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.
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.
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:
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:
Best of luck,
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!
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,
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.
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.
In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Thu 27 May 2010 :
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.
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.
Mmm interesting, thanks Chris.
I've listed the following budget categories for the films completion;
- Color Grading
- Animation, Graphic Design
- Format Transfers
- Festivals (Appl. fees, Shipping, Other expenses)
- Travel (Airfares, Accomodation, Expenses)
- Legal Fees
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!
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.