these days likely less than half that figure.
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.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Thu 5 Jan 2012 :
Thanks again. I'' pursue the History Channel lead. Doesn't sound as if the chap is going to make much of a return on this.
In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 5 Jan 2012 :
Good grief. His prospects of success are being radically pruned.
Hi, I'm working on a documentary feature for which I'm finding it really difficult to raise any funding at all.
The documentary is on the Maoist rebel movement in India and looks at the rebels, the conflict and its human cost, and the underlying issues of mining and indigenous tribal rights.
I have filmed one round and will be going back to film more (me being the director, cinematographer, producer, editor and all).
Based in Australia, I have had no luck getting a broadcaster. The commercial ones don't care and the public broadcasters require Australian content / connection so a suggestion was for me to film myself which I think detracts from the story – its not about me but about the people there.
So I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions / ideas on how to go about raising funding for documentaries on issues that aren't exactly mainstream? How do I finance this (so far its been self financed but that won't cover a lot of the post work)? And what are the possibilities for distribution, theatrical release etc?
Your film sounds like a good idea. I have been to India doing a short promo/doc for a charity on Yanadi tribe and luckily they supported financially filming of it all.
Anyway, in regards to your financing, have you tried http://www.indiegogo.com/
Hope it all goes OK for you and if I can do anything to help or advise you please let me know.
In reply to Ajay Brar's post on Tue 10 Jan 2012 :
I am not sure if Kickstarter.com is open to those outside the United States yet, but I raised $11,000+ for my documentary.
SUBJECT: BEST STUDENT FILM, DOC SHORT, and DISABILITY FILM FESTS/COMPETITIONS
I've just completed my first of several short film as part of Stanford University's MFA in Documentary Film program. The film is solid, about 5 min, and focuses on disability but in an unexpected way.
I had a bad (and expensive) experience applying to festivals with a short I directed as an undergrad. Can someone suggest (or direct me to some posts about) some of the better film festivals or competitions for student films and films about disability? I have a fear of blowing a lot of money applying to festivals out of my league or that don't really have much value as a networking event.
In reply to Oggi Tomic's post on Tue 10 Jan 2012 :
Thanks Oggi. I've been trying to avoid crowdfunding but looks like that will be the way to go.
In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Thu 12 Jan 2012 :
Kickstarter is only for US residents. There is a crowdfunding thing here in Oz too, I've just been avoiding it and trying for production houses and broadcasters.
Hi all, I'm currently trying to raise funding for a documentary about a network of controversial adolescent drug abuse programs that I was a member of for five years. We just released a pitch trailer and launched an IndieGoGo campaign.
I would love to get some feedback from professionals on what we are doing right and what we could be doing better. This is my first time trying to do something like this and I could use all the help you can offer.
The trailer and IndieGoGo page are here. http://www.indiegogo.com/thegroup
Not asking for donations here, just looking for feedback. Thanks in advance.
This looks like a really interesting story, especially since you have the inside scoop.
I am wondering if you have any other footage besides the talking heads and pictures. Are there scenes you can shoot? Or can you come up with some creative B-Roll that relates to the feelings that everyone is talking about? I know you are just beginning with telling your story, but I think it is always good to think in these terms. Best of luck!
Thanks for checking it out.
Right now, we have about 13 hours worth of video footage that was shot by members of The Group and more coming. We didn't use any in the trailer because we are still working out the legalities of using it, but we intend to use some of it in the film.
As for B-roll, we plan to get footage of our interview subjects in their daily lives, plus just shooting anything interesting that comes up when we are on location.
Subject looks compelling so far. I have heard of extreme drug programs (like the right wing christian ones that periodically get shut down by a state gov and then pop up elsewhere under a different name) but this is the first I heard about one totally run by kids. Lots of parallels though in terms of the brainwashing, peer pressure and torture lite techniques. Was there money involved? Anyone profiting?
In reply to Jill Woodward's post on Fri 20 Jan 2012 :
Hi Jill. There is definitely a profit being made. My family, for example, which is a working-class family, spent around $70,000 in the five years that I was involved. The money is from treatment programs (in-patient and out-patient). They convince parents that without the treatment their child will literally die.
We were very limited in what we could go into with the teaser trailer, but we plan to explore the whole history of the organization in the final film.
The entire operation was founded by one man who is a convicted-felony, former heroin addict and self-professed murderer. There has been a lot written about the organization going back to the 1970s. Here's a link to a little background information, if you're curious.
Thanks for checking it out. If you have any advice, I sure could use it.
sounds very similar to Kids of Bergen County, where my friend was incarcerated, it changed names and moved around a lot to avoid regulation. From your trailer I almost thought it was the kids organizing themselves, but it sounds very much like there is an adult orchestrating and profiting. Good luck!
In reply to Jill Woodward's post on Fri 20 Jan 2012 :
It's very similar to the Kids of Bergen County and the Straight program.
Jacob, nice job on your first film so far, but I do see a couple areas to work on.
Sound quality is inconsistent, some sounded echo-y while others sounded high quality but too soft and quiet, I'm hard of hearing. I like to make sure the sound is loud but not too loud. People can always turn their sound down, but I had maxed the sound on my sys and headphone and still had a hard time hearing a lot of what was said.
Also, be more conscious of where your key lights are falling on the interview subject's face and which direction they are looking in. In one scene, in the bedroom, the key light was behind the person, not in front. So, we see most of their face being dark with the back side of the face lit. Other scenes the subject is to one side of the frame (rule of thirds) but is looking towards the short side, not the long side.
I've made all these mistakes myself. It's a challenge to keep all this conscious when you are trying to setup equipment and think about the interview questions, etc.
In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Sat 21 Jan 2012 :
Reid, thanks for the feedback. We had a lot of difficulties with light in one of the interviews. We were using natural light and had issues with the sun moving behind clouds and also getting dark early. We tried out best to fix it with some color correction, but there was only so much we could do.
Hopefully, if we are able to raise the money, we will be able to budget for lights and have much more control over the finished product.
As for the sound, I confess I don't know much about it, but I did notice that it jumps around from interview to interview.
Thanks for all the feedback. I really appreciate it.
I'm purchasing E&O for my first doc deal. I have no idea of what this should cost. I have a quote for a 10K deduct on a 1M/3M policy for 3 years for $5500. Is this in the range of what you guys have paid?
This doc is pretty safe – no digging up dirt, no famous people, not based on other works, etc, – it has a happy and positive message. I know that doesn't really mean much in today's world.
I recently paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail and took video along the way. I conducted interviews, got action footage, scenic shots, etc. The one thing I didn't do was get location releases. My footage was filmed on public waterways, public streets and a few private campgrounds. Will this be a problem if I try to distribute the film or show it publicly. Which locations would require release? It's my understanding that the footage on public lakes, rivers and streams, I'd be allowed to use. What's the consequence of not having a location release and then showing the film?
Hello, I just joined D-Word. I have a question. Does anyone know of footage of Nice, France in the mid- to late-1920s? Also, footage of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1920s? I am looking for these to incorporate into a planned documentary on the life of the Ottoman Royalty when they went into exile. I can be reached at arvindach[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks in advance. This looks like a very supportive community, judging from the answers to various questions asked by others.
Hello All: Can anyone recommend a good, inexpensive video stabilizer for my Canon t3i? I've been looking at the Dot Line DL-0370 Hands-free Video Stabilizer but don't know anyone who has one. Thanks!
Lillian, you'll find this and a lot more in this article from Chris Jones, 'The Perfect Guerilla Film Makers Camera Kit For Under £1k':
Hope this helps,
In reply to Arv Acharya's post on Sun 5 Feb 2012 :
i was just watching the bbc doc the first world war. lots of stuff from the ottoman empire – might want to see their sources and see what else you can dig up.
the episode is jihad – its also on youtube
I'm in a very similar situation to Mike above. I recently filmed a short doc about a small-time rock band in the UK, the first half of which was filmed in a rehearsal studio that they frequently use. I phoned the managers of the studio prior to filming and they said that they were happy for me to film there and take shots of their building.
However, during the first day of shooting there, they refused to sign a location release. They said that they were still very happy for me to film there and that I could film what I wanted and do what I liked with the final film. They didn't want to sign anything however, as they felt this would, potentially, leave them exposed to me later using the footage in a way that was damaging to them. I've spoken to them a couple of times since filming, as have the band, but they're sticking to this line. Apparently bands film at their studio quite frequently and this is the stance they take in all cases. I'm a stickler for crossing t's and dotting i's legally, so am not comfortable accepting verbal consent alone.
I'm planning on putting the film up on Youtube and Vimeo. I have no current plans to send it to festivals or secure broadcast distribution. Is this lack of a written location release something I should be worried about? My specific questions are:
Could the studio hypothetically take legal action simply because I have filmed on their premises, or would they need to show that I have damaged their reputation in doing so etc?
Would it be possible for me to put the video online and ask them to sign a release form just for that edit of that film (ie so that I'm covered, but they are also reassured that I can't then go and re-edit the rushes into something damaging to them).
I am in the UK and the doc was filmed here. I have signed releases for the other locations, all identifiable contributors and all the band's music.
Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated – this issue's held the film up for too long! Thanks a lot!
Personally I'd put it on the web and forget about it. Secondly, I think it's only broadcasters that require such extensive paperwork, not even festivals, generally. However, hypothetically any studio or any person could take legal action at any time for any reason whatsoever.
If it were me, I wouldn't worry about it a bit, Damien. But if it's keeping you up at night, you might want to get something informal with them via an email, even if it's just to explain their rationale as to why they don't want to sign a formal release. At least it's something where they state it's ok for you to film. But it's very unlikely they'll now turn around and sue.
Thanks a lot Jill and Doug, I really appreciate your thoughts.
I doubt this makes a difference, but I forgot to mention that I did not include the studio's name anywhere (eg interviews, on-screen text or shots of signage). It would be recognisable only to those who are already familiar with it.
That's very useful info (and good to know) about festivals Jill, thank you.
Thanks a lot for that suggestion Doug. I'm planning to email each contributor/location individually as soon as the film is uploaded with a link and message of thanks for their help. With the studio I thought I'd add a note saying that I appreciate their desire to look after their reputation and invite them to watch the film and let me know immediately if they have any objections. If they do not have any then at least I can move forward with evidence that I've taken reasonable steps to consider and account for their interests even without a signed release.
Thanks again both!
With the studio, I wouldn't rush to send them a link. But if you do, I'd absolutely never invite them to raise any objections.
Damien, you also may want to consider an on camera release where they just tell you on camera that it is cool for you to shoot there. Not sure how that will hold up, but it's something and might make you feel better. Also, if you are worried about legal action, which seems unlikely, you could just take the video down if that happens or put it on a private site with a password. Best of luck!
Thanks Doug, I certainly take your point. The studio were friendly and helpful throughout filming, and polite in their refusal to sign, but no need to open the door to problems! Maybe just a general email if any then.
Thanks as well Jill M. Filming is complete (and they're miles away from London!) so I think the window for an on-camera release is unfortunately closed. Thanks for the suggestion – I was actually curious as to whether taking the film down if trouble ever arose would be enough to solve the problem?
Thanks very much again everyone, I appreciate this is a lot of attention to be paying to what is essentially a long Youtube vid, but I can see this being a recurring issue in the future and for others!
I would like to submit my first very short film that I finally completed to my satisfaction yesterday for the comments and hopefully withering criticism of various mentors here.
I have generally found that the harsher the criticism, the more I can learn from it and because I am able to take such criticism with a minimum of disappointment, I have been able to substantially improve this film from the miserable state it was in last year.
This short is entitled "Twitter Time" and it explores possible responses to the exponential acceleration of our experience as discussed in Raymond Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near".
Here is a link to the film, best viewed in HD.
What follows in the next post is my discussion I intend to include in the "Director's Cut" DVD of the film for submittal to film festivals.
I look forward to your comments and criticism and, again, your discussion of the worst aspects of this project are most welcome.
Below is the discussion I intend to provide for the "Director's Cut" portion of my short film Twitter Time, as discussed in my immediately previous post:
Way back in the 20th century, a sound bite was used to refer to an abbreviated form of communication that became a widespread shorthand used to communicate more quickly and efficiently in an accelerating world.
Since that ancient day, nobody really has time for lengthy sound bites anymore, instead preferring to communicate in short, 256 character Twitter feeds.
As we connect the dots from the now archaic sound bite to the much shorter Twitter feeds of today, what may we look forward to in the future when nobody has time for Twitter feeds anymore?
I describe this trend as the exponential acceleration of human experience and it closely mirrors Raymond Kurzweil's discussions of the "coming singularity" when future information flows collapse into a black hole of ever accelerating processing machines that he claims is our destiny.
How can we respond to these cultural trends? Is it our lot to simply embrace, welcome and accelerate them, or are there alternatives that may provide more comfort, humanity and, ultimately, sustainability to our lives?
Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than simply accelerating its speed.
That's what this film is about.
The theme of this film is that the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan told us before Facebook went public.
The first part of the film deals with the inherent limitations of text-based communication systems such as email, Twitter and Facebook. Communicating in such media is inherently myopic and limited, as nuances of relationship, irony and subtlety are inevitably lost in the mad rush to discuss our world through the narrow prism of no more than 256 characters for a Twitter feed.
We are bombarded with so many fragments of messages and heavily commercialized memes that this tends to shorten our attention spans and harms our capacity to remember. It has been said that the United States is the complete opposite of the Balkans because nobody remembers anything. I'm persuaded that aphorism has the ring of truth due, at least in part, to the acceleration of our existence intensified by expending ever-increasing amounts of our time immersed in a strictly alphanumeric-intensive domain. It's a zero sum game.
The various data streams in the first portion of the film are exemplars of the phenomenon of information overload that we all face in this medium.
How can we respond to this spiraling, meaningless complexity that saturates this domain?
It is the function of the second part of the film to discuss this.
The second part of the film explores other media distinct from alphanumeric, textual formats, in increasing order of richness and resonance.
The medium of still photographs is presented in the second part of the film as an initial contrast to alphanumeric text-based communication software systems discussed previously.
The photographs are generally "letterboxed" in this film, which means they are surrounded by black horizontal and vertical borders to denote that the subject of the film not only contains references to the actual contents of the photographs, but also to the medium of photography generally, which is richer in its content than a life devoted to alphanumeric text processing only. One photograph is worth a thousand words and can convey nuances of emotion, humour and relationship typically lacking in Twitter feeds from cultural icons such as Justin Bieber.
Another medium covered in the film is that of film itself. I introduced the film with numeric countdown leaders and make liberal use of pure black visual spaces to indicate that I ask the viewer to not only immerse themselves in the various moving images presented in the film but also to explore the relative merits of the medium of film and video itself. The medium is once again the message here and the communicative domain of film can show subtle emotive and perspectival shifts over time not easily obtained from solitary photographs alone.
Finally, although constrained by the diegetic space of the film, I ask the viewer to contemplate what I call direct experience, be it the love of a woman, a walk in the woods, an exercise in tree planting, gentle conversation or whatever.
I find these final examples of more direct knowing to be a wonderful antidote to the exponential acceleration of human experience most clearly amplified by a life saturated with the endless task of processing alphanumeric text messages that are often, ultimately, trivial. A response to a life lived in "Twitter Time" if you will.
I posit that tree planting is just one of a myriad of options we have to stretch out, enjoy, celebrate and learn from our beautiful lives. Planting over 100 trees has clearly made me a better person and this will be covered in my next film "100 Trees", which describes the current benefits we enjoy around the world from various tree planting programmes instituted from the 12th century England, 16th century Tokugawa, Japan, to the 19th century projects of Johnny Appleseed and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on to more recent tree planting exercises that I have been fortunate enough to participate in.
That film is described here:
Thanks for viewing the film and I look forward to any thoughts you may have.
I can be reached through the incredible, untapped potential of email at email@example.com.
Looking for a Native American Documentary-maker
A NYFA thesis student from Bulgaria will soon begin shooting a doc about an Omaha Sioux family who are trying to maintain and nourish their traditional ways against rather daunting societal, economic, and now medical odds. She and I would both like to get her connected to a Native American documentarian for mentoring as she goes. It could be as significant or minimal as anyone is willing to do. She has great craft mentors through the school. And she will have the guidance and advice of several Omaha people. Still, while some of her faculty have made docs with and about Native Americans, none of the Omaha advisers knows anything about filmmaking and none of us has the prospective that an actual Native American might lend her. She'd love to find someone Omaha but will thrilled with anyone who could combine some knowledge of film making with a Native American personal perspective.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you, or someone you know, might be willing to help.
I have a few questions to ask. I'm working as a producer on my first Doc Feature "Two Blind to Ride" and I need to create a budget for grant writing.
We're thinking the length of the doc would be 60 minutes to 90 minutes.
1) Is 60 minutes better or 90 minutes? We're hoping for Cable, VOD or a content provider like Hulu as distribution.
2) What camera system would be good for this. Our DP wants a Red. We have DSLRs, but we don't think that's a good system for a project like this.
What would you recommend? I'm thinking of a Canon C300 since the output format is Mpeg-2. Would this be a good format for deliverables? What format/codec requirements is most common? Quicktime ProRes?
HDV? This would help us in choosing a camera.
3) What would be a good ballpark figure in budgeting for Post Production?
Can only address your first question, Ferdinand (which, of course, impacts the 3rd). If you're not looking for theatrical, you're far better off with 60 minutes in terms of being able to sell it to cable (and for international broadcast, as well). It will also cost you considerably less to make.
In reply to Ferdinand Casido's post on Mon 26 Mar 2012 :
re: your second question – i'd really hesitate to use RED for ANY doc project, and especially one where you'll be in remote/difficult locations for any length of time. you certainly don't need 4k for cable/hulu, and the cost of all the extra cards, hard drives, and costs in post production just aren't worth it, imo.
c300 makes a lot of sense for a project like this, as the image can be just as beautiful as the RED (but at a much more reasonable 50 mbps) making it possible to shoot on cheap CF cards, and less hard drive/power concerns while in the field)
but there is also something to be said about having a solid 1 piece camera that is compact, and doesn't need to change lenses. something like a Panasonic hvx 200, or hmc150, or ... will stand up to abuse in remote spots, and won't break if there is excessive dust, snow, etc... C300 is great, but it remains to be seen how well it will stand up to abuse in the field.
don't worry about delivery format until you are getting into post production. just acquire the best images you can now with the budget you have.
I'm in the middle of my first crowdfunding campaign on my first film entitled "Granny's Got Game". It is a sports doc with a twist – the athletes are seventy year old women who have been playing basketball together for almost 20 years. It is an inspiring story.
I've learned a lot in the archived "Crowdfunding" topic here on D-word. I did a month of prep before launch and reached my first goal in just 10 days. That was awesome. But contributions have dropped off dramatically the last couple of weeks despite have a surge of publicity and views on the campaign page. I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong. I'd really appreciate any feedback and suggestions people are willing to give. You can view the campaign here:
Angela, as a Professional member you don't want to be posting in the Mentoring Room, which is dedicated to Enthusiasts without access to all the other topics. Besides, Professional members rarely check out this topic – some do but most don't. We never encourage people to double post, but in this case you should re-post this in the Fundraising topic.
Thanks Doug and Riley,
I think we're moving away from the RED. Anyone with experience on the Sony FS100? That's a camera system we're looking at. Seems to have everything we need. Any pros cons and using that camera?
i haven't used it – my big concern would be ergonomics. i'd make sure i tried it before committing.
Yes – you certainly can't hand hold it without some sort of stabilization (which I'm still working on). I think you can get used to the buttons – although in cold weather, I'd probably find it impossible to use. Just like with the DSLRs you'll need to transcode the footage, which is a pain. You'll need ND filters since there isn't one built in. I'd also probably (and am planning to buy) the Atimos recorder – so you can record in Prores and or have a back up to those flimsy cards.
Compared to the cameras you guys have been talking about, I feel foolish asking about the ones I'm looking at.... but I'm going to do it anyway.
I am going to start my first Feature Doc this fall if not sooner, but I honestly only have about $5000 in my bank account and have no car, need to pay for food, rent, etc. so I'm looking at most in the range of the Canon 5D Mark II or the Pentax k-5... Snapsort helped me narrow it down to those two, but something about it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know it's my first doc but I feel like these cameras are just unprofessional. I don't want to be seen as a student making a movie, but I also don't have a car so getting my gear from place t place needs to be a compact operation and I can't afford anything nicer... any suggestions?
Ps. here's the Snapsort comparison: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EOS_5D_Mark_II-vs-Pentax_K-5
In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :
If price is a constraint and you want to use a dslr, I would suggest one of the cheaper dslr's. I love my 5D Mark II, but something like a 60D or t3i would work just fine (and have an adjustable lcd screen). Also, the Panasonic GH2 can produce a wonderful image – you have to take the crop factor into account, but it's a nice doc camera as well. For all of these you'll need an external audio recorder – Zoom H4n is great.
I would recommend a shift in thinking over whether a camera is professional or unprofessional. They are tools – if you can get something cheaper that helps you do what you need to, get it. People take cues from how you conduct yourself. And often times, using a dslr helps on a doc shoot because you are hassled less from police, guards, etc because it's unassuming...
What Kevin says is right on. I shoot a 7D and love it most of the time. But the 60D and t3i is nearly as good as the 7d. Spend your money on audio. Get a good mic. Good sound is probably more important to seeming professional. Ultimately its not the camera that will make things look and sound good. Its you. Good luck.