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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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Christopher Wong
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

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...

Edited Tue 4 Nov 2008 by Christopher Wong

Thomas Golaszewski
Thu 6 Nov 2008Link

Hi All;
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
Tom


Mansi Behal
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Filmaka offers funding to unknown filmmakers around the world and provides a chance to step up in to professional cinema and TV. Last year Filmaka commissioned over 40 web series to filmmakers across the planet, from Tokyo to Mexico City, and awarded $5 million in production funding to a Londoner, Nuru Rimington-Mkali, to direct his feature film. Filmaka has launched some new features to enhance its reach to professional film makers:-

1) Ability to compose a professional portfolio: You can now create an online portfolio by uploading samples of your work to the personal films section of your profile. Let industry professionals discover you through Filmaka now. Click here to upload the samples of your work http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_upload_master.php

2) Filmaka Forums: Advertise your services to the biggest community of online professional film makers. Access http://www.filmaka.com/forums/ to post your casting calls, equipment needs and reviews and read reviews for the latest Hollywood releases.

3) More Exciting Branded competitions launched every fortnight: Filmaka has released more than two million dollars as prize money to its film makers through its branded competitions most recent ones being with Ford, Cisco, MSN, Red Bull, FX and SAB Miller.

4) Enhanced Community features: Filmaka members can now upload personal pictures, Bios, CV's and personalize there profiles to make them more elaborate and detailed for fellow film makers, producers and actors. Members can write reviews about fellow film makers competition entries, post private messages to each other and also embed there favorite videos in there profiles on other websites.

5) More Web Series: Filmaka has more than 25 web series in production with a new episode being launched every Monday and Thursday, watching webisodes was never more exciting, Every series has there own dedicated page with all actors, characters and directors profiles, bios, making of and pictures. To check more details check the Filmaka Channel homepage http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_channel.php

Check out the most exciting professional film maker's database at http://www.filmaka.com . For more details contact the online support chat from the contact us page.


Thomas Golaszewski
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Good morning Mansi;
Thanks you very much for this information. I'll check into all of this
Have a really great day!
Tom


Sam Rabeeh
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Egyptian Identity V2 – 11+ minutes, subtitles begun, audio, very raw.

Not many responses (none actually!) on my last mentoring request, maybe this time will be different?

http://vimeo.com/2216268

Thanks in advance

Edited Tue 11 Nov 2008 by Sam Rabeeh

Doug Block
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

What's your actual request, Sam? Feedback?


Sam Rabeeh
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

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 :)


Robert Shore
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

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.


Mark Barroso
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

Robert:
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.


Mark Barroso
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

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?


Mark Barroso
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

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?


Marianne Hjorth Nielsen
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

Hi D-Word,

I would like to get some advices or creative ideas on how to finance films through the internet.


Le Sheng Liu
Sun 16 Nov 2008Link

Thomas:
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:
http://documentary.org

Robert:
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!
http://www.youtube.com/t/privacy
http://www.youtube.com/t/terms

Marianne:
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.
http://documentaryinsider.blogspot.com/2008/08/online-distribution.html

Good luck to you guys!! Email me if you like'd more info!!!


Robert Shore
Mon 17 Nov 2008Link

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,

Rob.


Sam Rabeeh
Mon 17 Nov 2008Link

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".


James Longley
Tue 18 Nov 2008Link

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?


Charles Acrie
Sun 23 Nov 2008Link

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?

Edited Sun 23 Nov 2008 by Charles Acrie

Doug Block
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

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.


Christopher Wong
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

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.


Charles Acrie
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

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.


Christopher Wong
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

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!


Doug Block
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

Sounds like a very strong project, Charles, as Chris says. The very first thing you should do is apply for full membership in The D-Word. It will give you access to all the discussion topics.

Edited Mon 24 Nov 2008 by Doug Block

Charles Acrie
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

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.


David Mcilvride
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

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.


Charles Acrie
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

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.


Thomas Golaszewski
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

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.
Tom


Julianna Brannum
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

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.
Good luck!


Charles Acrie
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

Thanks Julianna, I will be sure to give him a call. I do have a trailer but I want to make it more professional.


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 25 Nov 2008Link

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.


Doug Block
Wed 26 Nov 2008Link

Charles, The D-Word has a Group on Vimeo here

And a Channel here

To get your films on The D-Word channel, join the Group and add your films to it and member Mike Patterson will automatically add them to the channel.


Mansi Behal
Wed 26 Nov 2008Link

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
www.filmaka.com/featurefilm


Le Sheng Liu
Thu 27 Nov 2008Link

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!!!


Diane Ingino
Wed 3 Dec 2008Link

Hi everybody,
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!


Ari Mark
Wed 10 Dec 2008Link

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.


Riley Morton
Wed 10 Dec 2008Link

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.


Joe Moulins
Thu 11 Dec 2008Link

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.


Robert Shore
Mon 15 Dec 2008Link

Hi All-
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.


Chris Eva
Wed 17 Dec 2008Link

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.
Thanks,

Chris


Sarah Goldsmith
Wed 17 Dec 2008Link

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...


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 17 Dec 2008Link

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.


Sarah Goldsmith
Wed 17 Dec 2008Link

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 :)


James Longley
Thu 18 Dec 2008Link

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.


James Longley
Thu 18 Dec 2008Link

Maybe try the IDA


Skyler Buffmeyer
Fri 19 Dec 2008Link

Hey!
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?
thanks!!
-skyler.


Doug Block
Fri 19 Dec 2008Link

Yes, Skyler, you still need rights. Send them a release form to sign. Examples can be found through a Google search, I'm sure.


Joe Scherrman
Sat 20 Dec 2008Link Tag

Sarah Goldsmith

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.

Show hidden content

Nicholas Taylor
Mon 22 Dec 2008Link

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?


Prabha Nag
Thu 25 Dec 2008Link

Hi,
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!


Craig Schneider
Sun 28 Dec 2008Link

Hi,
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.

Thanks,
Craig


Doug Block
Sun 28 Dec 2008Link

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.


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