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.

Monika Davidsz

Hi there,
I'm fairly new on D-word and a first time documentary maker, originally from Amsterdam. I've started research for a documentary in New York, the result is the following work in progress trailer:
Question, now what? I would like to put together a crew (director, dp, researcher) and produce myself. Any tips where to start, the process is a bit overwhelming.

Jill Woodward

Monika, if you have funding for your project, the next steps should be pretty easy! Watch the films you like or aspire to be like, find out who worked on them, and see if they are available. Welcome to NYC by the way. I was living in Amsterdam for a couple years not so long ago.

Bonnie Friedman

Andrea – that would be fantastic! thank you. How would I find your email address?

Andrea Feder

Just sent you an email with the release attached. Good luck.

Kevin Hallagan

Hey everybody I have a question. it's pretty basic. I am trying to make personal business cards, but I can't figure out what a respectable title is. "filmmaker" seems too generic, but "Documentary Filmmaker" seems to be limiting. if someone wants me to just edit they would look at "documentary Filmmaker" and figure I wouldn't be ok with only doing the editing. My ultimate goal is to do all of it, the research, the filming, the editing, etc. but I'm ok with someone hiring me to do just one of those things.

What is a good respectable Title that still represents what I do?

Doug Block

How about just Producer/Director? Or Producer/Director/Cameraman/Editor?

Bonnie Friedman

Hi again everybody. I have more questions of course... I am planning a trip to France to screen the finally completed doc for the participants (the few who are left) and another filmmaker has asked if he could schedule other screenings there for me. I have been told that it's not a good idea to have screenings if I am planning to do any festivals. In an ideal world (for me) I could find a sales agent and go straight to a broadcaster, but if I am unable to find an agent I may yet want to try to do a few festivals for exposure.
So my questions are: yes or no on the screenings? And any ideas on how to go about trying to find an agent?
PS thanks again so much Andrea for the release form!

Deborah Dobski

I'm seeking technical assistance surrounding a particular issue. I teach film & video in a high school. In an attempt to move my students into HD, I bought a black magic deck link and installed it into our 4-core mac pro. We edit with Final Cut 6. I'm able to feed an image back from the computer with HDMI onto a HD screen just fine. However, I am having problems with log & capture using firewire from a Sony GV-HD700 mini-DV deck into Final Cut. I found that if I use Apple Intermediate Codec, I'm able to capture on the fly, but in Log & Capture, the deck is not recognized by Final Cut with any Codec. ideally, I'd like my students to use Log & Capture, and I'd also like to be able to feed the timeline in HD back to tape. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Deborah Dobski

Dear Eli: Thank you for trying to help! Where are you in Brooklyn? I teach at Saint Ann's School in the Heights, and live in Carroll Gardens. I've been upstate during the hurricane and just got electric and the internet back and so have just seen your response to my inquiry. – I've seen this thread, but I'm in a stage one step beyond these folks' discussions. With the Sony deck, I've never had an issue capturing HDV. But my desire has been to be able to screen the work in HD on a large monitor, and to be able to print back to tape. As a test of how I understand to accomplish this, I purchased a black magic deck link studio 2 which is supposed to allow the HD image to feed back via HDMI to an HD monitor (which it does) and to allow the HD image from Final Cut to print back to tape. I can't test this second feature because I am totally unable, now that the black magic deck link has been installed, to capture HD footage other than on the fly (i.e. NOT in Log & Capture) and only able to do that while using Apple Intermediate Codec which I don't believe is the correct Codec to be using. So, something I COULD do before installing the black magic deck link, I am now unable to do. And, of course, I have no idea if, once I figure out how to get Log & Capture working again, if I'll be able to print back to tape. Any thoughts, or do you know anyone who has used the black magic deck link successfully? Thanks so much!

Eli Brown

I have 2 blackmagic cards, but don't work with HDV decks, so this might not be completely accurate... but, my guess is that you don't use the blackmagic card to print to tape – it's a converter, for lack of a better description; it takes HD sources and allows you to output those via it's HDMI on a monitor or to a device that takes an HDMI signal. However, it doesn't output back to HDV through the card. So, I would ingest the footage via HDV/firewire, then to output to a monitor, use the blackmagic card (they should install with several easy setups; one of which will probably have a name similar to Blackmagic HDV 1080i or something). To output back to HDV Tape, you'll want to use the Final Cut Easy Setup that is for HDV (not via the Blackmagic card). I'm guessing that in the basic HDV easy setup, you should have deck control restored. The Blackmagic card is looking for an RS-422 deck control signal, probably, which is why you aren't able to see it/control it.

Marina Lutz

Hi Everyone,

The next edition of CINECITY The Brighton Film Festival (UK) is interested in combining a screening of my short film, The Marina Experiment, with a guest lecture, and they wish to know my terms and conditions –

Can anyone recommend what I should ask as a screening fee and lecture fee, in addition to travel and accommodation? I don't want them to think I'm too costly but I need to make it worth my while.

I live in New York.


Kristen Kellogg

I am returning to Bali to film my first documentary. Last year I had the idea, but realized there was still too much I needed to learn before shooting. I took the last few months and worked with a local filmmaker who produces commercials and also makes documentaries. I am now feeling confident and ready to make my film. I am looking for another filmmaker who would like work with me. I could shoot it on my own, but would be great to have another camera and set of ears and eyes. Any suggestions for looking for someone who might be interested. The dates are October 26th-Nov. 11th. Any suggestions to finding someone who is in the area would be greatly appreciated!

Reid B. Kimball


I apologize for this being so long, but hopefully it's not overly complex a question. In summary, I am trying to decide if for my first documentary I should go big or make it small and then at a later time do my grand vision.

I am faced with a decision that I need some help with from those who are more experienced than I.

I am directing and self-funding my first ever documentary. It’s a passion project and I am teaching myself the art of documentary filmmaking, along with all the technical equipment and editing skills needed along the way as I develop the film.

I work on the film part time with my other part time paying the bills and film costs. I realized the other day that if I want to accomplish my grand vision for the film, it will likely take me 2 or 3 more years at this current rate of production.

I’m confident I can do that, but I am worried about the film coming out in 2 or 3 years. My topic is health related, one that I feel can help nearly 60 million in the US alone who suffer from devastating digestive conditions such as IBS, Celiac and Crohn’s disease, the latter I have.

The grand vision of my film is about people with those digestive conditions who use alternative medicine instead of the conventional approaches when they don’t work.

Additionally, it will ask the question, if people like me and the patients I interview can overcome an incurable disease like Crohn’s disease without using conventional medications and surgery, why aren’t more people doing this?

That question will lead to exposing the systemic healthcare and government failings that are prohibiting patient access to healthy food and alternative treatments.

There are also concepts about modern western society being out of alignment with the natural laws of life and so we are seeing more diseases.

Lots of interconnected and heavy topics, and I feel they are important to make the film help as many people as possible. But people need help right now, people are dying frequently from the ravages of Crohn’s disease which eats away at a person’s intestines.

The other option I have is to make a smaller, tighter focused documentary that only discusses the patients and the treatments that have worked for them along with a few key medical experts. I could probably wrap production this year if I haul ass and release it next year.

But I’m afraid of doing that because I want to make my grand vision and I fear that if I make a smaller version first, something will happen and I’ll never get to make that original version of the film I really wanted. Are my fears warranted based on your experiences?
What do you think I should do?

Stay colonized,

-Reid B. Kimball

Rob Rooy

Reid, is there any way you can go for the more tightly focused documentary now, and then still do the big one later? You say you're worried that if you go the easier route, "something will happen" and you won't get around to making your grand vision; isn't also possible that something will happen anyway if you embark on a much longer path to completion?

As someone who has also learned by doing, I would encourage you to choose the more immediate goal first. Especially if you want this film to be seen and be of immediate benefit to others who suffer similar diseases. And, as a newly minted filmmaker, all the things you learn the hard way on the smaller film can greatly benefit you on your next film, when you get to start with a clean slate! My experience is that docs can take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think they will. Unless you're a real glutton for punishment, I'd start small(er).

John Burgan

It's good advice – learn to walk before you run. Good luck Reid and keep us posted.

Reid B. Kimball

Thanks John.

I have a gear question now. I'm using a Sanken CS-1 shotgun mic that requires 48v phantom power. Can anyone recommend a battery operated 48v phantom power supply? I find it's drawing too battery power from my Zoom H4n.

I'm looking for AA battery powered and ultra portability.

Here's a great example of what I'm looking for, but I think it only works for Sennheiser shotgun mics.

Bill Jackson

Reid, this one looks good to me. Phantom Power I haven't used it, but it uses a 9 volt battery and seems to be a good design.