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.

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.