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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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Brenda Essahaty
Sat 16 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Kristen Turick's post on Thu 7 Apr 2011 :

Good luck karen,It was interesting to read your post,isn't it funny how complicated the business world is,by the time most finally get there they barely could breath,not having a one clear direction/one stop to help people forward with business is frustrating.

It's a very interesting documentary and I can understand why it's picking up.I have been bitching tv shows to producers,I would think the patient/partner is the owner of the copy right cause he called you to do the documentary for him.This can turn around on you 200 degrees,look at these points...He has paid you to do the documentary and the idea is his,so where do you think you fit in now??

I refuse to have anyone get in partnership with me on any of my ideas,and was determine to take the government funding and make a loan to top it up.I was told anyone who take part financially will not want to get nothing out of it,but a sponsor might pay something to contribute but have the priority on advertisement which means their logo will appear some where on the film and at every ad,but their appearance will based on how much they contribute.

Film industry is a bit difficult to get into and certainly not hassle free.

Good luck anyway,sorry can't help.But I like what you are working on.

Edited Sat 16 Apr 2011 by Brenda Essahaty

James Longley
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Jacob Bricca's post on Tue 15 Mar 2011 :

Great to see you here, Jacob B. – I hope you find the site useful.

(Jacob and I were film students together at Wesleyan U. – I will vouch for this man.)


Christina Katsiadakis
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hello. I am a new documentary filmmaker. I am currently working on a documentary about 30 something people in Greece. We are interviewing people of different backgrounds and different situations. I expected that it would be hard to work with people who are new to facing a camera, but it turned out that it is even more difficult than I expected. Are there any tips of more experienced filmmakers on how to make the person in front of the camera more at ease and less self conscious?
Thank you very much.
Christina


Ernst Gossner
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hi,
I'm now on d-word trying to find my way around. Seems like a great place for doc newbies like me. I was wondering how I could ask filmmakers on here for advice on a sales agent. we are just about to finish our doc GLOBAL WARNING (45minutes) and we will premiere it at a festival in my hometown with following screening tour, DVD release and Online Release but we'd like to hand the rest of the world over to a sales agent. How should I ask them for their recommendations? Which forums are best? Thx, Ernst.

Edited Sun 17 Apr 2011 by Ernst Gossner

Doug Block
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Crack some jokes, Christina. I'm not kidding. It's all about having them be relaxed, and it's your job to relax them.

Ernst, assume you mean an international sales agent. But not sure what you're asking. Can you clarify?


James Longley
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

Whoopee cushions work well, particularly when preparing to interview autocratic heads of state.


John Sanvidge
Thu 21 Apr 2011Link

Hello

I've just completed my film "Finding Seoul"- a documentary I made about trying to find my birth parents in Korea. I've started applying to film festivals (TIFF and HIFF) and was wondering if anyone had other suggestions on where to apply, or what festivals to maybe avoid?

You can check out the film trailer here: http://vimeo.com/22299145
Maybe that will help get information on what festivals to try and submit to.

Thank you (I hope this is in the right section)
John Sanvidge


Rahul Chadha
Fri 22 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Try not to formally cue your subject to start the interview. I usually one-man crew my shoots. I like to set up my shot, then ask the subject what they had for breakfast to set my audio levels. I hit record and then segue into my interview questions without alerting my subject. I feel like subjects flip an internal switch that makes them very stiff if you cue them to the fact that recording has started. People are much more natural/conversational if they think they are having a conversation with you, and not the camera.


Stephen Troy
Sun 24 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

I like to start interviewing them with questions I don't really care about, and allow them to drive the interview. I never stop them and tell them to rephrase, and I will allow the interview to get as off topic as they want it to be. I use a very light hand as I guide them toward the questions and answers I care about, that way by the time we get there they are comfortable and feel as if they brought up the topic themselves. That way they don't feel like they're in the hot-seat.

Note: some people will never be very comfortable in front of a camera, some will automatically be super comfortable. All these tips everyone is giving need to be tailored to each specific person you speak with.


Jill Morley
Mon 25 Apr 2011Link

Definitely put them at ease while you are setting up for the shoot. Sometimes the more technically oriented will futz with the camera, sound and lights in silence, without putting the subject at ease with jokes and light conversation. That can get them more tense. I also find that if I want to relate to them on a very personal level, I might shut off the camera and tell them a related personal story that will elicit a charged response from them. If you set the tone that it's encouraged to be honest about how you feel instead of "performing" for the camera, I find it helps getting more powerful interviews.


Christina Katsiadakis
Tue 26 Apr 2011Link

Thank you very much for all the tips. I guess making people feel at ease is key! My next group of interviews is next week and I have the feeling it will be better than the first one. Thanks a lot!!!!!!


Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Lynnae Brown's post on Wed 4 Feb 2004 :

Hi, I'm not sure if you still looking, but here is the company I represent, we would be glad to have your business, and if you know that someone else is looking; please recommend us for their transcription services. http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com
We've done a lot of caption work, video work, etc... We will be glad to provide references


Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 :
Our rates for transcription services start at $90 per hour, we can also provide a volume discount. We will be happy to do a free evaluation for you. Please visit us: http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com All of our transcribers are based in US


John Burgan
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

Jan, you're welcome to join the public discussions at The D-Word but I think everyone has got the message loud and clear by now. Take a look at our FAQ if there is any confusion – in particular the following:

Do not use The D-Word only to pitch your product or service. Feel free to recommend products and services in the course of conversation, but do not offend other users by coming in only to sell something


Doug Block
Fri 29 Apr 2011Link

And kindly refrain from multiple postings in the future.


Aldo Bello
Mon 2 May 2011Link

In reply to nick toscano's post on Mon 7 Sep 2009 :

Nick, this is a great "Fair Use" site by American University...hope it helps everyone on this forum: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/best-practices/documentary/


Ivan Serfontein
Tue 3 May 2011Link

Hi everyone

I am starting a documentary series much like Louis Theroux. I am the presenter and also director and producer. The first episode deals with bouncers and I am basically looking for some advice on getting people to be in the documentary and any production tips for the crew. For example: whats better a rifle mic or a lapel mic? Essentially I am also trying to understand why documentaries like that work. Is it the amount of time they spend with their subjects and if so, do they spend that amount of time with many subjects but end up only using a couple?

Any tips would be much appreciated
Thanks
Ivan Serfontein


Ray Metoyer
Fri 13 May 2011Link

Greetings All,
Can anyone suggest to me how I could find out what the value is for a documentary on the international scene; primarily Europe and the UK?
I've had some interest in a doc that has aired in the US, but how do I determine what it's worth? Is there a consultant or a company I could go to?


James Longley
Tue 17 May 2011Link

Having a sales agent for international sales is sometimes not a bad idea. The rates for documentary sales vary widely depending on the broadcaster/distributor and on the film itself.


Ray Metoyer
Tue 17 May 2011Link

James– thanks for your reply. If there's someone you would recommend– please send me a note to my email address:
rmetoyer@mindspring.com


Adam Johnson
Mon 23 May 2011Link

Can I buy someone lunch? I'm looking to bribe a friendship with someone who has more experience than me as a doc filmmaker. If you are up in LA or OC or even San Diego, I'd be happy to take you to lunch and talk about my project and how to proceed, what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.

My Project centers around a horse sanctuary that takes in abused and neglected horses- but also profiles the various volunteers who have their own afflictions such as Post Traumatic Stress, Autism, Fetal Alcohol, etc. A reciprocating therapy takes place and could provide a more widespread solution to many of the mental health and social issues of today. We have about 50% production in the can. Would like to submit to the festival circuit eventually.

Let me know if you would like to provide some mentor-ship in exchange for a Big Mac... ;) email me if interested.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

Hi everyone,

In an effort to keep this short I'm leaving out the background info, but if needed, I'll gladly post it.

How can I ensure a collaborative and successful interview with an organization and their representative when I'm certain they'll find out I don't like what they are doing? The specific person I want to interview is surely to raise some eye brows and with a quick visit to my film website, they'll likely get the hint that I'm not on their side.

Regards.


James Longley
Tue 31 May 2011Link

You cannot ensure it. You can be open minded and demonstrate a desire to let them tell their side of the story, whatever it is. But in the end, it's up to them to decide whether to go on record or not. I've personally wasted piles of cash traveling across the country to interview people only to have them chicken out at the last minute. All you can do is offer them a chance to be interviewed. If they refuse, include their refusal in your film. That way, your audience knows you offered them a chance to refute any negative claims made in the film. And make sure to go over your film with a good lawyer if it's something that could potentially stir up legal trouble. And get E&O insurance.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Hi James,

It's so great to see you taking the time to answer questions from beginners like myself. Thumbs up!

Your answer is a huge help, especially since I had never heard of Errors & Omissions insurance before.

I understand now the potential to waste a lot of money traveling. I'll try to minimize this by asking the organization for a day of interviews with various people so I can learn about their activities in research, community/membership education, fundraisers, etc. If the main person I want to interview backs out, maybe I can get the other interviewees to provide the same information.

Thanks again James.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

Would enjoy hearing from others how you go about finding music for your films? I'm searching for a "sad" song for a trailer piece I'm working on and having a tough time. What do you do?


James Longley
Wed 1 Jun 2011Link

I make my own music. It's cheaper.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 1 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Moby has a wide range of free samples for people working without money or very little of it. Conditions are attached to their use, but fair ones.


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 2 Jun 2011Link

Thanks to both James and Jo-Anne.


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Hi all,

I'm looking for a replacement for my Rode Video Mic because it makes too much noise when I'm walking around and filming. This is because it uses rubber bands for its shock system and they make squeaking rubber friction noises when moved.

Can anyone recommend a small mic that gets at least as good audio quality as the Rode Video Mic and can be used when the camera is moving around, say when walking with someone during my documentary interviews? I've looked at Rode's Pro model, but fear it uses the same rubber bands and will be noisy.

BTW, I have a lavalier mic sys, but still would like a mic I can mount on my cam and use when I don't have time to mic someone up.

Thanks!

Edited Fri 3 Jun 2011 by Reid B. Kimball

James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

People say nice things about the Sanken CS1. But the shock mount is not usually part of the microphone, so you should be able to replace your mount without buying a new mic. Without actually knowing which mic you have it's a little difficult to tell. What kind of camera are you using? What's your price range? What is a "Rode Video Mic" exactly? Link?


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Hey James,

Here's the one I'm talking about: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/363083-REG/Rode_VIDEOMIC_VideoMic_Camera_Mounted.html

A good picture of the shock mount using rubber bands:
http://www.pctodays.com/userimages/08%2001%202006rode_videomic.jpg

I am using a Panasonic HDC-HS700 – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/674251-REG/Panasonic_HDC_HS700K_HDC_HS700K_High_Definition_Camcorder.html

The link is for a more recent model (700K).

I hope to pay no more than 400 for a new mic.


James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Okay – for that size camera I honestly don't know what mic to suggest. But it sounds like your real trouble is the shock mount, so you might just experiment with different rubber bands or doubling up bands to see if you can get something that doesn't make noise when you move it. With audio gear, you generally get what you pay for, and most mics that are considered professional start around twice the price you are looking for. Remember, though, that a great microphone can last for decades if you take care of it, unlike digital cameras these days, which usually have to be upgraded every couple years. So investing in good sound gear makes some sense if you plan on making films for a while. Also, really good microphones tend to retain their resale value. But for now, focus on trying different rubber band configurations.


Reid B. Kimball
Sat 4 Jun 2011Link

Alright, you make a good argument for investing in a quality mic. Will try messing with the rubber bands just in case I can hack something together. If I start spending too much time on it, I'll just buy a higher quality mic.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

Hi everyone,

My documentary is health related and I'm having trouble finding a gastroenterologist who will agree to see me for a general consultation check up and be filmed while that is happening. I've talked to 2 offices and all 12 GIs have declined to go on camera during my appointment.

Having them on camera I think is really important for people at home to see what happens during these appointments. If you have ever seen the documentary, Super Size Me where Morgan Spurlock visits doctors in the beginning, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

I will keep searching, but I'm thinking of a backup plan and want your feedback. That plan is to get a small pen camera or easily concealed audio recording device and getting it on record that way, regardless of permission. Then in the editing process I will of course make sure there aren't any identifiable elements on visual and audio.

If I do this, I think it can add some needed tension to the film anyway. "What are they hiding? What don't they want you to know about?"

I'm hoping that as long as there isn't any way to identify the doctor I see, there shouldn't be any legal issues. Thoughts?

If you think the backup plan can work, have any suggestions for "spy" cameras or audio?


Linda Wasson
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

well Reid, for one thing, they are afraid of malpractice suits, as they very well should be. drs have more to answer to than just their patients, believe it or not.

one of the drs in SSM was Dr. Isaacs, who was actually my internist for a while back when I lived in nyc. He's originally from S. Africa so I'm thinking maybe he doesn't scare easily – he certainly impressed me in many ways when I knew him – and it was a real hoot seeing him in the film.

not sure why you feel "the people at home" need to see you with your dr. most everyone over the age of 18 (and many under) have been to a gastro specialist so why is this so special?

at any rate, you might want to try medical schools. do you have a legal release ready in a pdf or fax format that you can provide immediately? and have you stated as such? that should be your top priority.

you might also call your local med asso and ask them for names of drs who do any kind of educational programming or promotional work – that might at least give you some contacts but you'll still need a hefty release.

btw, the release probably should be prepared by a product liability defense attorney since that's who would be defending a dr in a lawsuit...

good luck!


Reid B. Kimball
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Linda Wasson's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

Hi Linda,

I feel it's important to get this on camera because it's part of my story of dealing with Crohn's disease and how I answer the questions they ask and how they respond in turn when they learn I'm not using conventional treatments.

I do have a release form that I call a "model release" and it's worked fine so far. Here's the link in case you want to see it: http://crohnsend.com/documents/model_release_template.pdf

Interesting idea having someone write the model release to protect the doctors and not me... if I understand that right.


Reid B. Kimball
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

Also, I don't understand why a doctor would be concerned about malpractice suits suddenly if there's a camera in the room. What's that got to do with how they practice medicine? I know, I should be asking them that question.


Bill Jackson
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Jake Salyer's post in Introduce Yourself
I really liked your images. I wasn't expecting to see the whole film; I was expecting some clips or a trailer.
You might want to consider making a very short version, if you haven't already, to give people a taste of what you have done and draw them in to want to see more.

I would seriously think about redoing the narration before submitting to festivals. Not only is it technically thin, but (even though it is probably your voice) it sounds like it is being read, rather than told with enthusiasm/interest. Also, the film could use some pretty serious work on the overall sound mix.

It is a very interesting story of which I had no previous knowledge.
Others here may have better insight into how the story and editing are working. I just wanted to bring up my thoughts on the narration.

Good luck!


Linda Wasson
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link Tag

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Wed 8 Jun 2011 :

the release is to protect you – by having one drawn up by a lawyer that deals w/product liability (which includes med mal) you are assuring all parties involved that you are sincerely making an effort to keep everything correct and are not trying to set someone up. I know if I was a producer on such a doc, it would be the very first thing I would put on the list of priorities with regards to interviews. a model release in this situation simply isn't adequate.

additionally, if you don't have an established track as a filmmaker, what's to prove this film will actually be finished, released and worthy of having this particular dr (whoever it is) in it? that is, you could have some alterior motive unknown to the dr.

just look at Breitbart who set up the Acorn sting as well as a couple others and then railroaded A. Weiner into a corner (ok, some say he did it to himself but personally, I could care less about this guy's sex life; he's damn good at progressive politics and that's more important to me)

Reid, one of the most important considerations to learn when making docs is whatever passion you have for the subject is of course, a good thing, but whenever people are involved, you are asking something of them. You are asking their time, input, energy, opinions, whatever and how you ask and what you ask for can have significant impact on your final production. It's critical to look at their side of it, and understand the fear, suspicion, worry, etc., that participants experience whether they are willing or unwilling.

We as filmmakers are only storytellers. without the generousity of those who share with us their true stories, well, I suppose we'd be making narrative films :)


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 10 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Linda Wasson's post on Wed 8 Jun 2011 :

Hi Linda, I agree with you. I think my hang up is I don't know what is different about the product liability model release from the one I already have in specific language, but not to waste any of your time I'll try to find a lawyer and ask them. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

I hope it doesn't mean I will need to waive my right to sue, not that that's my goal, but in principle I think citizens are giving up too many of their rights and I don't want to continue that trend. BUT! If it means getting a Dr. to agree to go on camera during my visits then I may have to sacrifice my values to get the job done.


Lillian Baulding
Sun 12 Jun 2011Link

Hi:

I'd like to purchase a consumer camcorder in order to shoot some pieces for my blog. I currently have a Flip cam (r.i.p.), but would love to get something that has a better zoom and an external microphone jack. Can anyone recommend good one? I've heard Aiptek's are good, but which model?

Thanks very much,
Lillian Baulding


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 13 Jun 2011Link

Hi Lillian,

Are you looking for a camera that can do High Definition (HD) resolutions, 720x480, or higher? Do you want a camera that gives you a lot of control over sound and picture settings?


Tim Keane
Mon 13 Jun 2011Link

A distributor interested in a project I've worked on insists I need to get a Title Report. There in one place that will generate it for about $375. Any ideas for a less expensive alternative?

Thanks in advance,
Tim


Michael Rossato-Bennett
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

Hi,

I am not a beginner but I can not figure where else to post this- I need some doc pals! I am doing an Alzheimer's Doc and need some feedback on my first assembles. Anyone in NYC? East Village? I am buying lunch!

for a quick look at the project go to- www.XimotionMedia.com

Thanks-


John Burgan
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

This is a Public Topic open to everyone, but if you had wanted to restrict this to Pro members it could have also gone in the Works in Progress topic, Michael.

Edited Tue 14 Jun 2011 by John Burgan

Doug Block
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

And since you already posted it in the Editing topic, just a gentle reminder that we don't encourage double posting, Michael.


Lillian Baulding
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Lillian Baulding's post on Sun 12 Jun 2011 :

Hi Reid: Yes, I'm looking for HD, 720X480 and control over audio.

Lillian


Yixi Villar
Wed 15 Jun 2011Link

Hi everyone I need your help. We are working on a doc "Life In The Balance" check out the link below for more details
http://tomgriffineditor.com/LITB/LITBTrailer_v10.mov
We have just been fined by the gov over $10,000 and counting for not having works comp for our "freelance" 1099 employees. We have insurance for the production and they told us we didn't need that because our employees were not only employeed by us. has anyone else gone through something similar. It seems like everyone is just giving us the runaround and we want to get this resolved ASAP. If anyone could be of help it would be greatly appreciated. Also the gov said that to be considered a private contractor they have to meet all the criteria check out the link below
http://www.wcb.state.ny.us/content/main/Employers/Coverage_wc/emp_empDefinition.jsp#indContractor
but clearly some of our people work on other films but don't have "their own business" and we even have a student. Does anyone know how to navigate guidance would be much appreciated.
Have a happy day!!
Yixi Villar


Marth Christensen
Wed 15 Jun 2011Link

Hi Yixi,
With a fine already assessed (by the state "gov"ernor, I assume), it is time to contact an attorney. Contact your local county bar association, for starters, if you do not know someone. You have more to worry about than just state workers comp, e.g., FICA, Unemployment insurance, and state and federal withholding...
Do some research on private contractor vs. employee. Check IRS Pub 1779 and other references. Someone in your organization needs to fully understand the distinction, especially if you intend to operate at the edges.
What sort of entity have you formed to produce the doc? I see that you have fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas.


Robert Goodman
Fri 17 Jun 2011Link

there is an agreement in place with the IRS for the film and video industry. You should read this link http://www.mca-i.org/en/art/?9
so you understand who is and isn't an independent contractor.

The simplest way to have avoided all the issues is to use a payroll service that will be the employer of record. Now I would throw yourself on the mercy of a good accountant and perhaps Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts if they can hook you up with a good tax attorney.

These threatening letters from the IRS or State department of Revenue agencies are often designed to throw the fear of god into you. In all probability, the situation is much less dire. Consult a good accountant.


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