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.
Hahahaha yeah, plus it's the French. Oh well c'est la vie!!!
I've really been enjoying digging through this site since I joined a few weeks ago. Thanks to these forums and your profiles, I've gotten to know lots of documentarians and films though your posts and links to your respective websites. I've also been scouring the public areas of the site to gain more insight into the world of documentary filmmaking. Unlike most of you, I am a fan of the genre rather than an aspiring filmmaker. I admire the fact that so many of you are willing to share your experience and knowledge with others in such a supportive, non-condescending way. I'd like to ask a "What would you do if you were me?"-type question that pertains to documentaries. Since it requires some explanation and may be long, I'll leave most of it hidden. Thanks!
Hi Doug, I just saw 51 Birch Street and congratulations!
What a courageous film. For me, courage is such an admirable and rare quality in film nowadays and I'm delighted I saw it.
I had one of those rare life experiences laughing and crying at the exact same time when you clasped hands with your dad at the end.
That's quite a combo, to laugh and cry at the exact same instant; thanks so much for that!!
I have kind of a dumb technical question. When you were behind the camera participating in interviews, did you have a lavalier mike for yourself and a shotgun mike for the talent?
Robert Goodman, I just saw Stone Reader and loved it! I know you didn't direct this (you were the producer) but one of my favorite parts of the movie was the recurrence of various footage of butterflies throughout the film. Was this done to mark out different "chapters" of the movie?
This continual insertion of butterflies into the film reminded me of the recurring scene in Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie where the protagonists are repeatedly seen talking and walking in the French countryside....
Again Stone Reader is great film, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Some great political points too (about ITT and the purchase of the publishing house) very subtly and ably presented.
Thanks so much for helping to bring that to the public. Because I'm a huge fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I think I'm really going to enjoy the book The Stones of Summer, the subject of the movie.
Mossman's quite the scholar.... evidently 1605 was THE year for Shakespeare!!!
I plan to attend a local sports-related consumer show next month, with
an eye toward getting interviews and other shots. I'll use footage shot
in a public-access TV show, and for other things. Any tips or hints?
The eqpt will be loaned to me by the public access station. I will have
interviewees sign releases.
What sort of open-ended questions should I ask? What sort of shots? I'm
brand-new at this, so any help is appreciated.
In order to help you, you need to provide us with more information.
What do you mean by "sports-related" consumer show? Is this a fair, a sort of market with equipment on sale/ What sport(s)? Who do you want to ask questions? People selling equipment, members of the public, buyers?
What is your motivation for filming this event? Why is it important? Is there anything special about the event or the equipment being sold/exhibited here? Is this the first time or is this a yearly event? Is there any special significance for the locals? Will any (sports) celebrity be attending?If so, you need to obatin info about this person(s).
Will someone be demonstrating a sport using some kind of equipment? How big is the arena/sports ground, etc? Why are the organizers putting on this event?
These are things I would try to find out if I had to film this event and in order to figure out what to film and what questions to ask.
The following guidelines are the A, B, Cs of news coverage and they apply to documentary storytelling as well.
Whenever you decide to shoot something, you must ask yourself; "What am I shooting?" and "why am I shooting it?
Then your story must always answer the 5 Ws and 1 H: "Who, what, why, when, where and how."
Everything you need to do (what to shoot, who to ask questions, what to ask) depends on the answers to these questions.
Matt – I will pass along your comments to Mark. There are so many layers in the film it is hard to know where to begin. I can only say that I am very proud to have helped bring Stone Reader to audiences.
First, let me say this won't be a documentary per se, although I hope to earmark some footage for a project I've dreamed of for years.
This is an annual golf show in Minneapolis. It is a fair, where golf courses, club vendors, and a few related others get together on a snowy Feb. day to help people get the snow off their feet and dream of spring.
I'm mainly interested in doing interviews of folks from the golf courses that will appear, doing the 5W and an H in shorter clips. First end product would be a show for local public access TV, with saved footage for the other project I mentioned. After all, they'll be gathered in one location so it'll save time driving all over searching them out.
There will be demos here, and it's in the Metrodome, the huge playing field for the Minnesota Twins and Vikings.
Thanks for the questions. I've written and photographed for magazines for years, but this will be my first foray into the visual documentary-related forum.
regardless of the duration of your story, the mechanics are always the same.
Ideally, each story should have a beginning, middle and an end and answer the 5Ws and 1 H. Given that you intend to do several shorter pieces, you could do one more generic piece and several others, each of which could deal with a particular aspect of the fair that you and/or your audience might be interested in.
It seems like you should be able to put several interesting pieces together.
If you know anything about golf – and I presume that you do – if you answer the questions I outlined (What is this story about and what do I want to show you) it should be rather simple to come up with some interesting questions to ask. You can ask the equipment vendors about gear, the players about form and playing tips, the visitors about ther expectations for the new season, etc., etc.
From what I imagine you'll find there you should be able to put togteher some visually interesting and exciting stories. Try to put some nat sound pieces together.
I can already visualize dozens of stories. Try to imagine YOUR stories visually and that should help you figure out what to shoot.
Chris, quickly read through your proposal. Leaving aside the odds against pulling it off, are you aware of a feature doc that came out a few years ago called My Date With Drew? If not, check into it. It was a small but charming film, came and went and barely made a blip commercially.
In all honesty, hard to imagine any established docmaker being tempted by your proposal. In the end, though, who are any of us to tell someone not to dream?
Thanks for your kind words, Matt. As for the mic, I used a Senheisser ME 63 mounted on the camera. It has the ability to screw on a number of mics with different patterns. I used one with a figure 8 pattern, that captures sound equally in front and behind the camera. So one mic was able to record both of us talking. Came in very handy. Only problem is if I film verite for long stretches without talking myself (and I never know when I might), it picks up a lot of extraneous room noise from behind.
In reply to Chris Hinrichs's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 4:16 UTC :
Chris, I'd make a couple of quick suggestions. First would be to reframe your proposal in tone and presentation.
By tone, I'd suggest not looking at all the reasons why it shouldn't work. I noticed on your site that you're an architect. Think about the proposal in the same way you propose something to a client. You don't tell them all the things that will go wrong (being overcharged by contractors, termites, fire, water damage, floods, famine, family arguments, etc...).
By presentation, while it's okay to have a paragraph teaser, I want to know what the story is. If it's not part of the story, don't tell me. Currently the way you build it up I'm expecting the greatest idea I've ever heard and no idea can live up to that. Obstacles that need to be surmounted are not part of the story, unless...
...that is the story. Which would probably make a very interesting documentary – "Guy faces insurmountable odds to make incredible idea a reality. Does he or doesn't he?"
I would also recommend trying to hook up with someone in your area, a friend with a camera or an aspiring filmmaker, and work together on moving the project forward. As Doug mentions, it's unlikely that established docmakers would be tempted, or being tempted, it may not be in the way that you're envisioning.
You also may want to start smaller. Instead of an A-list star, why not a local celebrity in your area. They're much more approachable and the idea would be the same. It might make the idea more attractive to more established filmmakers and celebrities.
Doug, Thanks for taking a quick look. If you read the whole thing I specifically address My Date With Drew and how the two are very different films. Perhaps I need to do a better job of articulating just how different it is. Believe me, I know it's an incredibly tough sell. I know the chance of it ever getting made is next to zero. That's what intrigues me the most – the impossibility of it. I hope you find the time at some point to look at more of the material, but I completely understand that it's not for everyone.
By the way, I wanted to compliment you on 51 Birch Street. I saw it a while back and thought it was excellent. I recommend it often.
Boyd- Thanks a lot for your thoughts. It's the kind of feedback I'm looking for. I will consider the things you've said. Your comments about the tone are well-taken.
I suppose the best thing is for people who have thoughts to e-mail me directly so I don't hijack this forum. You can e-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
chris, in an effort to procrastinate from further fundraising activities, i read your entire proposal for your "dream doc".
i can safely say that you're CRAZY! having said that, i think it's a good kind of crazy, and the shared gene that most of us aspiring and established docmakers possess. plenty of people have been told their projects have absolutely no chance – and a fortunate few have actually persevered and finished their projects with great success.
however, i would really challenge you to re-evaluate WHY you are doing this project. at the same time, i would challenge you to think about why you are not doing a DIFFERENT documentary project. To me, this project seems too frivolous and insubstantial for someone like you, who admits to admiring the direct cinema and verite work of masters like Maysles, Kopple, James, etc... i'm no psychoanalyst, but you seem like you might have a more "worthy" doc in you to produce. by "worthy", i don't mean that it has to be intensely depressing or socially conscious – it can have humor and spontaneity and whatever else fits your personality – but it has to have something at its core that inspires you.
The "impossibility" of making something is not reason enough to try. You need to combine "impossible" with "irresistible" to really have a film worth making. if you write a proposal that convinces everyone why you "can't NOT make this film", then you actually might have a chance. right now, i read your proposal, and just see a guy who says "why not make this film"? there's a big difference.
i don't want to discourage you, just refocus you... btw, if i didn't think you had it in you to actually make a doc film, i wouldn't have wasted my time writing this reply. good luck!
In reply to Doug Block's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 :
I'm intruiged by those Sennheisers. I like the modular concept very much, the interchangeability. It did an excellent job of picking up your voice from behind!
When you didn't speak for long periods and extraneous noise made it on to the sound track, did you squelch it in post?
What do you think of my proposed setup of a Sennheiser shotgun mike (i.e. unidirectional) with a lavalier corded mike on myself, since I will be tethered to the camcorder anyway?
I was thinking this might solve the problem of excess noise coming from the back end.
Your thoughts? Thanks for your help!
Re- looking for an editor,collaborating at a distance, transcription.
Boyd, thanks for your suggestions.
Everybody else- thanks for the tips.
Question: everybody seems to agree that it's a good idea to have interviews transcribed. Have people had luck going on Craigs list? I know there are professional services but they seem to run $150+ per hour of tape, and we have a lot of tape. Since the transcripts are just a searchable tool not a finished product, I am wondering if this is one case where cheap = good??? Thanks!
Matt, your setup sounds fine. Probably better than mine, actually. I just like to put the camera down from time to time.
dean, no reason to have to pay $150/hr for transcription work. i've found quite a few for $115/hr and under. in fact, there are some who charge per hour (only $20-25) and since they usually don't take more than 4 hours to transcribe each tape, it's the most affordable for me to be billed per hour of labor.
it also depends on what kind of footage you have. if it's all interviews, then pretty much anybody who can type fast (and who has the capability to insert TC simultaneously) can do it. if it's verite footage, and you actually want descriptions of how people are moving, what kind of shots are being employed, and every single comment noted, then i do think it matters who your transcriptionist is. but most people either don't have that kind of footage, or don't need it transcribed.
if you need some references to transcriptionists, i'd be happy to email them separately to you. you can then contact them yourself, and have them send you samples that you can review to see if they're a good fit.
You might try going to Craigs list and doing a search for experienced legal secretaries between jobs/assignments.
They are highly literate (having worked in law offices) and are used to doing lots of transcription from recordings that I know are lower quality than yours.
For example, the average legal secretary salary in the SF Bay Area is 75,000/yr. which works out to $37.50/hr., assuming you work 2000 hours a year.
This should save you big bucks and provide very high quality.
Hope that helps!
Hi, I'm very interested in United States documentaries/political movies from the 1930s, most especially US depression era cinema with political content. I need them to be US only; my studies of Soviet montage and Riefenstahl is a separate and intense study.
I just saw Our Daily Bread (1935) which had some excellent cinematic qualities and the climax with the irrigation ditch being completed is truly fantastic cinematography with some real live action surprises.
Any other recommendations?
I just transcribe 2 hours of interview footage using an app called MovCaptioner. It was 20 bucks or so. Here's the link:http://www.slidesnow.com/movcaptioner/
The great feature is that it has a loop function so it plays over and over again sections until you get them right. One idea is to put all your footage (copies) and a copy of the application on a drive and let the person you get to transcribe your stuff use it. Then have them give the drive back to you.
Not sure how others work, but I transcribe much of my material, since a lot of it is in Chinese and I need to translate it at the same time. I find it's helpful to note pauses, repeat words, cross talk, etc. as it helps in the paper edit. I'll even mark specific sections that I know are definitely going into the film.
One thing to remember, even with a transcript, you still need to sit and watch everything – how a thing is said is as important as what is said.
Christopher – when you have your stuff transcribed, to you get a verbatim transcript?
boyd, when you say "verbatim" transcript, what exactly do you mean? do you mean one that includes notations for all the pauses, stuttering, and other odd noises that occur during the subject's interview or conversation? do you also mean one that describes each shot as it changes?
for my project and my budget, i only have interviews and the most important conversations transcribed. my transcribers generally include notations for long pauses, "uhs", and stammering in their transcripts. i do not have them include shot types or any background conversation that happens simultaneous to the subject's voice(s). incidentally, i also send hard drives to my transcriptionists – it's slightly more expensive in the short run, but it really pays off in the end in convenience and in the number of clips i can include in one mailing.
btw, that app MovCaptioner sounds great. i really like that play over function that you described...
Dean, I've done this before for translations/interpretations and break it down a little differently than for an elaborate shot list that requires lots of visual cues. But if you need mainly spoken and audio cue text, with some key visual cues, you're welcome to email and perhaps we can work something out. Please use email@example.com if so. What are your deadlines? I am not operational 01 – 17 Feb, and a colleague needs help (I will start on his as soon as it arrives – not expecting it to take too long).
Dean It's too late for me to go into the previous message and make a change: if working directly from tapes, I can't help you. I would need DVD(s) with burned in time code (or could improvise from the player's time code – not ideal but not a big deal if this is the first cut from the raw tapes: you'd find your place easily enough).
Christopher, I'm thinking exactly what your transcribers are doing, with the uhs and long pauses. Do they or can they notate when there is a change in tone within a sentence? I've noticed sometimes that a person will start a sentence, have a thought and change gears in the middle. It still looks like one sentence on paper, but is actually two distinct thoughts (and couldn't work as a sentence.)
As for shot descriptions, I do that myself when I log the tape, and I'll highlight things that standout, even with dialogue that might be transcribed later. The type of shot within an interview doesn't matter, only if there's unusable camera movement.
I've also done variations, with no transcription, but more detailed logging – where with an interview I'll write down what topics they are talking about, with timecode, and transcribe specific passages that come across well. In FCP I'll use markers and subclips to divide things up into specific bins.
One cool side benefit of doing translations – with the workflow I use – is that towards the fine cut stage, I end up with dedicated video tracks with subtitles using the FCP outline text generator. I can actually export those and come up with a word document with all the text and timecode. That way as I near a finer cut, I can basically export a "script". It's great to be able to read it and see how the cut I have is developing as a story or where there may be gaps.
Thanks for all the suggestions about transcribing. I don't think I need super-detailed transcripts, just the basic dialogue in a searchable digital format so when I want to find every comment about "subject X" I can easily locate them.
But I am a little confused about the best format to use for the clips – I want something easily shared, with reel# and timecode, visual as well as audio, and easy for the transcriber to start and stop. I was going to just make low resolution QT clips with timecode burned in and assume the transcriber can play them back and forth as needed. Does that work? That way I could share everything by ftp. Thx!
boyd, i haven't asked for the transcriber to notate any "tone changes" in a subject's speech, but i'm sure that would be helpful to have somewhere. but i'm assuming that would add time and money to the transcription. the only tone change that would be easy to note would be a "..." between words.
dean, what you've described would definitely work. the only disadvantage of that method is that it's going to take you awhile to render BITC to each clip, and then export out each compressed file. but if you've got the time, any transcriptionist should be able to handle your footage perfectly well.
one alternative is to buy a cheap hard drive, load all of the full resolution QT clips you want transcribed on that drive, and then send that to your transcriber. using that method, you don't have to include BITC, b/c QT can automatically bring up each clip's native TC in the viewing window. (btw, if you compress your clip, we've found that you lose that track that remembers the native TC.) if you choose to do this, then just be sure that your transcriber has the same system (Mac or PC) that you have. if you have a Mac and they have a PC, then you'll have to buy a copy of MacDrive ($40) so that they can read your drive properly. That's what we ended up doing, and MacDrive works like a dream (despite what some of the reviews said).
Matt, presume you already know most of Pare Lorentz' work:
Dean, wish I could offer you advice beyond the great ideas others have already shared here. I actually transcribe my own films...which is one of many reasons they take so long. I don't do it out of thriftiness alone but also because it makes me more familiar with the nuances of the material. What you may want to do with all your footage is to do a first look-through and jot down notes of key quotes you like maybe with a system of keywords (your "subject x"). Then narrow that down to the tapes you know you want to use and give that to a professional transcriber.
I'm back . . . well, not really back . . . I'm shooting this week and next, and things are going really well so far. Better than I could expect, yet there are things I didn't anticipate, like how hard it is to direct when you don't speak the language!
So, now that I'm working in a context, I need to revisit a question I posted a few weeks back. I'm shooting in small village in Italy and while the Italian spoken here is not necessarily dialect, it's . . . well, it's its own thing.
But my dilemma was that my DP goes back to Milan when we're finished, and I go back to the States. I'd like to begin editing when I get back but I'll need to hire someone fluent in Italian (and especially astute to pick up this particular Italian spoken here).
How does it work with you're shooting in a language that's not your own in terms of translation? How does the editor work in another language?
I'm back to wondering if I should just work with my DP on this – like stop the shoot a few days early and sit with him and edit (it's the only way we can be together) (otherwise, he goes back to work the day after the shoot is over) . . . or do I go back to the States and find an Italian-English speaking editor?
We'll have about 20 hours of footage on PAL (we don't need to go into that again).
Darla, why not simply find someone who understands the dialect to help you make english transcripts from the footage? Plenty of editors cut footage referencing the transcripts but without speaking the language.
Good idea, Doug. That's what I'm thinking – so I'm going to ask a very basic question now. . . how would I do that? Give them the footage? Sit down with them? Would they type it out? Record it (so essentially it would be like dubbing?)
Darla, I've edited extensively in Chinese and my grasp of the language is really poor so I've come up with a method that works for me (and your mileage may vary).
Not sure what system you're using, I use FCP, but this method should work in other NLEs. I put each captured tape or clip in its own sequence. I then go into the Text Generator and select Outline Text. You may want to spend a little time here playing with the font, size, and outline. Don't make it too big or too small. And watch your placement in the canvas – you want to stay title safe.
I then drop that onto track 2. I try to work in small increments, with 3 seconds being about average. In longer sentences, I could have 2 or 3 or more text clips. On the timeline, these are very easy to duplicate with Option+drag. If there is more than one speaker, I dedicate separate tracks for each one. I try to stay with one line, maybe two lines of text, but never more than 2 lines per subtitle.
I start each text clip on the frame they start speaking, and end it on the frame they end speaking. While that's not what I'd necessarily do for the final subtitling, it's important for the initial edit.
The text generator is very graphics intensive and I find after about 10 minutes or so, each clip needs to render and my computer starts running slow. At this point, I'll split up the clip (depends on how long your captured media is).
The last thing I'll add is the TC reader. Once that's in, I'll export each sequence out as a QT movie. Then I"ll reimport that movie back into the project. I now have my translation on the media and I can edit it like any other dialogue footage. I don't need to reference back to a paper translation and try to figure out which word means what.
As I near a fine cut, using the time code on the QT files, I can go back to the original sequences, and cut in the original footage with the subtitles. Again, depending on how many subtitles you have, this may be graphics intensive. For my last project that was 45 minutes long and had a ton of subtitles, I created sequences for each chapter, then nested them, so my main sequence had 9 nests in it.
Some additional thoughts. You may want to have more than one translator look at your footage. There are subtleties in language that are really important in editing. What a person says and what a person means can be two different things and a straight translation often doesn't help you with that. Speaking only for myself, I base a lot of editing decisions, and story development, on the meaning and subtext of the words, not only on the words themselves.
The other part of this equation is that a verbatim translation may be disjointed in English, so there is a trick to constructing the English phrasing, that sounds good, with good word choices, that is faithful to what was actually said. It depends how good the translator is, and how fluent they are in both languages.
Anyways, just one workflow option. May not be the best, but it works for me.
Can anyone recommend digital production software for a PC. Adobe and Avid seem to be the top of the line. I'm a newcomer, so maybe I'd be able to get by with a prosumer version, before moving on to the higher level professional grade stuff.
I suppose the most important features would be multiple video/audio track import and editing (with storyboard interface) and a comprehensive selection of web conversion tools.
Whoever writes your translation needs to transcribe the material exactly as you'd do if it were in English. This means that you need to write the timecode corresponding to the begininng of each sentence (or paragraph, then you write the text corresponding to the sentence or paragraph and immediately after you write the timecode corresponding to the end of this bite of dialogue/commentary.
In this manner, your editor has the "in" and "out" points for each sentence/paragraph just as she/he would if they were editing in English, so it makes no difference at all.
This is a sample of a transcript in Italian of commentary by actor/director Nanni Moretti (he's telling a story in a theater in Pescara (from a documentary of mine about Nanni Moretti).
MORETTI A PESCARA 1/3
00.12 Allora… Io proverò a raccontare il mio rapporto con la politica… Poi […] mi interromperò tra un pò quando arriverà Luciano D’Alfonso per il suo saluto. Proverò a raccontare il mio rapporto con la politica in questi ultimi trent’anni, naturalmente soffermandomi di più sull’ultimo anno e mezzo che, imprevedibelmente soprattutto per me- mi ha visto in prima persona persona impegnarmi in politica… Non me lo sarei mai aspettato da me stesso… 00.54
00.54 … Ecco quindi incomincerò molto da lontano, andrò molto veloce… Naturalmente anche… E andrò veloce anche perchè il mio rapporto con la politica è stato così… Intermittente come quello di tanti cittadini, a volte più interessati, a volte meno… A volte delusi, a volte impegnati in prima persona… 1.18
1.20 …Ecco, il sessantotto –credo che molti di voi siano nati dopo il sessantotto- il sessantotto è arrivato un pò troppo presto per me, io ho fatto politica un pò a scuola… gli ultimi tre anni di liceo dal ‘70 al ’72. Nel sessantotto la mia giornata tipo era la mattina a scuola dove abbastanza mi annoiavo… 1.50
1.50 …Il pomeriggio al cinema Nuovo Olimpia, che era un cinema d’Essai molto famoso a Roma – ogni giorno cambiava film, vecchi film, classici… – e la sera in piscine: giocavo a pallanuoto… Tra parentesi: la mia ultima partita di pallanuoto l’ho giocata proprio qui a Pescara nell’estate dell’86, chiusa parentesi. 2.13
2.13 Ecco quindi questa era la mia giornata tipo nel ’68 e… Diciamo che ho cominciato un pò a interessarmi… Un pò a fare politica qualche anno dopo: gli ultimi due o tre anni di liceo. E devo dire che almeno per quanto riguarda così la…La Sinistra extra-parlamentare di cui io facevo parte… 2.41
Here's an example of a transcript in English (from my documentary on The Transition).
Wilton Wynn – part 1
00.28 WOLF: Ok, go ahead Wilton…
00.30 WYNN: I was in the piazza the evening that Pope John died, watching his window, and the contrast – he was very loved, as you know: a lovable Pope, very popular… he had been ill a long time and now he died, but… There was a crowd in the corner of the Piazza- …Nothing, nothing… Nothing to compare with the vigils over there during John Paul’s last illness as a reflection of the tremendous impact of the person, of the man…
1.35 WOLF: You were mentioning that with the death of JPII something changed in your life too, what exactly were you talking about?
2.04 WYNN: Well… I’ve been a newsman for more than forty years, a foreign correspondent. I retired twenty years ago but I’ve continued to keep an eye on things and to do some writings, contributions to different magazines. But my last great story was Pope John Paul the Second and with his death, that brought an end to my career. That was it.
2.35 There is nothing more. I don’t follow things as a newsman anymore, I read the newspapers and watch tv, but I’m not there myself, I’m not in contact myself with these news sources. And I hadn’t realize that it would make such a difference, but I see it now!
2.58 WOLF: But Pope John Paul made a great difference even in your life. I remember once you told me you became Catholic after covering JPII…
3.11 WYNN: Very interesting… The newspaper USA TODAY at the time of the Pope’s funeral carried, half a page, a story about how an old newsman like me became a Catholic after covering trips of the Pope and getting closer to him. It was… he never tried to convert me, we’ve talked together about his thoughts, his ideas and so on… he never…
3.45 WOLF: Tell me how it happened.
3.48 WYNN: I started with his first trip to Mexico, just two months after he was elected Pope, and you know… I’ve flown with Pope Paul before him – a couple of trips and Pope Paul used to come to the press section of the plain and his secretary would read our name-tags and introduce us and the Pope would say “Happy to have you on board. Thank you. Welcome,” and go on.
4.18 And I’ve wondered “Would this Pope be the same?”, but we heard he was coming back to talk to us. And we all were lined up to meet him, one at a time. I happened to be there, I think I was number 2. When he came in, I didn’t know: should I ask a question or should I just do the greeting? I decided I’ll ask him a question to see if he’s ready to talk.
4.45 I asked an innocuous question: “Would you ever like to visit United States?” He stopped, he looked down at the floor and thought a moment, and then he said: “I think it will be necessary though the date has not yet been set.” 5'00
When you get to the editing stage, you arrange the translated paragraphs of transcript in the desired order just as you'd do if it were English dialogue. You write the tape number and the timecode of every selcted sentence/paragraph, that way, your editor just cuts and pastes each soundbite as though it were English. Working in such fashion, there is no need for you – or the editor – to understand the foreign langueage in which your subjects have spoken.
The "In" and "out" points also give you precise reference points for the beginning and end of corresponding subtitles or translated dialogue.
Herewith you can see a small bit of version 1 of the script of The Transition. In this case, there were 7 different versions of this script, in others there have been many more.
WORKING TITLE: “THE TRANSITION: FROM THE DEATH OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE INSTALLATION OF POPE BENEDICT XVI.”
Copyright by Wolfgang Achtner
FIRST DRAFT: DEC 10, 2005
Thursday, March 31, 2005 – Graphic re Vatican statement
Wilton Wynn 1
17.28 WYNN: At the beginning I thought he would recover, because I had gone through so many of these cases where, [as you say], he would collapse or he would have to be rushed to the hospital. And then there would be days of uncertainty. And then, in the end, he would emerge. And I, somehow, had the feeling he would come through this one, as well. I kept vigil when he was shot back in 1981, I guess it was. Well, we didn’t know then: he was between life and death. And then he went on and on. All his illnesses, his operations, his falls, and so on, 18.12 So that we were kind of used to his going to hospital and having medical bulletins every day, and all that. And then, he’d slowly emerge.
18.24 So, it was of course – as days went by, you know – it became clearer that this probably would be the end. Especially when the Vatican made no secret of the fact that it was extremely serious. But at the beginning I thought he had pulled through.
John Thavis 1
4.30 [I think it was interesting because] even the Vatican, at that point, was preparing everyone for the Pope’s death. And yet as the Pope hang on, for another day or day and-a-half, we in the Vatican press-room began looking at each other and thinking “Is this gonna be another round? Are we going to see him come back to the window one more time perhaps?” Well, it was not to be.
4.56 But the fact is: this Pope bounced back from so many physical adversities that we’d become kind of used to it. And there was a sense, even among reporters – who had been waiting for the end for so many years – that maybe they weren’t there yet.
John Allen part 1
30.26.0 Well, for one thing, John Paul II hadn’t been just suffering in the last 6
months of his life, he’d been suffering for the last several years of his life. f, at all the different times people had written him off, that he had actually gone off the stage, he would have died a thousand deaths. So, I think part of it was, it wasn’t clear until the very very end that this was going to, in fact, be the end. A lot of us who had been tracking this fully expected him, even in February, when he went to the Gemelli, even in March, when he went back, we fully expected that he would pull through and continue. I fully expected to be accompanying him to Cologne, last August. 31.00.04
And so, I think one point is that he, I don’t think that he himself probably understood until 48 hours, 72 hours before his death, that this was, in fact, his final act. This has always been a very determined Pope and so on. Probably, the most fundamental variable here is that John Paul was determined to allow his suffering to play out on the public stage because he saw it as a teaching moment. That is, he thought he understood himself to be teaching the world how to accept death. With grace and with dignity. 31.35.03
John Thavis part 1
2.18 THAVIS: I think really that’s how his entire pontificate was lived. On the world’s stage from the very beginning. And it would not have been in character for him to go and hide behind the curtain in the final stages. I think he also had a spiritual message here and (…) he knew that he was going to be suffering. He knew he had a disease that was going to keep him down, if not out, for several years. And I think he probably made the decision that he would not hide behind the Vatican walls, that he would allow the world to share in this as well as it shared in the early more energetic phase of his pontificate.
John Allen 1
31.35.03 In a culture that worships youth, and worships efficiency, and worships beauty and so on, I think he probably felt that this was a powerful counter example. 31.45.04
Here you can compare – just for your curiosity – the final version of the feature-length version (105 minutes) of the documentary; I also did another 52 mnute version. As a matter of fact, whenever I do a feature-length version of a documentary, I also ALWAYS do a 52 minute version. There are different markets for the different types of durations.
SCRIPT: “THE TRANSITION: FROM THE DEATH OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE INSTALLATION OF POPE BENEDICT XVI.”
© 2006 by Wolfgang Achtner
Attn.: English translation included under original text (in Italian) of homilies.
Crowds in St. Peter’s Square
SUPER: Friday, April 1, 2005
John Irvine, ITV correspondent – standup
IRVINE “Here in St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope so nearly lost his life to an assassin’s bullet,”
SUPER: John Irvine, ITV
IRVINE “at the start of his papacy, there is a growing certainty that that life and that papacy are now growing to a close. A remarkable life, ebbing slowly away, up there, in the papal apartment, where John Paul has lived for the last 26-and-a-half years.”
SUPER Wilton Wynn, Author, “Keepers of the Keys”
WYNN: At the beginning I thought he would recover, because I had gone through so many of these cases where he would collapse or he would have to be rushed to the hospital. And then there would be days of uncertainty. And then, in the end, he would emerge. And I, somehow, had the feeling he would come through this one, as well. I kept vigil when he was shot back in 1981, I guess it was. Well, we didn’t know then: he was between life and death. And then he went on and on. All his illnesses, his operations, his falls, and so on. So that we were kind of used to his going to hospital and having medical bulletins every day, and all that. And then, he’d slowly emerge.
WYNN So, it was of course – as days went by, you know – it became clearer that this probably would be the end. Especially when the Vatican made no secret of the fact that it was extremely serious. But at the beginning I thought he had pulled through.
THAVIS Even the Vatican, at that point, was preparing everyone for the Pope’s death. And yet as the Pope hang on, for another day or day and-a-half, we in the Vatican press-room began looking at each other and thinking “Is this gonna be another round? Are we going to see him come back to the window one more time perhaps?” Well, it was not to be.
ALLEN Well, for one thing, John Paul II hadn’t been just suffering in the last 6
months of his life, he’d been suffering for the last several years of his life. If, at all the different times people had written him off, that he had actually gone off the stage, he would have died a thousand deaths. So, I think part of it was, it wasn’t clear until the very very end that this was going to, in fact, be the end. A lot of us who had been tracking this fully expected him, even in February, when he went to the Gemelli, even in March, when he went back, we fully expected that he would pull through and continue. I fully expected to be accompanying him to Cologne, last August.
ALLEN Probably, the most fundamental variable here is that John Paul was determined to allow his suffering to play out on the public stage because he saw it as a teaching moment. That is, he thought he understood himself to be teaching the world how to accept death. With grace and with dignity.
Crowd at night in St. Peter’s Square
You will notice that in Version 1 there are NO indications regarding video and that's because I've mapped out the video on a separate sheet(s) of paper. After the logging process, I have memorized EVERY SINGLE SHOT – in this particular case it was more than 60 hours of video – and I've written the script in accordance to the rough video outline that I've drawn up indicating how the video should be used.
I have noticed that, as a rule, once I've memorized all the video and transcribed all the dialogue it only takes me a few hours to write the script of the documentary. Once I've written the script, I may later make minor changes in to it in several places (leading to different versions) as I go along, but I've already constructed the documentary in what pretty much corresponds to its final shape.
It can take me 7 to 10 days or up to two-and-a-half weeks to log all the video, but then the first part of the hard work is done. Equally important is obtaining a complete transcript of ALL dialogue. That's the second part of the hard work. Once I have all the transripts, I usually need only one or two days to write the script. As I wrote earlier, the actual writing process only takes me a few hours, once I decide how to use the video. With the video outline in mind I build the script paragraph by paragraph picking form the transcripts of all the dialogues and writing eventual commentary (in those rare cases it might be necessary).
At that point, I can usually edit the first cut of a documentary in under three weeks if I'm in a hurry (I usually edit approximately 10 to 12 hours a day), and – in most occasions – make the final cut in 6 weeks time.
Initially, with regards to the video, I write down a note referring to a rough sequence and once I start editing I cut every sequence in detail, that means I lay out every shot in the desired order.
Usually, I start editing at the beginning, even though the beginning may sometimes change (in certain documentaries it changed several times), and I keep editing on a straight progression towards the end; the end may change itself several times. Actaully, on documentaries where the story is ongoing, I have often continued to shoot after I'd already started editing and usually the end was discovered during this additional shooting phase. In the case of my last documentary, this was true also for the beginning.
re translation Boyd wrote:
"Some additional thoughts. You may want to have more than one translator look at your footage. There are subtleties in language that are really important in editing. What a person says and what a person means can be two different things and a straight translation often doesn't help you with that. Speaking only for myself, I base a lot of editing decisions, and story development, on the meaning and subtext of the words, not only on the words themselves.
The other part of this equation is that a verbatim translation may be disjointed in English, so there is a trick to constructing the English phrasing, that sounds good, with good word choices, that is faithful to what was actually said. It depends how good the translator is, and how fluent they are in both languages."
Translation is a vey important item. Working in Italian and/or English I don't have any problem because I'm fluent in both (I write books in both languages). If your grasp of a language is not this good you need to get the best translator you can; it may cost you but it's definitely worth every cent. Unfortuneatly in Italy they always try to save money – but you get what you pay for – so I've heard terrible translations even on important channels like Dicovery or History channel in Italian where the translation completely missed the point.
You need a great translator and this person also needs to know how to write extremely well in English so your English dialoge will be perfect.
What I mean is, one doesn't take liberties with the meanings but you need to render dialogue exacly as if those people were speaking in English themselves.
That means understanding complex sentence constructions that might be the opposite of English, with the verb at the end or vicevresa and it also means understanding complex techncial verbiage (medical or legal) if need be, and last but not least, the abilty to render in proper English the correct equivalent of Italian idiomatic expressions, proverbs, syaings, etc.
Your dialogue in English must be perfect, exactly as if the people had been speaking in English. Get the best, most competent, professional translator you can find!!!
Question for those producing docs, how much of your work falls under WFH (work for hire)? and how much of your work do you retain copyright too? I'm just trying to figure out (mostly for myself as a freelancer) when work for hire is okay and when i should be demanding better terms. I'm mostly referring to producing a full piece from start to finish. I know work for hire is fairly standard if you are working as a shooter, or editor, but what about when you are doing it all and the original story idea is yours? Does it make a differents who the client is? whether it is a NGO or network? Any insight on this would be great!
Paul...go with Adobe. I'm not sure if they have a Premiere "lite", but if you stay on a PC you'll eventually work with Adobe software. Better to invest your time and energy in one interface that will be the standard for years to come.
Or, this might be the time for you to switch to a Mac....
wolfgang, i'm sure you've got some very solid advice there for darla, but i think it might be better if you use the "Hide" function next time (especially for the super-long transcripts you included). thx.
andrew, if you are doing signficiantly more than just shooting/editing, but actually directing and producing the entire piece, you should definitely be demanding better terms than your normal work-for-hire rates. that could be whatever you negotiate (e.g. back-end points). of course, your client always has the option of saying "no", so be prepared to respond appropriately... if they don't want to give you a share of the project, then ask for a higher dayrate.
I'm getting ready to buy my first Mac. Some have told me that a macbook will suffice for what I want to do, which is basically to gather and store footage and images for my editor and eventually work on a rough-cut for him. Others say that I should invest in a macbook pro. Since I'm not the editor, would anyone like to weigh in on why I might need a pro in the future?
Thanks. I wasn't sure how the hide feature works. What do you do? Just click Hidden section?
The basic Macbook works fine as a FCP machine if you're working with DV and/or HDV material. I have a first generation Macbook set up with an external keyboard and trackpad, and a 24 inch Dell monitor. It's much faster than a 3 year old G5 workstation, and feels very close to the Mac Pro for most functions.
But Motion won't run on it, and it doesn't have a card slot or Firewire 800 so expansion possibilities are somewhat limited.
Wolfgang, simply click on the "Add hidden section" link below the text box.
what doug said, wolfgang. clicking "add hidden section" will open up a new text box for you – everything that goes in it will be hidden. everything in the normal text box will still be visible to all.
Sorry about that guys,
since I actually don't like writing that much, I'd only intended to knock out two sentences re translations, then the keyboard just went on by itself....
Yes, well, I appreciate these explanations. I understand better now. Seems my dp would be the best translator, since his Italian is great and his English is excellent (and he gets the meaning of what these people – older people in a remote village often speaking in proverbs, etc...) are saying. But I don't know that I'm going to have him actually edit b/c after we finish shooting, I go back to NYC and he goes to Milan. I think it would be offensive to ask him to log/translate (obviously I'd pay him) but not edit . . . so I'm a little stuck. Well, not stuck. Just feeling in a bind. We're here for 10 more days and we've got a lot of good material (and information) already. I want to cut a trailer to enter into a grant/contest for April 1, so just wondering if I should cut our shoot like 4 days short and translate/log . . . edit . . . with him . . . (for the trailer, perhaps). I can still come home with all my footage and work with another editor down the road. This is only going to be about 20 hours of footage . . .
unless your DP is very unusual, he shouldn't object to doing the logging and translating with you (and not the edit). he might object to logging and translating in general, but he'll certainly understand that you need to edit this locally back in NYC.
one thing to keep in mind is that logging and translating almost 20 hours of footage (or even 10 hours) will take a LONG, LONG time. for every 1 hour of footage, i would estimate at least 4 hours to turn that footage into a transcribed, translated, timecoded document – and i believe that is a very conservative estimate.
If he is willing, you could ask your DP to do the transcriptions and translations for you. There is no need for him to log the tapes to do this. Otherwise, you might find someone else in Italy.
As I explained in a previous post, you should do the logging of all the tapes WITH the editor with whom you are going to edit your documentary because you BOTH need to be aware of all the video.
This way you'd only need to copy onto VHS tapes or a DVD with burnt in timecode (in order to be able to transcribe beginning end ending times for each sentence/paragraph) the tapes (or sections there of) with the interviews. You'd still need to capture this material onto a computer – and this takes place in real time – but you could return home with the tapes and your DP or whoever will be doing the transcription and translation could work at it over here and then e-mail you the finished transcripts.
Darla, if you can afford a professional translator, that would be your best bet. It really is an art and the challenge with working with someone who doesn't do this is that it can go much more slowly and either not accurate enough or too accurate.
With Crucible of War, we had a lot of material, so split the translations of the transcripts between the director (who did speak the language while the editor didn't), two student friends, and two professional linguists. The quality of the translations was best with the two professionals, followed by the students followed by the director. He was simply too close to the material and his translations took a painstakingly slow amount of time and were too literal in text. Once we got to the point of editing, we brought in one of the professional linguists to work with us on the subtitles, both to help the editor get the cuts exactly right, improve the linguistic construction, and dare to lose some of the exact words to fit the space and still retain the meaning.
Since we're specifically on the subject of translation – can someone give me an idea of price ranges (per hour, I assume) . . . and were you finding that it's about 4 hours per 1 hour of footage?
Also, do I need it written first in Italian, and then translated to English, or just written in English? I assume both.
Finally, the thing with my DP is that he really loves these people, and their stories, and he knows the context for some of the wacky things they're saying . . . so while he may not be a professional translator, I think he might offer some good insight. Perhaps I can just ask him to do the work (instead of cutting our shoot short, I'd probably send him back to Milan with DVD copies) and then have it looked over by a professional translator.
Maybe your DP can do the Italian translation with notes, then you can have that transcribed here in the states.
Sounds good, Boyd . . . (Maybe I'm just tired) but can you spell this out for me a little more? So he'd write everything out in English? And then . . .
You need to transcribe the dialogues first in Italian so you have a record of what was really said and also to allow another translator to check the translation (if necessary).
Darla, along with what Wolfgang said, your DP would also be able to annotate the "wacky" things your subjects are saying (either in Italian or English). This is especially important if they are speaking in a less common vernacular.
Another workflow would be to do your translations first, and then send them to your DP to review and annotate. I remember reading that they did a similar thing on the English/Chinese translation of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where they would send the translations back and forth between China and the US, constantly tweaking to get the best translation they could.
I'm looking for advice about how to film a scene that shows a group of tourists flying to a remote destination to do whale-watching. I'm thinking of doing this in two parts. First, filming the tourists in the plane looking out the window. Second, flying in a plane with no tourists, so I can ask the pilot to circle around a couple times in order to film the ocean/desert below. (Am I being unrealistic in thinking I could get this right in a couple of takes?) I'm shooting with a Panasonic DVX100b, 24P. Would appreciate any suggestions.
How long does it take the plane to drive over the interesting land/seascape? Could you not save yourself time and presumably money by shooting both shots on the same trip by getting yourself a window seat for the beauty shots and then standing up to shoot the tourists looking out the window? Or shooting the tourists on your way in and the land/seascape on the way out?
Let's say this takes place in Baja California, which has a mix of whales, desert and water. Would you consider renting a seaplane for the second portion where you give the grand overview of the whole scene?
If you are in fact doing it in Baja, you could probably charter one at a reasonable price out of Loreto and you would get some amazing footage, shot from a lower altitude.
Just a thought.
On Second Skin, whenever we traveled to a location via plane, we shot tons of stuff out the window. Several of our characters took flights during the movie, so this stuff was really useful. You can get a lot out of airliner windows, especially right before landing and right after take off.
The whales raising young in baja are something everyone should see first hand. Talk about an animal that makes you want to save the world.
Thanks for the suggestions regarding aerial shots. Here's a sound question. I've been shooting with a relatively inexperienced boom operator. When I still had access to school equipment we used a breakaway cable between the camera and the boom/headphones. How do those of you who do not use a mixer allow for boom op and camera op to monitor sound? I have a cheap 8 pin splitter and I've thought of getting a 8 pin female/male stereo cable that would serve as an extension to my boom op's headphones. But I'm afraid the splitter might reduce sound a lot and the cables may cut out. I've been reluctant to use a mixer because I think it's a lot for the inexperienced boom op to handle. Would love to know how others handle this.
Hey, everybody. I'm a freelance photo researcher trying to find work in the documentary film industry. Can anyone think of a good way to find work of this sort? Even trying to find listings of documentary film companies is difficult, because they are usually in password-protected members-only sections of websites for various professional organizations whose membership dues are in the three figures!
Welcome Kevin. You might like to check out Docs in Progress , a Washington DC initiative started by D-Worders Adele Schmidt & Erica Ginsberg.
Thanks for the good tip! I just talked to Adele Schmidt at Journeyfilms, and she was very helpful.
Legal Question: We sent out an announcement for our documentary premiere and have received a request from a University Library for a library order. We licensed all our clips, photos and music. Can we sell our dvd now? What else do we need to do?
John, thanks for the plug. Kevin, glad you talked to Adele. Docs In Progress actually has an event tomorrow night at Busboys & Poets and would love to see you there. In the Intro topic, I also suggested some other DC-area organizations which would be worth the membership dues for you.
Has anyone read the book:
Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov?
I just read a short passage from one of Vertov's articles he wrote for Film Truth magazine that was excerpted in Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction film by Erik Barnow, an awesome book written by the fellow who used to be Chief of the Library of Congress Motion Picture Division.
The passage that I read of Vertov (about 500 words) was a real revelation for me. Amazing!
I don't think I can obtain copies of the magazine (because it is from the 1920s and probably in Russian as well), so I wanted to ask if anyone here was familiar with this book.
It's a bit pricey, so I thought I'd ask around before purchasing it.
Definitely worth checking out. You can find second-hand copies via http://www.abebooks.com/
what would be the best options in terms of camera to shoot a shoestring budget feature length documentary which requires a lot of outdoor shootings following a subject discreetly in different local public places and some indoors for interviews- (pretty much guerilla/ news style)?
here are the options:
-Panasonic DVX 100b
-Panasonic AG-HVX200(P2 cards + camera =outside our budget range-unless somone knows a great place to buy it cheap)
- Sony HDR-FX1 (someone told me good but not so great)
now i have been told, since the film style will be pretty much hidden camera style (almost) , to use may be a high end HD consumer camera so i can hide it even in pocket.
does anyone know anything about the quality of these cameras below:
-Panasonic HDC-HS9 (HD & 24p)
Canon HV20 HDV (HD & 24p)
any suggestions or help?
for a no-budget production I'd go with the Canon HV20, recording sound to a separate recorder.
Something like this . There may be better audio recorders for the price, but any of these recorders should give you better sound than you'd get with any of those camcorders.
If and when you move up to a better camera, the audio recorder will still be a good and useful tool.
Add a wireless mic and you'll have a kick-ass guerilla kit for half the price of a z1U.
In reply to Chris Hinrichs's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 : Hello all! Some of you may remember me from the post linked above. For those of you who are interested or have some time to kill, I have overhauled my presentation, using some of the suggestions I recieved here. In order not to clutter up the Mentoring Room, I'll hide the rest of my message...
Does anyone know of any job websites just for documentary projects? i have picked up a number of freelance gigs from sites like www.mandy.com www.mediamatch.com and local Craig's List but am looking for more documentary specific jobs. Thanks!
Thanks John, I just bought it! Abebooks (which is now my first place to look!) also had this awesome "The Man With the Movie Camera The Man with the Movie Camera: A Cinematic Analysis by Vlada Petric that has an incredible scene by scene analysis of Vertov's timeless masterpiece.
Now I'm just trying to find a copy of Vertov's "One Sixth of the World". I'll keep looking!
Andrew, you can also try RealityStaff.com http://www.realitystaff.com/home/index.php?section=JOBS&left=Jobs
Their focus is on reality shows, which overlaps with documentary/television. Hope that helps. I have been looking for documentary-specific job sites myself and that is the best I have come across. I am also browsing Craiglist, mediamatch, and Mandy everyday!!! Good luck with ya. It's a tough world out there finding work!!
thanks Le Sheng, do you ever check http://www.entertainmentcareers.net/jcat.asp?jcat=109
There are some alright jobs on there from time to time.
Haven't been on there in a long time. Do they charge a subscription fee? That might be one of the reasons I don't go there. MediaMatch does too but I get the $5/month student membership.
This is an ethics question.
I'm finding that I've got great interviews but as my subject is really
explaining an electoral system (I.e., the "Inconvenient Truth" model) rather than documenting a series of events (I.E., the "Super Size Me" model) I wanted to ask you about the ethics of truth and such.
What I'd like to do create a "frame" around the footage that I've gathered that is essentially a parody of "An Inconvenient Truth" I'd basically rent-out or borrow a classroom with projector on the weekend, and invite my improv comedian friends to be "feeding" me questions. I would make it obvious that the audience is portrayed by actors – first with a disclaimer up front which states: "While the subject is truthful, the audience portrayed in the film are paid actors."
Then during the shooting, I was actually thinking that the first question would be along the lines of: "Yeah, Brian, you said that if we came here and pretended to be an audience that is actually interested in this stuff that you'd give us 20 bucks." (Interruption from the back) "And cake! Where's the cake?!"
Is it ethical to make a documentary with obviously staged scenes to increase the entertainment value and, supposedly, to get more people interested in it,
without crossing the line into "mockumentary?"
SOUND HELP for documentary shooting on Canon HV20.
Has anyone had shot a doc on canon HV20 or knows well the camera?
I went to a store in NY specialized in video. I told them i needed a broadcast quality sound for the consumer HV20 Canon. it's for a doc , reality TV like.
The shooting style will be handheld mostly. On person crew (so no boom) and only one person (the subject) can be wired up but I still need to pick up the sound of people the subject will be talking too. So i will also need a shotgun mic i presume.
There''ll be indoor and outdoor (public places) shoot.
Here's the package the seller at the store, came up with:
Sennheiser EW 100 wireless lavaller $500 +tax
Beachtek XLR $179
Rode NTG 2 shotgun $269
Total = over $1000
1) is this a good package for sound quality?
2) is there anyway to get the same type of quality sound (assuming it is a good one with this package) but a bit on a lower price?
any other suggestions?
My 02.c worth. What you describes seems very much a mockumentary to me.
I don't think it has to do anything with ethics, rather it's a question of what kind of a story you want to tell and whatever way you believe is best to tell that particular story.
A documentary can very well be interesting and entertaining without using gimmicks. It very much depends on the story and how you want to tell it.
brian, a mockumentary is really just a fiction film posing as a documentary. i think what you seem to be worried about is your doc descend into something so silly that the main point about something serious (i.e. the electoral system) is lost.
while i'm not completely convinced that your scene (as described) will work effectively, there's nothing ethically wrong with it, especially since you seem to be taking great pains to tell the audience "This is a setup!" but if you compare your scene to some of the animated scenes in, let's say, "Bowling for Columbine", it's essentially the same thing. the only difference is you've got animated characters standing in for paid actors – the humor, the pre-written lines, and the method are the same.
In reply to Fredric Lean's post on Sun 2 Mar 2008 :
Fredric, I'm also shooting on the HV20, and my next purchase is for a beachtek adapter and some new XLR mics – but I've found I've got good audio from this combo:
Audio Technica ATR55 Shotgun Mic ($50)
Shock Mount ($20-40)
A bracket to move the microphone away from the camera. ($10)
I don't use wireless mics.
There are two problems with this setup. One, handling noise – even handling the wire connected to the camera – transmits easily. But I've actually found it to get really, really good sound.
Get that setup if you can afford it – don't try to cheap out on the sound, and that actually sounds like the best option.
You may also want to spend $200 on a Samson Zoom H2 to get a second source of audio if you're doing sit-down interviews.
A deadcat/fluffydog will be useful for cutting out wind noise.
With my setup, here's the audio I got.
Another quick question: Anyone use Keynote to graph key ideas in a documentary? How did it turn out?
I was wondering if anyone had any good advice on temporary insurance for documentaries. I am working on a budget for my film in which I want to hit Ghana, Tanzania, France and Britain. With me possibly going overseas, I don't want to take equipment and things over there and not be insured. Does anyone have any experience with this? Who would you recommend as a provider and who should I AVOID?
Thanks in advance
I'm a first time documentarian producing a film about the first generation immigrant exiles to move to Miami from Cuba. They are old and I need to get their stories on video before they die. I'm going to try to hire an experienced director, but if not, I'm going to do it myself.
1) Are their any documentaries I can look to for inspiration that are like this one? I know there is a name for this type of film where you profile a certain community or group of people and interview them, but don't know the name.
2) In terms of sound, I'd like to get the wireless lapel mics. Is that a bad idea? I feel like it would make shooting that much easier.
Please help. Thanks, Alex.
Alex, for your first comment, that is basically researching a subculture. It's like a sub group of a larger culture. Profiling and researching a group within a group, in which people have something in common, can be very helpful. There is a documentary called "Wetback" that targets foreign immigrants that is very well done. Check it out.
Your project sounds very interesting.
A few quick tips regarding how to go about it (regarding whether or not you should shoot it yourself; you might want to have a pro start shooting it and later, when you've learned how to shoot, you could continue by yourself).
Identify the characters, the people, men and women that you want to shoot;
Research all the information you can find about the community that interest you: this means research archives of local newspapers, and identify and read some books dealing with these issues.
A book that comes to my mind is: Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus (Paperback)
by Mirta Ojito
If I remember correctly, she's working on a documentary based on her book.
You may find some useful information here:
2) Visit and research the neighborhood. I would assume that there is a "Little Havana" in Miami. Visit the neighborhood, reserach everyhting about it, discover who some of the most important members of the community are, when any particular religious or other festivities take place, etc.
3) Shoot all of the above.
4) identify 4 or 5 interesting characters. get to know them, interview them, shoot them at work and with their families, get photos, visit with them for several months/one year.
5) Decide what kind of doc you want to build with the material you are gathering.
6) Build your doc around the personal stories of these 4 or 5 people, interweaving blocks about the community. The fact that the situation in Cuba is moving and that this is an election year will give you great topics and great video to interweave withe stories of your 4 or 5 protagonists.
Re your second question, wireless lavalier mics are very good to interview people. I would suggest you might be interested in the Sennheiser Evolution G2 100 series; it has a good price/value ratio.
I am a student at Ravensbourne College and I am currently in my last of study for a BA degree in Broadcast Post Production. I am writing an essay entitled Can Documentaries be Completely Impartial? I am required to have primary research for my essay and I was hoping that some of you would be able to answer these questions for me.
What motivates a filmmaker to make a documentary and is there always a
political angle to it?
Can the editing in a film or television programme change reality? If so in what way?
Can the way something is shot change the reality of a situation? If so how?
I would also be interested in any views or opinions that you have on
Michael Moore's film Roger & Me and Rupert Murdoch's OutFoxed.
I hope that you can spare the time to help this hard working student LOL. I look forward to your replies.
IMHO there's a few things you have to consider. First there's the issue that documentaries are a form of art. One way that art, at least for me, defines itself is that it's unique because of the artist. If 2 very good crafts(wo)men paint a wall the result will be (more or less) the same, if two artists paint on the same canvas the result will be significantly different even if they try to paint the same picture.
Now compare documentaries to journalism. Even when journalists do their best to be impartial the results aren't always, there's always personal, religious, cultural biases, there's the stress of deadlines, there's the wishes of the editors or sponsors, there's the conscious or subconsious choices you make to cut things out of the story, highlight other things, for the sake of clarity but which end up "coloring" a story.
Now, even though it's a gross oversimplification to say journalism is purely a "craft" and documentary making purely an "art", one can assume that the personal "coloring" is even a bigger issue in documentary.
So I personaly think that, no, documentaries or journalistic pieces are never fully (or at all) unbiased. This is not an issue for me. I very much like to hear the personal in the story. For instance, when I read a piece of N. Chomsky, I don't think, now I will know the truth and the whole truth about this subject, I will rather think, now I know N. Chomsky's take on this subject. (Though sometimes I forget and have to remind myself, and so does the general audience, but this is another topic altogether)
Now, another issue to consider is the following, documentary makers are not always trying to cover a story, sometimes they are trying to change the world, the society, people's believes. I have not seen OutFoxced, but Micheal Moore, for me, is very much an activist filmmaker. I might agree with his messages, but I don't assume he will give me a biased account of what even he perceives as the truth. To make the power of his story stronger will he use material that supports his story and leave out material that gives a different opinion.
Again, I don't think this is bad. A film like SuperSize Me, in which the filmmaker eats at McDonalds for a month and becomes a repulsive monster might be infantile to some, but can be quite entertaining and potentially life-changing for others.
"Can the editing in a film or television programme change reality? If so in what way?
Can the way something is shot change the reality of a situation? If so how?"
Both editing and shooting can change the reality in 1.000.000 ways. In my native Iran there's regular anti US protests, but always shot in a way to hide the fact that these are actualy small groups protesting. A huge anti US protest is good for both Iranian media as well as foreign media.
Now imagine you are filming a neighbourhood, everything decision, from material you shoot on, framing, music, editing, etc. etc. changes the story. Imagine a grainy home video type of image going over the graffiti, while the soundtrack is gangsterrap. Now imagine filming on oldfashioned 16 mm, made even warmer in post production, with beautiful music (think wonder years). Same neighbourhood, but two totally different emotional reactions to the footage.
Anyway, one could go on, but I hope this helps.
In reply to Asar Imhotep's post on Tue 4 Mar 2008 :
Can anyone help me out with the Insurance question?
Hi, I´m looking at how to put together a marketing package for a documentary about film piracy in Mexico. I´ve never done any marketing and I´m not sure where to start. I know I want to send it out to TV stations both in the States and in Mexico, as well as PR´s for magazines and Newspapers as well as radio stations. I could really use some help in getting myself pointed in the right direction.
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Fri 7 Mar 2008 :
Thank you so much. I will check them out. They seem to have a simple process. Thanks again.
Has anyone used public domain footage from www.archive.org in their productions? There's some useful archive for my film on there but should i get its public domain status verified before i go ahead and use it?
It's good practice to verify any footage you use, regardless of source. Lots of people think they own copyright to certain things when they actually don't.
With Archive.org you need to really read the different licensing they use – not all of it is public domain. Some requires attribution, some can be used in a noncommercial way, etc. I've seen media that had no copyright/licensing information provided. So just residing on the site doesn't mean public domain.
Get whatever information provided and if there isn't any, do some more research on it. This can be useful when getting E&O insurance. Also, it's good practice to have an entertainment/copyright attorney look over you stuff. (and do find a lawyer that specializes in this, as not all lawyers have equal knowledge. A good friend of mine is a top notch real estate attorney, and he won't touch copyright – "it's not what I do, so I can't provide solid legal opinions". )
I would like to ask a question about Sundance. Do they only select the 16 documentaries for competition or do they also select many others that do not make the competition (but are still part of the festival)? I believe this is the case from my research online. If so, do the non competing docs get decent recognition from press, industry people, make sales, etc, etc? Thanks for the great site.
Grady, they select the 16 main competition docs, the world docs, and a few docs find their way into the American Spectrum section. The world docs have their own awards and American Spectrum docs are eligible for the doc audience award.