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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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Jacob Bricca
Tue 15 Mar 2011Link

I've been searching as you suggest and have found lots of useful tidbits. Will do an introduction, too. Thanks, Ben!


Martin Kelly
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

Hi,

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?


Kevin Hallagan
Sat 19 Mar 2011Link

hey everybody,

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.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 22 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Sun 13 Mar 2011 :
Erica,

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... :)


Erica Ginsberg
Tue 22 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!

http://www.ifp.org/independent-film-week/


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
Thu 7 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
Sun 10 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.
Christina


Ernst Gossner
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hi,
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
Sun 17 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
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

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


John Sanvidge
Thu 21 Apr 2011Link

Hello

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: http://vimeo.com/22299145
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. http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com
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: http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com 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
Thu 28 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: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/best-practices/documentary/


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
Thanks
Ivan Serfontein


Ray Metoyer
Fri 13 May 2011Link

Greetings All,
Can anyone suggest to me how I could find out what the value is for a documentary on the international scene; primarily Europe and the UK?
I've had some interest in a doc that has aired in the US, but how do I determine what it's worth? Is there a consultant or a company I could go to?


James Longley
Mon 16 May 2011Link

Having a sales agent for international sales is sometimes not a bad idea. The rates for documentary sales vary widely depending on the broadcaster/distributor and on the film itself.


Ray Metoyer
Mon 16 May 2011Link

James– thanks for your reply. If there's someone you would recommend– please send me a note to my email address:
rmetoyer@mindspring.com


Adam Johnson
Mon 23 May 2011Link

Can I buy someone lunch? I'm looking to bribe a friendship with someone who has more experience than me as a doc filmmaker. If you are up in LA or OC or even San Diego, I'd be happy to take you to lunch and talk about my project and how to proceed, what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.

My Project centers around a horse sanctuary that takes in abused and neglected horses- but also profiles the various volunteers who have their own afflictions such as Post Traumatic Stress, Autism, Fetal Alcohol, etc. A reciprocating therapy takes place and could provide a more widespread solution to many of the mental health and social issues of today. We have about 50% production in the can. Would like to submit to the festival circuit eventually.

Let me know if you would like to provide some mentor-ship in exchange for a Big Mac... ;) email me if interested.


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 30 May 2011Link

Hi everyone,

In an effort to keep this short I'm leaving out the background info, but if needed, I'll gladly post it.

How can I ensure a collaborative and successful interview with an organization and their representative when I'm certain they'll find out I don't like what they are doing? The specific person I want to interview is surely to raise some eye brows and with a quick visit to my film website, they'll likely get the hint that I'm not on their side.

Regards.


James Longley
Tue 31 May 2011Link

You cannot ensure it. You can be open minded and demonstrate a desire to let them tell their side of the story, whatever it is. But in the end, it's up to them to decide whether to go on record or not. I've personally wasted piles of cash traveling across the country to interview people only to have them chicken out at the last minute. All you can do is offer them a chance to be interviewed. If they refuse, include their refusal in your film. That way, your audience knows you offered them a chance to refute any negative claims made in the film. And make sure to go over your film with a good lawyer if it's something that could potentially stir up legal trouble. And get E&O insurance.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Hi James,

It's so great to see you taking the time to answer questions from beginners like myself. Thumbs up!

Your answer is a huge help, especially since I had never heard of Errors & Omissions insurance before.

I understand now the potential to waste a lot of money traveling. I'll try to minimize this by asking the organization for a day of interviews with various people so I can learn about their activities in research, community/membership education, fundraisers, etc. If the main person I want to interview backs out, maybe I can get the other interviewees to provide the same information.

Thanks again James.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

Would enjoy hearing from others how you go about finding music for your films? I'm searching for a "sad" song for a trailer piece I'm working on and having a tough time. What do you do?


James Longley
Tue 31 May 2011Link

I make my own music. It's cheaper.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 1 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Moby has a wide range of free samples for people working without money or very little of it. Conditions are attached to their use, but fair ones.


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 2 Jun 2011Link

Thanks to both James and Jo-Anne.


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 2 Jun 2011Link

Hi all,

I'm looking for a replacement for my Rode Video Mic because it makes too much noise when I'm walking around and filming. This is because it uses rubber bands for its shock system and they make squeaking rubber friction noises when moved.

Can anyone recommend a small mic that gets at least as good audio quality as the Rode Video Mic and can be used when the camera is moving around, say when walking with someone during my documentary interviews? I've looked at Rode's Pro model, but fear it uses the same rubber bands and will be noisy.

BTW, I have a lavalier mic sys, but still would like a mic I can mount on my cam and use when I don't have time to mic someone up.

Thanks!

Edited Thu 2 Jun 2011 by Reid B. Kimball

James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

People say nice things about the Sanken CS1. But the shock mount is not usually part of the microphone, so you should be able to replace your mount without buying a new mic. Without actually knowing which mic you have it's a little difficult to tell. What kind of camera are you using? What's your price range? What is a "Rode Video Mic" exactly? Link?


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Hey James,

Here's the one I'm talking about: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/363083-REG/Rode_VIDEOMIC_VideoMic_Camera_Mounted.html

A good picture of the shock mount using rubber bands:
http://www.pctodays.com/userimages/08%2001%202006rode_videomic.jpg

I am using a Panasonic HDC-HS700 – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/674251-REG/Panasonic_HDC_HS700K_HDC_HS700K_High_Definition_Camcorder.html

The link is for a more recent model (700K).

I hope to pay no more than 400 for a new mic.


James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Okay – for that size camera I honestly don't know what mic to suggest. But it sounds like your real trouble is the shock mount, so you might just experiment with different rubber bands or doubling up bands to see if you can get something that doesn't make noise when you move it. With audio gear, you generally get what you pay for, and most mics that are considered professional start around twice the price you are looking for. Remember, though, that a great microphone can last for decades if you take care of it, unlike digital cameras these days, which usually have to be upgraded every couple years. So investing in good sound gear makes some sense if you plan on making films for a while. Also, really good microphones tend to retain their resale value. But for now, focus on trying different rubber band configurations.


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Alright, you make a good argument for investing in a quality mic. Will try messing with the rubber bands just in case I can hack something together. If I start spending too much time on it, I'll just buy a higher quality mic.


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 6 Jun 2011Link

Hi everyone,

My documentary is health related and I'm having trouble finding a gastroenterologist who will agree to see me for a general consultation check up and be filmed while that is happening. I've talked to 2 offices and all 12 GIs have declined to go on camera during my appointment.

Having them on camera I think is really important for people at home to see what happens during these appointments. If you have ever seen the documentary, Super Size Me where Morgan Spurlock visits doctors in the beginning, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

I will keep searching, but I'm thinking of a backup plan and want your feedback. That plan is to get a small pen camera or easily concealed audio recording device and getting it on record that way, regardless of permission. Then in the editing process I will of course make sure there aren't any identifiable elements on visual and audio.

If I do this, I think it can add some needed tension to the film anyway. "What are they hiding? What don't they want you to know about?"

I'm hoping that as long as there isn't any way to identify the doctor I see, there shouldn't be any legal issues. Thoughts?

If you think the backup plan can work, have any suggestions for "spy" cameras or audio?


Linda Wasson
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

well Reid, for one thing, they are afraid of malpractice suits, as they very well should be. drs have more to answer to than just their patients, believe it or not.

one of the drs in SSM was Dr. Isaacs, who was actually my internist for a while back when I lived in nyc. He's originally from S. Africa so I'm thinking maybe he doesn't scare easily – he certainly impressed me in many ways when I knew him – and it was a real hoot seeing him in the film.

not sure why you feel "the people at home" need to see you with your dr. most everyone over the age of 18 (and many under) have been to a gastro specialist so why is this so special?

at any rate, you might want to try medical schools. do you have a legal release ready in a pdf or fax format that you can provide immediately? and have you stated as such? that should be your top priority.

you might also call your local med asso and ask them for names of drs who do any kind of educational programming or promotional work – that might at least give you some contacts but you'll still need a hefty release.

btw, the release probably should be prepared by a product liability defense attorney since that's who would be defending a dr in a lawsuit...

good luck!


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Linda Wasson's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

Hi Linda,

I feel it's important to get this on camera because it's part of my story of dealing with Crohn's disease and how I answer the questions they ask and how they respond in turn when they learn I'm not using conventional treatments.

I do have a release form that I call a "model release" and it's worked fine so far. Here's the link in case you want to see it: http://crohnsend.com/documents/model_release_template.pdf

Interesting idea having someone write the model release to protect the doctors and not me... if I understand that right.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

Also, I don't understand why a doctor would be concerned about malpractice suits suddenly if there's a camera in the room. What's that got to do with how they practice medicine? I know, I should be asking them that question.


Bill Jackson
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Jake Salyer's post in Introduce Yourself
I really liked your images. I wasn't expecting to see the whole film; I was expecting some clips or a trailer.
You might want to consider making a very short version, if you haven't already, to give people a taste of what you have done and draw them in to want to see more.

I would seriously think about redoing the narration before submitting to festivals. Not only is it technically thin, but (even though it is probably your voice) it sounds like it is being read, rather than told with enthusiasm/interest. Also, the film could use some pretty serious work on the overall sound mix.

It is a very interesting story of which I had no previous knowledge.
Others here may have better insight into how the story and editing are working. I just wanted to bring up my thoughts on the narration.

Good luck!


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