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.

Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo
Fan

In reply to Kellie Krevosky's post on Wed 3 Jun 2015:

 well its going to sound cliche but it's true: you have to find something that bothers you or get you excited, just start with a phrase or a word and keep studying the subject until you find something worthy. Most important you need to have something to say otherwise its pointless. 

that's my 2 cents! 

Doug Block
Host

In reply to Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo's post on Mon 15 Jun 2015:

 Hi Telmo and welcome.  Usually what creates a story is conflict.  Is there any conflict going on the artisan's life?  Is his shop threatening to close, for instance?  Is he going through some kind of transition?  This is why so many documentaries take place over a lengthy period of time, because time is often necessary to capture periods of transition.

Jesse Zook Mann
Pro

In reply to Telmo Eduardo Covao Azevedo's post on Mon 15 Jun 2015:

 Doug's advice is on point. Unless he is SUPER engaging, and has a lot of archival coverage, talking about the past will likely be pretty boring in a sitdown interview. Now if he was played with the Beatles and narrowly escaped assasination by Interpol... I'll take that back... but if he's not superstar LIGHTNING you have to find conflict. If you don't have the much time to watch things develop, you can look for major events that are happening where your guy is up against something, and has something at stake. Something where he goes in looking to win, and he wins or loses at the end of it. Maybe it's a contest. Maybe its a tough familiy reunion. Maybe its a trip to meet a son he's never seen. Maybe he had an old conflict with a musician after the guy stole his girlfriend and they get back to play together after five years. Pry to see if these kinds of events might be possible to capture. Doc really works when you are watching events unfold in front of you. 

I'm sure some folks here would say it is unethical, but I will produce these kinds of events to happen. Usually it is the only way to get things done on the kinds of time restrictions I generally have for a given project. I try to set things up with as much informed consent as possible, and shoot what happens with as much empathy, and integrity as possible. If that means anything. I stuggle with this constantly... for 15 years.

Austin Anderson
Pro

Hi, 
We have a completed feature length Documentary that has won several film festival awards, and are now looking for distribution.  Does anyone have contacts with a sales agent? 

Please email me for info. 


Bests, 

Austin Anderson

andersonwaustin@hotmail.com

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3220044/

 

log line:
Sharing the Rough documents the never before captured process of the journey of a colored gemstone from mine to market while exploring the challenges of an emerging mining economy in East Africa.

http://www.sharingtherough.com/

http://www.sharingtherough.com/#!copy-of-story/c1aq6

Trailer:
http://www.sharingtherough.com/#!trailer/cjv8

 

 

 

John Burgan
Host

Austin - you look like you would qualify for Pro Membership of The D-Word - you would certainly gain access to a much wider range of advice in the Pro-only Topics

John Burgan
Host

Strangely, there's no sign of a Pro application, Austin, so please go ahead and re-submit. We give all D-Word applicants the automatic option to apply for Pro status as soon as they have registered as a Fan, so this should normally be a straightforward process.

Alain Martin
Fan

Hello All!

First I'd like to announce to this community that this coming July 28th 2015 is the hundredth year anniversary of the brutal occupation of Haiti by the United States. We have a documentary, The Forgotten Occupation, which is headed into post production in the next few weeks. You can see view a clip for the film on our website Theforgottenoccupation.com. 

Anyway, my question is about grant writing. I have spent about 12K of my own money to get this film made.  I figured that's the price to pay as a rookie filmmaker. I am raising 20K on Kickstarter to see the project through post-production and as I write this, we are 95 percent funded with 13 days left. 

I am getting ready to apply for a couple of grants as to have funds for marketing, for a publicist and to apply to film festivals and to cover other expenses as I can no longer afford to spend money from my own pockets anymore. 

The question I have is this: Am I allowed to pay myself? And if so how much is acceptable? I plan on touring colleges eventually with this project and I wont be able to afford spending my own money to do this. So is it OK to pay one's self a salary while applying for a grant, and if it is, how much is OK, particularly for one like myself who is doing this for the first time? 

 

Thanks for any advice I can get!!

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Yes, Alain! Not only are you allowed to pay yourself, but grant-makers will take your proposal more seriously if you budget to pay yourself (since they will wonder how you will get the film finished or distributed otherwise). The fact that you've been able to raise $20K on Kickstarter is a plus since you are already showing there is an audience for the film. Congratulations! 

Kelsey Killeen
Pro

Hi all, I recently turned down a creative staffing job in Boston to move to Chicago on Saturday 8/1. I'm interested in being a creative recruiter and am wondering if anyone has experience with staffing agencies in Chicago. There seem to be a few (The Creative Group, Creative Circle, Aquent, Paladin, etc.), and I'd like to know which have the best reputation in the area. 

Aside from creative staffing, I'm interested in other work opportunities in Chicago related to documentaries, public radio, experiential marketing, etc. I'm essentially a creative project manager (and wannabe producer) who's eager to do interesting and engaging work. 

Please feel free to respond with tips and ideas!

Kelsey 

kmkilleen@gmail.com

Travis Hawkins
Fan

Hi!  New member, just getting familiar with the site.  Some great resources here!

Question: any advice on creating a treatment for a personal, question-based doc?  I'm reading Sheila Curran Bernard's wonderful Documentary Storytelling.  She includes some treatment examples.  But they're for stories for which many of the facts can be gathered before a frame of the doc is shot.  But what if all you have are questions?  

For instance, I wonder what a treatment for Spurlock's Super Size Me looked like.  He could have gathered lots of stats and data, but he would have had no idea how his Mickey D's diet would affect his body.  That was kinda the point of the doc, right?  I'm having an especially hard time wrapping my brain around Bernard's advice to write the treatment in the present tense.

Does this question make sense?  Grateful for any advice!

Thanks,

Travis

Doug Block
Host

Travis, for what it's worth I never write treatments ahead of time.  I'm in the *semi-fortunate position of being a single-person crew, which means I can shoot most if not all of my films before I begin fundraising.  Thus, any treatments are based on footage I've already shot.  If you don't have a good deal of footage shot, you might write one based on what you're hoping will happen.  In that case, however, I wouldn't go into great detail, or pretend you have dialogue or sound bites that you haven't actually shot.

Semi-fortunate in that I have no one to help me carry equipment, which seems to get heavier and more cumbersome every year.  Or someone to distract the subject while I set up, especially if I have to put up a light for an interview.  Or someone to share the driving on long trips. Fortunate in almost every other respect.

Katherine Acosta
Fan

Does anyone’s expertise extend to archival research for doc films?  I’m working on a film about the 2011 Uprising here in Madison, WI and want to use archival news footage and campaign commercials.  The Living Room Candidate has presidential candidate commercials, but I want Scott Walker’s gubernatorial commercials.  Do I have to approach the groups that made those commercials to get them?  Or are there other public sources of that information?

Also, the Vanderbilt archive is pretty good for national TV news, but how do I find local TV news archives?  Do I need to approach the local TV stations individually?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance!

Katherine

Erica Ginsberg
Host

Local TV can be trickier, especially for older footage since they tended to just reuse tapes and not really have an archives. While I am sure our resident archival goddess Rosemary Rotondi might have some words of wisdom, I'd also recommend getting in touch with Brad Lichtenstein from 371 Productions in Milwaukee since I know he used Scott Walker footage for AS GOES JANESVILLE. I don't recall if he used any commercials, I think just news footage, but he might know where the local sources might be for that footage.

Joel Wanek
Pro

In reply to Katherine Acosta's post on Tue 4 Aug 2015:

 Hi Katherine. You might check with local and state universities to see if they have any archives. Here in the Bay Area, San Francisco State University has an impressive television archive. I just worked for KQED here as well and they don't even own much of their own material any longer - they've donated it to SFSU and therefore have to ask to gain access to it when needed. I think it became very expensive for these stations to hang onto all of these tapes for so long and many of them have simply dumped their archives. As a result of it being at a public institution, though, much of the archives are free to access and use.

 

Also, perhaps the folks at SFSU's archive know of people in Wisconsin.

 

https://diva.sfsu.edu/

Adjul Gardner
Pro

I'm about to add a secondary layer to my doc that includes narration and sound effects.  I've read some great books on story (Sheilla Curran Bernard) and of course cinematography...does anybody have a recommendation of material for self-teaching sound effects?  Either written or examples films that use it tastefully.  I'm using it as a comical but metaphorical accent on a certain character and theme and I'm worried about overdoing it.

Kunle Ekunkonye
Fan

I have a rough cut of my first documentary film that I've been working on for 3  years.  How would I go about getting some critical feedback from people at D-Word?

Doug Block
Host

As a "Fan" you can't, Kunle.  From your member profile it's impossible to know the level of your professional experience.  But if you register as a Pro and fill in the form thoroughly we'll certainly take it under serious consideration.

Siddharth Sawhney
Fan

Hi all. New member on-board. Really nice work done on the site.

The question I had was in regards to distribution of documentaries. I am an Indian national who's made a feature length documentary on the issue of Honor Killing and want to distribute it outside India like in US,UK. Is there any resource, website or list of TV channels that I could look up and go about approaching them.

 

Thanks.

 

 

Doug Block
Host

Welcome, Siddarth.  The EDN Guide, put out by the European Documentary Network, would be a great starting point for you.  You might also want to register here as a Pro member rather than just a Fan, which will give you access to many more discussion topics (like Marketing and Distribution).  Make sure to complete your registration form and tell us more about your professional documentary experience.


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