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.

Deleted User

This is Jesse Turner, I'm a film student in Victoria B.C. I am
looking for everyone's personal definition of the "documentary". If
it isn't to much trouble I would really appreciate it if you
contacted me with your full name, an e-mail adress, and your personal
definition (please don't be afraid to be unique and poetic, though
you don't have to.) This is a study I am doing, your work will NOT be
exploited, I am just a very curious individual looking for a
proffesional opinion on the subject. Thank you for your time and
considerations, I am eager to recieve this information and look
forward to becoming closer to this community of brilliant individuals.
(I also think that this topic would make for a good conversation).

thank you.

please send name, doc-definition, and e-mail to
Ben Kempas
Please don't double-post. Most of us do read all topics. Thanks :-)
Doug Block
My definition of documentary is pretty loose, since I love docs that
stretch the form and blur the line between fiction and non-fiction.

I guess I'd define it as, hmmm... I think I better think some more
before I answer ;-)
Doug Block
Actually, post your answers here instead of emailing Jesse. He can
always come back, and it would be valuable to have the answers
John Burgan
"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a woman, it's a
semi-documentary." said Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures: quoted
by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.

I don't necessarily concur with this opinion, but there you go.
Doug Block
How's this...? "A work, such as a film or television program,
presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a
factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news
films or interviews accompanied by narration."

Actually, got this at And it's about 20 years
out of date!

Today, it's more like... a story with a sweeping dramatic arc,
featuring fascinating characters in a highly unusal situation of great
conflict, where the filmmakers had complete access at all times.

Sound like fiction films? Well, check out the HBO schedule sometime.
Deleted User
Thanks these are all fantastic. I look foreward to any others you
may have. Many thanks again, you guys are great.
Ben Kempas
Documentaries are made out of curiosity and manage to keep the
viewers' curiosity alive.

Documentaries are made out of responsibility and manage to make the
viewers aware of their responsibility.

How's that?
Paul Robinson
I have a pretty simple question. I am in the middle of shooting a
documentary on a local heavyweight bower and have had several
inquires already about it. My question is regarding license fees and
broadcasting rights, how much ? One partcular inquiry came from a tv
station in Indonesia ! I would like to have some idea of the price
range before I blunder in and blow the whole deal! Any information
would be greatly appreciated