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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.

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


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:
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.
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: 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:

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
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:

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.


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.


Edited Fri 3 Jun 2011 by Reid B. Kimball

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