The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

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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.

Jill Morley

In reply to Daniel LaBarbera's post on Thu 23 Mar 2017:

 Hi Daniel,

I recommend you see the film, "The Cruise." It's about an eccentric young man who does bus tours in NYC. I haven't seen it in a long time, but it was filmed in a way that you were rooting for the subject. It was funny and really an interesting window into who the character was.

Think in scenes rather than just "following" him in his life.  What has the potential to be dramatic? Yes, give him direction sometimes.

Just ask the establishments if you can film there. I see you are in New Jersey. Hopefully, your subject has a relationship with a manager or owner. 

Be charming. :-)

As far as the music goes, I kind of forget that one. You might want to ask in legal. I would err on not using anything that you don't have the rights for.  I do know that if you edit with the music that is playing in a scene that it's not kosher.

Yes, parental consent forms are a must.

It sounds like you might need a more dramatic story than what you are shooting for, but it also sounds like you could very well discover it along the way.

Good luck!




Dino Reyes

Hello my name is Dino and I'm a first-time film maker and a documentary I made was recently stolen. 

As far as the backstory, there was one main subject in the doc and I was working with the family on this project. We had much disputes, despite our contract and after the film was completed I was cut out of the project on a whim and the son, the only living heir, decided the film did not have enough of his acting (it's a doc for heaven sakes!) and his music (he was a part-time music hobbiest), so he found a rogue editor to take mine and the production teams work, re-edit and give themselves credit. Because he had the family name, he was able to influence distributors that he was in fact the director of the film and able to make agreements. 

So my name removed as director (and my editors name removed as well) replaced and placed on many sites such as Amazon, Hulu, Youtube etc (for example here: ).

You can still see I'm listed on IMDB as director for the project  (this could not be changed by the offending party).

I don't know much about the industry but I'm curious how often this may happen? Do people know about this? Since all contractual agreements have been shattered is there any recourse? commiseration or any random thoughts would be fine also...

Russell Hawkins

"all contractual agreements have been shattered" - I'm not a lawyer but I think that is the key right there.  Presumably you have a release form and a music contract, but the son has no contract that states that you have assigned ownership of your intellectual property to him. 

If your aim is to regain control of the film, you probably need to engage a lawyer and seek an immediate injunction to prevent distributors from selling the "rogue" film while you pursue negotiations or legal proceedings with the son.

Is the son an integral part of the film?  If he tries to withdraw his participation you may also want to seek legal advice about whether you can release your original version on the strength of the existing release forms and music contract.It may become murky if the son/family have invested in the film (prior to the theft).  If you raised the funds independently of them you probably have a very clear cut case. 

Have you looked into any arts/law organisations that offer legal advice?  You should be able to get at least an initial phone consultation with a lawyer free of charge.  There are several filmmakers on this forum who are also lawyers, hopefully you will get more responses.

I think these instances are pretty rare, it takes a certain kind of personality to just take something like that!  For what it's worth, I am aware of a documentary where the fixer stole all of the exposed film after the shoot and the film was never made. Hopefully your setbacks are only temporary.

John Burgan

What Russell said. Just for the record, this is a Public Topic, hence this discussion can appear in a Google search, whereas all the Pro topics are private. This is aimed at Fans, not Pros, as stated at the top.

Doug Block

In reply to Dino Reyes's post on Tue 28 Mar 2017:

As John said, wish you began this discussion in the Legal topic where it's not public. However, since it's here, I'll just ask: how did your subject get access to the material in order to re-edit?

Bill Jackson

Doug, I wanted to ask the exact same thing. I held off, knowing this wasn't the correct topic, and it might be moved to another topic. It seems the power to stop this was lost when they were given the  material.

Daniel LaBarbera

In reply to Jill Morley's post on Tue 28 Mar 2017:


Thank you so much for the advice! I will definitely check out "The Cruise" today. I am desperate for good references so thank you!  

I did a test-run with Stevie a few days ago, filming him while he trained a new employee for his company. I have about 2 hours of uneventful footage, with a few decent soundbites here and there. I think discovering the story will hopefully unfold as the process continues. 

Kristal Sotomayor

Hi everyone!

My name is Kristal and I'm a senior studying film at Bryn Mawr College! I'm going to be graduating in May and wanted to get some advice on documentary filmmaking labs and fellowships for aspiring filmmakers. I also really want to get into a graduate film program to gain more experience and contacts before starting to make my own feature length documentaries. Mostly, I'm going to graduate soon and I want to spend a year or two honing in on my skills before going to graduate school so any advice that people can offer would be amazing! Thank you so much!