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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

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.

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Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Darla,

Excuse the garble in the previous post, I punched post too hastily, about to go to bed (it's 2 AM here).

Corrected version: By the way, if you edit using a MAC laptop or desktop monitor, you can use PAL without any problem.

A regular TV monitor needs to be PAL or NTSC or both, but the advantage of using digital video on a computer screen is that PAL or NTSC makes no difference. This is why you can play DVDs originating from video shot in either NTSC or PAL on any computer monitor.

I have edited several docs on a MAC laptop with a 17 inch screen, so – if you're trying to save money – I don't see why you couldn't do the same.


Darla Bruno
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Thanks, Wolfgang. My DP actually has a convertor, a MAC, FCP. Though, I'm not choosing him for editing, but I know he can help convert if need be.

I'm no longer worried. I think it's people who give me advice like "find another DP" or get an NTSC camera, that get me all worked up. My DP is the one for this film and his equipment is what it is. The whole thing will be shot in Italy and mostly likely with him and his camera (unless something happens to him between trips – the next one won't happen for a while).

Beyond that, I'm going to enjoy for now. I'm about to meet the best cook in all of (the village that I'm shooting in). So I really can't go wrong as far as I'm concerned :)


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Good. Since you're shooting everyting in Italy and in PAL, convert at the end, if need be.

Since your DP has a converter I'm certain that you'll be able to find a simple and cheap way to deal with this when you've completed your final cut (by the way, that's where FINAL CUT PRO got the name).

By the way, this talk of the best cook is making me hungry! I feel if your story isn't taking place too far away from Rome you ought to invite me over for lunch!


Darla Bruno
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Yes, it'll be good . . . it's in Abruzzo -


Robert Goodman
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Wolfgang – thanks for including Editing Digital Video in your list. One correction – Brian McKernan and John Rice did not write the book. The book was part of a series of books about video that they were supposed to brand. I co-authored the book with my good friend Patrick McGrath.


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Robert,

Of course!!! I'm an idiot – in my haste, and half asleep (it was past 02.00 in the morning) – I copied the names of the series advisors of the book cover and not the authors!

By the way, in your book I discovered my favorite definition of a documentary film.

"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a women, it's a semi-documentary," according to Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, as quoted by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.

I love that one!

Darla, I guess you better run out and buy this one (or get it on Amazon), 'cause Robert is watching!!!


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Hmmm, Wolfgang, I was going to accept your previous apology, but now I'm not so sure... ;-)


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Erica,

What I mean is that it is so off the wall. I can almost visualize this gruff sort of studio legend, barking out a sentence like this. I guess you have to imagine the setting and the context to enjoy it properly.

Also, what he probably means is: "Boring, no sex, no drama." Or something of the sort. I must confess that I thought that it was hilarious!


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

I dunno. I like what Eddie Izzard said at last night's Critics Choice Awards after riffing on the Writer's Strike in purposely broken English:
"Documentaries are nice but not got car chases, so pooh. People who make them have no pants so please give them cash in bags or golden prizes like in running race."


Wolfgang Achtner
Tue 8 Jan 2008Link

Cool. Great idea. Doubt I'll ever have to worry about prizes but cash is certainly better than medals or trophies.


John Burgan
Wed 9 Jan 2008Link

Ha! I knew RG nicked that Zinneman/Cohn quote from my post back in May 2002!


Robert Goodman
Wed 9 Jan 2008Link

perhaps you reminded me since the biography is in my collection?


John Burgan
Wed 9 Jan 2008Link

Yessir! (smile)


Leon Coleman
Thu 10 Jan 2008Link

Hello all, my name is Leon Coleman and I write under the name Lord Baltimore. I know absolutely nothing and need a ton of help.

Long story short, I want to follow a girl's 18 and under volleyball team for one entire 6 month season beginning now and culminating in their championships in July 08. The owner of the club team loves the idea, has given me full access to his team, practices and games. I have enlisted the aide of a very experienced sound/camera man.

And by the way, if this is not the place to ask this question, i apologize to all...

Anyway, the first thing I need to know is if anyway has a sample clearance form I can provide to the coach and players/parents so I can proceed. After that I have some general questions about crowd shots, competition against other girls (who are not cleared) etc. Thank you.

(I posted in "introduce" as well before i knew about this room. sorry.


John Burgan
Fri 11 Jan 2008Link

Google "release form" + documentary and you should find something that fits. Maybe best to check wording with your lawyer to be on the safe side


Joe Moulins
Fri 11 Jan 2008Link Tag

This should do it, Leon.


Leon Coleman
Sat 12 Jan 2008Link

Thank you both very much. I downloaded the form Joe suggested and will do a google seacrh. This is sort of a daunting process. Once I get the girls, coaches and parents, I still have to figure out how to handle it when I shoot a game where that relates to releases from members of the other teams. Any insight or suggestions? From what I have read, if I film a sporting event and don't highlight the opponents, I may not be required to obtain their releases. Your thoughts are welcome.


Monica Williams
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

Hello everyone,

There is a segment in my film where I will need to use many paintings from the 18th and 19th century. I plan to travel to Europe seeking images to use in museums etc. I have a DP that I will be working with soon, so he'll probably have some ideas – but I would appreciate all the advice I could get before speaking with him. How does this process work – obtaining images that are past their copyright from museums. Can I take the photographs myself, and rely on my DP to make them look interesting in post, or will I need a professional photographer with me at all times? If I can acquire the images myself, what camera is best? Do the museums have a special way of making these images available? Will I need to speak with someone at each museum in advance and have special forms? Any other advice I'm not asking for will be much appreciated as well.

Thanks so much!


David Blumenfeld
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

Hi...Can anyone recommend any good Film Workshops for Directing, Writing, etc. in London England?


Darla Bruno
Sun 13 Jan 2008Link

So, thinking ahead . . . now that I have my PAL and sound stuff straightened out . . . I finish shooting in mid-February, and I'm entering a contest with a deadline of mid-April. My DP can edit with PAL (he's in Milan). So, I have the choice of coming back to the States with PAL footage and finding an editor and cutting a trailer (my DP and I may log , but not sure yet). And then trying to get it in in time for this contest. Or, I can try to stay in Italy longer, and work with my DP to edit our footage/cut a trailer. I'd have to pay him something like 375 a day, but it may only take 2 days. . . he'll know the footage. He'll have the software and what we need to edit. (I won't need to rent a PAL deck here or whatever).

Does this sound wise? Moreso then coming back to the US with the footage?

Just running this by you guys.


Christopher Wong
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

unless you absolutely have the EXACT vision for what your trailer is going to be – and you are 100% confident you can get the interview subjects to say what you've envisioned – i have to tell you that it's going to take a lot longer than 2 days to cut a trailer. (i once thought the same thing, but 2 days goes so fast...)

theoretically, it really doesn't seem like it should take that long, but it always does. sure, you could cut a quick 2-minute trailer in two days but i guarantee you won't be happy with it. 5 days sounds like a much better estimation. if you are entering this contest because you actually want to win it, it's probably better to bring all the footage home and find an editor in NY or NJ.

Start looking now for the editor so that you can begin editing as soon as you return from Italy. Honestly, you probably aren't going to attract a top-flight experienced editor with your budget and project. but you can actually attract a decent (though inexperienced) editor for $200/day. 4-5 days editing with him/her will be roughly equivalent to what you would have spend with your Italian DP. If your editor is technically proficient, and you are very clear about what you want, you'll have a good chance at success.


Evan Thomas
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

David hi,

I attended the Panico Film Course a few years back. It depends what you are looking for. The Panico Course is introductory and it ran on Sundays for 6 weeks. It cost me 800 quid back then. Like i said it's more introductory in nature and each week you do a litle bit of this and that. Super 8, script writing, visualising shots etc...and it culminated in shooting a little short in groups of 2-3 on 16mm. It was set-up in the 1980s i believe by a British group who have worked with Terry Gilliam. We had a talk one week from a guy who worked on "Brazil" and another week from Toni Grisoni who wrote Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

I don't live in London but for those that do once you have completed the course you can join the "club" for about 40 pounds a year and they meet once a week socially and you get access to a jobs list.

They offer weekend courses too that are more specialised.

http://www.panicofilms.com/courses/foundation_courses.php


John Burgan
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

David – check out the training programme of the Documentary Filmmakers Group


Darla Bruno
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

Thanks, Christopher –

So any ideas what I should look for in an editor. Someone who has the software, can edit in PAL, has experience with cinema verite, and whose work I like, obviously . . . but should I look on Craigslist? Obviously, too, it's better to find someone local, right? So I can sit with them...


Robert Goodman
Mon 14 Jan 2008Link

What you need from an editor is experience and aesthetic judgment. A track record of excellence in cutting docs. Whether or not they have the software program or not. Editing in PAL is no different than editing in NTSC. The best place to find doc editors is to talk to doc filmmakers and get recommendations.


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