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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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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
Thu 27 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
Fri 28 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
Sat 19 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.


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