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.

Doug Block
Host

Linda, it really doesn't matter what the reason is. If he's not doing the job, find someone who will. There are many good, young, hungry DP's out there. Not to mention, highly professional and experienced ones.

Linda Wasson
Fan

ahh Doug – I understand what you mean but every time I post on craig's the posts are flagged and removed since I can't pay anything but a credit and a dvd.

we had another long talk last nite. he's definitely overwhelmed w/the subject matter. it's very intense for both of us; he's from S. Africa and old enough to remember apartheid. I can't imagine what's going on in his mind right now.

I'm kinda stumped I think at the responses here. Yes, I understand he's not doing his job but at the same time, this is a creative industry and especially in social justice documentary, I would think people would be offering a bit more insight into how to practice what we preach. altho I have to say, I've met some documentary filmmakers who seemed more ready to jump on the social justice bandwagon for the status symbolism than they are ready to put it into actual practice.

Jo-Anne – your 2nd comment is exactly what I'm referring to.

I'm here in this industry because I want to make a difference – if I can't put this into practice myself then what's the point?

and before anyone accuses me of anything, I'm only being honest and trying to open up a frank discussion in the mentoring room because I was hoping others would help me become the kind of director that shows the same compassion to my crew as I do to the participants/subjects in one of my films.

Doug Block
Host

I'm not suggesting you be an asshole about it, Linda. There are ways of letting someone go that are honest and humane, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you drop them from your life.

But what can I say, if mentoring or providing opportunities for your DP is more important to you than making the best film you possibly can than go for it. If making a difference is what you're after, I'd argue you'd be making a bigger difference to society by making a great film. And if your DP is more of a hindrance than a help in accomplishing that, I'd do what needs to be done. Again, it can be done compassionately.

Laura Moire Paglin
Pro

It looks as if my previous comment was removed. Was it? It was in no way meant to be insensitive. As JoAnne says – without knowing the exact situation – it's difficult to provide specific suggestions other than practical advise about what one would do in such a general hypothetical situation. As a female director myself – I've concluded that it's a waste of time to speculate about whether one's gender commands more or less respect among crew members. I do believe however that it is a reasonable question to ask when dealing with documentary subjects.

I think sometimes being a director means behaving in ways that might feel contrary to one's nature. If you're generally a friendly laid back sensitive person who likes to avoid confrontation , it's sometimes a difficult thing to muster up the courage to tell someone firmly that things are not working out. But you have to do for the sake of your film – and that is really the only reason.

Linda Wasson
Fan

Hi Laura – donno about your other post – maybe the server had a burp or something?

Doug – I hear you, just wanted to make it clear I didn't want to be too hardnosed and insensitive to other people's issues.

anyway – everything's moot now – my dp is now my former dp – he totally choked, flaked out, flew the coop, whatever you want to call it.

I think most of all I just wanted reassure myself I did my best. This has definitely been a learning experience. I've supervised people before, heck, I'm a teacher (tho just subbing presently) and just didn't want this to be business as usual.

I know now it wasn't, that it was him, for whatever reason, he couldn't cut it.

The only problem now is that it's the middle of the semester and everyone is working on someone's film or their own so I might be really screwed with this project. I have reached out so hopefully will be able to continue but am making a plan B just in case.

sigh, live and learn, huh?

Doug Block
Host

yup.

and laura, your post wasn't removed, at least as far as i know. what was so horrible that you wrote?

Jo-Anne Velin
Pro

Everyone here recalls that this is a publicly-viewable topic, right?

Laura Moire Paglin
Pro

Well Doug – I certainly didn't think so – a little tough perhaps – could have been construed as a bit sarcastic.

Jo Anne – thanks for reminding us! Truth be told, I had completely forgotten. Since Linda is a member, she should probably be posting this sort of thing in the production topic don't you think?

Jo-Anne Velin
Pro

This is mainly for Linda (LW, you may know this): If you are not logged into D-Word when you google your name, you will see what everyone with an internet access will see. (the host(s) can delete anything here that was added inadvertantly).

Linda Wasson
Fan

uh ok ? I guess? am not sure what I'm supposed to acknowledge but yeah, I stay logged in...

and no, I don't think this should have been posted in production because I'm a grad student, this is a student film, and I'm new at a lot of this and was looking for mentor remarks, as opposed to mngmnt advice. as a business person, the answer was all too clear but I wanted to make sure I had everything else in mind to consider.

moving on, please see my next q

Linda Wasson
Fan

this film I'm working on, about the formerly incarcerated, seems it's growing day by day and is becoming very exciting to work on.

in school they stress over and over again to concentrate on making shorts (this one will be maxed out at 20min) and IF there is interest and IF there is more to shoot, etc., etc., then consider using the short as an intro to the longer version.

I'm just wondering if anyone here has gone that route before – from a short to a longer version? and how did it work out? how did you make various decisions, like what to use in the short? how long did it take to make the longer version (and how long was it?), etc.

Ian Hawkins
Fan

Hi everyone,
This is my first post for the D-Word but I wonder if you can help?

Sheffield DocFest have invited me to take part in their Mini-Meet Market at the end of the week. They chose and idea I proposed for a doc and now I have to pitch it to them on Friday. There's a panel of film and documentary professionals and I have just three minutes to pitch my idea.

I've never pitched before. Does anyone have any tips on pitching?
What should I concentrate on in such a short amount of time?

Thanks in advance of any help you can offer.

Nicola Lees
Pro

Hi Ian
Congratulations – that's exciting!

First – and most importantly – make sure you really know your idea inside out. What length is it? What's the story? Where does the story begin and how does it get to the end? Over what period are you shooting? Whose point of view are you focusing on? Who are the key characters? How are you telling the story on screen? Using talking head interviews? Ob doc? Rare archive? Animation? And why does this story need to be told now? And indeed, why does this story best told as a documentary rather than a book, magazine feature or photo essay?

Once you've got it straight in your mind you can plan your pitch. Make sure you pitch the story and not the issue or research. The execs will be trying to 'see' your documentary as you pitch it, so make it unfold in their minds with some vivid visual details to bring it to life.

And you only have 3 mins so you don't have to tell the whole story from beginning to end (they'll start glazing over)- summarize it in one sentence e.g. "This is the story of...who...and then discovers that...until... happens". You can then fill in some of the details – how you came to the story, who the characters are and what their challenges are, for example.

The pitch should be a tease that leads to a dialogue. Once they start asking questions – shut up and listen. You can talk yourself out of a pitch by not listening and responding to feedback.

There are a number of articles on pitching here: http://www.tvmole.com/category/tvdevelopmenttips/pitching/page/2/ – scroll down the page and start with the one titled "Six Ways..."

Good luck – and enjoy the experience!

Ian Hawkins
Fan

Hi Nicola, what a helpful answer! You've given real detail and that's what I was lacking. Plus 'shut up and listen' – great advice.

Thanks for the link too. I think my time this week will be spent talking to myself with a stopwatch.

Many thanks.

Doug Block
Host

Along the lines of "shut up and listen," whatever you do don't be defensive. If one of the commissioning editors says only a martian would be interested in your film, nod as if the person is a certified genius. Good luck, Ian.

Sebastian Serrano
Fan

Hi, i have a question about how much Natgeo or History pays for a chapter of 50 min for the US market. Can you help me with it?
Thank you

John Burgan
Host

Welcome, Sebastian. Everyone at The D-Word registers with their full name, so please add your surname to your profile.

Sebastian Serrano
Fan

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

John Burgan
Host

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

Jason Perryman
Fan

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
Pro

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,

Rick

Jo-Anne Velin
Pro

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
Fan

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.

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