Does anyone have any advice/experience shooting Sweet 16 videos? I'm shooting one this Friday documentary style, so i won't be directing so much as just capturing the moments (and there's plenty of dance numbers and such to capture), but it's my first paid job as a documentary videographer and my first Sweet 16, and I know the family, so I want to do this right. I have experience shooting formal events with my cousin's wedding and a friend's wedding. However, I'm shooting this on my own, with a Panasonic DVX100a, and my journalistic instincts. Would you recommend a lav mic on the birthday girl if she would have it? I wasn't going to bother just to simplify. If i do direct at all, is there anything fun you'd recommend shooting with her and her "court" or her court alone? I can let the photographer take the lead on this stuff of course during the photo shoot, but I think it may also be good to have her close friends and family say/do something. Would you recommend I use a separate mic during the party for that? I have a RES50B. This is really a big deal for her and her family, and they trust me to do an amazing job. I know what they have planned for the day and night, and i plan to capture some behind the scenes, getting ready moments, and the excitement and fun. I also posted in the legal section to ask about a contract template just to protect myself (I've only done pro bono before). Other than charge my batteries and get close with the camera and shotgun mic, work my angles, am I forgetting anything? I also do mostly handheld so i'm thinking that a monopod vs. a tripod would be better. Lastly, if anyone can recommend a place in NYC to pick up a spare and relatively inexpensive DVX100a battery, let me know. It's going to be a long day.
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.
Craig, as someone who's shot well over a hundred weddings, I say don't fret too much. Unless you're a hopeless incompetent (which you're not), they're gonna love what you shoot, I guarantee it. Normal people aren't used to seeing themselves captured verite-style and it's always a hoot for them.
Technically speaking, I'd simply use a good directional mic on the camera (like a Sennheiser 416), get in fairly close as much as you can, and definitely shoot handheld. Screw the tripod. And I'd set up as little as possible, just be a total fly on the wall. But that's me.
Have fun and lotsa luck.
A few other related questions to my previous Sweet 16 post that i forgot to ask: I normally shoot my documentary footage in 24P on the DVX100a in squeeze mode. Do you see any issues with using that format for the Sweet 16 video? Do videographers at the formal events normally just wear a black button down shirt and slacks? When i was i shot weddings, i was actually in the wedding party so i wore a suit. And I am renting one of those light panels for the top of my camera for low light situations, but i haven't tested one out. Advice? Thanks again.
Thanks, Doug. I was hoping you would post. Now I'll stop my fretting. Thanks for the sage advice.
Doug, I didn't get very far in "legal" on my contract template request. Can I ask how you handle getting stuff in writing? All I have now is a verbal agreement on the price. I feel like it would be good business practice to protect myself, on this job or when i don't know the family. Have a great July 4th weekend.
Craig, just emailed you my standard, one-page wedding agreement. Hope it helps. BTW, the Mentoring Room is for Enthusiasts, not Members, so keep stuff like this in the Legal topic in the future.
Short question with a complicated answer: Have any of you guys ever filmed in Cuba? I figure before I start doing research about how to get permission to go to Cuba as a journalist from the State Dept., I could ask here, and see if anyone's got any experience with it.
As you're already a Member, Brian, you can pose this question in the Production Topic. There are several colleagues who I'm sure will be able to ask your question.
In reply to Brian Boyko's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :
Brian: you can email me off list and I'll give you my phone number, but the short answer is unless you have a letter from an accredited news organization that's recognized by the State Dept., you will not qualify for a journalist exemption to the travel ban.
Assuming you do not have relatives there, that leaves you the option of going illegally, or under the license of a humanitarian group. I can advise you on that, too. Depending on what you want to do, you will also have to fly under the radar of the Cuban govt.
In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :
We considered that possibility, but isn't there an application process for freelance journalists?
"Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism."
If we can't get special permission, we're considering contacting BBC, Reuters, AFP, EFE, CNN, etc., to see if they could use some stringers in Cuba, work under their aegis, and film the doc in-between assignments.
I'll e-mail you off-list, Mark.
In reply to John Burgan's post on Tue 14 Jul 2009 :
Cool – I didn't notice I was promoted in my absence!
Just a quick update: We had our meeting this afternoon with everyone on board. The producers didn't consider all the problems that we might have, and when I spelled them out, they realized that there was no way that they could pull off the movie with a reasonable chance of success at this time.
However, we quickly moved onto our secondary project, which will likely be an examination of Tango in Argentina.
I would love to meet the performers who pass the examination. Take me with you.
I am wondering about the best way to approach people or organizations I want to interview. what are the pros and cons of showing unannounced versus trying to get an appointment. my questions are not intended to be confrontational. thanks.
Unannounced is synonymous with ambush interviews. News people do this when they intentionally want to make people look bad. Making appointments is considered civilized and professional.
COMPARABLE FILMS DATA
Hey folks, I'm a young producer in the development stage of a documentary and I'm trying to get some data on comparable films for budget projection (DVD sales, Rentals, Negative Costs, P&A Costs, Domestic and Foreign TV, etc.) Are there any places that have this kind of information at a reasonable price? Anywhere that specializes in the more obscure documentary titles?
You're asking about a wide range of data that is unlikely to be covered by a single source.
On the one hand you have production and post production costs, on the other you have projected revenue streams. Very different stuff.
About costs of filmmaking – these are roughly quantifiable. About revenues – these are much harder to know and depend very much on your film and all sorts of variables in the way it's made and released that you can't easily predict.
Suffice it to say that if you structure the project around the distinct possibility that your film will never be profitable, you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Ha ha, yeah we're well prepared for that un-profitability possibility, but the donors/investors would like to at least see what's been achieved with other similar films.
Obviously there's BoxOfficeMojo for theatrical grosses. I know that Baseline Research (http://www.blssresearch.com/) sells other data:
- $20 a title (negative costs, P&A, rentals, & video units and gross)
- $50 a title (for expanded domestic and foreign TV)
- $70 for ROI reports
They have a pretty sparse selection of documentaries though. I just wondered if some company specialized in this kind of data for documentaries or smaller indie pics, but I guess not.
Fortunately, my particular film has some elements of marketability as well as some social objectives that might make it more interesting to donors interested in mideast peace and not in profit.
On that note, have any of you social issues filmmakers heard of L3C legal status?
Unless you're proposing a reality TV like scenario (eg Supersize Me), I don't suggest going the investor route. You'll have to pay an attorney just to draw up the LLC and PPM – unless you already have an investor ready to throw in $100,000. Even if your film has some marketable elements, that by no means, indicates that it will be commercially profitable.
In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 28 Jul 2009 :
Once again, please don't double post, as you asked this in the Legal topic, so any additional answers should go there. Not to mention, this is a topic for Enthusiasts, not Members.
I'm still getting used to the lay of the land here. :|
POST GRADUATE DOCUMENTARY DEGREE
What are the best MFA programs specializing in documentary film out there (both in and out of the U.S.)?
I'm considering applying to some MFA programs specializing in documentary film either this fall or next fall. I have a pretty good academic record, strong writing abilities and a respectable resumé of non-fiction film experience.
I'm very serious about increasing my diversity as a documentary filmmaker but most of the programs that I have heard about structure their curriculum around narrative/fiction films.
Any suggestions on schools I should look into?
In reply to J. Christian Jensen's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :
I did a Master's (not MFA) in Australia and had a great experience and hopefully came back a much better filmmaker, my problems were I came back to the US with no contacts and no real idea of how to get funding in the US. Still though, my degree is what landed me my current job.
In reply to Michael Wolcott's post on Tue 4 Aug 2009 :
What school did you attend? In my particular case, I'm not pursuing the degree necessarily to try and land a job. I already have several options for jobs but I want to attend a school that has the alumni network and the curriculum that is on the cutting edge of what's happening in the documentary world.
I'm particularly interested in building strong networks with filmmakers who are really pushing the limits of the genre. I would also like to give myself the option to teach on a University level at some point later in the future, which requires at least a Masters.
I went to the University of Technology, Sydney. I had a lot of great teachers who were a part of the '70s/'80s Australian film & documentary movement, like Tom Zubrycki & Jeni Thornley (who just released a really interesting looking film Island Home Country). The film dept. is small though so you probably wouldn't get the kind of network that you'd be looking for there.
One of the reasons I went on for a Masters was also for the ability to teach in the future, without an MFA though I think my options are somewhat limited. Until of course my first blockbuster documentary is released.