the worldwide community of documentary professionals
You are not signed in.
Log in or Register

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 19 Sep 2011Link

Great point, JB. Ditto.

Jennifer Reiman
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Hi John,

I was wondering after I posted that if someone would say something.

First, just because a file is available for download through a bittorrent site does not mean it's 'illegal', and also in my case, I will make my documentary available for people to see for free, as well as purchase hard copies, as many in the genre I am working in are doing.

I support people in the industry by buying documentaries from them (usually after I have watched them) and I often give them away to people.

That being said, I appreciate you communicating with me about your edit

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by Jennifer Reiman

John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

The movie in question is not available legally through any bittorrent or download site, Jennifer – if you believe it is, please email the link and we will happily post it. It may be available on Netflix to subscribers in the US for online streaming – but that's not bittorrent.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Jeremy Ansell
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Actually John it is available. You can watch it on Youtube and it has a standard license. It can be found via a simple search. The first part has over 90,000 views and was posted in 2006 so the assumption would be that it is legally available to watch for free.

Documentary filmakers might want to think about how they plan to survive in the business without considering other ways of distribution. This is the reality, embrace and think outside the box.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by Jeremy Ansell

John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Although some sections are there on Youtube, the whole movie is not available to watch, as you acknowledged in your original post.

The bittorrent link that you posted which we removed was certainly not legal – is that what you meant by "thinking outside the box"? :)

As it is, D-Worders are already exploring alternative methods of distribution online, such as our Distrify and The D-Word Topic.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Jeremy Ansell
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

That was my original post? I've not posted a bit torrent link. I wouldn't encourage illegal downloading but I would encourage 'thinking outside of the box' when it comes to distribution and not just assuming that making your film available for free is not part of a viable distribution plan. This is a model that threatens the more established filmmaker and it shouldn't. You get what you pay for.

John Burgan
Mon 19 Sep 2011Link

Sorry Jeremy, the illegal link was posted here by the other poster which we removed – and I think the smiley shows that she knew it was content you didn't have to pay for. I mixed the two posts up – my mistake.

Edited Mon 19 Sep 2011 by John Burgan

Nick Ravich
Wed 21 Sep 2011Link


Hello all-

For some reason having a really hard time getting folks to talk to me about this issue so wanted to throw it out to the D-word community (doesn't seem to have been really covered in past forum posts.)

I work for a small, non-profit arts organization that produces a pretty high profile nat'l documentary series for PBS. We’ve got a growing amount of digital original video material (multi-GB, broadcast-intended digital video files; mostly XDcam EX and P2 original) and we need to get serious about more long term/archival preservation – a system where I can reliably expect to access the media 5/10/20 years down the line. Currently all this media lives on multiple, but non-networked, non-RAIDED external drives; given the life expectancy for these kind of drives, I realize they’re really only a short term solution. Up to the last couple of years, almost all of our original footage was shot to tape; we’ve been creating protection masters, and storing masters and protections in separate climate controlled facilities. Obviously digital material requires a different solution.

One important thing to know about us – we have serious aspirations to preserve all of our originally-produced footage beyond the life of the organization, to eventually make publicly available for researchers, students, etc. So this is not a client-mandated need but instead something generated internally, motivated by our contemporary art and media centered mission. Being smart now about how we ensure the longevity/future usability of this material is crucial for us.

I know the terms "archival" and "long term" probably bring up more questions than answers but I'm wondering how folks in similar positions – smaller production companies producing a consistent (if not broadcaster level volume) of digital original material, who own their media and have a vested interest in preserving it – have dealt with this. Transferring to LTO5 tape? Some kind of cloud/network-based solution? In house? Out-sourced?

Honestly, very surprised there isn't more discussion out there about this. Really hoping I can spark something here.

Sincerely, Nick

Doug Block
Thu 22 Sep 2011Link

Hope to see some answers myself, Nick. It's a huge problem.

Daniel McGuire
Thu 22 Sep 2011Link

The guy at that forum wrote:

"That said, I can't afford LTO. I archive my stuff on external hard drives, and copy it over to the next latest and greatest drive every several (~5) years. With hard drive capacity continuing to increase (at virtually no higher price), this is a viable method for the mid-term."

Given that the cost of storage is minimal – a hundred hours of SD or HD footage fit on a 1TB drive that costs around $160, (That's a fast, G-Drive), why would you use magnetic tape? Clone or back-up the drives every 5-10 years, depending on usage. If you are getting to be an old fart, perhaps begin discussions with a film or university archive to handle your footage after you die- with stipulations for tape back-up or whatever.
To me the real problem is how to organize it. I'd like to have a workflow so that, say, 100 hours on a drive would also be mirrored (with BITC) to a private youtube account – each tape divided into 6 10-minute sections – so that other people – researchers, collaborators – anywhere in the world could be roped in to log, translate, and work on editing sequences.
If you have historic and valuable footage, you might be able to have a university buy the collection library.

Scheffee Wilson
Thu 29 Sep 2011Link

I'm producing a documentary about the lifestyles of the women in Brazil. I working with a small budget and looking for some advice. I may need a super affordable documentary producer. Someone who has experience with small budgets and a foreign women subject. Please contact me.
I really need some advice.

Chan Park
Mon 10 Oct 2011Link


I have been making a documentary, titled “Tango Your Life,” whose trailer can be seen at, if you care to watch it.

Basically I filmed and used in my documentary film many dance scenes, which come with copyrighted music, being played during the filming sessions. As these were dancing scenes, it’s not possible to avoid the music.

When I approached a law firm here in Buenos Aires, their interpretation is that I sync the copyrighted music to the film. That means, I have to pay the copyright loyalty to two groups: one representing composers/authors and the other for record companies. The loyalty is extremely high enough to put me out of the game.

When I asked the firm about “fair use,” their response was:
1) Fair use is provided by our law only for the limited use of a work for educational o scientific purposes. Other uses are not comprised within this exception. If you proceed to sync fractions of music themes with your documentary without having prior authorization from their authors, you could be subject to a lawsuit.

Then I discovered “Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use,” under which I believe the music recorded and used in my documentary falls under the protection of “fair use.”

I admit there are some incidents in the film, where the music was used beyond “fair use.” For example, some scenes start with a dance scene, which later is overlaid with an interview while the music continues to play to the end of the interview. This kind of scenes will be fixed to comply with “fair use.”

So my question is, “If the documentary shows dance scenes that come with copyrighted music, does it fall under “fair use?”

Please provide your advice here or to Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Hey Chan, since you're a professional member, I suggest you copy and paste your whole question in the Legal Corner , where you're more likely to get the kind of reply you're looking for.

Edited Tue 11 Oct 2011 by Marj Safinia

Chan Park
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Thank you, Marj. I am new to the forum. I'll do...

Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

We normally strongly discourage double posting in more than one topic, but in this case I think it's appropriate.

Benjamin Prawer
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

Hi mentors,

I'm making a documentary tentatively titled "Life is Good," and am currently looking for a non-profit to fiscally sponsor the project. We have donors who want to give money, but need a non-profit to funnel the money through. Topics in the film include: life optimism, sailing, aerospace, hypothermia, young death, living life to the fullest.

Here is the log line:
In the wake of Tyler Lorenzi’s unexpected death, an adventurous list he made of must-dos in his hometown of San Francisco inspires four of his best friends from different walks of his life to take a trip to the Bay Area in his honor. As two of his college sailing buddies, his best friend from high school and the young woman whose life he saved undertake the difficult task of paying tribute, they try to emulate Ty’s outlook on life as they each struggle to find meaning and transformation in their adventure.

Info packet attached. Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks!

Marj Safinia
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

Hi Ben. Lots of organizations offer fiscal sponsorship. Try the International Documentary Association for a start:

There are many others too...

Benjamin Prawer
Tue 25 Oct 2011Link

In reply to Marj Safinia's post on Mon 24 Oct 2011 :

Thanks Marj, much appreciated!

Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Hi, I joined the D Word earlier in the year when I started some of the research for my first documentary and have found some great information, but I confess that my visitation has been sporadic. I completed "Curing Addiction" in September and have submitted to some film festivals and working some circles to start with. I was wondering if anyone knows of some good educational distributors for colleges and other institutions that I could contact.

Doug Block
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Lucas, go to "Search Posts" at the top of the page and plug in "educational distributors". Should turn up some previous suggestions.

Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Thanks,Doug. I did try to do that over the summer but a few of them were no longer in business. I will do that again and look for other ones that I'm sure I missed.

Marshall Burgtorf
Tue 1 Nov 2011Link

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. I discovered a developing story in Iraq 2 weeks ago. I approached the parties involved about tagging along to tell their story. They made a spot for me and one of my investors purchased airfare today.

Here is the issue. In the past when I have traveled in countries such as Kenya or El Salvador my "press pass" was simply a badge provided by the organizations I was traveling with. Do I need some kind of official press pass? I will contact the US Embassy as soon as it is morning in Baghdad but I thought someone here might be able to help out. Thanks.

Vijay Dewan
Thu 3 Nov 2011Link


You might want to check out New Day Films. I honestly do not know much about them, but am working on a science-related doc myself and know they did the education distribution for Kansas vs. Darwin. Here's the website: and their wiki page:



Reid B. Kimball
Thu 10 Nov 2011Link

Hi everyone,

I am trying to use Excel to enter my IN and OUT timecode information. I am having trouble getting my format to appear correctly. My timecode is based on 60 frame/sec so it may look like 00:04:34.51 but freakin' Excel will change it to 04:34.50, truncating the hour 00 and rounding down the frame number. I have tried setting the column cell type to Number, Text and custom (which I don't understand well) with no luck.

I did search for Excel macros for timecoding info and most are based on 24 or 29 frame/sec. It would be a bonus to have a timecode macro that can calculate the elapsed time between IN and OUT but that is not essential.

My main issue is getting the formatting right because I am copying and pasting from a word doc with the original timecode format.

Right now I have to copy from my word doc, paste into notepad, then copy from notepad and paste into Excel for the format to appear correctly. Talk about a productivity nightmare.


Join this discussion now. You need to log in or register if you want to post.