Hello members, anyone have any suggestions as Gaffers, DPs, or Directors what lighting/camera combination has worked best for you?
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.
It somewhat depends on what type of shots you're making. Talking heads inside will obviously need a different appreach than outside shots. You're also constrained by your budget. Care to tell a bit more what kind of project you're embarking on?
Filming subject is upon American Folk Music from the region and its events. From Old Time to modern emerging genres.
Most interview shots would be scheduled in home, office visits, classooms, archive areas, and outdoors. The other shots will mostly be from outdoor summer events, darkly lit venues, front porches, barns, and in home band jams. At times we will take shots of nature, buildings, homes, and scenes of natural discourse and activities of the human talent and scholars. Of course always expect random opportunities.
Budget most likely won't allow for multiple cameras and light setups but has yet to be invested on equipment so currently very flexible for any recommendations.
At the very least I want to be able to do a light triangle w/background light that gives a good rim on the subject and would be a bit too much during the night. Any suggestions on a package or combination that would work well and is travel friendly?
Derek – here's a pro bono promotional video I made for a school in Pakistan using a Canon 7D and a monopod. Edited using Final Cut Pro on a laptop – it was almost free to make it, apart from a few days of my time. I'm not sure that's exactly the style you're going for, but it's cheap and fast and fairly easy.
I am starting to edit a trailer together for a doc project in the beginning stages of editing. I need to get the trailer to show and help with some financing. The doc is very archival heavy and has a main character with a lot of published philosophies on various topics of interest to the film. So, the director and I are playing with the idea of including text in the trailer so I'm looking for some advice on maybe good examples of films that use text in a way that is informative and also stylistic interesting and significant. Beyond examples, any experiences with using text/quotes in films? Thanks in advance for any feedback!
In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 7 Dec 2010 :
Wow, what a beautiful piece, James.
Hi everyone. I am just breaking into the world of film making, and I have a great idea on a unique story in Bali and how a couple that moved there is changing the way we eat throughout the world. There is much more here, but that is the gist. They have responded to my interest and want to know my proposed plan. I have never made a film before, and want to find someone to work with me on this project who is a cinematographer. Also I need to get back to them and let them know my ideas this week. Any suggestions how to approach this? Thanks, Kristen
In reply to Nadia Hennrich's post on Mon 29 Nov 2010 :
Hi, Nadia. Sorry I didn't get right back to you. I have been on a couple of projects that have consumed all of my time, and I haven't been on D-Word for several weeks.
If you still haven't mixed yet, get in touch with me. My schedule opens up after tomorrow.
In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :
Well, I just got back from shooting in Bali 2 weeks ago, and currently live about an hour from you, so perhaps we should talk. dan at gmail dot com
In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :
Hi Dan. I am currently in Australia, but do you have skype? Maybe we could have a chat on there? Or shoot me an email kellogg.kristen (at) gmail.com Would love to hear about what you just wrapped up as well.
Can anyone recommend any great websites (other than this one) where I can get help on how to make my first documentary?
Not sure a website or a book can replace the experience you will gain by launching in and actually making a short doc exercise – ideally something in your own back yard – walk before you run. I presume you have access to a basic DV camera and edit software? How about a 2-minute portrait of "someone at work" – that's always a classic subject. Try to interpret it in visual terms, rather than relying on interview/talking heads.
Also search for "documentary filmmaking" on amazon.com – check out Andy Glynne's Documentaries and How to Make Them and Michael Rabiger's much more comprehensive Directing the Documentary
Can anyone talk about educational distribution? Who are the game players? Can it be lucrative? Is it a difficult market to crack?
In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :
Documentors started about a year ago and have a lot of resources on their page. I loved their film, Shakespeare behind bars and they are really nice folks in general. They do charge for most things, but looks like you can do a subscription as well.
In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :
If you need to come up with a proposal quick, watch as many documentaries as you can. Make sure you have a good mix of different genres, old and new. Then, figure out what you want to borrow from each, and start conceiving the proposal from there. A quick list of varied docs might be:
SALESMAN (Maysles Brothers)
GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog)
HARLAN COUNTY USA (Barbara Kopple)
IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (James Longley)
DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE (Hubert Sauper)
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (Michael Moore)
this list could go on forever... but other than making docs, watching docs is the best way to learn.
John-Thanks for the book recommendations. I read Documentaries and How to Make Them by Andy Glynne today. A lot of clarification and great insight.
Christopher-I have been watching a variety of films the last few days and it's been a tremendous help.
Justine-many thanks for the site! So many helpful hints!
Thanks everyone for helping me take the necessary steps to making my vision become a reality.
sorry for the loud introduction.
hope everyone is well.
I am currently in my final year at university, over here in the UK.
I am studying Film production and Technology, and am working on a dissertation, which is based on, the technology used for cinema release documentaries.
I have started the research, and have noticed, i am getting much more information to do with the theory, artistic and issues and debates in documentary, more than the technology side of documentary film making.
I was wondering if anyone could assist me with any articles, books or websites I could look at which focus on the technology side of film making for documentaries in cinema.
Also, I'm amazed at how there are so many different people on this website. wow! this is like a small community within it self.
Also, are there any camera men, sound recorders and editors and cinematographers, which i could maybe interview through email, just so i can get an insight of those who work in the industry, with first hand experience, that would be so great.
if anyone can help, that would be great.
Thank you for your time.
Perhaps your interest for this topic is only about docs production in the "first world". Anyway, you will find a very broad range of technologies used in docs, from the oldies (but goodies) dvx 100´s to the DSLR´S. So maybe your question should be more in the perspective of "how and why" the diverse options of cameras, sound gear, etc., are being used by documentaries filmakers. Well, is just a suggestion.
In reply to Jaime Cruz's post on Thu 23 Dec 2010 :
Thank you for writing back man, appreciate that! yh I am looking into those camera's at the moment. I am analysing the technologies through time, in reference to films. from the 20's to the 60's and to the 21st century. so I am looking at films such as, man with a movie camera, gimme shelter and touching the void. I want to look at why 35mm were used, why did people stop using them, then 16mm came in to action and now the 35mm is getting back in documentaries. I know the general idea, but i want to get in to more detail. also what the future may look like for documentaries. i wish i could change the title, I really do...but I am stuck with it now, so I just have to get on with it and learn to love it.
Jaggy... because of my age, I might be able to help.
When I started... feature docs were shot on 35mm.
I filmed some pickup shots for 'Janis' and 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest'.
If you wish, you can write me off forum.
In reply to Bill Kerrigan's post on Thu 23 Dec 2010 :
hey Bill, hope your well.
That's great.Seriously, I would love to hear from you, and your work. Thank you for replying back to my post, really do appreciate it Bill.
Is it possible I could maybe get your email add, so we can talk about this?
You'll find the email address of any D-Word member if you click on their name or photo.
In reply to Jaggy Singh's post on Thu 23 Dec 2010 :
Jaggy, please email me here:
kerrigan at mac.com
hey, thanks for the help lads.
thats great Bill, ill email you now.
Merry Christmas everyone
I recently completed a 20 minute version of the feature-length film I am directing (www.withwingsandroots.com) which is targeted for educational use. The film comparatively explores the immigration debate in the U.S. and Europe through the stories of children of immigrants in Berlin and New York. The film was shot half in Germany, and a very big German educational distributor is interested. They have given us a generic contract to look over, but I have no idea of the terms are decent or terrible, plus it is in German! Basically, they seem to be offering us no money upfront, but 50% of all profit from sales. They would get exclusive access to all German-speaking countries and Goethe Institutes for three years. I know that I need to find a German entertainment lawyer to speak with before signing anything, but it would be great if anyone could share any of the terms they have gotten in educational distribution contracts, or even send a sample contract.
Thank you so much for your help!!!
Christina, you're a member so you shouldn't post this in The Mentoring Room. Especially since it's a public topic and therefore open to Google searches and the like. This belongs in the Marketing and Distribution topic.
Christina – you could try contacting Christoph Fey – he's a a German entertainment lawyer based in Berlin and has been very helpful in the past.He works for a company Unverzagt Von Have and his contact details are easily Googled.
Advice sought: Least expensive PC for video editing programs
I am seeking help finding the least expensive PC laptop capable of running Pinnacle Studio video editing programs. I’m on the low income side (especially after becoming unemployed) so I am working with modest equipment.
Because I am couch surfing, I need to stick with a laptop, not a PC.
I’ve tried several other editing programs such as Vegas, Adobe, etc., and I’ve tried iMovie on the Mac. Pinnacle works best for me. My current laptop, a Dell I bought in 2009, cannot handle my HD video editing. I am using a Kodak Zi8 camera.
The system requirements are at: http://www.pinnaclesys.com/PublicSite/us/Products/Consumer+Products/Home+Video/Studio+Family/
There are three main versions and all 3 appear to have different requirements:
Studio Ultimate Collection
The graphics card requirement is the same for all of three.
I’m a lean quick on my own how to use document, photo, and video editing programs for creative purposes. I am however clueless about the tech stuff.
I am getting unemployment checks and money is tight. However, I believe in myself enough to take a gamble and spend up to $1,000 on a laptop.
I need help though because I'm not good at the tech stuff and don't want to get ripped off at the stores. So far, Best Buy, Fry’s and my computer savvy friends have all recommended different machines. I’m hoping that at some point I’ll hear the same recommendation a few times.
At least at Best Buy and Wal-Mart there are no re-stocking fees.
Thanks! I appreciate your time and help,
System Requirements for Studio Ultimate Collection
* Windows ® 7, Windows Vista ® (SP2),Windows XP (SP3)
* Intel ® Pentium ® or AMD Athlon ™ 1.8 GHz (2.4 GHz or higher recommended)
– Intel Core ™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz required for AVCHD*
– Intel Core ™ 2 Quad 2.66 GHz or Intel Core ™ i7 required
for AVCHD* 1920
* 1 GB system memory recommended, 2 GB required for AVCHD*
* DirectX ® 9 or 10 compatible graphics card with 64 MB (128 MB or higher recommended) – 128 MB required for Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks Plug-in: Pixelshader 2 required, Intel GMA integrated graphics not supported. – 256 MB required for HD and AVCHD*
* DirectX 9 or higher compatible sound card
* 3,6 GB of disk space
* DVD-ROM drive to install software
o CD burner for creating Video CDs or Super Video CDs (S-VCDs)
o DVD burner for creating DVD and AVCHD* discs
o Blu-ray burner for creating Blu-ray discs*
o Sound card with surround sound output required for preview of surround sound mixes*
* Capture from DV, HDV and Digital8 camcorders or VCRs (requires a FireWire ® ; port)Capture from analog camcorders, 8 mm, HI 8, VHS, SVHS, VHS-C, SVHS-C, or VCRs (NTSC/PAL/SECAM). (requires Pinnacle or Dazzle video hardware)
* Import from AVCHD* and other file based Camcorders, Digital Still Cameras, Mobile Devices and Webcams via USB
* Output to DV, HDV or Digital8 tape (requires camcorder with FireWire Input port and a PC with a DV/FireWire port)
* Output to analog videotape (requires DirectShow compatible device with video output)
* Video: AVCHD*, BD Blu-ray*, DV, HDV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX ® , MPEG-4, 3GP(MPEG-4), WMV, Non-encrypted DVD titles (incl. DVD-VR/+VR), QuickTime ® ; (DV, MPEG-4, H.264*)
* Audio: MP3, MPA, WAV, AC3*, WMA
* Graphic: BMP, GIF, JPG, PCX, PSD, TGA, TIF, WMF, PNG, J2K
* AVCHD*, BD Blu-ray*, HD-DVD, DVD (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW, dual layer), S-VCD, Video CD (VCD)
* Apple ® iPod ® , Sony ® ; PSP/PS3, Nintendo ® Wii, Microsoft ® Xbox compatible formats*
* DV, HDV, AVI, DivX*, RealVideo ® 8, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4*, Flash, 3GP*, WAV, MP3*, QuickTime ® (SD format) files
* Dolby ® Digital 2 channel and 5.1 channel audio*
Advice sought: Microphones for Kodak Zi8 camera & the iTouch.
Also, any recommendations for clip on mics, attached mics, or wireless mics to enable the recording of at least 3 people for the Kodak Zi8 camera & the iTouch?
In reply to Jeff Girard's post on Sat 15 Jan 2011 :
the oldest and still the best place on the web for all things computer-related is www.pricewatch.com
originally in DOS, pricewatch used to list real-time prices with discounts as they appeared online. nowdays it provides links to both retail and online computer supply stores.
ok, that's one option. #2 is my own personal suggestion: you want a laptop and new ones are like new cars: the moment you bring it home the price decreases about 50% – because they are all overpriced. what to do? a couple of options – you can build your own – since you aren't working and have some time, this is a real option and w/price watch and Fry's nearby...
another option: go for the refurbished model. there are SO many out there – I bought a Samsung notebook in 2003 that was about 2 years old; new it was priced around $5000 because that's what they cost back then. I paid about $250 for it and it was loaded with goodies. I was happy if it would last 6 months – guess what – I still have it and it still boots up just fine. Over time tho, memory allocations increased and I can't upgrade for a reasonable price so it's not really practical to use anymore; I just don't want it to wind up in a landfill somewhere or I'd chunk it.
which is another good reason to buy refurbished – there's simply nothing wrong with recycling a computer – many are still worth keeping around. Just check and double-check your hardware requirements, ask about warranties and you're good to go. the cheapest models come with no operating system which if you already have one, you can just use that.
if you can register for a class somewhere, you can qualify for academic pricing on software which will also save you $$
good luck and hang in there.
I'm looking for a Line Producer for a feature doc. Where do I go? The film is on Women and Men and their relationships and will be structured around interviews shot overseas and in the states in several locations. Is there an appropriate forum here to put it out there?
Members Classifieds is a good place to start. You could also put it on the public classifieds – and there are a lot of media-centric job sites (mandy.com, mediabistro.com, craigslist, even) if you're just doing a random sort of cattle-call for resumés...
Just remember, Jack, that the public classifieds is open to Google searches. So be careful about what information you're giving out.
This is my first posting so I hope I do this correctly :)
Advice sought: Recommendation of films to watch for reference
I'm hoping someone might be able to recommend a documentary that successfully tells a character driven story while also exploring this individual's culture and highlights other characters from his/her world. I'm not looking for a traditional biographical piece (I understand my description might come across sounding that way). This is a silly example, but it might help in understanding the type of film I'm looking for... (I just made this up so it might be totally ridiculous, but hopefully it will serve as a helpful illustration.)
A once celebrated under water basket weaver is looking to make a comeback. She decides to build a store in which she will sell her baskets and through the process of building the shop, she will face some of the demons from her past.
In order for the film to be accessible to the everyday viewer, the film must put the story in context – tell a bit about the history of under water basket weaving and why it is significant to some. We should also learn about others in the field so that we are able to see what makes this particular weaver different (or maybe the same) as others out there.
Does this make sense? Can anyone point me in the direction of a film that follows a similar path?
Thank you so much for your help!
Ashley, first of all, welcome to The D-Word. And bravo for leaping right in with a post. You did it fine, except that the Mentoring Room is mainly for those we call Enthusiasts and the professional members rarely hang out here.
We don't encourage double-posting but in this case we'll make an exception. You should post this again in the Documentary Film topic and you'll probably get a good deal more feedback.
Also want to encourage you to tell us a bit more about yourself in the Introduce Yourself topic.
Thank you so much for responding. I will make my way over to the Documentary Film area and see about posting there.
Thank you for your help.
We're about to go into the editing phase for our indie documentary. For the post-workflow process (using a Mac Book Pro 2.4GHz 4GB), we're about to transcode the (Canon t2i) H264 files into APR422 files using MPEG Streamclip. This seemed to be the best practice at the beginning of year 2010.
- is it still the best practice today?
- while editing in FCP, is it realistic to source the video files from an external FireWire800 HD? I was hosting my video files on an external USB 2.0 HD on a previous project, and it's just too slow. So I'm wondering if FireWire800 would do it or if I need to have the video files on my local MBP drive.
Thanks in advance,
Martin – I'm not the tech geek that some of the filmmakers are (so perhaps other will have something to add)- but there are some other options besides MPEG stream clip. EOS Plugin allows you to use FCP 'log and capture settings' to transcode files.This is supposed to be faster and also allows you to imbed timecode onto your footage. Some have had problems with it however. Magic Bullet Grinder allows you to simultaneously create both ProRes Proxy files and higher ProrRes files simultaneously and creates timecode. Oh but I just noticed that you're transcoding to something called APR422. I've never heard of that. Just about everyone I've talked to uses Prores. Yes FireWire800 should be fine. FYI – you need FCP 7 to convert to Prores Proxy (which takes up a lot less space). I think the timecode option offered by EOS plugin and Grinder is a huge advantage over MPEG streamclip.
Oh! Well that's good – I'm glad to know it's not some new codec.
I think the MPEG streamclip option works fine, especially if you then copy your THM files into the folder that the new files are in and use the free version of QTChange (search for QTChange 0.7) to add timecode and reel numbers. The EOS plugin has me plenty of issues, and I'm not the only one who has run into them – I've spent plenty of time with other filmmakers in the Madison area trying to solve their issues with it.
You're definitely better off keeping your footage on an external FW800 drive (make sure the drive is 7200rpm not 5400) than on the internal. Also, backup, backup, backup. When that drive fails, what do you do?
first q – you should always be editing off a firewire drive for many reasons, much of what has to do w/how FCP operates. also it doesn't have to be a 5400; I have 2 of those and 1 7200 drive; they all work pretty much the same. However, if you are editing HD, then you will probably see a difference w/the 7200 but your processing speed will likely be the limit rather than the external.
you can actually run into some problems with a USB drive so please do stay away from those when running FCP.
your backup files should be on your hard drive; it's called the Autosave vault and you should find it in your documents dir which is the default when you loaded FCP unless you changed it. you can set it in your system preferences in FCP.
next q about transcoding files – didn't really understand what you were referring to until someone mentioned App Prores 422; I export all my files in this codec even if I've imported into FC as another such as H.264. just import the files and change it in your settings; you can also click on the timeline, then go to your settings for your sequence (go to Sequence, settings, you have to be in the timeline or it will be grayed out) and set your codec there for prores or whatever.
fyi, if you join D-word as a member you can post over in the FCP section as well as editing.
In reply to Randy Lee's post on Mon 31 Jan 2011 :
your backup is in Autosave vault which is on your hard drive; you set it in your FCP preferences so yes, you do have a b/u on a different drive.
Your opinion guys. I know some production people in the film industry may not take well to unsolicited contact about video work, but if you were to stumble upon a production company of which you like their work and would like to shoot for them on their upcoming projects, what is a good way (notice I said "good" way, because there's probably no "best" way) to approach them so they aren't initially turned off by your unsolicited contact? A phone call first? An email first? Both consecutively? A phone call to set up a meeting (if they are in the same city/state?) I have an approach I've used for years, which works out fine most times, but I want to know your opinions.
Ever since I started doing video in '03, I've worked mainly from referrals, so my former clients usually do the trumpet-blowing for me when it came to future projects with other directors/producers. But every once in a while I will find a project that I'm interested in and would like to work on, and I sometimes scratch my head, thinking of how to approach this particular person/production company.
What are your thoughts? If you ran a decent-sized production company that's been around for years or was a producer of a newly conceived film, how would YOU prefer potential shooters contacting you? Would you even mind them contacting you? And if you WOULD mind, what was the turn-off?
Do you know of anywhere that someone involved hangs out? Or a group that they're a member of? I'm a member of MCA-I here in Madison, WI, and have been able to get a foot in the door on several great projects by keeping in contact with people that I've met through the meetings.
Otherwise I can't see an email with a phone call follow-up hurting – have a reel or website ready, of course, but it can't hurt. Some places don't want outside involvement, or don't keep track of good people until it's time to hire, but some do, and are happy to keep your card in the rolodex – I'd say at least try contacting someone there. Research the place a little first, see if there's a particular person who you should ask for, and take it from there. I know that at the company that I work for, if someone calls when we don't have a call out for resumes, they'll be sent to some middle-management guy who's goal is to send you on your way as quickly as possible. If you know the name of our DP, though, or an editor, and ask for one of them, you're in in no time.
Thank you, Randy. Some good information, especially that note at the end about how big production companies think.
Errol, it's hard to imagine someone being turned off by an email genuinely expressing appreciation for my company and wanting to become a part of it. They may not respond enthusiastically (and that's their loss), but why would they be upset?
Can anyone advise me on the simplest way to light interview subjects, as a one man band? Next week I'm doing a shoot in a house with lots of windows and pretty good light. Whenever possible, I hope to take advantage of natural light. But I just want to be prepared should I need to throw some light on a subject. In the past I've used kinoflos and lit people with the people of a PA, but this time I need to keep it to just me. And I don't want to be messing with c-stands, sandbags and the like. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.
Neil – try to use the natural light as your main source and add a reflector to the opposite side. Or use a soft box, umbrella or diffused light as your key and the window as your fill. Don't forget to use CTB to match to daylight. Of course figuring out how to add a back light is important.
I am making a short (10 minute) historical documentary. I have all of the important information, but so far the documentary is a little boring. Any advice on how to make it a little more interesting while still professional?
I'd have to know a little more about what it's about. But the key with any documentary is to remember that you are still telling a story. The story is more important than imparting facts and information.Think about Ken Burn's documentaries. Also figure out why you're using a visual medium to tell the story. What can you communicate in a visual way? Watch lots of historical documentaries. Try to figure out what makes you like them and figure out how you can apply that to your project.
Thank you very much for your help. I will try to keep that in mind and will follow your advice before I start filming and putting together information. Also, the documentary is on Susan B. Anthony and her work as a suffragist for Women's Rights if that helps.
Hey, can anyone provide some general advice on which of the following cameras would be better to use:
Canon XH A1
Canon EOS 7D
Someone is letting me borrow the XH A1 for a couple of months to shoot a documentary I'm working on, but I can also get access to a Canon 7D through school. I also have access to professional lighting and audio equipment through school, compatible with both cameras, so I don't see that as much of a factor (although I am new to filmmaker, so maybe it is).
The lens that I have for the 7D are the following:
Nikon DX Af-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.89
Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens
In terms of image quality, which do you all think is best? Also, do you think that I could use both, or would there be a noticeable difference between the two?
I am really new to film-making, so any advice here would help!
If you are really new to filmmaking I would strongly recommend the XH A1. The DSLR's have a variety of issues that have been well documented and although there are work arounds for many of them I would focus all your energy into making a film not dealing with the equipment.
Great point Nigel, indeed I think I will go with the XH A1. Thanks for the advice :)
Dean, I would get neither. The XH A1 only shoots HDV, which is QUICKLY becoming less favorable. I would recommend getting a Sony EX1R if you're a beginning filmmaker. It shoots XDCAM which isn't disappearing for a while, shoots at a significantly higher bit rate and gets a truer white balance in MY opinion.
Video shot on a Canon XH A1 Video Camera tends to have this greenish brown tinge to it even when you supposedly have correct white balance. There is a technical reason for this, but I won't go into that detail. Also, with the Sony EX3, you have more handling options thanks to its ergonomic hand-grip.
But yeah, if the ONLY options were XH A1 or 7D, I'd choose the XH A1 for the same reason Nigel said.
I would definitely make use of the 7D while you've got it available though, too. It's a great tool when used properly, and there are enough people using it that avoiding using it is a bad idea, because you never know when it'll pop up as what you need to use. But as far as focusing on telling a story and learning video gear go, definitely the XH A1.
I've been approached by a distribution company in Europe regarding my first documentary film.
I've never gotten to this stage before and am looking for advice on international distribution. I would really appreciate any and all information, from basic to specific.
My main specific questions are
-Is it normal / OK to give exclusive distro rights for all of Europe or internationally to one company? Do you often pick distributors based on countries and break it up that way?
-What are some questions that I can ask them to discover what level of a distributor they are? WHAT SHOULD I KNOW? How can I make sure they have the contacts / experience / can get my film out there...
-What % is normal for a distributor to take as a commission of sales and pre-sales?
Angela, first of all, congrats for getting your first film made, and for doing it well enough for there to be interest from a distributor.
For U.S. filmmakers, it's pretty typical to have a distributor (and sometimes even a sales agent, if there's theatrical potential) for domestic distribution and another company handling sales for international distribution (especially, broadcast). Since most of your international sales will be to broadcasters, you don't need a distributor in each country. You just need one sales agent who can approach all the broadcasters at markets like the EFM in Berlin and MIP in Cannes.
The best ways to tell if this company is legit are to check out the films they have in their catalogue, check out their website to see how well they promote the films online and contact the producers of some of their films and see what their experience has been like. Did the company work hard for them and make sales? Have they been reliable in their reports and payments? Were they easy to communicate and collaborate with? Stuff like that.
I've found it pretty typical for an international sales agent (or distributor acting as one) to charge a 30 to 35% fee for their sales. I think it's generally less for pre-sales (25%?), but I'm not sure how common it is anymore for them to actively look for pre-sales.
Thanks so much, that's the best feedback I've gotten thus far in my quest. So, it is normal to contact past producers that worked with them? I've gotten this advice before. Most are European films that I'm having trouble hunting down contact details for, would I / could I ask the company for referrals?
This company is pretty small, so trying to determine if that can be a good / ok thing.
Angela – It's absolutely acceptable and normal. And if the company is reluctant – that ought to be a red flag.
I agree with Laura, and they'll steer you to the producers who they know are happiest. You might want to use your internet detective skills to track down other producers they don't list.
In the meantime, you should register for professional membership here, which will give you access to all 50 of our discussion topics.
In reply to Angela Snow's post on Mon 14 Feb 2011 :
... where you can list a couple of titles, and we in Europe may know the people who made the films.
In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Tue 15 Feb 2011 :
HAHA. Amazing. Could always be worse.
How are you? I am a first time film maker and live in Bali.
Tracks Magazine in Australia are interested in providing the finishing funds for my documentary about an Indonesian surfer. However, they want to produce a DVD for the front of their magazine but I want to broadcast the project and I would like to find a broadcaster with your help at the D-Word.
This way I will reach beyond the surfing audience which has always been my vision. Please post advice soon.
Welcome to The D-Word, Karen. It's quite a challenge to find a broadcaster, particularly as a beginner and another thing again to produce a piece for a specialist magazine. Have you already shot some material and do you have a trailer online?
Hi, yes they have seen the 12 minute trailer and then offered finishing funds. They are media partners with the sponsor.
We already have 1/3 footage. The rest to be shot in Oz and maybe a return to Sumbawa. There's vintage stock footage to add that requires conversion from 16mm
I'll chime in – I've seen some of Karen's piece.
It's a portrait of an Indonesian surfer from a tiny, remote village who has made it to the big time of the surf world.
There are so many unknowns here – The key one as far as I can see is exclusivity – does the magazine want some ownership of your film in exchange for the finishing funds? If all they want is to put your film on a DVD with your magazine, but you have all broadcast sales rights, that might be a good deal for you. But you might not be able to get your film in certain festivals if it has already been distributed on DVD. I am not certain that magazine/dvd distribution will hurt broadcast sales, which would be aimed at a general audience. Perhaps you could negotiate with the magazine that you are given a window (before dvd distribution) where you could enter the film in festivals.
You should also research your market and find other films in the genre and talk to their producers – how many surf films get TV sales? How much do they sell for? Are your hopes and expectations realistic, and based on an understanding of the market for this genre of film?
Karen, seems like you're getting good advice from others. So I'll mostly just welcome you to The D-Word and let you know we've upgraded you to Professional status, as befitting how far along you've taken your film.
This is an interesting discussion and now belongs in the Funding (Europe, Elsewhere) topic, where more people will see it and weigh in. We don't encourage double posting, but in this case feel free to post again there.
Hey, I had three quick questions related to a short doc I just did, related to sound editing, classical music licensing and posting this on the Web. Any advice on any of these would be greatly appreciated!
-Sound editing: I have a short problematic portion with a low electromagnetic hum related to, I think, someone's cell phone being turned on. It's not loud but it's noticeable, and occurs for maybe 5-7 seconds of a 30 second interview portion I'd really like to use. Is there any way to remove/minimize something like that in either Pro Tools or preferably Final Cut, because I'd prefer to handle this myself and I don't have Pro Tools?
-Classical music licensing: I want to use a 30 second portion of Vivaldi's 4 Seasons, and this piece is for someone to post on their Web site to promote their business. Is it necessary to pay to license the music for something like this, which won't be widely seen, and if so any recommendations on good Web sites or sources?
-Web streaming: I want to deliver this in a version that's going to be a good-looking Web viewing experience. In the past, when I've posted something on Vimeo for example, I've just exported a Quicktime using the Broadband choice. Is that the best way?
Neil, the Mentoring Room is for Enthusiasts who don't have access to the many discussion topics open for Professional members. Since you have Professional status, in the future please ask these questions in the appropriate topics.
In reply to Neil Orman's post on Wed 16 Feb 2011 :
If it is just that one clip, you can send it to me and I'll send it back. I probably can completely get rid of it in Pro Tools, depending on what it is.
If you have Final Cut Studio, Soundtrack Pro Audio Restoration can lessen or remove it.
Music – You would need permission to use the recording, unless you record/perform the music yourself. Someone on here knows more than I do about the legalities.
Can't answer the Vimeo part...
Got it, sorry about that Doug. Bill, I really appreciate that and will get in touch via email. Thank you!
In reply to Neil Orman's post on Wed 16 Feb 2011 :
Neil – cell phones generally don't make humming sounds on recordings. They make twittery, high-pitched interference noises. To minimize a hum sound in Final Cut, try using the multi-band equalizer tool and find the frequency with the hum. Then turn down that frequency for the duration of the problem. Any tool that allows you to selectively adjust volume across a small band of frequency will work for this. You might not be able to completely eliminate the offending noise, but you can make it less horrifying.
About Vimeo, try making your video 720p H264 format, assuming you are starting out with HD material. Without knowing your original format it's a little tricky to advise you on this.
But Doug is right (always) – you should be asking these questions in the pro topics.
In reply to Avery Morgan's post on Fri 4 Feb 2011 :
What is your topic? I'm a novice doc maker, but a seasoned public historian.
I just received word about my acceptance into Stanford's MFA program as well as the MFA in Film & Electronic Media at American University. I've done a fair amount of research about both programs online so I have a good idea of certain information, but I've found it hard (particularly with American University) to answer a number of questions not covered on website FAQs.
Is anyone familiar with the differences in structure and curriculum from the two programs? Perhaps any American University grads out there? I've already spoken to a number of Stanford grads, who were very helpful.
I am an AU alum. I graduated a while back just when they were starting the MFA program (I opted to stick with the MA). Can't compare it to Stanford b/c I don't know Stanford's program. AU is a great program if you plan to make social issue documentaries, environmental documentaries, or want to be close to the research facilities of Washington DC. It is very much a practical-focused program (since it is situated in the School of Communications).
For perspectives from more recent AU alums (including ones who have been through the MFA program), you might want to repost(sorry hosts) your specific questions in the Teaching Docs topics since not all the professionals who could answer your question check the public topics.
Congratulations on the acceptances to both institutions.
I'm an established doc editor venturing out for the first time as a producer of his own doc. I got a couple small grants which got me started, and now have a bunch of footage shot, a trailer, treatment, and prospectus materials. I have non-profit status with IDA and intend to raise some funds that way, but want to solicit larger chunks of change from investors. I'm looking for resources (example documents, books, advice) about how to set up a situation where I can engage investors in my film (total budget = approx. $160K.) Must I set up an LLC? Is there a quick-and-easy way of doing this? What do the contracts look like when people invest? Any pointers or advice is much appreciated.
Jacob, now that we just gave you Professional status due to your impressive experience in documentary editing, let me suggest that you just start searching and reading our whole category of Business Topics. I'm sure you'll find many answers and ideas there.
While you're at it, you should really Introduce Yourself and tell this community a bit more about your background. Thanks!
I've been searching as you suggest and have found lots of useful tidbits. Will do an introduction, too. Thanks, Ben!
I'm starting a documentary project that will be shot in HD, and someone at the Apple Store recommended that I talk to Maxx Digital (http://www.maxxdigital.com/) about getting consultation for a RAID setup for a MacPro that I'm thinking of getting. Has anyone dealt with Maxx Digital before? How's their consultation and, more importantly, their products?
I don't know if this is the section to be doing this in, but here it goes.
I have some experience, but not much, so I was wondering if any filmmaker would like some free help on a project this summer? I am a fast learner, but I want to be a documentary filmmaker and the cinema department at my school isn't giving me very much practical experience.
Please respond if you're interested. I have a passport and am willing to travel. I'm friendly and easy to work with, I promise.
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Sun 13 Mar 2011 :
Thanks so much for your input. I apologize for my slow acknowledgement of the reply. I was away for a few days. I've decided to put my lot in with Stanford because of its more intimate atmosphere as well as the long-standing reputation and pedigree. The decision wasn't made lightly though. Stanford, AU, and NYU (which I just received acceptance to) all have really amazing aspects that I wish I could benefit from. If only I could afford to go to all three... :)
Well it says something about you that you were accepted into all three. I know a lot of really amazing documentarians have come through the Stanford program so certainly a good choice.
Independent Film Week
Seeking Scripts and Documentary works-in-progress – Emerging Narrative and No Borders now open for submissions! Spotlight on Docs opens April 15!
My husband is a DP/Director and was contacted about 2 years ago by a client wanting him to shoot an interview and broll for one woman's story of abuse, survival and healing through an alternative method called Transformational Bodywork. There was an urgency to do the shooting asap as she was also diagnosed with 4th stage Ovarian Cancer and her prognosis was not good. The purpose was to have her story documented so that sometime in the future it might be used for a documentary about the kind of work this therapist is doing.
Some time later, my husband was contacted again by same client to come out and film some more footage with the same subject as she had now finished with chemo and was in remission. She had made great strides in her work with our client/her therapist and was celebrating her life. This time, I went with him and shot several days with her. During the shoot, it became clear that my husband and I had gained a remarkable perspective on how best to pursue this documentary. Since the client hadn't even yet lined up a director, we pitched to him that we could helm the project, and he wholly agreed. We then did one more round of shooting this past March.
Through each stage, the client had paid my husband his standard dayrate, so everything was essentially a work-for-hire gig. But as some other parties have now come forward with additional financing and the documentary as a whole is picking up steam, we're now floundering with the business end of all of this, playing catch-up to this bass-ackwards way of producing a documentary.
Which brings me to this... We need help! We have a producer we'd like to bring on board to handle all the administrative details moving forward, but we're so ignorant about what all those details are exactly. In doing research, I've read things about fiscal sponsorship, advisory boards, non-profit, etc. As of right now, we are slated to do our final round of principal photography this May in NY and CA and still have no protection in case things go horribly awry. Husband is currently talking with a lawyer about forming an LLC and drafting an operating agreement for the three parties involved: my husband and I, and the client-turned-partner. But we're unclear how to handle things such as:
- Who should own the Copyright?
- What is an appropriate split for profit/loss between us and client-turned-partner?
- How to accept outside monies which are still unclear yet as to whether or not they'll be Donations vs. Investments?
- If the incoming monies are Investments, what's an appropriate way to handle profit splits between we the filmmakers, and them?
- Do we need an advisory board? Does it help? Offer more credibility?
I apologize for the novella, if you've made it this far... any insight into these questions would be immensely appreciated, or if there's something else I might be altogether overlooking. Thanks so much for any and all help!
Kristen, smart questions. I just emailed you to suggest a consultant (and it's not me, even though I consult quite often). It seems like you need a good one badly and I recommended a great one.
Thanks very much Doug.. Much appreciated! I realize it's a lot to ask. :)
Hi, my name is David. I'm new to this group and to making videos' I've mostly been doing photography and printmaking up to this point.
A starting question: I want to make a short video about my art and artmaking. I'd be in it--in my studio--talking about, making and showing my artwork, hoping to make it informative and interesting. My question: is this considered to be a documentary video/film, or is there some more appropriate name for this kind of video?
hello, i'm an editor who wants to edit more documentary projects. i have an extensive background editing tv commercials and music videos. i have also cut two features and have edited a number of short (30 minute) docs for warner bros and dc comics. i would really like to work on a feature length doc with more substance. does anyone have any suggestions on how to go about finding projects which need editors. thanks!! bipasha
Yes, Bipasha. Join The D-Word as a professional member and put up a post in the Professional Classifieds topic. You can already put one up in the public Classifieds topic.
We have a lot of LA area members, so once you're a professional member you can check the F2F topic to see when there will be gatherings. Also, are you a member of Doculink? If not, would be helpful for you to join.
In reply to Kristen Turick's post on Thu 7 Apr 2011 :
Good luck karen,It was interesting to read your post,isn't it funny how complicated the business world is,by the time most finally get there they barely could breath,not having a one clear direction/one stop to help people forward with business is frustrating.
It's a very interesting documentary and I can understand why it's picking up.I have been bitching tv shows to producers,I would think the patient/partner is the owner of the copy right cause he called you to do the documentary for him.This can turn around on you 200 degrees,look at these points...He has paid you to do the documentary and the idea is his,so where do you think you fit in now??
I refuse to have anyone get in partnership with me on any of my ideas,and was determine to take the government funding and make a loan to top it up.I was told anyone who take part financially will not want to get nothing out of it,but a sponsor might pay something to contribute but have the priority on advertisement which means their logo will appear some where on the film and at every ad,but their appearance will based on how much they contribute.
Film industry is a bit difficult to get into and certainly not hassle free.
Good luck anyway,sorry can't help.But I like what you are working on.