The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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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.

Sebastian Serrano

Hello John, nice to meet you. Can you help me with my question? Thank you

John Burgan

I'm afraid I can't, Sebastian, but hopefully one of our many members can...

Jason Perryman

Well this seems weird posting in here but after trying t figure this place out, I was told to post my questions here.

So I have made a 23 minute DOCUMENTARY on TIGER SHARKS that I need help trying to DISTRIBUTE. It's about diving with Tigers and then how they get killed in the beach nets, wounding their population etc. It's categorized as part amateur part professional in that it was shot on a home movie SD camera, but I got professional people in post production on it, animation, music etc.

How do I distribute this film to it's potential? What Distribution companies or Acquisition companies can I find to get this film to? How do I find these companies? If so, what's the process of approaching them?

I'm interested in getting this shown anywhere. TV, internet any small channels or being inflight movies etc. I know there's loads of different avenues that could show this film. Does anyone know how to do this or where to basically start? Any help would be a MAJOR push, thank you.

(Nat Geo turned me down. Discovery are useless, can't find a proper person to get it to there)

Rick Dillwood

Has anyone had any experience with CFMDC (Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre)?

I got an email from them expressing interest in a short doc I made last year (exciting!), but I wondered how many of these kinds of offers are legitimate.

They're asking for a $75 lifetime membership fee and a list of deliverables.

Any help would be appreciated,


Jo-Anne Velin

Perhaps contact the DOC association of Canada, either the HQ in Toronto or the regional people, and ask who knows what, or find out from CFMDC which filmmakers are with them and talk to the producers or directors. DOC can help connect you with people who know more, or you may hear about their informal reputation (especially if there are "issues"). Hopefully this is a good outfit – I have no opinion. Good luck!

Mark Wojahn

I am starting an edit with some HD files on an external drive and am not able to open the files up in QuickTime Player10 or in Final cut Pro 5.1.4. When I double click on the file to open it up in the viewer I get the warning bubble that says "Codec not found. You may be using a compression type w/out the corresponding hardware card" I am running an Intel imac on OX 10.6.4. Has anyone had this problem too? Whats the fix? Thanks.

James Longley

In reply to Rick Dillwood's post on Fri 12 Nov 2010 :

Personally, I wouldn't trust any distributor that sends you an email and asks you to pay them money to distribute your film. A good distributor could offer an advance against future earnings if they actually anticipate being able to distribute your film in a mutually profitable way. But a distributor that asks you to pay them is just a scam operation.

Timoty Gibbs

Can anyone talk about the Oprah Winfrey Documentary Club that's premiering in 2011? I understand she's featuring one documentary a month? Anyone think this is a good opportunity? I can't imagine how having Oprah involved with your film could be bad. How can one get a film to Oprah?

Doug Block

Timoty, I think you submit through Annie Roney at RoCo Films.

Jason, wish we could be more helpful with suggestions about distributing your short. They're just very tough to get out there, and you already contacted the two most logical broadcasters.

Timoty Gibbs

Thanks, Doug, I'll investigate. Have you heard anything about this "club"? I'd think if someone like Oprah was looking for documentaries, it would be another great broadcast opportunity but no one seems to be talking about it. Do filmmakers not know about it or is it a bad thing?

James Longley

It is a good thing. Any invitation to watch documentary films is a good thing. Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch! But watch docs. We live in the real world.

Jason Osder

Here is info on the OWN documentary project – you need to click into the Flash site from this link.

The "club" is based on the book club: one doc per month on cable TV and DVD mail order – an invitation to "get off the couch" have a discussion, do something.

I agree with James says: a good thing.

To me, it's sort of like a new model: traditional, digital, hybrid, Oprah.

Laura Moire Paglin

My hunch is – to be broadcast by "the club' that your a doc already has to be successful – a hit on the festival scene, awards, nominations, etc. – I could be wrong of course....

S.Tavaris Belle

I cant remember where I got the information from on the website but a post was made about documentary researchers with there name and contact information. Could somebody help me find it again? I tried using the research tool but couldnt find it

Nadia Hennrich

In reply to Bill Jackson's post on Mon 23 Aug 2010 :

Hi there Bill, I haven't figured out how to post a new thread here, so i am replying to you hoping someone will see this post: fact is I know there are some sound studios specialising on inexpensive sound mix for docs in LA, would you know any places? sorry to bug & thx

Christopher Wong

for my sound mix, i used a really great guy who has a nice little studio in downtown LA. his name is Nathan Smith and he runs a company called NL3 Audio. very inexpensive rates, and he is absolutely obsessive-compulsive about good, clean sound. we had some troublesome air conditioning and street noises in various scenes, and Nathan did a great job with it. tell him i referred you! you can check out his work at

Derek A. Reuter

Hello, my name is Derek and althought I have commissioned documentaries and non-fiction film work before. I am now taking a step to be D.I.Y. and do one myself for a bit of a change of pace and discovery.

I would deeply appreciate any help and advice experienced people like yourselves can offer someone as crazy and adventurous as me. I do enjoy diving head first into a new medium that I have no previous formal training. If anything this allows me to innovate, but none-the-less there are plenty of mistakes I could make that could greatly hinder the products production/budget/success etc and nothing is more important than the product itself and its purpose.

My first question has to do with affordable resources and crew suppliments.
I am mapping out the film schedule, travel arrangements, and appointments with talent and talking heads. Already there is multiple conflicts with traveling with my current DP. So understanding that I can't always drag him with me to every opportunity to film or meet with an individual.

So is there a network out there where I can cherry pick videographers, sound engineers, etc that are affordable or willing to do in-kind work from various parts of the country?

My next question has to do with fiscal agents. I am currently investigating and informing my associates about CID (Center for Independent Documentaries) and am in love with what I have found. Especially as someone who is normally playing the role of being the Fiscal Agent/nonprofit resouce. But these relationships can be competative and there is no guarentee that the board and staff will feel inspired to work with us on our topic/film. Are their other non-fiction film organizations that have a good track record and are experienced at being a fiscal agent? Certainly a documentary based FA would have much greater advice and resources to guide or film to reach the market and viewers.

Last but not least. Considering we still have a few months before filming starts. I have yet to invest budget monies towards the bulk of video and sound equipment needed. Our documentary will be taping multiple live performances/jam out sessions, talking head interviews, stills, and moving shots.

Rigs and all aside. We are currently looking at a Canon EOS Mark ii for filming and stills, can anyone recommend a sound setup that can pair with this camera that will caption quality sound? Or better yet, recommend a video/audio pair that you have found most effective in capturing the essense of asceticism in video and sensation of good sound at a comparable price.

I would appreciate any and all advice on these questions and am always willing to be of service should you have any questions for areas I am experienced in. Agreed these are more questions for the member area but I have no creditals thus far in the genre so membership is doubtful.

Maybe in trade of consulting I can help in your films with an environmental, activist, natural resource management, policy, elections, music festivals, community organizing, nonprofit themes.

Always open and always willing,

Derek A. Reuter

Derek A. Reuter

Thank's john, logging the links now.

I often do things for an altruistic purpose and try to cut costs everywhere I can so that the objective and community benefits are achieved or not compremised. Volunteering professional services on a chartiable or education project is in-kind time. If possible maybe some of these videographers would be willing to help for a day for recognition on the credit rolls, webiste, etc instead of wanting a chunk of the funding. By having a nonprofit umbrella the project and leverage their designation it allows for any person to get a tax write-off (in some cases monies paid later by foundation/invoices not project budget) for the hours, materials, supplies, services supplied towards the project.

Derek A. Reuter

As for "in-kind" work I am offering. Simply ask, each situation I have encountered in regards for help has always been different. If I am unable to help myself I may have a list of resources to direct you to.

Linda Wasson

I'm confused about the various "no student films" or "no student funding" or "film must not have been made while a student" etc. ad nauseum....

what's this about exactly? and does the fact that I'm a student and making a film, even outside of class, automatically target me as someone not eligible for funding??

it's sooo frustrating and just a bit unnerving... the current film I'm seeking finishing funds for and other guidance – it's grown outside of my original class project and truly taken on a life of its own. I'm happy of course and no longer see it as a student film (again, am not sure what that is even supposed to mean!).

can someone help explain this to me please??