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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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Doug Block
Wed 27 Oct 2010Link

Yes, actually.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 27 Oct 2010Link

This is mainly for Linda (LW, you may know this): If you are not logged into D-Word when you google your name, you will see what everyone with an internet access will see. (the host(s) can delete anything here that was added inadvertantly).


Linda Wasson
Sat 30 Oct 2010Link

uh ok ? I guess? am not sure what I'm supposed to acknowledge but yeah, I stay logged in...

and no, I don't think this should have been posted in production because I'm a grad student, this is a student film, and I'm new at a lot of this and was looking for mentor remarks, as opposed to mngmnt advice. as a business person, the answer was all too clear but I wanted to make sure I had everything else in mind to consider.

moving on, please see my next q


Linda Wasson
Sat 30 Oct 2010Link

this film I'm working on, about the formerly incarcerated, seems it's growing day by day and is becoming very exciting to work on.

in school they stress over and over again to concentrate on making shorts (this one will be maxed out at 20min) and IF there is interest and IF there is more to shoot, etc., etc., then consider using the short as an intro to the longer version.

I'm just wondering if anyone here has gone that route before – from a short to a longer version? and how did it work out? how did you make various decisions, like what to use in the short? how long did it take to make the longer version (and how long was it?), etc.


Ian Hawkins
Sun 31 Oct 2010Link

Hi everyone,
This is my first post for the D-Word but I wonder if you can help?

Sheffield DocFest have invited me to take part in their Mini-Meet Market at the end of the week. They chose and idea I proposed for a doc and now I have to pitch it to them on Friday. There's a panel of film and documentary professionals and I have just three minutes to pitch my idea.

I've never pitched before. Does anyone have any tips on pitching?
What should I concentrate on in such a short amount of time?

Thanks in advance of any help you can offer.


Nicola Lees
Mon 1 Nov 2010Link

Hi Ian
Congratulations – that's exciting!

First – and most importantly – make sure you really know your idea inside out. What length is it? What's the story? Where does the story begin and how does it get to the end? Over what period are you shooting? Whose point of view are you focusing on? Who are the key characters? How are you telling the story on screen? Using talking head interviews? Ob doc? Rare archive? Animation? And why does this story need to be told now? And indeed, why does this story best told as a documentary rather than a book, magazine feature or photo essay?

Once you've got it straight in your mind you can plan your pitch. Make sure you pitch the story and not the issue or research. The execs will be trying to 'see' your documentary as you pitch it, so make it unfold in their minds with some vivid visual details to bring it to life.

And you only have 3 mins so you don't have to tell the whole story from beginning to end (they'll start glazing over)- summarize it in one sentence e.g. "This is the story of...who...and then discovers that...until... happens". You can then fill in some of the details – how you came to the story, who the characters are and what their challenges are, for example.

The pitch should be a tease that leads to a dialogue. Once they start asking questions – shut up and listen. You can talk yourself out of a pitch by not listening and responding to feedback.

There are a number of articles on pitching here: http://www.tvmole.com/category/tvdevelopmenttips/pitching/page/2/ – scroll down the page and start with the one titled "Six Ways..."

Good luck – and enjoy the experience!


Ian Hawkins
Mon 1 Nov 2010Link

Hi Nicola, what a helpful answer! You've given real detail and that's what I was lacking. Plus 'shut up and listen' – great advice.

Thanks for the link too. I think my time this week will be spent talking to myself with a stopwatch.

Many thanks.


Doug Block
Mon 1 Nov 2010Link

Along the lines of "shut up and listen," whatever you do don't be defensive. If one of the commissioning editors says only a martian would be interested in your film, nod as if the person is a certified genius. Good luck, Ian.


Sebastian Serrano
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Hi, i have a question about how much Natgeo or History pays for a chapter of 50 min for the US market. Can you help me with it?
Thank you


John Burgan
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Welcome, Sebastian. Everyone at The D-Word registers with their full name, so please add your surname to your profile.


Sebastian Serrano
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Hello John, nice to meet you. Can you help me with my question? Thank you


John Burgan
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

I'm afraid I can't, Sebastian, but hopefully one of our many members can...


Nicola Lees
Thu 11 Nov 2010Link

Hi Sebastian
Visit Documentarytelevision.com for all kinds of useful channel budget information. Here's the entry on History: http://documentarytelevision.com/2010/03/10/what-does-history-pay-for-programming/


Jason Perryman
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Well this seems weird posting in here but after trying t figure this place out, I was told to post my questions here.

So I have made a 23 minute DOCUMENTARY on TIGER SHARKS that I need help trying to DISTRIBUTE. It's about diving with Tigers and then how they get killed in the beach nets, wounding their population etc. It's categorized as part amateur part professional in that it was shot on a home movie SD camera, but I got professional people in post production on it, animation, music etc.

How do I distribute this film to it's potential? What Distribution companies or Acquisition companies can I find to get this film to? How do I find these companies? If so, what's the process of approaching them?

I'm interested in getting this shown anywhere. TV, internet any small channels or being inflight movies etc. I know there's loads of different avenues that could show this film. Does anyone know how to do this or where to basically start? Any help would be a MAJOR push, thank you.

(Nat Geo turned me down. Discovery are useless, can't find a proper person to get it to there)


Rick Dillwood
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Has anyone had any experience with CFMDC (Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre)?

I got an email from them expressing interest in a short doc I made last year (exciting!), but I wondered how many of these kinds of offers are legitimate.

They're asking for a $75 lifetime membership fee and a list of deliverables.

Any help would be appreciated,

Rick

Edited Fri 12 Nov 2010 by Rick Dillwood

Jo-Anne Velin
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Perhaps contact the DOC association of Canada, either the HQ in Toronto or the regional people, and ask who knows what, or find out from CFMDC which filmmakers are with them and talk to the producers or directors. DOC can help connect you with people who know more, or you may hear about their informal reputation (especially if there are "issues"). Hopefully this is a good outfit – I have no opinion. Good luck!


Mark Wojahn
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

I am starting an edit with some HD files on an external drive and am not able to open the files up in QuickTime Player10 or in Final cut Pro 5.1.4. When I double click on the file to open it up in the viewer I get the warning bubble that says "Codec not found. You may be using a compression type w/out the corresponding hardware card" I am running an Intel imac on OX 10.6.4. Has anyone had this problem too? Whats the fix? Thanks.


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

In reply to Rick Dillwood's post on Fri 12 Nov 2010 :

Personally, I wouldn't trust any distributor that sends you an email and asks you to pay them money to distribute your film. A good distributor could offer an advance against future earnings if they actually anticipate being able to distribute your film in a mutually profitable way. But a distributor that asks you to pay them is just a scam operation.


Timoty Gibbs
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Can anyone talk about the Oprah Winfrey Documentary Club that's premiering in 2011? I understand she's featuring one documentary a month? Anyone think this is a good opportunity? I can't imagine how having Oprah involved with your film could be bad. How can one get a film to Oprah?


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Catapult.


Doug Block
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Timoty, I think you submit through Annie Roney at RoCo Films.

Jason, wish we could be more helpful with suggestions about distributing your short. They're just very tough to get out there, and you already contacted the two most logical broadcasters.


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Sorry to be flip. Doug is correct, as usual. That's why he runs the joint.

Edited Sat 13 Nov 2010 by James Longley

Timoty Gibbs
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Thanks, Doug, I'll investigate. Have you heard anything about this "club"? I'd think if someone like Oprah was looking for documentaries, it would be another great broadcast opportunity but no one seems to be talking about it. Do filmmakers not know about it or is it a bad thing?


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

It is a good thing. Any invitation to watch documentary films is a good thing. Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch! But watch docs. We live in the real world.

Edited Sat 13 Nov 2010 by James Longley

Jason Osder
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Here is info on the OWN documentary project – you need to click into the Flash site from this link.

http://www.rocofilms.com/

The "club" is based on the book club: one doc per month on cable TV and DVD mail order – an invitation to "get off the couch" have a discussion, do something.

I agree with James says: a good thing.

To me, it's sort of like a new model: traditional, digital, hybrid, Oprah.


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