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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.

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 23 Mar 2011Link

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.

Doug Block
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

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!

Kristen Turick
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

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!

Doug Block
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

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.

Kristen Turick
Fri 8 Apr 2011Link

Thanks very much Doug.. Much appreciated! I realize it's a lot to ask. :)

David Freed
Sat 9 Apr 2011Link

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?

Thanks, David

Edited Sat 9 Apr 2011 by David Freed

Bipasha Shom
Mon 11 Apr 2011Link

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

Doug Block
Mon 11 Apr 2011Link

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.

Edited Mon 11 Apr 2011 by Doug Block

Brenda Essahaty
Sat 16 Apr 2011Link

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.

Edited Sat 16 Apr 2011 by Brenda Essahaty

James Longley
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Jacob Bricca's post on Tue 15 Mar 2011 :

Great to see you here, Jacob B. – I hope you find the site useful.

(Jacob and I were film students together at Wesleyan U. – I will vouch for this man.)

Christina Katsiadakis
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hello. I am a new documentary filmmaker. I am currently working on a documentary about 30 something people in Greece. We are interviewing people of different backgrounds and different situations. I expected that it would be hard to work with people who are new to facing a camera, but it turned out that it is even more difficult than I expected. Are there any tips of more experienced filmmakers on how to make the person in front of the camera more at ease and less self conscious?
Thank you very much.

Ernst Gossner
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

I'm now on d-word trying to find my way around. Seems like a great place for doc newbies like me. I was wondering how I could ask filmmakers on here for advice on a sales agent. we are just about to finish our doc GLOBAL WARNING (45minutes) and we will premiere it at a festival in my hometown with following screening tour, DVD release and Online Release but we'd like to hand the rest of the world over to a sales agent. How should I ask them for their recommendations? Which forums are best? Thx, Ernst.

Edited Sun 17 Apr 2011 by Ernst Gossner

Doug Block
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Crack some jokes, Christina. I'm not kidding. It's all about having them be relaxed, and it's your job to relax them.

Ernst, assume you mean an international sales agent. But not sure what you're asking. Can you clarify?

James Longley
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

Whoopee cushions work well, particularly when preparing to interview autocratic heads of state.

John Sanvidge
Thu 21 Apr 2011Link


I've just completed my film "Finding Seoul"- a documentary I made about trying to find my birth parents in Korea. I've started applying to film festivals (TIFF and HIFF) and was wondering if anyone had other suggestions on where to apply, or what festivals to maybe avoid?

You can check out the film trailer here:
Maybe that will help get information on what festivals to try and submit to.

Thank you (I hope this is in the right section)
John Sanvidge

Rahul Chadha
Fri 22 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Try not to formally cue your subject to start the interview. I usually one-man crew my shoots. I like to set up my shot, then ask the subject what they had for breakfast to set my audio levels. I hit record and then segue into my interview questions without alerting my subject. I feel like subjects flip an internal switch that makes them very stiff if you cue them to the fact that recording has started. People are much more natural/conversational if they think they are having a conversation with you, and not the camera.

Stephen Troy
Sun 24 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

I like to start interviewing them with questions I don't really care about, and allow them to drive the interview. I never stop them and tell them to rephrase, and I will allow the interview to get as off topic as they want it to be. I use a very light hand as I guide them toward the questions and answers I care about, that way by the time we get there they are comfortable and feel as if they brought up the topic themselves. That way they don't feel like they're in the hot-seat.

Note: some people will never be very comfortable in front of a camera, some will automatically be super comfortable. All these tips everyone is giving need to be tailored to each specific person you speak with.

Jill Morley
Mon 25 Apr 2011Link

Definitely put them at ease while you are setting up for the shoot. Sometimes the more technically oriented will futz with the camera, sound and lights in silence, without putting the subject at ease with jokes and light conversation. That can get them more tense. I also find that if I want to relate to them on a very personal level, I might shut off the camera and tell them a related personal story that will elicit a charged response from them. If you set the tone that it's encouraged to be honest about how you feel instead of "performing" for the camera, I find it helps getting more powerful interviews.

Christina Katsiadakis
Tue 26 Apr 2011Link

Thank you very much for all the tips. I guess making people feel at ease is key! My next group of interviews is next week and I have the feeling it will be better than the first one. Thanks a lot!!!!!!

Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Lynnae Brown's post on Wed 4 Feb 2004 :

Hi, I'm not sure if you still looking, but here is the company I represent, we would be glad to have your business, and if you know that someone else is looking; please recommend us for their transcription services.
We've done a lot of caption work, video work, etc... We will be glad to provide references

Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 :
Our rates for transcription services start at $90 per hour, we can also provide a volume discount. We will be happy to do a free evaluation for you. Please visit us: All of our transcribers are based in US

John Burgan
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

Jan, you're welcome to join the public discussions at The D-Word but I think everyone has got the message loud and clear by now. Take a look at our FAQ if there is any confusion – in particular the following:

Do not use The D-Word only to pitch your product or service. Feel free to recommend products and services in the course of conversation, but do not offend other users by coming in only to sell something

Doug Block
Fri 29 Apr 2011Link

And kindly refrain from multiple postings in the future.

Aldo Bello
Mon 2 May 2011Link

In reply to nick toscano's post on Mon 7 Sep 2009 :

Nick, this is a great "Fair Use" site by American University...hope it helps everyone on this forum:

Ivan Serfontein
Tue 3 May 2011Link

Hi everyone

I am starting a documentary series much like Louis Theroux. I am the presenter and also director and producer. The first episode deals with bouncers and I am basically looking for some advice on getting people to be in the documentary and any production tips for the crew. For example: whats better a rifle mic or a lapel mic? Essentially I am also trying to understand why documentaries like that work. Is it the amount of time they spend with their subjects and if so, do they spend that amount of time with many subjects but end up only using a couple?

Any tips would be much appreciated
Ivan Serfontein

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