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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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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
Tue 10 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
Tue 10 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
Tue 10 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
Tue 10 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
Wed 11 Mar 2009Link

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


Dustan Lewis McBain
Thu 12 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
Wed 18 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!


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