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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.

Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

tackling second question first... if you and your crew have little to no experience with documentary filmmaking, you should definitely limit yourself to one camera only. you don't want to be worrying about shooting from the wrong side (it's called "crossing the line" and results in major difficulties when it comes time to edit), and you also don't want to have to avoid being in the way of the other camera(s).


Christopher Wong
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

as for the 1-on-1 web interviews, it sounds like you just need basic lighting and framing, nothing tricky or especially artistic about your setup. so, yes, just find someone with a lighting kit (2 or 3 lights should do) and a basic DV camera. you can use HD if you want to, but it's not necessary for the web.

by the way, hiring film students to do work for you on a deferred pay basis is a difficult proposition. film students are not known for being extremely reliable, and if they are not being paid, you never know what you're going to get. if i were you, i wouldn't even promise deferred pay – i would just sell the project on its own merits, and hope that whoever wants to do it just needs the experience. good luck.


Joanna Arnow
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Hi Ginger, it might be difficult to find students who have their own cameras, lighting and sound kit so I would start out by seeing what you get. But in terms of cameras try to find someone with a 3ccd camera that has manual modes. Also, try to find someone with a lavalier microphone. And if someone doesn't have lighting or sound you could try renting from DCTV (downtown community television center)--they have pretty reasonable prices. If you're following people for a whole day, I think you'd get a lot of footage with one camera and be able to follow the action but it really depends on how much is going to be happening in your event, and how much material you need for this series. Good luck!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

wow, incredibly fast responses! you know what, they dont even have to be students – i'll just post on mandy, but selling project on merits & for their film reel is a good idea. so is renting from dctc, thanks! so no one will notice quality difference between dv and hd camera? i know nothing! thanks


Ted Fisher
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

In reply to Ginger Rose Lee's post on Wed 11 Nov 2009 :

Hi Ginger,

I do have one recommendation: when you set up the interviews, consider what sort of shot you can gather that could be used to cut away to or to otherwise allow your editor to break up long sections of the interview. There are many possibilities: b-roll shot outside the interview, or detail shots taken at the time of the interview, for example. But definitely find something that will give your editor reasonable options when they are editing the interview. Ideally, you'd like to have the option of shortening, clarifying or repairing parts of the interview, so get those shots that will allow you to "cover" the editing.

Edited Wed 11 Nov 2009 by Ted Fisher

Joanna Arnow
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

Okay, and now my own question. I've been doing a lot of handheld camera and my wrist starts hurting soon into shooting. It didn't used to do this, and I've been wondering if people wear wrist braces during or after shooting? It feels strained.


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

also is there a program where i could get an actual mentor, like an old documentary pro, to help me? it's a real do-gooder project. i dont know if ifp and similar organizations offer stuff like that...i just want to make sure i do this right!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

thanks ted! GREAT suggestion. is there a place to get free b roll? god you guys are awesome!


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

i meant b-roll – not the type you mention of things happening during or immediately preceding interview, but like b-roll of related actions that the subject is talking about...


Ginger Rose Lee
Wed 11 Nov 2009Link

oh, another thing – compensation for subjects. this section of the series i'm asking about is the interview section (not really a documentary sectopm). let's say i'm interviewing a famous woodworker who is also going to spend a large portion doing a demo of his work to show you how to do it. he gets to publicize his own site and name in agreeing to be interviewed – but is it standard to offer these people compensation? my site will be ad supported, i dont think i will charge people to use it, but it will be a for profit company. thanks so much for your help!


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