(Let's get this party started right)
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.
James, you don't have any problem with the speed of the Lacie drives? They don't hang up and everything runs smoothly? What model of the drives are they? I've got older ones, but they'd be too big too bring along anywhere, but I recently bought a 1tb fairly small size drive but the footage hangs.
I'm using this one – the 500GB version. So far it works fine for cutting 720pN material on the Macbook Pro in Final Cut. I've only been using these drives for a few weeks, but no problems to report so far. And yes, I sometimes carry them in my pockets.
My new feature doc, an all- verite day in the life of three families in New Orleans, was accepted free of charge to the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Market after I submitted to the Film Festival. The movie is not in the festival, and it has not yet been picked up by any distributor (although I got really really close, dammit!)
I have never been to a film market of any sort before, and can find very little info on the net about the Thessaloniki Docmarket. So I am wondering if anyone has had any experience there or has heard anything, can tell me a bit about other docmarkets, whether it would be useful to be there in person or whether it's too crazy to go all the way to Greece [from Brooklyn]. One other thing to consider-– My flick is definitely a European style movie, which could hypothetically be most successful with audiences over there, so this market could be exactly where I want it to be in terms of target audience.
Thank you thank you thank you,
Naftali, it's not really worth it to go over to Greece if you're just in the market. Often they don't even let the filmmaker in to where the market is, it's just a bunch of commissioning editors and festival programmers sitting in a room with monitors watching stacks of films on dvd. What you really want to do is get your film to the few good sales agents out there that take on docs and sell them internationally (Films Transit and Roco Films are two). They go to the various markets and larger festivals and do the dirty work for you. Meanwhile, keep applying to film festivals and try to premiere it in the biggest and best one possible before you settle for the second or third tier festivals. Lots of luck.
In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
thank you for the reply Mr. Longley.... i just had a chance to try the Sony PMW-EX3 as a friend is over to visit from the U.S. and i found it to be rather good, except for some minor details, i'll try and find a Panasonic HPX170 , unfortunately we do not have a vast range of camcorders, or anything but the commercially available consumer minicams in lebanon... well its more convenient for me to shoot directly onto solid state cards.
and as you say it's pretty much "drag-and-drop" to get the material off the cards and into hard drives for editing.... i found it so easy especially with the non-linearity approach to viewing the clips ...
thank you again...
In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
Thank you very much. Mmmm, dirty work for me. That sounds fantastic. I will track Films Transit and Roco as best as I can.
And I am applying to those festivals, oh yes, I am applying those festivals. Thanks for the luck.
And good luck with all you are doing.
Best of the best,
In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 13 Jan 2009 :
Your welcome James. I enjoyed it.
I wanted to ask you, on some of your long shots it occasionally seems that you are shooting the footage with music in your head. It seems that the way some of your camera movements are made as you wind your way down passageways in Baghdad, Gaza or Najaf have a distinct rhythm and syncopation to them, separate and apart from the way you punctuate your edits.
I play percussion and I occasionally had this distinct impression while watching your work. Is this true? Do you ever have music or rhythm in mind as you shoot any of your "Steadicam" shots?
Everything is hand-held in those films and the only music is the music of the spheres.
Can I write off my camera, lights and sound equipment?
I'm asking this question here because others may have it and I trust the answers from a tax law library or tax professionals that may be here far more than a Google search.
However, I find the CCH and RIA tax materials somewhat disorganized in their approach and layout, so I'm trying to avoid a trip to the law library.
I'm conviced I can make a profit on some of my films over the next five years and am willing to prove this to the IRS over time. This is the first year of my business and it is not a hobby.
As such, I am filling out a Schedule C and possibly a Form 4562 for tax treatment of my purchases of camera, lights and sound equipment.
I would like to expense these items rather than depreciating them. Can I do so?
Thanks. I just wish the Rutter Group (or even CEB) would make tax guides.
Yes – I think you can do this – but most tax advisors will probably tell you that you should calculate whether that will be the most beneficial thing to do.
Super, thanks so much James. I managed to get hold of the IRS instructions for this form (Form 4562) and was finally able to confirm that this is possible; the wording is pretty dense, but after reading it many times to learn whether film gear is considered a "listed" asset or not, I was finally able to decipher it.
I have a string of documentaries in the queue and have set up both non-profit and profit entities for them. I feel comfortable that for this particular for-profit entity this is what I want to do....
Hope all is well.
I'm sure you guys have already gone through this, but, I'm in need... Sorry!!! I'm currently working on my release forms for my documentary. The catch is it's a thesis project in order to gain my Masters degree. May you help me with sample release forms?
Thanks in advance.
Marcia, do a search for "release form" on this forum you'll find several examples. If you need one in Spanish, let me know and I can dig one up.
Hello to everyone in D-Word community,
I am a 35 year old living Brooklyn, NY who over the past 5-7 years has fallen in love with the documentary medium and is looking to make a career transition into this field. My original background has been in the fine arts industry of New York, but I now find it unfulfilling and less socially vital than important cultural visual media. I recently have been laid off due to the economy which I very much want to use as an opportunity to get involved in this industry. As you may know It's usually a bit difficult to get that first bit of experience in a new field when one has no previous experience in it. I'm setting my sights on getting a internship with any individual filmmakers or production companies to meet people and gain experience. I have been viewing craigslist regularly and applying there and it occurred to me that I could possibly post an "internship wanted" ad in the classified section of D-Word. I wanted to request any thoughts or input from anyone of the D-Words members regarding the likelyhood of attaining an internship at my age, or any thoughts or tips on going about getting involved with this amazing medium that has changed the way I see the world.
Thanks to all for your time and consideration,
welcome, Wendell. in your time off from work, you should see if you can learn the basics of editing in Final Cut Pro. the most useful interns often work as assistant editors – digitizing, organizing, and finding footage. this will give you a great introduction to what documentary filmmaking is all about (assuming the director you are working for is competent...) best of luck as you make your transition!
I may be hired to creatively consult / oversee a documentary by a financier. I've never held this role and wondered if anyone out there had experience with this. I'm putting together a proposal right now and would be grateful for suggestions, the more detailed the better. Should I suggest being compensated by the week or a percentage of the budget? Should I ask for back end profit participation? As you can probably tell, since this isn't my own film, I'd like to make it work for me in a "work for hire" fashion, that is, I'd like to get paid as well as possible. What credit should I ask for? What "looks better on a resume," to put it crassly? Producer? Co-director? I'd also like to make sure I respect the director's vision and be helpful without stepping on toes. Has anyone been in this type of relationship before and what are some pitfalls I should look out for? Thanks in advance for your time –
I will soon be recording a choir for soundtrack use – so sound only. What releases should i get from the choir members? Can i get all of them to sign one form? If the piece of music is out of copyright then i just have to get permission to use their performance right? This is small choir at a local cathedral singing sacred music for mass.
Hi does anyone know how much typically an expert is paid to in order for them to agree to be interviewed for your documentary? What is the typical payment for someone who is an expert on their field (but who is not famous *famous meaning written a book or something like this)
typically, you don't have to pay experts a dime... if they are really interested in their field, and in getting their views out there, many of them are actually appreciative of the opportunity to do so on film.
of course, you don't want to waste their time either. your only "payment" to them needs to be an organized production, perhaps a meal or two depending on the length of the shoot, asking good questions, and of course, finishing your film. at the end, they should also receive a complimentary DVD and perhaps an invitation to a local film festival where your work is playing.
don't offer any cash if you can at all help it. if they ask for it, just plead poverty and inform them about the "low-budget" nature of documentary. if they insist on payment, you can just find another expert, or find some other non-monetary compensation that will satisfy them.
Not sure if this is the right place to post but I need to put closed captioning on the doc before a company will pick it up for distribution. Where do i find out how to do this?
New to D-word and will introduce myself properly soon. For now, I'm in desperate need of a filming studio in Brooklyn, NY for this weekend. Doesn't need to be a big space but quiet with some backgrounds etc. for sure and under $1000. Any suggestions?
Looking for some recommendations of high quality documentary websites.
I am putting together a website for a documentary and I'm looking for ideas. Anyone got a favorite site they want to plug?
i'm not sure this is the right place to post, so please redirect me if the post is errant:
i'm using FCP 5.0 on a MacBook Pro. i just recently upgraded to OS 10.5 and FCP (which is the same version as before) is acting a little weird. when i digitize, it gives me this new window called "Analyzing DV Audio" and inside it reads "Validating Audio Data." it takes anywhere from 1-10 minutes depending on the clip. it appears once capture is complete. if i press cancel, the clip evaporates as if i never captured it. if i let it do its thing, when i play a clip captured with in and out points ("batch capture") i lose sync (sound trails about a second behind image). but when i capture on the fly ("capture now") the clips are in sync.
I need one in Spanish...can you help me?
In reply to Ethan Steinman's post on Thu 22 Jan 2009 :
Any advive on how to promote my first doc.? I do not have a big budget (read "any") and am trying to get the most buzz for my time spent. Thanks
Well, thanks, I guess? I have been there. I am looking for more inside info that other people have found to work for them.
two things that might help you:
1) whether or not you are finished with your first doc, a good trailer helps to get people's interest going. best advice on this forum has been to keep your trailer to no more than 2 minutes long. if you don't quite have the skills to form a tight trailer, then it also helps to put together a DVD of 2-3 of your best scenes. these scenes should fall into the 1-2 minute range.
2) once you have your trailer/clips ready, start marketing them to your target audience. if you are profiling gamers, then start posting about your project at the various online gaming communities. once those communities get excited about what you are doing, they'll spread the word amongst themselves. think about secondary audiences as well. maybe it's not just gamers who want to see your doc; it's possible that a lot of parents would really connect to the characters in your film – parents who are concerned about their own children getting "addicted" to the world of gaming.
just a few suggestions to get you going.
Thanks for those tips. I have been doing that for a while. I never thought of the parent angel, though. I will have to work on that one next. If any one else has an insight please let me know. Here is one of our current trailers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avunegDHcD8 Just to show you what we are working with.
In reply to Diane Johnson's post on Sun 25 Jan 2009 :
I Agree with Christopher! Don't pay for something you can get for free. We find that telling most experts who participate in our doc efforts that a full credit (Name, Title, Business/School etc...) will appear as both a lower third graphic and in our doc's end credits burned onto the DVD goes a long way with most who have the right intentions, too!
Working on my first budget – are grants and foundations more likely to give money to rent camera and sound equipment – or is it acceptable to list the retail price of a camera (around $5k)... and would i get to keep it?
basically, are grants generally against or ok with helping filmmakers buy reasonably priced equipment?
I just applied for my first grant as a first time filmmaker just to meet the deadline. I hadn't found any production people to work with me at the time and still need to know how to find a good camera, or a good video person who knows sound. I'm signed up for a digital video class and a Final Pro Class at UC Irvine, but it's not until June.
All advice very much appreciated!!
Matthew, many grant-makers do not support the purchase of equipment since they are supporting a single project rather than a production entity which would be likely to make use of the equipment beyond that single project. However, many funders understand that independent filmmakers with their own equipment may include the rental cost of equipment in their budget (essentially renting from themselves) and that this generally ends up being more cost-effective than renting the equipment from a third party rental house.
Lynn, had you thought of asking the instructor of the digital video class you'll be taking at UC Irvine? He/She may be interested or have some leads on professionals in your area. You may also want to do a search on the People page here in D-Word and see who is in the area (or maybe extend the search to include LA) and contact a few folks who look like they have the skills you want. They may not be able to do it for free, but might be convinced to work for a fair price if they are taken by the topic of your film.
Matthew – You should just buy the equipment, rent it to the project and amortize it that way. Some funders – ITVS for example – will allow you to buy equipment or expendables (and nowadays that includes hard drives) up to $1,000. You have to get approval for equipment expense over $1k. And that usually comes with the caveat – if they approve it – that the equipment belongs to them. If i were you, I'd just buy it and rent back.
Erica--thank you! I'll check out the People page right now....
Thank you Erica and Ramona for the advice, I'll put it to use! Appreciate it!
Hello everybody. I am into journalism.
Well I have just started out in the field of film making.Can you please tell me how do i go about it.In India there are few media houses which make documentaries. Are there specific opportunities anywhere or independent film making is the only way out.
Welcome, Sudeshna. There aren't many media companies that make documentaries anywhere, even the U.S. So, especially given how inexpensive hi-def camcorders are, not to mention editing software like Final Cut Pro, a lot of people start out just by leaping in and making a film. A short documentary may be the way to go, you'll learn a lot and hopefully not lose too much money. Then you can take it from there. Best of luck, whichever path you ultimately choose.
Does anyone know of classes on doc research in the US? There is a Researcher's Masterclass in London at DFG docs, but I'd love to find something closer to home.
In reply to Diane Johnson's post on Sun 25 Jan 2009 :
I agree with Christopher to an expert usually doesn't get a honorarium, unless they insist. If they do and you are on a tight budget, you could specify a certain amount in the interview release form that will be given to him/her after the film has found a commercial release.
In reply to Sudeshna Chowdhury's post on Fri 20 Feb 2009 :
My advice is to think small. Write stories or produce 3-5 minute videos on topics that interest you for a website (could be an on-line newspaper). The experience will teach you 1) if it's something you really like doing 2) how to work efficiently and 3) get the attention of people who might want to hire you.
These days there are no shortage of people who will post your material.
Hi to all of you this is my first time to join D world.
I need some of your guidance about editing with Adobe Preme.
I am very new to make documentary and this is my first time.
i have already shoot video with different, different video camera using mini video tape. almost i have got 40 hours of video.
now i want to edit with using adobe preme. Can some one say, which format i should start editing and save file also. I am new to preme also.
It's hard to tell from your description if you shot on different video formats or if you used different cameras that all recorded on miniDV tape. If you shot everything on miniDV tape, you can use that format to edit everything in Premiere. Simply select the PAL or NTSC option in Premiere.
Ben – before you speak for all, please ask. I have used Premiere, Edius, Avid, FCP, Speed Razor, Edit and too many other programs to edit docs.