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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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Wang Fu
Fri 27 Feb 2009Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Sat 28 Feb 2009 :
Please tell me that right equipment Name which can use in laptop and i can record
Thanks


Evan Thomas
Sat 28 Feb 2009Link

Reply to James Longley...

Hi James, sorry yes i mean downlaoding from the internet. I want to use footage from here http://www.archive.org/details/CombatAm1945 not ideal in terms of quality i suppose but it's what i need nonetheless. Any ideas?


Mario Berlinguer
Sat 28 Feb 2009Link

In reply to Wang Fu's post on Sat 28 Feb 2009 :
Wang, I don't want to sound antiquate, but you may want to consider a DAT, and a good microphone. There are some excellent portable DAT recorders on the used market, they are lightweight so that you can bring it along in future projects (excellent for interviews or field work etc.), the quality is very high and then you can feed it to your computer both via analog or digital inputs, and edit with any audio software if there's some background noise to clean etc. I have a small Tascam that works great.
As for the microphone I can't help you much, since I'd guess it's different to record a spoken voice than singing voice or instruments. For singing solo voice I use a rather bulky microphone, for vocal ensembles two more compact Shure, they have a good range from which you can choose. Whatever you choose, I'd suggest you to buy two of the same, so you can also use them for live/field recordings in stereo.
Hope this helps.

Edited Sat 28 Feb 2009 by Mario Berlinguer

Andy Schocken
Sat 28 Feb 2009Link

Wang Fu, rather than asking a series of basic questions about production, it may be more helpful for you to take advantage of some online training resources to learn some fundamentals of film/tv production. I'm sure there are a number of sites offering this type of thing, but you'll find the following link to online training from the BBC helpful to start. Once you've done some research, you'll be able to come back here to have more specific questions addressed.

http://www.bbctraining.com/television.asp

Edited Sat 28 Feb 2009 by Andy Schocken

Dustan Lewis McBain
Sat 28 Feb 2009Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Fri 27 Feb 2009 :
so in terms of recording audio, if i were to put a wireless mic on the person i am documenting, wouldn't the audio come out all muffled because of movement? that being said, what is the best way to get audio? Im thinking regular boom


Mark Barroso
Sat 28 Feb 2009Link

Would seeing the mic bother you? In news, it's accepted. In doc filmmaking, it's not. You can pick. Tiny mics like the Countryman B6 can poke through a button hole and never be seen. There are too many techniques on hiding mics to list here, but it can be done. Plus, if you buy a mic like the B6 you can get a capsule that boosts the high frequencies to compensate for the muffling.
If you have an assistant that can hold a good boom mic, it would probably be fine. Just don't try to shoot and hold the boom, too.

Edited Sat 28 Feb 2009 by Mark Barroso

Jack Trau
Sun 1 Mar 2009Link

Hi my name is Jack and I was wondering about licensing to television and what some rates might be for documentaries which run around 50 in length. a link to any information would be very helpful.

Blue Sky's


Dustan Lewis McBain
Mon 2 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Sun 1 Mar 2009 :

haha ill try to get an assistant, thats good advice and a good point on hiding the mic, mabey ill get him to even wear a black shirt to hide it? what ever ill do im gonna take a day to test shoot and try both out and see what sounds best. In terms of composition of shots, now everything is live when im shooting this so i wont have the time to align the most compositional shots, so what do you think is the best way to get coverage. Im thinking to play it safe. Like getting everything in the story is more important so ill keep it mostly wide shots, but my B-role will be close and thought out, i think that makes sense?


Mark Barroso
Mon 2 Mar 2009Link

Sure, makes sense. Just remember that you're in charge of the set. They can get some learnin' another day. Today, we make video. Do what you're told or else I show the whole world you're a screw-up.

This works for me all the time.


Tina Flemmerer
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

Hello everyone,

I am really excited about this portal and all the helpful information you people share. Now I am hoping that someone can help me with my question.

This summer I am planning on going to Germany and then Poland to work on a piece about my mother who is searching for her birth house in Poland. I am planning on brining my own equipment, (camera, mic, tripod & laptop) into Europe, but I am not sure if I have to declare my camera with German customs.

From what I have heard German customs is really cracking down on people coming from America who bought electronics there so I don't want to get into trouble. I'd appreciate any advice. Thank you.


Tina Flemmerer
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

In reply to dustan lewis mcbain's post on Mon 2 Mar 2009 :

Dustan,

I would not advise you to stay wide for most of the shots. You will regret it later in editing.

The people who hired you are looking to promote themselves to schools with this video. Your customer wants the schools to be engaged in their presentation, they need to draw them in to get hired, so that should be your motivation too. The closer you are to your subject the more your audience will identify with them and like them. So I would go with an array of medium to close shots if I was you.

This is about working with children, right? So get lot's of close ups of the children, their eyes, a smile, a raised hand, and of course lot's of interaction between the social worker and the children. Once children are engaged in some sort of activity they are so natural on camera, and that will make you look good.

If you are nervous about your shooting skills you should go out and practice. I like to practice at the Union Square Farmers Market here in New York. You have a lot of people that are busy shopping and most likely they won't mind to be videotaped. Also, they are not going to stay at a fruit stand until you have found your perfect shot, so it's a perfect way to train yourself to make rapid decisions and get a full array of shots withing a limited time.

And definitely use Mark's advice; you have the camera, so you are the boss!!!

It sounds like an exciting project, I wish you good luck with it.


John Burgan
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

Tina – there are no restrictions on bringing camera, mic, tripod & laptop for your personal use, so it's mainly a question whether this is clearly pro equipment or more prosumer. If it's new gear, it might help to have some proof of ownership with you.


Tina Flemmerer
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

In reply to John Burgan's post on Wed 4 Mar 2009 :

John,

thank you for your advice. Well, it is a Panasonic HVX200 camera, so I would say it's more on the pro than on the prosumer end, right? And you are sure that I don't have to declare it even if I should decide to stay in Germany? Do I have to tell the customs people about it though?


Wang Fu
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

To Give a name of my documentary do I need to register name and get copyright or something like this ? Or just I can name documentary as I want?


Mark Barroso
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

Just name it whatever you want.


Christopher Wong
Tue 3 Mar 2009Link

name the documentary whatever you want... but i would not worry about that right now. you can decide on the title when you are done (or nearly done) with the film – right now, just concentrate on making it good.


John Burgan
Wed 4 Mar 2009Link

In reply to tina flemmerer's post on Wed 4 Mar 2009 :

Hmm, well you're right, the HVX200 is more on the pro end. Have you looked into getting a journalist visa? That's what we do when we work officially in the US. Then at least you'd have no worries.


Ben Kempas
Wed 4 Mar 2009Link

Visas are about people and passport controls. This is about equipment and customs. If you travel with professional equipment, you'll need an A.T.A. Carnet issued by your chamber of commerce. Pretty much a standard procedure.

Start here: http://www.uscib.org/index.asp?DocumentID=1843


Tina Flemmerer
Wed 4 Mar 2009Link

John, Ben,
thank you for your responses, they were very helpful.

But I think I might end up staying in Germany for a while which makes things easier. I just read that you don't have to pay taxes for your personal and professional household goods if you intend to move to Germany. So we'll see. Thanks again.


Wang Fu
Wed 4 Mar 2009Link

Before 3 years I shoot some important video from camera SONY DCR-HC26 . Now I want to use this 5 minutes video which I shoot from this simple camera.
All other video which I shoot is in good quality from good camera and I am using for my documentary.
Can I mix this five minutes video which I shoot from SONY DCR-HC26? Is this will affect bad in whole documentary? Actually what footage from (SONY DCR-HC26 ) I want to use it can not shoot again…
Thanks if anyone advice I should use or not.


John Burgan
Thu 5 Mar 2009Link

It depends very much on the film you are making. Some combine material from a wide variety of sources – archive, home movies, news, high-medium-low quality – whereas with others the visual continuity is of prime importance.

The question is – what do you want to achieve with your project?


Christopher Wong
Thu 5 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Wang Fu's post on Thu 5 Mar 2009 :

the simple answer is YES. you can always combine footage from many different sources. the result may or may not be visually pleasing, but if you can't reshoot something, you have to just use what you have.


Esther Pimentel
Fri 6 Mar 2009Link

My name is Maria Esther Pimentel. I´m a high school student in Los Angeles, interested in documentary projects. Can you please help me with the following questions?

1. What is the average range Budget in Documentary Films? The estimated dollar budget amount for my first-possible/future documentary is $450,084. For a documentary, the mentioned budget amount would be law, normal, or high? Keeping in mind that it will be film in Latin America.

2. Can you guide me to a link/site where I can see a sample of a professional business proposal for a documentary package, before presenting it to a possible investor?

3. Can you guide me to a link/site where I can see a copy of a professional sample budget?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Esther Pimentel


Erica Ginsberg
Fri 6 Mar 2009Link

Esther, it's great that you are thinking about such things as a professional proposal and budget this early in your career. While the budget you mention is not unheard of, especially for a project involving travel, it might be a bit high if this is going to be your first feature film. It would be hard to offer more specific advice without knowing more about the project (i.e., one country or several, how long the finished film will be, what you plan to shoot on, will you have to hire interpreters and do subtitles after shooting, etc.). My recommendation would be to join a free documentary filmmakers' listserv called Doculink which is headquarted right there in L.A. Its co-founder Robert Bahar also authored a very useful article on budgeting and an Excel Template Budget which you may find useful.

Although I am sure you've already thought of this (and maybe have already done it), if you haven't made a documentary before, you may want to try doing something short and local first to test the waters. You may also want to see if there are some youth media programs in LA or any kind of training at a public access TV station or community college which would be open to high school students.


Esther Pimentel
Fri 6 Mar 2009Link

Dera Erica:

Thank you for your help.

Maria Esther


Nicholas Wiesnet
Fri 6 Mar 2009Link

Hi all! My name is Nicholas Wiesnet and I'm an undergraduate cinematographer at Chapman University in Southern California from Seattle, WA. I'm looking for a fixer in Cameroon – Anyone have any contacts? A friend recommended I check out this site when she heard that I was shooting a doc there. Any suggestions or contacts would be MUCH appreciated!

Cheers, Nicholas


William Gazecki
Sat 7 Mar 2009Link Tag

In reply to tina flemmerer's post on Wed 4 Mar 2009 : I've heard the ATA Carnets can be expensive, and an easier route is to have a U.S. Customs Declaration of all your gear as you leave the U.S. Apparently for personal gear it's just as good as a Carnet in establishing proof of ownership and origin of goods.


Ben Kempas
Sun 8 Mar 2009Link

That's good enough for an easy return to the U.S., but it doesn't guarantee you hassle-free entry into the country you're visiting.


Casey Crowdis
Mon 9 Mar 2009Link

Greetings,
I am working on a documentary in Canada, though I am US based. Are there any considerations for working with a fiscal sponsor in another country? Most of the donors for the film will likely be Canadian.

Related to that issue, if I don't use a fiscal sponsor, is there any benefit to a person donating to my film? Thanks! –c


Marj Safinia
Mon 9 Mar 2009Link

A US fiscal sponsor will only be able to offer the tax incentive to US taxpayers, so you'd have to seek out a similar thing in Canada if you want to appeal primarily to Canadian taxpayers. However, if you're seeking US foundation $$, you won't be able to get them (usually) unless you have a US fiscal sponsor. Sounds like you might want to have both?

Generally speaking, a donor will give money to your film because they care about the subject matter, because they care about you or because they care about documentary. Ideally all three. It's very rare that someone will give you money just for the tax incentive. That's a sweetener, for sure, but the real reason anyone will give you money is because you're passionate, dedicated and trying to tell a story for important reasons.


Casey Crowdis
Mon 9 Mar 2009Link

Very helpful answer, Marj! I'm considering partnering with a local museum in Canada since it is relevant to the documentary and is a beloved attraction in the town. I will keep my antenna up in case there is interest on the US side to consider getting a sponsor here. Thanks for the advice. –c


Michael Fagans
Mon 9 Mar 2009Link

Wondering if there are good or recommended choices for choosing mini-DV tape brands and quality for shooting an HDV doc? Thanks.


Dustan Lewis McBain
Tue 10 Mar 2009Link

any opinions on the Canon XH-A1 HDV?
or JVC GY-HM100U?


Dustan Lewis McBain
Wed 11 Mar 2009Link

In reply to tina flemmerer's post on Tue 3 Mar 2009 :

Btw thx tina for the advice i've been practicing in public places, works great


Mike Flounlacker
Mon 16 Mar 2009Link

I have recently been asked to secure a distribution agreement by a client for a completed documentary. How/where can I submit content for consideration?

Is there a place to go where a person with no history in this industry will be taken seriously?


Joe Moulins
Mon 16 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Michael Fagans's post on Mon 9 Mar 2009 :

Don't waste your money on "HDV quality" tapes. I use Sony DVC Premium tapes in a Z1U and an A1U. I rarely see dropouts...maybe one in every 20 tapes.


Jordan Older
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

Ventura Film Festival

The Ventura Film Festival, which was started in 2004 by Jordan Older and his father, has recently concluded its

first event of 2009 at the Majestic Ventura Theater in Ventura, California with the Ventura Film Festival "Fun Day"

on February 16, 2009 at 2pm.

The Ventura Film Festival is a combination online and traditional film festival requiring all submissions to be

uploaded online and submitted via traditional means. The Ventura Film Festival has maintained that one of it's main

goals is to give a large part of any proceeds to forest and ocean preservation efforts. The Ventura Film Festival

features independent films from around the world and from local film makers focusing on environmental issues such as

forest and ocean preservation, humanitarian issues, surf, skate, extreme/action sports, sports, martial arts, and

music films.

The Ventura Film Festival opened it’s 2009 events on Monday February 16, 2009 at the Majestic Ventura Theater in

Ventura, California with a “fun day”. The event marked the 6th anniversary of the Ventura Film Festival which was

started by Jordan Older and his father in 2004. The Ventura Film Festival board of directors were present to show

their selection of currently received entries for the 2009 Ventura Film Festival. The festival board includes

Hollywood film makers Dustin Dean and U.S. Olympian John Godina who is the most decorated shot putter in U.S.

athletics history. Ventura Film Festival is a green organization and accepts entries and submissions online at the

festival’s official web site, http://venturafilmfestival.org. Part of the profits from the Ventura Film Festival

will go directly towards environmental issues such as forest and ocean preservation. The “fun day” served as a warm

up for the main event of the 2009 Ventura Film Festival which takes place on July 5th.

The Ventura Film Festival gives out no awards. We prefer not to have competition and to simply celibrate great

films as works of art and enjoy a fun event that provides support for environmental issues such as forest and ocean

preservation. From time to time we may give notice of special recognition to certain films.

The Ventura Film Festival has become a partner with the world's biggest film festival marketing organization

Withoutabox. The partnership was on request of Withoutabox executive Sara Nixon-Kershner on Feburary 18, 2008.

Withoutabox provides submission and marketing service to over 200,000 filmmakers in 200 countries as well as manage

submission receiving, judging, and notification, schedule publishing, and the ability to sell tickets using targeted

ads on well known film site IMDB.

Submitting to the Ventura Film Festival is a two step process. BOTH STEPS ARE REQUIRED!!!

1) upload your submission to http://venturafilmfestival.net (REQUIRED)

2) Submit via Withoutabox using this link: http://www.withoutabox.com/login/7761 (REQUIRED)
withoutabox-logo

Submissions that are not uploaded to http://venturafilmfestival.net will not be considered.


Mark Barroso
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Mike Flounlacker's post on Mon 16 Mar 2009 :

I'm guessing the military is asking for this so you can shoot on base. No?


Rick Minnich
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

Hi, this is Rick Minnich in Berlin, Germany. I'm a US-born doc filmmaker who's been based in Berlin since 1990. I've made a number of shorts and feature-length docs, most recently FORGETTING DAD about my father's bizarre and inexplicable case of amnesia, which has haunted my family for the past nineteen years. Some of you might have caught the film at its premiere at IDFA last November. This spring it will also be playing at It's All True, Belfast, Full Frame, HotDocs, and Planete Doc Review in Warsaw, and I would love to meet other D-Worders at one of these festivals, here in Berlin or elsewhere. I can be reached at rick@rickfilms.de. Cheers!


John Burgan
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

Hi Rick – welcome aboard (it's been a long while, but you're here at last).

Not sure you need any mentoring with your track record (hint – this post would have been more appropriate in Introduce Yourself but hey, what the heck). Your email and contact details are available to other members on your profile.

To everyone else: do yourself a favour and check out Forgetting Dad – you'll be glad you did.


Rick Minnich
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

Hey, give me a break! I'm still learning the ropes. Thanks for plugging FORGETTING DAD though.


Doug Block
Tue 17 Mar 2009Link

Welcome, Rick, great to have you here. And best of luck with Forgetting Dad.


Rick Minnich
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

Hi Doug, Thanks for the welcome. Jan Rofekamp is repping Forgetting Dad. 51 Birch Street came up in one of our first conversations. FD has been drawing lots of comparisons to your film. I hope you can see FD at Full Frame or HotDocs. It would be nice to meet you in person as well!


Doug Block
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

No plans to attend either, alas, as I'm in the middle of editing the new film. Will you be passing through NYC? And send my regards to Jan next time you speak, he's the best.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

Rick, show it in berlin please – we met for a nanosecond in IDFA, but I was there only about 36 hrs, and didn't see FD.


Rick Minnich
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Wed 18 Mar 2009 :
Hi Jo-Anne, We'll be showing FD at Babylon Mitte as part of the Achtung Berlin-New Berlin Film Award festival in mid-April. Please come and introduce yourself!


Rick Minnich
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 18 Mar 2009 :
I suppose we'll have a screening in NYC at some point, but no concrete plans yet. The good folks at Tribeca didn't want the film, breaking my heart forever ...
Yes, Jan is the best. I'm very happy he took on the film. He's been making a lot of TV sales around the world, much to my delight!


Doug Block
Wed 18 Mar 2009Link

Rick, now that you're a member, and since you hardly need mentoring, let's continue these various conversations in their proper topics (Festivals, Shameless Self-Promotion, etc.).


Graeme Orr
Tue 31 Mar 2009Link

Hi, I am a first time filmmaker who has been shooting a doc for the past 2 years all over the world but I didn't got clearance from any of the countries I was shooting in. The film is about a humanitarian building schools and bringing aid to children in impoverished regions. We shot in Kenya, Egypt, India, Nepal and Sudan. I didn't get any clearance because he has always taken people along to document the work he does and I was taking over that roll. Now however I want to use the footage in a feature length documentary about him, with ambitions of getting it broadcast and in festivals. Is this possible. Do all filmmakers get clearance from the countries they shoot in if they are hoping to get them broadcast or shown at festivals. Also the organization is a non-profit and all profits from the film are going back to the charity – if that makes any difference. Any help or even a point in the right direction of where to get advice would be great. Thank you.


Regan Brashear
Thu 2 Apr 2009Link

Hi all,
I am looking for input on acquiring archival rights, specifically when do you need to do so. I have about twenty different clips of archival footage (from old science reels I found at the Nat'l Archives to clips from news reports to bytes from two popular films) in my film that I don't currently have rights to. I have been assuming that I need to track down and try to get rights for all of this before I can take my film to festivals or think about any other forms of distribution. A friend recently said that might not be the case since they are all under 30 seconds and I am using them all as part of my critique/argument that they might fall under the Fair Use parameters.

I would love any advice on this.

Also would love to hear how folks actually go about securing rights,i.e. do you need it in writing from wherever it came from? Is there a specific legal document that you need to have them sign?
What would you expect to pay for say 30 seconds from FOX news?
How do the Fair Use guidelines work in reality? Does POV allow for them, for instance?


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