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.

John Burgan

Indeed, let's include Asia and the Pacific region as well, they all have highly regarded film schools

Hsuan Yu Pan

Hi there, anyone took The Edit Center's 6-week course before? If so, how does it benefit you in editor's career after the course? I have to decide by tomorrow if I want to take it this month. Thank you. 

carla oppo

In reply to John Burgan's post on Tue 2 May 2017:

 You are right. I just made my first found footage documentary (I won a found footage festival). I need to learn a lot, I'm just at the beginning. I'm looking for a course, not too long because I have not enough money. I was thinking about three months. I wanted to do a found footage course but I cant' find it and I am looking for a classic documentary school. In New York I saw NYFA, I know it's not the best school but the prices are ok. The problem is that the course is only 6 week. I also thought about Cuba EICTV, but it's 8 weeks (too short) or 8 months (too long). Unfortunately I have not enough budget to do very long courses. I won a competition, they will pay for my training but there's a budget. Do you know any other school?

John Burgan

Problem is, I don't think you'll find many courses between 8 weeks and 6 months. If your budget can cover it, why not sign up for two shorter courses in separate locations, for instance one in Cuba and one in Europe? There might be a degree of duplication, but the contrast might be inspiring. Met Film School in Berlin (where I sometimes work) has an eight week course, for instance.

carla oppo

In reply to John Burgan's post on Sun 11 Jun 2017:

 Hi John, thanks for the answer. The problem is that the competition I won finances me only for one course. Right now I'm hesitant between a short course in Cuba and a short course in NYc.

Fania Balabanova

Hello D-word people! I need a piece of advise please.

I plan to make a documentary on the life of people with bipolar disorder in Russia (I'm bipolar myself). I've already found some people, mostly screenplay writers, that are willing to help me with this project.

As this will be my 1st documentary (I only have an experience of making a 10-min short), I'm thinking to take a one-month documentary course at Central film school

Do you think it's a good idea? Or shall I give it a try as is, without taking any course? I feel quite unconfident, to be honest.

John Burgan

I don't know anything about this specific course, Fania, so can't comment on it but there are other similar short courses in London at the London Film School and Met Film School you might consider as well.  

There's a limit what you can do in a month but it could be a valuable experience. It's likely to be fairly traditional in its approach, which is no bad thing; what you're planning, however, is rather more ambitious and not just a standard "documentary".

Are there any other films you know that resonate with you? Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation is worth looking at. You can also learn from Doug Block's work, also his checklist for "personal docs"


Kelsey Killeen

Hi everyone. I'm reaching out to see if anyone on here has their master's in social work, or if you know anyone with their MSW who has transferred their skills into documentary production. Social work and documentary film/storytelling seem to go hand in hand, and yet I'm struggling to find social workers in the creative field. I'm a clinical social worker on a mission to be involved in documentary film or audio production, so I'm looking for some guidance. Thank you!

Sean Robinson

Good morning!

I am new to this forum and am hoping to learn a lot.  Currently I am just a hobbyist.  I have created a few training and promotional videos for the company I work for which is involved with helping to train our troops.  We run simulation drills in a mock village that has cameras installed in various buildings.  We edit the videos, control the atmosphere with smoke and smells, pop up targets, etc. then we edit the video that is captured to produce a training video that commanders can review and use for future training.  It's a lot of fun, especially considering who our customers are.

I am hoping to take this opportunity further to help the training facility promote their site with updated videos for their Facebook page, website, and general training videos.

Thank you in advance for all the help I know that I will receive here to help me become better at what I love doing!

Have a better day!

Alan Oxman

Edit Center Call For Submissions

Since 1999, The Edit Center's unique six-week workshop has brought together independent filmmakers in need of editing help and up-and-coming editors looking to sharpen their skills. Filmmakers accepted into our program get free rough cuts edited by our students, plus input from the award-winning editors who teach our classes and supervise the students’ work (past teachers include the editors of Going Clear, The Cove, Inside Job, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Tree of Life, The Wire, and Mad Men). We are currently seeking both documentary and narrative film submissions for our October/November and January/February sessions.

Past participants in our program include indie-film success stories like Hot Coffee (Sundance, HBO), The Punk Singer (SXSW, Sundance Selects), and A Matter of Taste (HBO, 2012 Emmy Nominee).

If you have a film that could benefit from free post-production help, our application and more information can be found here

James Prior

 Hi, I am new here and a new film student and I just thought I would throw in another option for those of you wanting to do a short course.  Light's Film School have just put a new interactive course online, using the equipment you already own or have access to.  Details here:

Chekechea Pryor

Hi There,

I'm a student filmmaker currently working on my Master's thesis, and I'm looking for an inexpensive transcription house to transcribe my interviews.  I'm also having a hard time finding a stock footage house that has what I need.  I'm doing a documentary on black hair, and I'm looking for old hair commercials.  Any suggestions? 




Juan David Romero

Not sure if this is the place to ask, but I'm having an issue with my documentary film. I am using photos and videos taken by my interview subject to tell his story (besides the video I shot). For example, videos of a live session he did on Facebook, or a video he took with his phone, or a photo taken of his family with a cheap camera. My documentary is in HD 1080. When presenting these images, they look blurry and pixelated in my documentary film. So do the videos. I have seen several documentary films where the documentarian is using old images and videos and they look ok, even on HD. How did they do it? What do you recommend I do? The problem is the person I interviewed doesn't have access to any higher resolution versions of the stuff I need from him. What is your suggestion to this problem? Anyone out there in the film world specializes in these kind of issues?


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