in that part of the Long Beach community.
I have a Sony FX1 and a mac pro laptop computer. I have hired a professional to do the final edit. I have accumulated a great deal of footage and I'm clear on the direction of the doc. I have a young man from each gang and telling the story through their eyes. They still have gang affiliations, however they have become community activsts, have great jobs and are willing to put themselves on the line to get this story out.
What I like about this site is that it is so informative. If you take the time to read over the many questions and answers from other Enthusiasts and Members, many of your questions will be answered, not to mention the plethora of sites posted. It's absolutely amazing and I truly appreciate all of the information and I want to thank you for allowing people like me to be a part of such a worthwhile site.
Thanks Christopher for the advice. I read the comment you wrote on Monica's 10 minute trailer and I found it quite informative. I will check out the NBPC and I'm confident that my documentary will comply with some of the criteria they are asking for. When I read the comment you sent to Monica it made me take a closer look at my own. Keep up the good work brother and thanks again.
you're welcome, charles. looks like you have a wonderful project – and it sounds much more compelling than the "MADE IN AMERICA" doc recently done by Stacey Peralta. since you have the insider perspective, i can't help but think that NBPC would be interested. also, in addition to NBPC, you should also apply to ITVS. btw, if you are a first time filmmaker, you will probably be obligated to pull an experienced Executive Producer on board in order to qualify for funding. but with your storyline, that shouldn't be a problem. best of luck!
I truly appreciate your comments Christopher. I may have someone with experience to attach to the project for the purpose of getting funding. When I was in Federal prison I would lay on my bunk submitted because it is difficult for me to trust people since one of my scripts was flipped to make Chris thinking of ways to make money doing what I liked doing. I had already written several scripts, none Rock's HEAD OF STATE. I figured the simple thing to do was to produce a documetary, distribute it straight to DVD and make money. The problem was that making a documentary would be more complicated than I thought it would be. My editor expressed to me that if I wanted him to edit the project, lending his name to it it would have to follow protocol and he suggested that I watch countless documentaries. I started shooting the project in 2006 and I must say that it has been a learning experience. The one thing that I understand is that there is no second chance to make a first impression so I have been very patient. This site has been God sent. Thanks again Christopher
Thanks Doug I wanted to apply for full membership but didn't know if I qualified. I will apply immediately.
Charles you say you're 80 per cent complete and you need the other 20 per cent ... what is left that will take 20 per cent? Music compposition? Mix, color correction, etc. that kind of things. There might be contacts that can help with the completion if we know what you're needing.
You know what's funny David? I thought I was about 80% completed but after joining this site I may be about 60%. I have about 75 hours of footage. I have already paid for the editing. I have worked out the music composition. I just need to shoot more of the principles in my project and pic up some more equipment and pay the cameraman shooting the B role. Any advice you have I am open for it. Thanks a bunch.
In reply to Le Sheng Liu's post on Sun 16 Nov 2008 : Thanks for the information.I will look into those groups. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
Charles, you should definitely be in touch with Stanley Nelson from Firelight Media in NYC. He told me he has just launched a mentoring initiative for minority filmmakers and is looking for folks to mentor. He is absolutely invaluable.
Also, once you've got a trailer together, send it to him and he'll offer some advice on who to approach for more funding. And if you're really lucky, maybe you could get him to come on as Exec. Producer.
He's not great on email, so I suggest you give him a call and introduce yourself. Their number is 212.234.1324. Web address is www.firelightmedia.org.
Thanks Julianna, I will be sure to give him a call. I do have a trailer but I want to make it more professional.
Charles, also suggest if you are not already connected to sign up for Doculink. I believe they do work in progress screenings of trailers from time to time which may be worth looking into. Fellow D-Worder Robert Bahar is the Doculink Guru, so you may also want to talk to him. There's another group in the L.A. area now doing WIP screenings, but I think they are more focused on rough cuts. Plus D-Word now has a Vimeo channel where you can post for feedback here. I'm sure Doug can post the link since it escapes me at the moment.
Submit your short film to "The Party" competition at Filmaka.com and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due January 12, 2009. More info at
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on DOCULINK WORKS-IN-PROGRESS :
Yes that is true. LA Doculink hosts about one or two (or maybe even more) works-in-progress screenings by its members. We call it the 10x10 because ten submissions are selected for screening and discussion. I don't know when the next one is, but I recommend all D-Worders join Doculink anyway. It's a great resource just like D-Word!!!
I just posted a question in one of the members-only forums, but thought I'd come here and pick the brains of the general populace. I'm trying to help put a panel together for a talk in NYC on filmmakers' experiences with digital distribution. I need to get some more viewpoints on the topic.
If you – or anyone you know – is making any money with digital/online distribution of a documentary, please contact me: nycdiane "at" gmail "dot" com. If not making money, how would you define success with digital distribution? Thanks!
Hi – think this is the best place to post this:
I'm about to go on a documentary shoot abroad. I'm relatively new w/shooting video and have a camera guy shooting on a Sony Z1 along with me.
I want a TOP end camcorder that I can plug a kick ass mic into to shoot great b-roll. Here's my question: which camera will give me the closest to pure HD image? I've been directed to the HDC-H100K. I'm thinking of buying it but it takes SD memory cards. Are these superior to tapes? If I edit in Final Cut Pro, will I be able to easily get all this footage from the SD cards w/o a problem? I've heard bad things about the cards...HELP. Thanks so much in advance.
my advice to you would be to figure out a way to bring a 2nd Z1u.
even if budget is tight, you can still buy one (used), and then sell it after for a net loss of a few hundred bucks probably.
this way, there is no problems with matching footage, etc. and if something goes wrong on your shoot with either z1, then you have a backup.
it also has XLRs which is the only way to work if you want to use a great mic.
I use a Sony A1U as a second camera to my Z1U. The image matches nicely, and the A1U costs half as much, is less than half the size and it has XLR audio.
The A1U sucks in low light though.
I'm currently shooting on the Sony Ex1 and am pretty happy with what I am getting. Does anyone have any suggestions for picture profile settings for various shooting conditions? Thanks. Rob.
Hi everyone – I have new Hip-Hop film near completion – just wondering for advice on what I should do with it.
Its a Hip-Hop documentary, 'Peace, Love, Unity and Havin' Fun' and I have been filming for the last 3 / 4 years.
I feel it has international appeal and would be of interest to a lot of young people. 'Discover and learn about cross-community relationship, Northern Ireland and the global phenomenon we call Hip-Hop....' (http://www.sub-cultureproductions.co.uk)
It is 70 min in length and has some big names in the world of Hip-Hop and performing arts i.e QBert, The Pharcyde, Don Letts, DJ Craze, Ugly Duckling, Skinnyman and Shlomo to name a few.
The film refers to Hip-Hop in relation to popular culture (Hip-Pop) and redefines the term by giving examples of the influence Hip-Hop has on young people today. In particular Northern Ireland, a country of recent conflict.
I have attached a teaser.
Hello everyone, this is my first question here and you seem to be a bunch of knowledgeable, informed people so here's hoping someone can help me.
My company is NOT a not-for profit, and we are making a humanitarian-content 3-part documentary series http://www.necessaryproductions.com/page4.html
I have yet to source funding and am finding it increasingly difficult. Does anyone have any advice regarding developing ANOTHER company, such as a social enterprise or other not-for-profit, to work alongside my existing company in order to obtain the many grants etc that would then be available to me?
What would the implications be of having two businesses? Which one would own the films, and what would be the potential for transferring from a not-for-profit, to the profit-making business if it seemed like the film would do well?
Does that make sense? It does to me, but then I know what I mean to say...
Why would a grant-making body give funds to a not for profit, that then passes the money on to a for-profit? It sounds like a scam, the way you describe it, regardless what the law says.
What I have seen, not in film but other fields, is profit from a for-profit, being directed to a not for profit, or foundation, partly to lessen a tax bill, but often just to provide the not for profit with operating capital. So, exactly the opposite flow of what I understand you're describing here.
In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Wed 17 Dec 2008 : Yes Jo-Anne, you are right, oh dear, it does sound like a scam the way I've described it! It isn't meant to be at all. I don't mean I want to transfer the money from a not-for-profit, my question is, if I had a not-for-profit and the film was funded by a grant(s), would that film be 'optioned/owned' by that funder for a period of time, or would it be available later on for a for-profit company? (the film itself, not the money... please forgive me for not knowing, but the funding issue is new to me). The film is being raised to make profit to further research into a humanitarian issue. I want it to make as much money as possible for the benificiaries, yet, unless I am a not-for-profit, I am finding initial and finishing funding difficult to source – hence my badly-phrased question :)
It is possible to find non-profit organizations to sponsor your project for the purpose of applying for and receiving grants as an individual filmmaker. I have not done this, but I know it can be done.
Not sure about the laws where you are, but it might not hurt to consult with a professional legal/financial advisor.
I am starting on a doc about body image and how women feel about themselves. One of the main parts in my film is having women send in video diaries about themselves and how body image affects them. I am wondering, since I will probably never face to face meet them....do i still need "rights"? I know most people have their subjects sign an agreement saying they have the right to use the footage in their film but, i am wondering if i need to do that. if i do, how should i go about that?
Yes, Skyler, you still need rights. Send them a release form to sign. Examples can be found through a Google search, I'm sure.
In order to get grants for my project I partnered with our local community foundation that is 501C3. At first they didn’t think they could accept money and give it to me, a for-profit. It took the help from Robert Richter D-worder http://www.richtervideos.com/
and Karen Shatzkin (Shatzkin & Mayer, P.C.) www.shatzkinmayer.com to convince our local foundation.
I could of used Robert’s generous offer to provide the 501C3 but I wanted to educate our local community that this can and should be done. (I am on a mission to get our area hip to the production of films.) It also took the help and legal opinion from Karen Shatzkin.
The information from Karen and the offer from Robert helped convince the foundation to look into it. The foundation got their legal people and they then agreed that my project was with-in the foundations mission statement and have now partnered with me. Since I have received over 40,000 in grants.
The hidden section is the opinion I gave the foundation.
I'm producing a documentary about this particular family, and they have a lot of home movies and pictures that I'm going to use as B-roll. I have consent forms for the interviews and images, but I need a form specifically to handle the rights for the B-roll. Does anybody have a form like that, or know where I could get one?
I am using a HV 20 with DOF adaptor to make films. The quality of video is really good, but sound is very tinny. Is there anyway I can improve the quality of sound without spending a fortune? I'm still learning film-making, so want to get some experience before investing in higher-end equipment
Appreciate any suggestions please!
For those of you who have ever done pure editing jobs, what did you use to determine your hourly or daily rate? An old editor of mine from my journalism days hired me to edit some footage that I didn't shoot into a short doc for the web. While he didn't end up using the piece, which i actually never got to finish b/c of he killed the project, and we didn't agree to a set price upfront, I spent about 20 hours all told putting it together. NOTE: I took this work outside my day job (I'm a financial writer to pay the bills). How much do I work the cost of my Final Cut Studio 2 software and new iMac and storage into charging him for the HD edit if at all? Do I base my rate on my current salaried writing job? What's the going editing rate for New York City? It's tricky pricing because I don't want to price myself out of future jobs (shooting and editing) for him in 2009. He asked me to send him an invoice. Any help would be appreciated.
Craig, it varies widely. Top editors working on feature docs get $500-600/day. On the other hand, the guy who edited my last work-in-progress sample, who was an experienced ass't editor, and a talented but only somewhat experienced editor, charged $20/hr. Because you're tossing in your own equipment, I'd say a minimum of $25/hr is fair. Anything above that you feel like charging is up to your comfort level.
And your in NYC where the rates are higher... so you can factor that in as well.
In reply to Prabha Nag's post on Thu 25 Dec 2008 :
what kind of microphone are you using? a lapel mic? boom mic? condenser mic?
In reply to James Longley's post on Thu 18 Dec 2008 :
Yes, IDA has a "fiscal sponsorship" program. There is a detailed application process, but it can happen for you. Nots sure how hard it is to get approved for their program however. If your doc is of a massive budget – over $50,000 (last time i checked) – they start taking a percentage. I paid a lawyer to read over their legal documents regarding fiscal sponsorship and nothing seemed amiss to him.
Membership is required to apply for fiscal sponsorship.
Mudding is an art though, you have to make sure the room is at the right temperature between coats otherwise the seams will pop up right after the contractor cashes the check.
$25 is a good price, three coats if you own your house, two if you don't.
I searched through the d-word archives for info on subtitles and found suggestions for Belle Nuit subtitler. For some strange reason I can't read the font on the company's website. Would appreciate any explanations of what this software does and why it's preferable to doing subtitles in FCP.
In reply to Aaron B. Smith's post on Mon 29 Dec 2008 :
I'm looking at using a boom mike...Any suggestions?
In reply to Lucia Duncan's post on Fri 2 Jan 2009 :
In FCP you can hard code subtitles, that is, when rendered they become part of the image. There is no changing between one subtitle stream and another. Nor can you see the image without any subtitles.
Belle Nuit allows you to generate a separate subtitle file which can be added as a subtitle track when you burn a DVD, allowing the viewer to remove them or change languages.
If you're not concerned with seeing the image "clean", then you can subtitle in FCP without a problem.
Lucia, you'll find more info if you do a search for "belle nuit" on The D-Word.
Also, as a member, feel free to post these kind of questions in the Editing topic.
Lucia – Belle Nuit is the way to go if you're subtitling a feature-length film, you can get pretty fast and it has all the advantages that Ethan mentions. If budget is a problem, there's a cheap subtitling plug-in from Digital Heaven that might do the trick for you.
PS if the Belle Nuit website is not displaying properly, you might try a different browser.
Hi everyone...:)New year!!! It's so cool being here and meeting you all. I'm in the legal stage, looking for samples of release forms, current budget samples in USD amounts, simple and documented ways to prepare myself before standing in front of a potential financial partner. How far can I go legally before joining a production studio? I'm my own everything right now. ~J~
Hoping I can get some good advice here. I'm a film blogger, and I'm looking for a reputable film studies program that offers courses online. I'm looking for a general grounding in critical theory and film history more than a practical program in filmmaking, but am hopeful that this very wise and connected community can help me out.
Exactly, Doug. To pull myself up from the ranks of the "hobbyist" and to get a little respect from the rest of the film world (including documentary filmmakers), I'm feeling the need to get a little edumacation. Your comment confirms exactly what I'm feeling.
By the way, Doug. No posts since September? Bad blogger! :)