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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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Monica Williams
Wed 27 Aug 2008Link

Thanks Doug! Peace out enthusiasts! :-)

Edited Wed 27 Aug 2008 by Monica Williams

Chris Reed
Tue 2 Sep 2008Link

In reply to Skyler B's post on Mon 25 Aug 2008 : As one who has used PCs for almost 20 years and who never cared anything about Macs, I have to tell you that editing on a PC is more aggravation than it is worth. I used Premiere, Premiere Pro, blah blah blah. You will have program crashes, system crashes, conflicts, on and on. Buy a Mac and get Final Cut Studio. Yes, it is a lot more of an initial investment but I cannot tell you how many hours – days – weeks I WASTED with PCs and editing.

Do I like the Mac better than the PC? No, not really. I have trouble navigating the interface and overall, to me it is just a machine. But I will admit that I have now owned it for one year, never opened the case, have had a few crashes and a few program lockups but I have never had any data destroyed, lost or corrupted. I have never booted the computer and ended up in Limbo. Equally important is the Final Cut (and everything that comes bundled with it) is FAR superior to Premiere. In this case, I do believe you get what you pay for.

I'll be curious if others agree with this. In any event, good luck.


Robert Goodman
Tue 2 Sep 2008Link

There are plenty of working systems on the Windows platform. Avid, Vegas Video, Edius, etc. I've used them all. Never had the issues you've had. This is likely due to making sure that there are no word processing applications or other non-essential editing tools on the same computer. People expecting to use one computer for everything will have nothing but trouble.

The other issue is cooling. Computers fail because they don't have adequate cooling especially ones with lots of drives. It's best to run an edit system so the ambient temperature is 62 degrees in the room where the system resides or that cold air is supplied to the computer. I often see people running systems that are operating in the 90 degree range. Expect failures as soon as the temperature rises.


Jill Kelly
Tue 2 Sep 2008Link

hi, thanks to Eli for mentioning that the hvx p2 does not tape in hd, only sd, it finalized my buying or rather waiting to buy the new panasonic that comes out in october, 2 pounds lighter with no tape only p2 cards.My question, i read that it is very unlikely to get funding for a first doc, i'm wondering should i choose a different subject to my "dream doc" for my first?One that would be closer to home, aka, cheaper etc to get my feet wet?would an instructional film work?I made a 10 minute doc at school,hardly enough but how much experience is needed to seriously consider finding successful funding?Is it also having a executive director?I'm in for the long haul and i have already begun work on my "dream film" but i would like to be smart about getting some work and credit under my belt, so i can be taken seriously, cheers


Chris Reed
Tue 2 Sep 2008Link

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best and most reliable recordable DVDs? I do not want CHEAP. I want EXCELLENT! I need DVD-R inkjet printable.

Thanks, all!


Eli Brown
Tue 2 Sep 2008Link

Watershield discs by Taiyo-Yuden. Nice quality, pretty reliable, and inkjet prints that don't smear or wipe away...


Brad Studstrup
Wed 3 Sep 2008Link

Hello,

I want to travel from the U.S. to Europe for a shoot (first port of entry is actually Morocco) with two checked bags of video equipment – a light and a lens. Do I need a carnet, or is a rental agreement sufficient for customs?

Thanks,
Bradley


Robert Goodman
Thu 4 Sep 2008Link

checking video equipment with the airlines is a bad idea. Theft rampant. Best to ship it or rent it there. If you do bring it, then you will need a carnet if it's pro gear. If it looks like a tourist camera you can sneak past. However, you should be aware that if you get stopped by customs you will be required to post the full retail value of the equipment in cash to enter the country with it. Negotiating can bring it down somewhat but there's never any guarantee. A carnet is cheap insurance.


Skyler Buffmeyer
Sat 13 Sep 2008Link

hey!
i know i already asked this question but....i am totally lost on the whole archive business. I am looking for archives that represent women negatively in the meadia, ie...rap videos, make up ads, models ect. ect. I really need help plus, I don't know any of the rules/laws of archives.
Can someone please help?
Thanks a bunch!


Mark Charles Berlin
Sun 14 Sep 2008Link

Can anyone in the Michigan area direct me to get funding for my film?

HELP!


Mark Charles Berlin
Sun 14 Sep 2008Link

Is the Michigan film office giving out grants?


Joe Scherrman
Tue 16 Sep 2008Link

Mark, you might start here: http://www.michigan.gov/filmoffice

Be sure to learn about the incentives Michigan is offering.


Le Sheng Liu
Sun 21 Sep 2008Link

I'm not new to D-Word. I joined earlier this yr but I am a relatively new transplant to LA (been here since early 07). Anyway, just wanted to introduce myself: My name is Le Liu. My long-term objective is to write, direct, and produce my own feature docs, although as of late I've been thinking about TV and internet distribution a lot more.

My website reel is here if you wanna see my feature doc, my short films, or my speaking engagements :)
http://leshengliu.com/Films.html

And this is the blog I keep for a long-term project I'd like to eventually launch....
http://covergirlsthedocumentary.blogspot.com/

I work M-F til about 7pm in Sherman Oaks (for the Emmy-nominated A&E show Intervention). But other than that, I've been wanting to make myself available to doc filmmakers who need help with whatever. I've done PA work, scheduling/coordinating, editing on FCP 3, public relations, film fest submissions, film fest boothing, and lots of other random stuff. At this point, I am mostly interested in development/funding so I can learn how to get my project off the ground (i.e. my blog) and into the real world of production.

In any case, if you're in the LA area and want an assistant (preferably paid, but I'll take whatever), feel free to CONTACT ME OFF-LIST.

lesliu@gmail.com
213.308.6387


Stefan Immler
Mon 22 Sep 2008Link

Sorry if this has been asked a thousand times already, but is there a comprehensive web site that lists all organizations that have development grants for docs? I am starting to shoot my first doc and could use a grant or two ;-)

Thanks!


Christopher Wong
Mon 22 Sep 2008Link

stefan, the grants section of the IDA site is not a bad place to start. it's not absolutely comprehensive but it has a lot of region-specific grants listed...


Emily Meyers
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

Hello everyone,

I was hoping to learn a little bit more about distribution companies. We currently have a film related to methamphetamine addiction and recovery that has gotten wonderful reviews and won numerous awards, and were looking into signing on with a distributor. What companies jump out at you as either being a good fit or have been a positive experience for you? Thanks for your help!


Laurie Little
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

Hi, I hope my doubled intro will be deleted by you, the mentors, as I couldn't figure out how to delete my extra post.

Thanks!


Doug Block
Mon 6 Oct 2008Link

done, laurie. you only have about 5 minutes to delete or correct a post yourself. whereas we almighty powerful hosts can delete anything at any time. wheeeeee!!!!!


Arturo Glass
Wed 8 Oct 2008Link

We have a 90 minute doc shot and recently accepted into a couple "A" list film festivals. What we'd like to know is what sort of distribution deal we should be seeking at the festivals in the event the film wins or doesn't win awards. What kind of numbers should we be seeking for theatrical distribution? For television – HBO, Showtime, something like that? I know the best bet with theatrical is always trying to get more upfront rather than hoping for royalties down the line, but what ballpark figures should we be seeking?

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


Arturo Glass
Fri 10 Oct 2008Link

If it makes any difference, the doc is a direct cinema (verité) w/out narration, that is, plays out like a normal fiction film.


Jessamy Meyer
Sun 12 Oct 2008Link

I just joined, and at the moment am trying to figure out some translator issues for the documentary I'm editing- lots of footage in Hmong! Would anyone know of any good Hmong translators what would be the best way to give HD footage to a translator? Disks? Hard drives??

Also, for traveling and documentary filmmaking abroad, I have some team members going to Laos. Would anyone know of a good 'fixer' in Laos?


Mark Barroso
Mon 13 Oct 2008Link

What's a team member?


Andre Dahlman
Wed 15 Oct 2008Link

Hoping to glean some knowledge regarding forming an LLC for a documentary.

Here's the back story:

Been working on a doc for almost a year now and I just got my fiscal sponsorship from the IDA. No doubt the dollars will be rolling in in no time (kidding kidding). But I AM hoping to do some serious fund raising and I want to make sure I protect myself financially.

The IDA fiscal sponsor form requires I submit a W-9 tax form with either my social security # or a Tax ID. Thus far I have merely opened a separate bank account and just keep track of finances with basic accounting software. Things seem to be getting more serious now and I'm considering starting an LLC.

Two questions:
1 – Has anyone with fiscal sponsorship from the IDA used their personal social security number? Did you encounter any problems submitting your taxes?

2- If I do decide to form an LLC, what are the advantages of forming an LLC for a general production company VS forming an LLC for a specific project. I hear a lot of people form the later.

Many thanks for any advise/ online resources you could point me towards.


Mansi Behal
Thu 16 Oct 2008Link

Submit your short film to Pros And Con Games competition at Filmaka.com and you could win funding to direct your feature-length script! 15-20 filmmakers win $1500 to $4500 each month – 3 of those go on to compete for feature funding at the end of the year! Entries must be 1 to 3 minutes long and are due November 6, 2008. More info at
www.filmaka.com/featurefilm


Jason Vaughn
Wed 22 Oct 2008Link

Hi, I'm a Los Angeles photographer looking to find a documentary film to do still photography. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good place to find a list of documentaries currently in production or starting soon. Any words of wisdom or advice would help greatly.
Thanks!
Jason Vaughn
jasonvaughn995511@ yahoo.com
951-768-2784

Edited Wed 22 Oct 2008 by Jason Vaughn

Judy Lieff
Mon 3 Nov 2008Link

Hi, I'm working with my first ITVS contract and need some advice regarding how best to distribute the funds – through a fiscal receiver or my LLC.

My situation is a bit complicated because of the history of funding on the project. Prior to my ITVS contract, I used one fiscal receiver for State grants (NYFA) and a non-profit organization for NEA funds. (NEA changed their rules several years ago and only allows organizations to apply, not individuals with fiscal receivers). I signed off on my ITVS budget giving the non-profit organization's director a salary equivalent to cover fiscal responsibilities. What I completely forgot about was that NYFA requires that they be the only fiscal receiver. NYFA is now telling me that they will terminate my contract if I don't use them as the fiscal receiver. I don't have an additional 8% in my budget to spare to cover their fee (18,000). The only option I can think of in order to not breach my contract with NYFA would be to use my LLC for the ITVS funds.
Does anyone know if I could still pay people as independent contractors if I use my LLC? What if people are working at my office? – Won't they technically need to be on payroll? (I did not allow for payroll expenses in my budget).
The only people who would be working at my office on a regular basis for the year are editing assistants and the editor.
Please Advise.
Thank you!


Sam Rabeeh
Mon 3 Nov 2008Link

Hi Everyone,

A friend suggested I create a sequence of "best shots" from my trip to Egypt. I guess this is under "research", "Egyptian Identity", silly ideas as to what that might be....misconceptions I've seen personally or in media/film, whether negative or positive where what interested me at first...am I mixed in there somewhere as Erica suggested a while ago?

A 41MB H264 QuickTime Movie (no sound) is at:

http://larci.com/Demos/EgyptShots.mov


Eli Brown
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

Judy, considering that you have an ITVS contract, you might want to consider applying for member status on this website – it will open up a lot more forums and chances to get more feedback on a question like that. That said (and not being an accountant/lawyer), my best advice would actually be to talk directly with ITVS. They obviously have a vested interest in you managing to finish your project, so they'll be able to better advise (or point you in the right direction of someone else who might) and from all accounts, are very helpful in general. My understanding of an LLC is that it's akin to any corporation, so you should be able to pay people the same way anyone with a company might – but, please, don't take my word on it as I'm not a lawyer/tax accountant, I just know that a lot of films are set up as LLCs and must also deal with this dilemma. Hope some of that is helpful and good luck!


Christopher Wong
Tue 4 Nov 2008Link

judy, i think what eli says is right. i'm not quite sure why you would process your ITVS funds through a fiscal sponsor anyways – ITVS doesn't need a tax-deductible receipt from you. the only entities that go through your fiscal sponsor are 1) individuals who want to deduct their donations from their taxes; and 2) foundations or corporations who have a policy of only donating funds to non-profit organizations. so i think you have nothing to worry about...

for the record, i have an LLC and i pay my independent contractors through it. the question of whether your crew are considered employees has nothing to do with paying them through an LLC (or other such corporation). the employee designation has more to do with whether they are truly functioning independently from your constant supervision, and a few other key provisions that you can easily google...

Edited Tue 4 Nov 2008 by Christopher Wong

Thomas Golaszewski
Thu 6 Nov 2008Link

Hi All;
I'm getting ready to do a documentary about leader dogs for the blind. This project will take about two years to complete. I was told to look for grant money but, don't have a clue where to start and this project will start in January 2009. I have most of the equipment because of video work that I've done before for example Canon XL1s cameras. I will also do all my own editing in FC studio. This is the first project of this size and if I can get it done right, the org. that I'm working with could get a lot of donations and help me as well.
Thanks for your time
Tom


Mansi Behal
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Filmaka offers funding to unknown filmmakers around the world and provides a chance to step up in to professional cinema and TV. Last year Filmaka commissioned over 40 web series to filmmakers across the planet, from Tokyo to Mexico City, and awarded $5 million in production funding to a Londoner, Nuru Rimington-Mkali, to direct his feature film. Filmaka has launched some new features to enhance its reach to professional film makers:-

1) Ability to compose a professional portfolio: You can now create an online portfolio by uploading samples of your work to the personal films section of your profile. Let industry professionals discover you through Filmaka now. Click here to upload the samples of your work http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_upload_master.php

2) Filmaka Forums: Advertise your services to the biggest community of online professional film makers. Access http://www.filmaka.com/forums/ to post your casting calls, equipment needs and reviews and read reviews for the latest Hollywood releases.

3) More Exciting Branded competitions launched every fortnight: Filmaka has released more than two million dollars as prize money to its film makers through its branded competitions most recent ones being with Ford, Cisco, MSN, Red Bull, FX and SAB Miller.

4) Enhanced Community features: Filmaka members can now upload personal pictures, Bios, CV's and personalize there profiles to make them more elaborate and detailed for fellow film makers, producers and actors. Members can write reviews about fellow film makers competition entries, post private messages to each other and also embed there favorite videos in there profiles on other websites.

5) More Web Series: Filmaka has more than 25 web series in production with a new episode being launched every Monday and Thursday, watching webisodes was never more exciting, Every series has there own dedicated page with all actors, characters and directors profiles, bios, making of and pictures. To check more details check the Filmaka Channel homepage http://www.filmaka.com/filmaka_channel.php

Check out the most exciting professional film maker's database at http://www.filmaka.com . For more details contact the online support chat from the contact us page.


Thomas Golaszewski
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Good morning Mansi;
Thanks you very much for this information. I'll check into all of this
Have a really great day!
Tom


Sam Rabeeh
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

Egyptian Identity V2 – 11+ minutes, subtitles begun, audio, very raw.

Not many responses (none actually!) on my last mentoring request, maybe this time will be different?

http://vimeo.com/2216268

Thanks in advance

Edited Tue 11 Nov 2008 by Sam Rabeeh

Doug Block
Tue 11 Nov 2008Link

What's your actual request, Sam? Feedback?


Sam Rabeeh
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

You know Doug, Yes! Feedback PLEASE!

I should have made it clear I was looking for feedback, but this was the mentoring section so I made some silly assumptions :)


Robert Shore
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

Does anyone have any incite on the legality and public domain issues in using youtube-like videos posted on the web? I know that formally copyrighted material is a no go, but what if, say, I want to use a video of Joe-Sixpack (ahem) taken at a bar and posted by his girlfriend, Josephine. Any chance Joe can bust me on this? Thanks! Rob.


Mark Barroso
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

Robert:
One of the dirty secrets of the legal industry is the concept of "exposure." It means how likely you are to be sued by someone, and how likely it will end up costing you loads of money.
In the scenario you described, I'd say your exposure was zero, meaning not to worry about Joe Six. Now, if you were Steven Spielberg then Joe Six (and his lawyer) would probably figure you are loaded and come after you. Conversly, if Joe Six actually turned out to be Joe Pesci, he might come after you (and not just with his lawyer).
So, no responsible person would condone or encourage you to break the law. But you got me instead, the realist. Bottom line: Joe Six CAN "come after you" but it's not likely he will, and if he did, you would get a letter telling you to cease and desist before appearing before any judge.


Mark Barroso
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

In reply to Sam Rabeeh's post on Tue 11 Nov 2008 23:18 UTC :

Sam: your description says "Raw video and sound" so are you asking for feedback on just your camera work and sound, not the editing?


Mark Barroso
Wed 12 Nov 2008Link

In reply to Robert Shore's post on Wed 12 Nov 2008 :

One more thing about exposure. If you are going to use it in film that becomes well-known then your exposure increases. If it's for some fraternity gag film night then not likely. You getting the idea?


Marianne Hjorth Nielsen
Thu 13 Nov 2008Link

Hi D-Word,

I would like to get some advices or creative ideas on how to finance films through the internet.


Le Sheng Liu
Sun 16 Nov 2008Link

Thomas:
Have you googled Sundance Documentary Fund? There are plenty of grants programs out there, but that's the first one off the top of my head, and it's actually VERY competitive. What you should also do (if you haven't already) is become a member of the International Documentary Association. They offer fiscal sponsorship to many indie docs, so you can accept donation$ through them!!! Check them out at:
http://documentary.org

Robert:
If you wanna use that footage, you still need a release from the subjects who appear in it, including the Joe Schmoe who happens to be the bf of the girl who uploaded it. Also, as far as ownership goes, I think that could be a battle between the person who shot/uploaded it and Youtube, but I don't know of Youtube having any sort of exclusivity policy, so if you can get your hands on the original footage, use that instead. Youtube video quality sucks anyway!
http://www.youtube.com/t/privacy
http://www.youtube.com/t/terms

Marianne:
Check out this blog from my friend. She's edited many major projects and has some good insight on how to get your film out there on the web.
http://documentaryinsider.blogspot.com/2008/08/online-distribution.html

Good luck to you guys!! Email me if you like'd more info!!!


Robert Shore
Sun 16 Nov 2008Link

Thanks for all your help on the youtube issue. Like so many things, it's clearly unclear. Another question (sorry, kind of learning as I go on this project): I'm thinking about investing in some HD cameras. I have the budget to buy something a bit bigger and fancier (thinking about the Sony EX1) and something a bit less expensive and more easily portable (maybe the Sony A1U). I am concerned about the compatibility of the images. Does anyone have any experience with this? Will the images flush visually if cut end to end? Thanks again,

Rob.


Sam Rabeeh
Sun 16 Nov 2008Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Thu 13 Nov 2008 :

Hi Mark, you can reply on anything. I'm open to advice especially the cinematography as I had difficulty keeping things framed and even making decisions on framing as "everything was happening at the same time".


James Longley
Tue 18 Nov 2008Link

In reply to Marianne Hjorth Nielsen 's post on Thu 13 Nov 2008 :

I think your question is too general. What kind of film are you talking about?


Charles Acrie
Sun 23 Nov 2008Link

I have personally been funding my own documentary project and I have run out of funds. When I began the project I really didn't know how extremely detailed I would have to be to complete it. In the beginning I was just thinking of a way to make money, but when I began to understand what it took to create a quality project I knew that I might be in over my head. I hired and trusted someone who I was told knew what they were doing. All that happened was I got cheated out of money. So I got my own camera, a Sony FX1 and a mac pro lap top and began to shoot my own project. I am about 80% complete but just need funding to complete it. How would I go about getting funding for it?

Edited Sun 23 Nov 2008 by Charles Acrie

Doug Block
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

Friends and family are the usual starting points, Charles. Then there's everyone you know. Probably not what you wanted to hear, right? Anyway, would help to know what your doc is about.


Christopher Wong
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

charles, if your doc has an obvious social issue associated with it – e.g., education, civil rights, poverty alleviation, global warming – then there are a host of foundations and film organizations which have grant programs available. if your doc does not have any such link to social issues, then you'll find the grant world pretty slim pickings.

for minority filmmakers like you and me, there are always film orgs like NBPC (National Black Programming Consortium) that have grants available. these grants, however, are highly competitive.

for you, the best thing to do would be to make a fundraising trailer (2-5 minutes) and show it to individuals and other organizations who can either fund you, or put you in contact with others who can.


Charles Acrie
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

I'm looking for answers Doug, those I want to hear and those I don't. I'm actually going through that short list of people right now. My documentary is entitled, MODERN DAY GANGSTA "Hood Pollitics". It's about a small community in Long Beach California that is occupied by two gang factions, the Insane Crips and the Rollin 20 Crips. They share the same streets, the same friends and families, the same history. They are so closely related that they could be considered family, in some cases they are, and they are killing each other at an alarming rate. The funerals are numbing and have become common. The questions are many but the answers are few. There is no real justice for the families. The code of silence in the community is stifling. Young black men are being put away for the rest of their lives. The danger in shooting this project is real and frightening, but it's a story that must be told.

I have done time in city and county jails, state and federal prisons. I was a product of everything that is wrong with that community, and although I was never involved with either of the two gangs, I was a part of the same social and psychological retardation process that has affected many in that part of the Long Beach community.

I have a Sony FX1 and a mac pro laptop computer. I have hired a professional to do the final edit. I have accumulated a great deal of footage and I'm clear on the direction of the doc. I have a young man from each gang and telling the story through their eyes. They still have gang affiliations, however they have become community activsts, have great jobs and are willing to put themselves on the line to get this story out.

What I like about this site is that it is so informative. If you take the time to read over the many questions and answers from other Enthusiasts and Members, many of your questions will be answered, not to mention the plethora of sites posted. It's absolutely amazing and I truly appreciate all of the information and I want to thank you for allowing people like me to be a part of such a worthwhile site.

Thanks Christopher for the advice. I read the comment you wrote on Monica's 10 minute trailer and I found it quite informative. I will check out the NBPC and I'm confident that my documentary will comply with some of the criteria they are asking for. When I read the comment you sent to Monica it made me take a closer look at my own. Keep up the good work brother and thanks again.


Christopher Wong
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

you're welcome, charles. looks like you have a wonderful project – and it sounds much more compelling than the "MADE IN AMERICA" doc recently done by Stacey Peralta. since you have the insider perspective, i can't help but think that NBPC would be interested. also, in addition to NBPC, you should also apply to ITVS. btw, if you are a first time filmmaker, you will probably be obligated to pull an experienced Executive Producer on board in order to qualify for funding. but with your storyline, that shouldn't be a problem. best of luck!


Doug Block
Mon 24 Nov 2008Link

Sounds like a very strong project, Charles, as Chris says. The very first thing you should do is apply for full membership in The D-Word. It will give you access to all the discussion topics.

Edited Mon 24 Nov 2008 by Doug Block

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