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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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Noam Osband
Sun 25 Apr 2010Link

I'm a PhD student who's a budding visual anthropologist/documentary filmmaking. I've saved up money for a camera, and I'd love some advice.

I've saved close to 10k for a camera. That being said, I won't be doing the bulk of my shooting for my dissertation for another 2-3 years. I'm tempted to spend around 2k for a camera now, save my money, and make the big splurge in 2-3 years time. I figure the technology will be better for the price if I wait.

Should I do that, what is a good camera in the 2k range? I'd love something with two audio inputs and something gives me multiple options for fps and something with a detachable lens. I'm guessing a 2/3rds chip is insanely greedy given my price range, although if it wasn't too much more or if people thought it was that much better, I'd think about it.

Any thoughts? I've been making movies for a year, so the world is still new to me, but I'm trying to learn as much as I can so any word of advice would be appreciated.


Jeffrey Radice
Sun 25 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Noam Osband's post on Sun 25 Apr 2010 :

Noam, my advice is to save your money until you are ready to make the big purchase. The technology landscape is changing so rapidly that postponing your purchase for 2-3 years until you need the gear will save you money and buy you significantly more product when you are finally ready to spend. If you must get your hands on something now I would suggest one of two routes.

(1) Get the Canon Rebel DSLR (T1I), and a decent lens or two for it, and start getting comfortable with the format and the shortcomings. That's what I would do if that money was burning a hole in my pocket. Then in a couple of years you can upgrade to the best bang for your buck equivalent to the 1D/5D/7D and you'll already be comfortable with the format and have lenses that fit your upgrade. You will not go wrong with DSLR as a format choice. The adoption rate there with filmmakers is phenomenal.

(2) Alternately, go low end and get a flip HD camera. It is small, cheap, and gives decent enough output. The advantages are that you are more likely to carry it with you, and it would not be obtrusive when you do break it out. This would allow you to cheaply spend the next couple of years getting comfortable busting out your video camera and thinking about shooting always. In my opinion, documentary is as much about the quality of the equipment as it is about the visual eye of the cinematographer and just being there with a camera shooting. This would allow you to spend a few years learning on the cheap and developing a visual eye, so when you are ready to spend more bucks you have developed a better sense of what your priorities are.

Also don't neglect sound in your budget. You'll need an external sound recorder and higher end mics, which means less to spend on a camera. If you did end up spending $10k on a setup, I'd recommend 60:40 ratio of spend on video to audio at least. Audio is far too neglected by new filmmakers, and it's at least half of your presentation in a film.

Edited Sun 25 Apr 2010 by Jeffrey Radice

Noam Osband
Tue 27 Apr 2010Link

I'm skeptical of the DSLR's because you can only shoot 12 minutes at a time. Similarly, the HD camera is way below what I want equipment-wise, both in terms of image quality, but far more importantly, sound. I'm hoping to find a camera that has XLR inputs. With that in mind, are there any cameras you can think of that do HD, have XLR inputs, and get good HD images in the 2-2.5k range?

thanks for the help!


Jeffrey Radice
Tue 27 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Noam Osband's post on Tue 27 Apr 2010 :

I was skeptical of the 12 minute limit too, but it's proven to be less of a practical concern than I anticipated. There is a long history (and workflows) for dealing with those types of issues ... super-8 and 16 both had carts with similar constraints. You are doing yourself a disservice ruling out the platform for that reason alone. Also, the Panasonic GH1 does not suffer from the exact same issue.

I don't know of anything that meets your criteria. Any camera in that price range, even if it has XLR in, is going to make audio sacrifices. You're better off with an external recorder and sync sound, using the camera for dual-system to make the sync easier in post.

Don't rule out a flip video camera either. If you spend the next two years indoctrinating yourself to bring the camera everywhere and to use it always and focusing on your technique, you'll get a lot more for a lot less – and you'll know exactly what you want/need when the time comes to buy the full setup. It's less about the gear and more about the mindset and "eye" than you might think.


Noam Osband
Wed 28 Apr 2010Link

Thanks for help with thinking about a camera. Some audio advice would be helpful too. Vis-a-vis audio, my thinking is that I'd like a shotgun mic, two wireless lavs, and a sound mixer. I'm thinking of a shotgun attached to the camera and not a boom pole because much, if not most, of the shooting I'll be doing in the near future will be a solo job.

A few questions then:
1 – In looking at a camera, should I only want something with XLR inputs or is something like a Beachtek sufficient if the camera has no XLR inputs

2 – Even if it does have XLR inputs, is an audio mixer a good idea? It seems from speaking with the people I've spoken to that it is.

3 – In many ways, what I buy depends on my budget which isn't yet set. I'm willing to spend a couple thousand on audio if it is that much of a step up from cheaper things, although I'm not planning on buying top of the line. I have no sense for how much better a $1,000 shotgun is from a $500. With that in mind, any recommendation for any of the audio equipment?

In terms of what I'm shooting, I'd like versatility. The longer project/dissertation is a documentary about migration to Arkansas which will include both individual interviews and crowd scenes at events. I'd love to have versatility with my equipment so I feel like I can have a decent chance at getting good sound no matter what I'm shooting.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!


Jeffrey Radice
Thu 29 Apr 2010Link

In reply to Noam Osband's post on Wed 28 Apr 2010 :

Noam, my best advice is find an audio geek local to you, pick their brain, and see if they can demonstrate the differences in quality of different pieces of gear to you.


Noam Osband
Mon 3 May 2010Link

So, I’ve been doing research all week on buying my first shooting setup, relying in part on the friendly advice from this site, and I think I’m close to making decisions and I figured I’d ask to see what people thought.

Camera:
Panasonic AG-HMC40 and its XLR adapter (I considered the Panasonic AGHMC70U, but reviews I read seemed to steer me in the other direction. Let me know if you disagree!)

I’m going to get a bunch of SDHC-6 cards. I have not heard any recommendations about brand.

Tripod:
Either the Manfrotto TRIREMOTEKIT Aluminum Video Tripod Kit or Manfrotto BO055XB503H 055XDB Pro Tripod with 503HDV Fluid Video Head. The first one has the ability to do remote panning and tilting, although I wonder if that’s a feature I’d ever use.

Audio equipment:
For a shotgun mic, I’m deciding between the Rode 2 or 3. I have the money for the 3, and I’m inclined to do so for that reason.

For wireless lavaliers, I’m thinking either Senn Evolution G3 100 wireless or the Sony UWP-V1. Both have been recommended to me.

I’m also tempted to bring around a handheld mic for interviews on the go, when I can’t wire someone with a lav. I’d use the shotgun on the camera and have them hold a handheld. In that case, I’m considering either buying a EV-RE50 or just using the Shure SM58 I have at home for music recording.

Regarding cables, are there any brands one recommends for XLR cables?

As for my work, I’m doing documentary work in rural Arkansas and will often be shooting solo, so I’m not going to get an audio mixer.

Regarding all of the above, I have more money to spend if someone thought I really should upgrade something. However, I’d just as soon not spend it so that I have money for more gear in the future. I’m planning on buying a much higher quality camera in about two and a half years, and any money I don’t spend now can go to that. I also think I'm going to buy new and look for used for peace of mind, although if someone thinks that's dumb, please don't hesitate in telling me so.

Thanks!


Andy Schocken
Mon 3 May 2010Link

Sennheiser G3 is solid- used on plenty of pro productions, which the Sony isn't. Get yourself some manicuring scissors and moleskin, and do a little research to learn how to best mount the lav- that will make a bigger impact on your sound than the choice of brand. Wouldn't recommend having subjects hold a mic. If you don't have time to place a lav, just get your Rode on-cam mic as close as possible (keeping in mind the pickup pattern of the mic) and try to find the quietest place nearby. You'll probably need a sound-isolating shock mount for your Rode or you'll hear camera handling noise and possibly lens noise. And you'll need wind protection for it if you'll be shooting outside- get something like this that fits your mic. Turn off auto gain control on your cam and set levels manually.

D-word can help with tech stuff, but is better suited for creative issues. You'll find more detailed tech advice at a place like dvinfo or dvxuser. Good luck, and come back and post some of your work when you're ready!


Eli Brown
Mon 3 May 2010Link

Also, take a listen to your mics before you invest in them. They'll last you awhile and you don't want to get stuck with one that doesn't sound as good as it might seem from reading a review. I just did that with a MKH-416, NTG-3, and NTG-2. And while I liked the sound of the MKH-416, I couldn't justify its price in relation to the other two, and of the two Rode mics, I was surprised to find that I liked the NTG-2's sound quality better for what I was planning to do (and ended up saving even more money that I used for a boom, shock mount, softie, etc.). If you make a trip to NY in the future, Pro-Sound in NYC will let you audition a bunch of different mics. There might be a place in Philly that will even do that (a rental house, perhaps), though I can't speak to that from experience. Good luck!


Jill Morley
Mon 3 May 2010Link

B and H in New York will also let you test all the mics that you consider. THey have an audio room.


Robert Goodman
Tue 4 May 2010Link

You could go to Videosmith in Philadelphia. They are a dealer for Sennheiser, Lectrosonics, and other manufacturers. In the past, they've come very close to matching B&H prices with the added advantage of being local and offering local support. Tell Chris I sent you.


Yixi Villar
Wed 5 May 2010Link

Hi everyone I am in need of some guidance. I am working on a documentary "Life In The Balance" and so far we have received over $30,000 in grants and have a funding trailer set up and 501(c)(3) status through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas. yeay...BUT we need more money and soon, we wanted to shoot this summer so we can get into post by the fall ... Does anyone one have any advice on where to go for money, who to ask.. our project focuses on a testing procedure that can determine what cancer treatment will actually be effective to the the individual, basically tailored chemotherapy. Any and all advice will be welcome..Follow the link below to view our funding trailer which we created from research footage shot on a basic consumer camera If you or anyone you know are interested i will certainly send more info and a proposal your way..
http://tomgriffineditor.com/LITB_Trailer2-2.mov
i have also provided a link to our information/donation page through Fractured Atlas
http://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=2524


Christopher Wong
Wed 5 May 2010Link

perhaps you know this already, but since you are working in NYC, you should probably start applying for funds from both the NY Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation . there's no way that you would get money from them in time to shoot this summer, but it's good to get those applications in the queue now. since your doc also deals with science, you might want to try for funding from the Sloan Foundation


Yixi Villar
Wed 5 May 2010Link

thanks so much I'm going to look into those 3 straight away, i have heard of them but i know that they won't provide funding in time... i think im gonna have to hold some fundraisers if you or anyone out there know of people who would like to invest in such a project let me know..
:)


Doug Block
Fri 7 May 2010Link

Yixi, you have enough experience to register for full membership here. It will give you access to our discussions on fundraising and many many more.


Stephanie Caruso
Fri 14 May 2010Link

hi everyone! i'm currently a grad student in new york (working on my mfa for doc studies), but i'm coming home to the boston area for summer. anybody have any suggestions for summer work?


Doug Block
Fri 14 May 2010Link

Babysitting?

But seriously, Stephanie, if you mean an internship or, heaven forbid, paid work with a Boston area doc filmmaker, I recommend you post something in the Classifieds topic. And give people here a good reason to want to hire you.


Chris Bell
Tue 18 May 2010Link

In reply to michael gatti's post on Sun 18 Apr 2010 :

Michael Gatti...My suggestion to you if you need stock footage to make your film complete, gather the footage from any source you can find and cut the movie that you want to make. Later on down the road, you can show the finished film to investors or you may find that you can fair use that footage if it meets the right criteria. Don't let stock footage hold you back. Watch Bigger Stronger Faster and look at all of the big movie clips we were able to use and not get into trouble. A great lawyer can go a long way...I really think your doc is a great idea. It's something that frustrates me everyday...maybe people at the call center in India can also help you with your dilemma...haha...Good Luck!


Shanti Shakti
Thu 20 May 2010Link

In reply to Elayne McCabe's post on Wed 21 Apr 2010 :Why don't you ask me??I've sent you so many friendly mails offering my help to you and knowing your situation it's hard to believe that you did not reply then only to the one I asked my things back.Did you really got all my mails or has somebody tampered with your account?Please reply to my emailadress.Thanks


Phil Dorman
Fri 21 May 2010Link

Sorry if this is off topic for here but I can't find an answer anywhere.
It's about editing audio in Vegas Pro 9.
I added a sound track and recorded voice over to it quite OK.
But something has changed and now when I select Arm Record it arms record for ALL tracks not just the one selected.
So the question is : How to select which track gets armed for recording ?
Again sorry if this is off topic but I have tried all the Sony help services.


Reva Goldberg
Mon 24 May 2010Link

Friends!

I wanted to make sure early-career filmmakers participating in this discussion are aware of our Reach Film Fellowship program at Cinereach. It's for emerging filmmakers making short films with socially relevant themes and provides not only funding, but also mentorship and advising from industry veterans. All the info can be found here: http://www.cinereach.org/the-reach-film-fellowship. Deadline to apply is July 12.

Prospective applicants, please feel free to contact me if you have questions. I'm reva@cinereach.org.

Best!
Reva


Rob Henry
Tue 25 May 2010Link

Heya,
I'm a first time independent documentary maker and am currently working on a feature length project. I'm almost at a point where my filming/editing/writing skills have taken me as far as possible and was wondering whether there was any other type of lab support programs, similar to the one Sundance run where I could work with experienced professionals in developing/finishing the film.
Being a first time film-maker and based in Australia, it's tricky to get placement in the few that i've found – generally for basic requirement reasons.
Teaming with a production house could obviously provide the equipment and know-how to complete the film, but I'd like to remain independent and in control for as long as possible. Which essentially is because I want to experience and learn the entire process, from start to festivals, or sale.
I have quite a unique project, in that I lived in one of the few remaining prehistoric, hunter-gatherer societies still surviving for an extended period. From what I can see there is very little known about these people, and their culture. So there's attraction in that aspect. I've been so intrenched in the whole experience for such a long time, that some external perspective from credible industry professionals would be invaluable at this point.
If anybody knows of any programs as such, that will support first time film-makers to help produce the best film possible with professional advice, guidance & potentially the equipment , I'd love to hear from you.
I'm in Australia, but happy to travel if it's what i'm searching for.
Its support that I can be involved in and learn, not grants that i'm after.
Thanks,
RbH


Reva Goldberg
Tue 25 May 2010Link

Hi Rob,

Sounds like you need to bring on an experienced producer or executive producer, who is keyed into the film industry and can guide you through completion. You're saying you're not interested in grants, but regardless, all the things you're seeking (professional assistance, equipment, etc) would be much easier to acquire if you had a budget with which to acquire them. Additionally, though granting is highly competitive and is in no way a sure thing, it does force you to collect your thoughts and sample work in order to pitch your project to those with not only funds, but connections and other means of helping you to the next stage. Even grantmakers without an official lab program, will have an incentive to help you advance your project. Receiving a grant also demonstrates the potential of your project and helps rally other support. This is one of the best ways to take your project to the next step.

If funds are really not an issue for you, I suggest you hire an experienced Producer who has worked on similar project and has a connection to international broadcast networks, etc. If your project is not funded, why not apply for grants? It can only help.

In the meantime, Cinereach has a grant deadline for feature fiction and nonfiction films. It is open to international filmmakers at any stage of the production process. Sounds like you are new to the field, but if you have compelling sample work to show, and it is in line with the Cinereach mission, it is worth filling out our short, two-page letter of inquiry form and submitting a work sample. Here's the how to apply page:
http://www.cinereach.org/grants/how-to-apply1

You might also want to explore Britdoc, The Fledgling Fund and others like them. We also have two resource lists on our web site that you can explore:

http://www.cinereach.org/grants/resources/funding-support

http://www.cinereach.org/the-reach-film-fellowship/resources-for-fellows-and-applicants/scholarships-fellowships

Best of luck,
Reva
Cinereach


Christopher Wong
Tue 25 May 2010Link

rob, i have no idea what kinds of filmmaker mentoring programs are available in australia, but you should definitely apply for a Sundance production grant. even if you don't need the funds – is that possible? – getting a grant from Sundance means that you then qualify for their filmmaking labs. (they only invite filmmakers who have received money from them.) with your incredible access, and hopefully your filmmaking ability, Sundance would certainly be interested in your documentary. so, get an application into them ASAP!


Rob Henry
Wed 26 May 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :

In reply to Reva Goldberg's post on Tue 25 May 2010 :

Hey Chris & Reva,
Thanks for your time.
Let me clear something up, I probably should have written 'first and foremost, it's support i'm after, even before grants'. Of course a grant would be fantastic! It's all borrowed money thus far.
Anyhoo, I wasn't aware of that with the labs at Sundance Chris, I will look at sending in an application for the July period.
Some great points Reva, I guess I have just been avoiding the time and energy commitment into chasing grants as I have been able to get by up until now. So with a new-found inspiration I have structured a written proposal to apply, just need to work on the budget; which is a little daunting as I have never seen quotes or estimates for post production services before. Will be great to have once completed though, as you pointed out.
I look forward to thoroughly researching cinereach in the coming week also.
I am almost finished the film's website which will help support my proposal too, and with building awareness going forward.
I gather you're working with Cinereach at the moment Rena?
What about yourself Chris? Are you a film-maker?
All the best,
RbH


John Burgan
Wed 26 May 2010Link

Rob – click on a D-Worder's icon to get their background and films

Also no need to sign your posts with your initials as your own icon gives your name.

Edited Wed 26 May 2010 by John Burgan

Christopher Wong
Wed 26 May 2010Link

Hi Rob,
Yes, I guess I can say that I'm a filmmaker now that I just finished my first film last year. My doc (WHATEVER IT TAKES) just aired nationally on public television here in the U.S. For my film, I received a production grant from Sundance in 2007, and I attended Sundance's Story/Composer's Lab in 2008.

Good luck in getting your application in. It's obviously a VERY competitive process, but you definitely have a unique subject and rare access which should help your application stand out from the crowd. Don't worry too much about the budget numbers – they don't over them in great detail at this point. But if you need approximate budget numbers, feel free to ask this community for figures.


Rob Henry
Thu 27 May 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Thu 27 May 2010 :
Hey Chris,
Yeah I had a look through the WIT website, congratulations on your success. I look forward to viewing the film. I spent some time scribbling out a rough budget this afternoon so I've almost got a proposal together now. Definitely an exciting stage or the process.
I'm looking at applying with Cinereach too.
Thanks for your help.


Christopher Wong
Thu 27 May 2010Link

just so you know, documentaries produced here in the U.S. routinely cost anywhere from $300,000 – $500,000 to make. so, make sure that you compensate yourself fairly in the budget (for each and every job you performed, even if it was a one-man band), and don't budget for too low a figure. if your figure is TOO low, that might be a red flag to funders that you don't know what you are doing... for me, i remember originally budgeting for $120,000 (when i was young and clueless); however, my final budget came in at just under $400,000.


Rob Henry
Thu 27 May 2010Link

Mmm interesting, thanks Chris.
I've listed the following budget categories for the films completion;
- Editing
- Sound
- Music
- Color Grading
- Animation, Graphic Design
- Format Transfers
- Festivals (Appl. fees, Shipping, Other expenses)
- Travel (Airfares, Accomodation, Expenses)
- Marketing
- Publicity
- Legal Fees
- Insurance
Is there anything I'll left out that you think should be added?
The figure is currently hovering just above your 'young and clueless' total so I may need to reevaluate. Starting with the figure allocated for my own workload!


jade wu
Fri 28 May 2010Link

In reply to Rob Henry's post on Thu 27 May 2010 :

Best to become a member. It'll give you access to invaluable information on the nuts and bolts of all aspects of doc filmmaking. I've learned boatloads.


Rob Henry
Fri 28 May 2010Link

In reply to jade wu's post on Fri 28 May 2010 :

Thanks Jade, I have applied.


Noam Osband
Sat 12 Jun 2010Link

I'm trying to figure out a light tripod setup and i wonder if you guys have any thoughts:
My plan is to get either a Manfrotto 503HDV head or a Libec H38

I want to combine it with one of the following 3 legs I found used on B&H. Any advice would be welcome. I feel like I'm sure one of the links below is going to be laughably wrong for me:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800705572-USE/Gitzo_GT1531_GT1531_Mountaineer_6X_Carbon.html/mode/edu
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800706511-USE/Manfrotto_3443D_3443D_CF_Tripod_Legs.html/mode/edu
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800620652-USE/Benro_450_427_C_427n6_8x_Carbon_Fiber.html/mode/edu


Timoty Gibbs
Sat 12 Jun 2010Link

Is a documentary showcase like IDA's DOCUWEEKS a good opportunity for filmmakers?


Robert Goodman
Sun 13 Jun 2010Link

All of the Libec stuff I've seen is utter crap. I would avoid their products. Gitzo makes great stuff. Should last a lifetime.


Andy Schocken
Sun 13 Jun 2010Link

Noam, I actually checked out those Gitzo legs today at B&H. I'm not sure what camera you're using, but I wouldn't put much weight on those- they're pencil thin. I needed a lightweight travel tripod for my 5d, and put the Manfrotto 701 head (not recommended unless you really need to cut down on weight) on the Gitzo 2531LVL legs. This setup also gives you a ball leveling mechanism, which is crucial for fast setup, so you don't have to spend a bunch of time messing with the legs. Whatever you get, you should get something with a leveling mechanism (usually in video, you get a head with a ball level base, and attach it to legs that have the proper size bowl- probably 75mm for you).


Magee Clegg
Thu 17 Jun 2010Link

I just finished my 2nd short documentary! 'Filipino Rice Policy', It discusses the corruption behind this massive monopoly in the Philippine rice trade and the future of Agriculture Policy in the Philippines. I would love to hear your criticism and thoughts on what I should do with it. It's only 23-minutes

you can email me at: magee.clegg@gmail.com

link: http://www.vimeo.com/11989163

Magee Clegg


Matt Bengston
Fri 18 Jun 2010Link

I'm currently working on a series of small segments for my website, all of which are documentary-style segments that have to do with cars and motoring. During some of the filming, we will be on a race track that a friend of mine manages, and some of the other filming will be done on the road leading to the track. It's a very remote road that not that many people go on, but what I'm worried about is if someone does drive down the road when we are filming. I'll have basically myself along with a camera car, and two people setup on tripods along the road. How worried should I be about if someone drives by when we are filming, or something like that? It would be quite difficult to chase them down and ask them for a release, obviously..


Doug Block
Fri 18 Jun 2010Link

Wouldn't worry a bit about that, Matt. If they don't speak on camera, or featured prominently, I don't go after them with releases.


Beat Oswald
Sat 19 Jun 2010Link

an art school (that i am not a member from) is interested in giving me financial support for a documentary about a new school classical music concert from one of their students. they were very vague about the amount of money they wont to spend on my film.

so my question is: do you think it is more clever to get there with a detailed and rather expensive budget or should i go and propose a small budget?

its my first business talk like that and i would be thankful for some directions in the policy of such meetings..

thanks for the help,

beat


John Burgan
Sat 19 Jun 2010Link

They probably have no idea of the amount of work this can entail – have they said, for instance, how long they want the finished film to be? Also a "new school classical music concert" is not necessarily even a film.

The bottom line is to decide what is in it for you – a calling card, for instance or because you like the music student? Either way, it's unlikely you will make much money from this. Try and draw up a ball-park figure of the projected number of shooting days.


Beat Oswald
Sat 19 Jun 2010Link

thanks john

yes, it is because the student is a good friend of mine.. and i am definitely not doing it to make much money, but of course, i'd like to get the most from them, also to get the best result out of it.

since they leave me a lot of freedom in deciding how the final film is gonna look like, i think i'll go in there and draw up three different possibilities, a cheap, a middle and an expensive one.. and i will take it from there and see how they react.

but thanks for the hint with the shooting days,, i think thats a good approach to the discussion.. and i will definitely do that..


Cecilia Rinn
Mon 21 Jun 2010Link

I am starting on my second documentary, and running into some difficulties that I didn’t come up against on my first one. I have been in preproduction for a documentary about this monument in the Nevada desert. The man who made the place-it was his home and somewhat of a commune in the 1970s, died in the late 80s and willed the place to his son. His son has made it into a park for people to visit while traveling by. I want to make a documentary about how the place affected the people, who lived there, help build it, and traveled by. The son and I have been talking for a year, and we finally met last weekend for a video tour of the place and an interview with him. He wouldn’t sign the release, and sent me a release he would be willing to sign. The altered release he sent me said that he would only allow me to do the documentary if I only covered certain things. It was very limited to me as the filmmaker. I traveled there 24 years ago and spoke with his father, the artist, and he let me take pictures, while he told my father his story. The artist had 16 children, 5 of which, wear raised at the monument.

My question is, do I need the owner to sign the release? What rights does he need to give me (if any) to use the place and his fathers history in my documentary?

I would think that his siblings stories are just as valid as his, and I have the right to tell their story if the share it with me. Also I have experience with the place, so can’t I be telling my story and reference the place?

Thanks for any help you want to offer 


Doug Bocaz-Larson
Fri 25 Jun 2010Link

My wife and I are working on our first full length documentary and would love your feedback. We've been successful with short documentaries so we're trying our hand at a longer project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZf5WMplJhQ


Boyd McCollum
Sat 26 Jun 2010Link

Hey Doug, I'm not sure what kind of feedback you're really looking for. It'd also depend on how you define documentary film and who your target audience is. Perhaps you should have a showing with some people in your target audience and get feedback from them. Right now the film feels like a marketing piece for the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Even from that perspective, the film feels much too long. Part of the problem, for me, is that it's really unstructured, repetitive in what is being talked about and the images you're showing, and takes a long time to present any new information--and the information that is presented is insufficient to sustain a 1hr20 film. You may also want to place the park in a larger context. Anyway, just some thoughts. Good luck with your project.


Lisa Whitmer
Wed 30 Jun 2010Link

I am working on a documentary that will be using a lot of archival footage from other video producers and organizations (magazines etc.). Does anyone have a release form they use to obtain permission to use other people's footage? Thanks!


Phoebe Brown
Mon 5 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Cecilia Rinn's post on Mon 21 Jun 2010 :

Cecilia--you could make the story about the father and the history of the place without the son's permission. But-if the son is the new owner and the heir of the estate you are going to need a release from him for any current footage or family owned archival material (including brochures, etc) since it doesn't sound like you had any written agreement with the father.
You could get creative and try to track down people who stayed there and use their photos and interviews but it seems like it would be worth another try at working out some kind of agreement with the son since he is the more intimate link to the Dad.
Maybe you can find a middle ground between what he wants and what you need. If you can get him to understand you need creative freedom to get a really strong story--but be open to what he wants included maybe he'll come around. If he wants a more promotional story for himself you could always offer to make him something he could use for his personal needs in exchange for a more open agreement about the doc you really want to make.


Manoj Raj Pandey
Tue 6 Jul 2010Link

I am a film maker in Nepal.Now am working on a documentary about LGBTI.I don't know how can i search the market outside Nepal. Especially in USA and Europe.I am waiting the your suggestion.


Andy Schocken
Thu 8 Jul 2010Link

Hi Manoj. Are you looking for existing LGBT documentaries? I did a quick google search and found these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category%3ALGBT-related_documentary_films
http://www.rainbowsauce.com/dvd/docodvd2.html


Manoj Raj Pandey
Sun 11 Jul 2010Link

Andy thanks.I am just looking the future possible market for my film, like LGBTI film distributer,TV station,Buyer etc.


Amish Nishawala
Sun 11 Jul 2010Link

Hello D-Word! I'm going to India for 3 wks to interview my father's friends and relatives to make into a documentary. I have no experience with filming, but do have some experience with DSLRs for still photography. My filmmaker friend recommends the Sony ex 1, but I want something more portable, but still shoot in a resolution good enough for theatrical release (I can dream!).
I'm thinking about the Canon 7D for all the interviews and the Panasonic HDC-700K for hand held shots. I'm not planning to use any steadicams or dollys, just external mics. The guy at B & H said this would be fine but I should record with a Nano Flash. (Which I found out costs more than either camera I was considering!)
I was blown away by City of Lakes which was entirely shot w/ DSLRs.
Thanks!


Phoebe Brown
Sun 11 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Amish Nishawala's post on Sun 11 Jul 2010 :

If you search posts for "7D" you'll get lots of technical advice from this board. You might also want to look at the Canon T2i which is less money for the body and pretty much the same video quality. It is a lighter camera body but in your case that might be a plus. It does shoot absolutely beautiful footage but do your research before you commit--the biggest issue is that 12 minutes is the longest single take you can shoot. The camera reboots pretty quickly but you'll have to restart the camera frequently.
But again--search this board and the web and you'll get all kinds of technical feedback.

When and where will you be in India? Me and my small crew leave on Tuesday--also for a doc shoot in India. Maybe we'll cross paths.


Amish Nishawala
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Phoebe Brown's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 : Thanks for the quick reply and info. Yeah, I'm not sure how the City of Lakes guys got around the 12 min limit issue. We'll be in Mumbai this December. Good luck on your shoot!


Nick Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

Hello all. I just joined this forum this morning and have been reading up on the last few months of posts. This looks like an awesome venue for newbies like myself to learn from others, so I just wanted to post a general shoutout for feedback and see what comes in. A buddy and I have been shooting a documentary about a local community opera company for the last 5 months and we're just a few weeks away from wrapping up the majority of filming. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing when we started this, and have been learning from a combination of googling stuff and our own mistakes along the way. We've been shooting on 2 DVX-100a's, sennheisier shotgun mics, and using FCP to edit on a suped-up Hackintosh system with about 200 hours of footage (I've been calling it the monkeys-with-type-writers approach). We're at the point now where we've got all this footage: a combination of rehearsals, performances, interviews, production meetings, set-building, etc. (about 40% of it has been ingested and logged into FCP so far) and it's time to start story-boarding the project. I was thinking of budgeting about 8 weeks (80-100 hours of evening/weekend work around the day job) to create the outline/script before we get into the thick of editing, and then 6-9 months of editing before we try submitting to a few film festivals. I figure we have enough material for an 80-90 minute movie about this group of people working to stage an opera that could be compelling – this is a character-driven documentary with some good moments of conflict, funny things, a look into the eccentricities of the opera world as a microcosm for how people work together, that sort of thing. We found some template releases off the web and have adapted those to have everyone sign them (that has been a struggle at times as two folks with career-related concerns have asked to review any footage that includes them). We'll also be looking to obtain rights for some archival footage of Leontyne Price singing at the White House back in 1976 that looks to be owned by PBS, so I imagine that will be an interesting process to go through as well. I do have some Fair Use related concerns as there are some pieces of dialogue we have that took place in a coffee shop with canned pop-music that can be heard in the background, as well as some scenes shot in public with folks walking by in the background. I'd also love general ethical/professional advice people have on portraying the "characters" in a film such as this. We have about 7 individuals who we're focusing on in-depth, and we've obviously had to forge some close relationships with them over the last several months to get them comfortable with revealing those dramatically-compelling parts of themselves on camera. I'm curious how others have worked to do an honest portrayal of their character's strengths and weaknesses under similar circumstances. We've also got some technical hang-ups from our own inexperience, as some of our footage was shot in 29 FPS vs, the 24 FPS we'll be editing in, as well as 4:3 aspect ratio vs. the 16:9 we'll be editing in. I guess just a lot of cropping and rendering work? And though we're likely still closer to the beginning then to the end of this project, any advice on how to submit to festivals and protecting the finished product would be appreciated. So far this project has just been the two of us, and completely self-financed with a budget of about $5k so far (any major unanticipated expenses I should worry about on the horizon?). Also curious to know what should be the most important questions/considerations we should be thinking about at this point in the process, as we've pretty much exhausted the "how to film a documentary" search results. Cheers and thanks.


Jo-Anne Velin
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

Wow. First, good for you to take this on. You hit on many key issues in documentary filmmaking first time at bat.

My only tiny comment is that people walking past a camera in a public place incidentally are not going to be a concern, especially if the context wasn't controversial. Maybe others will disagree, but another way of looking at it is, will they come after you later? Will they hurt your chances of getting the film insured?


Nick Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 :

Ah, yes, thanks. No, there's no reason we know of that strangers in the background would have a problem with an incidental appearance. Though during this process, a stage manager at one of the theaters where they were performing mentioned that she had run into a problem once with a film crew coming in and someone they caught on camera was in the witness protection program and it caused all sorts of problems. Obviously we have no control over that, but maybe the best solution is to get a good lawyer on retainer or something (though is that even worth the price?) to deal with any potential issues like that? And that's also a hairy issue I guess: what is the definition of a "public place"? Obviously a park is, but what about a restaraunt? Or a theater? And what's this you say about insurance? That's something I've never read about needing to do so obviously I will... before or after submitting to festivals? Thanks a bunch!


Jo-Anne Velin
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

The insurance is to cover getting sued due to errors and omissions by the filmmaker/producer. E&O. Google E&O documentary film – there's good starting material on that there.


Nick Brown
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Jo-Anne Velin's post on Mon 12 Jul 2010 :

ah thanks a bunch! that could prove to be very valuable advice.


Christopher Wong
Mon 12 Jul 2010Link Tag

nick, welcome to the d-word. sounds like you and your co-director have an interesting piece. it also sounds like you are in a similar position to many first-time filmmakers – lots of good footage, but not much knowledge about what comes next (other than a lot of editing). the d-word is definitely the right place for you to start learning...

i'll tackle a few of your questions, and let some others handle the rest:

1) regarding the shooting format differential, there's a really great (and inexpensive) piece of software called Nattress which does an awesome job of converting 29.97 footage to 23.98, which is what you want to edit in. for only $100, you get really great looking footage.

2) regarding Fair Use, you don't have anything to worry about regarding pop songs playing in the background of a cafe. as long as you don't use the pop songs in any "creative" way to enhance your scene(s), you are absolutely covered here. no need to buy licenses for the use of such music.

3) i think you have a good estimate for what it will take to finish the film, but you should really budget closer to 9 months of editing than just 6. things ALWAYS take longer than you think. normally, i would actually budget for about a year of editing with that much footage, but since your story is pretty chronological, that removes some of the storytelling hurdles.

4) you didn't mention the extra expenses of color correction, audio mix, and music score. i assume you already know about them, but those will all be fairly expensive items at the end of the game. Color correction averages around $10-12k, audio mix about $8-12k, and original music about $10-15k. and those are the low-to-mid-range estimates. it can be much more expensive depending on whom you use.

anyways, good luck, and feel free to post more questions. you'll get more responses if you just post one query at a time...


Nick Brown
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Tue 13 Jul 2010 :

wow, thanks Christopher, that's really helpful.
1)awesome. If it comes recommended for only $100, totally worth it.
2)cool. I remembered hearing a story from On the Media where a doc filmmaker got in trouble for using a scene where a character's cell phone went off and it had a pop-song ringtone on it so he got sued. But maybe it was used in some creative context – I can't find the story anymore.
3) cool. yeah, I guess it's just done when it's done....
4) Most helpful. I am embarrasingly naive about this stuff (though that's probably a good thing, because we might not have started it at all if we'd had a realistic view of how much work it would be). I spent some time last night reading about both color correction and audio mixing. I watched a few tutorials about doing all this on your own using the Color and Soundtrack programs in the Final Cut Suite, so I am thinking of trying to go that direction. I figure if we can use YouTube tutorials to teach ourselves FCP we can probably use them for Color and Soundtrack too? Or are they way more complicated to learn? As far as original music I'm actually pretty stoked about that. We have a few friends who do hip-hop mixing or are in local indie bands, so we were gonna try to get them on board to let us use their stuff for free. We've kind of been taking the approach with people that "this will most likely never make money, but if it somehow does, and you help us out, you'll get a cut of it." I know it probably makes lawyers' stomachs churn, but so far people have seemed to be cool with it. Though I do wonder if that may bite us in the ass some day...
Thanks again!


Matt Dubuque
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

Good morning,

I'm currently outputting video in H.264 format with my Canon 5d Mark II.

I'm informed that if I import the footage into Final Cut Pro it will need to be transcoded. I know there are various transcoders available, including from Canon.

I'm also informed if I import this same footage into Adobe Premiere Pro that zero transcoding will be necessary.

I can use either program. I am comfortable with each.

I just want my end result to be the highest quality image and I don't want to start off on the wrong foot by introducing more distortion and noise into the process than is absolutely necessary.

Isn't it true that every time you introduce transcoding or format conversion into a process that you will harm the image, even if it is in some minor way?

I'm very well aware of the relative merits of FCP and Adobe Premiere. My question is only about this initial transcoding step.

The Apple folks tell me there is zero harm to the image caused by this transcoding.

Must I believe them?

Thanks so much!

Matt Dubuque


Andy Schocken
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

I don't know anything about premiere, but I wouldn't worry about transcoding to prores for FCP (except how much *%&! time and disk space it will take). If you have FCP7, use prores lt, if you have FCP6, use prores. Nearly everyone using the 5d is doing it this way.


Matt Dubuque
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

Hi Andy, thanks for responding!

I understand this is the widespread practice.

But given the very high compression of this H.264 codec and the distortions that inevitably seem to occur in other transcoding processies that I know of, I'm wondering if I might get a 2% (rough guess) better image if I import it natively into Adobe Premiere.

Because I am going to a very large screen, I need every tiny advantage I can possibly get.


Andy Schocken
Tue 13 Jul 2010Link

That's beyond my pay-grade technically. My guess is that whatever minuscule compression artifacts may arise from converting to prores would be dwarfed by a whole set of technical issues, such as motion judder or the aliasing issues of the 5d sensor. (I probably shouldn't tell you that regardless of the level of technical perfection you achieve, the projector or projectionist will destroy it at 98% of the venues it will ever play.)

That said, if you want to talk tech, you'll get a better response at some other boards than you will at d-word. Try these:

http://www.cinema5d.com/index.php
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/


Matt Dubuque
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

Thanks for the pointers to other forums Andy, I appreciate it.

Given the mulitiplicity of problematic artifacts and the overwhelming majority of 5D users who transcode their files, it seems plausible that some of those artifacts may be attributable to the transcoding process.

A point in support of that is that even though many 5D users were saying that some of the transcoding programs available injected no problems into the workflow, Canon felt compelled to create a transcoding program of their own, on an expedited basis.

If there were no problems, why was Canon compelled to offer a transcoding program of their own and why the hurry?

But I'll bring my thoughts to those other fora.


Peter Brauer
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

matt, I use premiere pro with my 7D all the time. I would say not having to transcode is the primary reason why I do this. Also when you go to finish and export the adobe media encoder is a world above compressor. Personally I prefer adobe premiere for many reasons, but know if you want to bring in another editor you may run into problems.

Linda, don't assume your school will support anything. Mine never did even though I was paying 40k per year. I made a film about a video games and used tons of footage of the games without permission. We didn't paint the most positive picture of the games, but they left us alone. Fair use is your best friend. Learn it well, and you should be okay. Also if you do get sued you get tons of press. I would fly under your enemies radar until you are ready to screen. If you buy errors and omissions insurance before you screen, at least you will have an insurance company defending you from any suits.


Nick Brown
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Peter Brauer's post on Wed 14 Jul 2010 :

Reading Peter's reply about fair use tempts me to ask generally: what are the best resources for researching fair use law? I've followed it casually for a while, but it seems to be a pretty unsettled area of the law and fairly controversial. Short of hiring expensive lawyers to consult throughout the process, I'm curious what are the best resources people would recommend to make oneself an "expert" (or at least a very good b.s.-er) on Fair Use?


Peter Brauer
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

Look to the http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/fair-use-project and http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use for answers most of your questions. The folks at Stanford may even represent you for free if you apply to their program. I did, and I can't thank them enough.


Nick Brown
Wed 14 Jul 2010Link

In reply to Peter Brauer's post on Wed 14 Jul 2010 :

Thanks, Peter, that Stanford program does look extremely helpful. Both sites look to be good resources. Much appreciated.


Christopher Wong
Thu 15 Jul 2010Link

USC also has a great resource. less well known than Stanford, but equally free...

contact:
Jack Lerner
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
699 Exposition Blvd. Room 425
Los Angeles, CA 90089
213/740-9013
213/740-5502 fax
jlerner@law.usc.edu
http://law.usc.edu/iptlc


Daniel McGuire
Tue 20 Jul 2010Link

Funny, there's no "Making Money" section to this Forum. What does that say about the documentary world?

Here's my question. Back in 1997 I had a VX-1000 and I worked on a never completed documentary on Balinese Healers. One of the healers I interviewed was Ketut Liyer, who is a major figure in the best-selling book "Eat Pray Love" (Movie with Julia Roberts to be release in August 2010.)
I have an hour long interview with Liyer as well as a lot of b-roll that has never aired. I wonder if folks here have any ideas on how to monetize the material given the huge interest in EPL. I could list it with a stock agency, I know. But I assume I could find an editor to cut it together and sell a finished piece. Any suggestions? To give you a sense of the quality, here is a bit of footage of a different healer I shot at the same time:<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0ppvIGs5H0>


Jill Woodward
Wed 21 Jul 2010Link

Perhaps a way to monetize it would be to get the material out there with your name on it. This might result in higher visibility for yourself and increased work, for which you receive money. Do you edit at all? Do you own the copyright to the material?


Daniel McGuire
Wed 21 Jul 2010Link

I shot it, I own all the tapes, have all the releases.


Christopher Wong
Thu 22 Jul 2010Link

have you thought of offering your interview with Liyer for the eventual DVD release of EPL? probably would make a good DVD extra for them.


Daniel McGuire
Thu 22 Jul 2010Link

This is what I am talking about – a Time magazine story on the healer Ketut Liyer... http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2005158,00.html


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