Great point, JB. Ditto.
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.
I was wondering after I posted that if someone would say something.
First, just because a file is available for download through a bittorrent site does not mean it's 'illegal', and also in my case, I will make my documentary available for people to see for free, as well as purchase hard copies, as many in the genre I am working in are doing.
I support people in the industry by buying documentaries from them (usually after I have watched them) and I often give them away to people.
That being said, I appreciate you communicating with me about your edit
The movie in question is not available legally through any bittorrent or download site, Jennifer – if you believe it is, please email the link and we will happily post it. It may be available on Netflix to subscribers in the US for online streaming – but that's not bittorrent.
Actually John it is available. You can watch it on Youtube and it has a standard license. It can be found via a simple search. The first part has over 90,000 views and was posted in 2006 so the assumption would be that it is legally available to watch for free.
Documentary filmakers might want to think about how they plan to survive in the business without considering other ways of distribution. This is the reality, embrace and think outside the box.
Although some sections are there on Youtube, the whole movie is not available to watch, as you acknowledged in your original post.
The bittorrent link that you posted which we removed was certainly not legal – is that what you meant by "thinking outside the box"? :)
As it is, D-Worders are already exploring alternative methods of distribution online, such as our Distrify and The D-Word Topic.
That was my original post? I've not posted a bit torrent link. I wouldn't encourage illegal downloading but I would encourage 'thinking outside of the box' when it comes to distribution and not just assuming that making your film available for free is not part of a viable distribution plan. This is a model that threatens the more established filmmaker and it shouldn't. You get what you pay for.
ARCHIVING/LONG TERM STORAGE FOR DIGITAL ORIGINAL MEDIA
For some reason having a really hard time getting folks to talk to me about this issue so wanted to throw it out to the D-word community (doesn't seem to have been really covered in past forum posts.)
I work for a small, non-profit arts organization that produces a pretty high profile nat'l documentary series for PBS. We’ve got a growing amount of digital original video material (multi-GB, broadcast-intended digital video files; mostly XDcam EX and P2 original) and we need to get serious about more long term/archival preservation – a system where I can reliably expect to access the media 5/10/20 years down the line. Currently all this media lives on multiple, but non-networked, non-RAIDED external drives; given the life expectancy for these kind of drives, I realize they’re really only a short term solution. Up to the last couple of years, almost all of our original footage was shot to tape; we’ve been creating protection masters, and storing masters and protections in separate climate controlled facilities. Obviously digital material requires a different solution.
One important thing to know about us – we have serious aspirations to preserve all of our originally-produced footage beyond the life of the organization, to eventually make publicly available for researchers, students, etc. So this is not a client-mandated need but instead something generated internally, motivated by our contemporary art and media centered mission. Being smart now about how we ensure the longevity/future usability of this material is crucial for us.
I know the terms "archival" and "long term" probably bring up more questions than answers but I'm wondering how folks in similar positions – smaller production companies producing a consistent (if not broadcaster level volume) of digital original material, who own their media and have a vested interest in preserving it – have dealt with this. Transferring to LTO5 tape? Some kind of cloud/network-based solution? In house? Out-sourced?
Honestly, very surprised there isn't more discussion out there about this. Really hoping I can spark something here.
Thanks Doug. Posted a similar discussion topic on DVXuser, a more gear/tech oriented site. And have gotten some interesting responses.
The guy at that forum wrote:
"That said, I can't afford LTO. I archive my stuff on external hard drives, and copy it over to the next latest and greatest drive every several (~5) years. With hard drive capacity continuing to increase (at virtually no higher price), this is a viable method for the mid-term."
Given that the cost of storage is minimal – a hundred hours of SD or HD footage fit on a 1TB drive that costs around $160, (That's a fast, G-Drive), why would you use magnetic tape? Clone or back-up the drives every 5-10 years, depending on usage. If you are getting to be an old fart, perhaps begin discussions with a film or university archive to handle your footage after you die- with stipulations for tape back-up or whatever.
To me the real problem is how to organize it. I'd like to have a workflow so that, say, 100 hours on a drive would also be mirrored (with BITC) to a private youtube account – each tape divided into 6 10-minute sections – so that other people – researchers, collaborators – anywhere in the world could be roped in to log, translate, and work on editing sequences.
If you have historic and valuable footage, you might be able to have a university buy the collection library.
I'm producing a documentary about the lifestyles of the women in Brazil. I working with a small budget and looking for some advice. I may need a super affordable documentary producer. Someone who has experience with small budgets and a foreign women subject. Please contact me.
I really need some advice.
I have been making a documentary, titled “Tango Your Life,” whose trailer can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0atvWyQ4rrs, if you care to watch it.
Basically I filmed and used in my documentary film many dance scenes, which come with copyrighted music, being played during the filming sessions. As these were dancing scenes, it’s not possible to avoid the music.
When I approached a law firm here in Buenos Aires, their interpretation is that I sync the copyrighted music to the film. That means, I have to pay the copyright loyalty to two groups: one representing composers/authors and the other for record companies. The loyalty is extremely high enough to put me out of the game.
When I asked the firm about “fair use,” their response was:
1) Fair use is provided by our law only for the limited use of a work for educational o scientific purposes. Other uses are not comprised within this exception. If you proceed to sync fractions of music themes with your documentary without having prior authorization from their authors, you could be subject to a lawsuit.
Then I discovered “Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use,” under which I believe the music recorded and used in my documentary falls under the protection of “fair use.”
I admit there are some incidents in the film, where the music was used beyond “fair use.” For example, some scenes start with a dance scene, which later is overlaid with an interview while the music continues to play to the end of the interview. This kind of scenes will be fixed to comply with “fair use.”
So my question is, “If the documentary shows dance scenes that come with copyrighted music, does it fall under “fair use?”
Please provide your advice here or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
We normally strongly discourage double posting in more than one topic, but in this case I think it's appropriate.
I'm making a documentary tentatively titled "Life is Good," and am currently looking for a non-profit to fiscally sponsor the project. We have donors who want to give money, but need a non-profit to funnel the money through. Topics in the film include: life optimism, sailing, aerospace, hypothermia, young death, living life to the fullest.
Here is the log line:
In the wake of Tyler Lorenzi’s unexpected death, an adventurous list he made of must-dos in his hometown of San Francisco inspires four of his best friends from different walks of his life to take a trip to the Bay Area in his honor. As two of his college sailing buddies, his best friend from high school and the young woman whose life he saved undertake the difficult task of paying tribute, they try to emulate Ty’s outlook on life as they each struggle to find meaning and transformation in their adventure.
Info packet attached. Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks!
Hi Ben. Lots of organizations offer fiscal sponsorship. Try the International Documentary Association for a start: http://www.documentary.org/community/sponsorship
There are many others too...
In reply to Marj Safinia's post on Mon 24 Oct 2011 :
Thanks Marj, much appreciated!
Hi, I joined the D Word earlier in the year when I started some of the research for my first documentary and have found some great information, but I confess that my visitation has been sporadic. I completed "Curing Addiction" in September and have submitted to some film festivals and working some circles to start with. I was wondering if anyone knows of some good educational distributors for colleges and other institutions that I could contact.
Lucas, go to "Search Posts" at the top of the page and plug in "educational distributors". Should turn up some previous suggestions.
Thanks,Doug. I did try to do that over the summer but a few of them were no longer in business. I will do that again and look for other ones that I'm sure I missed.
Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. I discovered a developing story in Iraq 2 weeks ago. I approached the parties involved about tagging along to tell their story. They made a spot for me and one of my investors purchased airfare today.
Here is the issue. In the past when I have traveled in countries such as Kenya or El Salvador my "press pass" was simply a badge provided by the organizations I was traveling with. Do I need some kind of official press pass? I will contact the US Embassy as soon as it is morning in Baghdad but I thought someone here might be able to help out. Thanks.
You might want to check out New Day Films. I honestly do not know much about them, but am working on a science-related doc myself and know they did the education distribution for Kansas vs. Darwin. Here's the website: http://newday.com/ and their wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Day_Films
I am trying to use Excel to enter my IN and OUT timecode information. I am having trouble getting my format to appear correctly. My timecode is based on 60 frame/sec so it may look like 00:04:34.51 but freakin' Excel will change it to 04:34.50, truncating the hour 00 and rounding down the frame number. I have tried setting the column cell type to Number, Text and custom (which I don't understand well) with no luck.
I did search for Excel macros for timecoding info and most are based on 24 or 29 frame/sec. It would be a bonus to have a timecode macro that can calculate the elapsed time between IN and OUT but that is not essential.
My main issue is getting the formatting right because I am copying and pasting from a word doc with the original timecode format.
Right now I have to copy from my word doc, paste into notepad, then copy from notepad and paste into Excel for the format to appear correctly. Talk about a productivity nightmare.
In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 10 Nov 2011 :
I am trying to use Excel because my volunteer producer who is much more experienced than I says it's a must. Have another approach you like better?
In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Sat 12 Nov 2011 :
A must for logging video footage to keep track of who said what and the images contained in b-roll.
there are far better programs for logging video footage than excel. Avid has one, Imagine Products makes expensive ones, and there are bunch of others floating around. These days I wouldn't even bother. Just do it in your editing program – if space is an issue – bring everything in low res. That way you can organize bins too.
In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Mon 14 Nov 2011 :
Thanks Robert, I will investigate those other options you mentioned. Love learning about new tools!
I'll experiment with bringing in low res video too.
I'm a documentary film student (about to graduate in December) who is looking for an internship here in NYC. Aside from the standard job posting sites, does anyone know of a good way to find and research available internships in the field?
In search of the "perfect" camera:
I am a photographer in Knoxville and have been roped into this crazy adventure in the spring. It's called The 555.
Basically all of the crazy motor heads here are travelling across the country again. The only catch is that they must use motorcycles under 500 ccs, costing less than $500 to rebuild and orginally built before 1975.
and they want me to sit in a homemade side car and film the trip for two weeks
I am looking for a camera that is in the spirit of the 555
grimy, beat up, sturdy, drunk, a one man show
Can anyone recommend something?
What kind of camera does a crazy person take on a dangerous motorcycle adventure in hopes of capturing the truth about "The 555"?
ps. how the hell am I going to get sound for this if I'm the only one doing this project?
I’m new to the D-Word, new to the world of documentary filmmaking, and I have a ton of questions. I’ll confine this post to question number 1 but first a few words of introduction.
I’m a writer in Los Angeles, working in collaboration with a veteran European filmmaker on the development of a doc film project that’s been accepted into IDA’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program. On page one of the FSP Agreement it says that as Project Manager I’m required “to obtain appropriate liability insurance for all aspects of the project in an amount of not less than $1,000,000, which shall name IDA as an additional insured.”
I’d like to ask folks with experience in this area where I should (and maybe also should not) go to inquire about such insurance, how much I should expect to pay, if there are some plans better than others, etc. Any and all information will be appreciated.
Many thanks, and it's great to be part of this group--
P.S. Thanks to Lisa Hasko of IDA for telling me about the D-Word!
Here's my second question for the Mentoring Room and it's also about insurance. At what point in the long process of development should Errors & Omissions coverage be purchased? Compared to liability insurance, the quotes for E&O are way more expensive. Early on, we're trying to figure out the best way to spend what money we have. Any thoughts or anecdotes will be appreciated--
Stephen, wait until you're finished (or close to finished) and have a sense of what your distribution will be. You'd need it mainly for theatrical and broadcast, so why pay for it when you may not ultimately need it?
Basically, if a broadcaster (like HBO or the BBC or Discovery or whoever, for example) wants to buy your film, they will tell you if they have an E&O requirement and what company they prefer you to get the insurance from – because the insurance is really to protect the broadcaster, not the filmmaker (but you should still make sure that the insurance policy also covers you.)
This is because broadcasters have a lot of money, and filmmakers generally have none. So any potential lawsuit resulting from your film will likely target the broadcaster, not you, the filmmaker.
However, in most cases such lawsuits are few and far between – this E&O business is mostly just a formality required by the legal departments of large media companies.
What you can do to prepare for this process is to get signed waivers from the principal participants in your film, if possible.
Thanks, Doug and James, for your 12/16 and 12/17 responses to my question above about E&O insurance. You're both helpful and encouraging.
In reply to Ray Metoyer's post on Fri 13 May 2011 :
Can anyone tell me what are the typical rates for selling a documentary to a US TV channel or where I might find such information? I have a client here in the UK who has made a documentary which should be of interest to the US audience.
The rates are all over the place, Maureen. Could be as little as next to nothing (small cable channel) or as high as a million or more (HBO, if they really really want it). Would help to know what kind of doc it is and the length.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 4 Jan 2012 :
Thanks, Doug. Pretty much as I suspected. It's an hour-long documentary about Buffalo Bill's visit to Scotland.
Sounds like The History Channel is your likely target. Don't know their license fees (does anyone here have any experience with them?) but my guess is it's not high for an hour-long "one-off" acquisition. 10 to 20K, perhaps? Don't hold me to it, though.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Thu 5 Jan 2012 :
Thanks again. I'' pursue the History Channel lead. Doesn't sound as if the chap is going to make much of a return on this.
In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 5 Jan 2012 :
Good grief. His prospects of success are being radically pruned.
Hi, I'm working on a documentary feature for which I'm finding it really difficult to raise any funding at all.
The documentary is on the Maoist rebel movement in India and looks at the rebels, the conflict and its human cost, and the underlying issues of mining and indigenous tribal rights.
I have filmed one round and will be going back to film more (me being the director, cinematographer, producer, editor and all).
Based in Australia, I have had no luck getting a broadcaster. The commercial ones don't care and the public broadcasters require Australian content / connection so a suggestion was for me to film myself which I think detracts from the story – its not about me but about the people there.
So I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions / ideas on how to go about raising funding for documentaries on issues that aren't exactly mainstream? How do I finance this (so far its been self financed but that won't cover a lot of the post work)? And what are the possibilities for distribution, theatrical release etc?
Your film sounds like a good idea. I have been to India doing a short promo/doc for a charity on Yanadi tribe and luckily they supported financially filming of it all.
Anyway, in regards to your financing, have you tried http://www.indiegogo.com/
Hope it all goes OK for you and if I can do anything to help or advise you please let me know.
In reply to Ajay Brar's post on Tue 10 Jan 2012 :
I am not sure if Kickstarter.com is open to those outside the United States yet, but I raised $11,000+ for my documentary.
SUBJECT: BEST STUDENT FILM, DOC SHORT, and DISABILITY FILM FESTS/COMPETITIONS
I've just completed my first of several short film as part of Stanford University's MFA in Documentary Film program. The film is solid, about 5 min, and focuses on disability but in an unexpected way.
I had a bad (and expensive) experience applying to festivals with a short I directed as an undergrad. Can someone suggest (or direct me to some posts about) some of the better film festivals or competitions for student films and films about disability? I have a fear of blowing a lot of money applying to festivals out of my league or that don't really have much value as a networking event.
In reply to Oggi Tomic's post on Tue 10 Jan 2012 :
Thanks Oggi. I've been trying to avoid crowdfunding but looks like that will be the way to go.
In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Thu 12 Jan 2012 :
Kickstarter is only for US residents. There is a crowdfunding thing here in Oz too, I've just been avoiding it and trying for production houses and broadcasters.
Hi all, I'm currently trying to raise funding for a documentary about a network of controversial adolescent drug abuse programs that I was a member of for five years. We just released a pitch trailer and launched an IndieGoGo campaign.
I would love to get some feedback from professionals on what we are doing right and what we could be doing better. This is my first time trying to do something like this and I could use all the help you can offer.
The trailer and IndieGoGo page are here. http://www.indiegogo.com/thegroup
Not asking for donations here, just looking for feedback. Thanks in advance.
This looks like a really interesting story, especially since you have the inside scoop.
I am wondering if you have any other footage besides the talking heads and pictures. Are there scenes you can shoot? Or can you come up with some creative B-Roll that relates to the feelings that everyone is talking about? I know you are just beginning with telling your story, but I think it is always good to think in these terms. Best of luck!
Thanks for checking it out.
Right now, we have about 13 hours worth of video footage that was shot by members of The Group and more coming. We didn't use any in the trailer because we are still working out the legalities of using it, but we intend to use some of it in the film.
As for B-roll, we plan to get footage of our interview subjects in their daily lives, plus just shooting anything interesting that comes up when we are on location.
Subject looks compelling so far. I have heard of extreme drug programs (like the right wing christian ones that periodically get shut down by a state gov and then pop up elsewhere under a different name) but this is the first I heard about one totally run by kids. Lots of parallels though in terms of the brainwashing, peer pressure and torture lite techniques. Was there money involved? Anyone profiting?
In reply to Jill Woodward's post on Fri 20 Jan 2012 :
Hi Jill. There is definitely a profit being made. My family, for example, which is a working-class family, spent around $70,000 in the five years that I was involved. The money is from treatment programs (in-patient and out-patient). They convince parents that without the treatment their child will literally die.
We were very limited in what we could go into with the teaser trailer, but we plan to explore the whole history of the organization in the final film.
The entire operation was founded by one man who is a convicted-felony, former heroin addict and self-professed murderer. There has been a lot written about the organization going back to the 1970s. Here's a link to a little background information, if you're curious.
Thanks for checking it out. If you have any advice, I sure could use it.
sounds very similar to Kids of Bergen County, where my friend was incarcerated, it changed names and moved around a lot to avoid regulation. From your trailer I almost thought it was the kids organizing themselves, but it sounds very much like there is an adult orchestrating and profiting. Good luck!
In reply to Jill Woodward's post on Fri 20 Jan 2012 :
It's very similar to the Kids of Bergen County and the Straight program.
Jacob, nice job on your first film so far, but I do see a couple areas to work on.
Sound quality is inconsistent, some sounded echo-y while others sounded high quality but too soft and quiet, I'm hard of hearing. I like to make sure the sound is loud but not too loud. People can always turn their sound down, but I had maxed the sound on my sys and headphone and still had a hard time hearing a lot of what was said.
Also, be more conscious of where your key lights are falling on the interview subject's face and which direction they are looking in. In one scene, in the bedroom, the key light was behind the person, not in front. So, we see most of their face being dark with the back side of the face lit. Other scenes the subject is to one side of the frame (rule of thirds) but is looking towards the short side, not the long side.
I've made all these mistakes myself. It's a challenge to keep all this conscious when you are trying to setup equipment and think about the interview questions, etc.
In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Sat 21 Jan 2012 :
Reid, thanks for the feedback. We had a lot of difficulties with light in one of the interviews. We were using natural light and had issues with the sun moving behind clouds and also getting dark early. We tried out best to fix it with some color correction, but there was only so much we could do.
Hopefully, if we are able to raise the money, we will be able to budget for lights and have much more control over the finished product.
As for the sound, I confess I don't know much about it, but I did notice that it jumps around from interview to interview.
Thanks for all the feedback. I really appreciate it.
I'm purchasing E&O for my first doc deal. I have no idea of what this should cost. I have a quote for a 10K deduct on a 1M/3M policy for 3 years for $5500. Is this in the range of what you guys have paid?
This doc is pretty safe – no digging up dirt, no famous people, not based on other works, etc, – it has a happy and positive message. I know that doesn't really mean much in today's world.
I recently paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail and took video along the way. I conducted interviews, got action footage, scenic shots, etc. The one thing I didn't do was get location releases. My footage was filmed on public waterways, public streets and a few private campgrounds. Will this be a problem if I try to distribute the film or show it publicly. Which locations would require release? It's my understanding that the footage on public lakes, rivers and streams, I'd be allowed to use. What's the consequence of not having a location release and then showing the film?
Hello, I just joined D-Word. I have a question. Does anyone know of footage of Nice, France in the mid- to late-1920s? Also, footage of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1920s? I am looking for these to incorporate into a planned documentary on the life of the Ottoman Royalty when they went into exile. I can be reached at arvindach[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks in advance. This looks like a very supportive community, judging from the answers to various questions asked by others.
Hello All: Can anyone recommend a good, inexpensive video stabilizer for my Canon t3i? I've been looking at the Dot Line DL-0370 Hands-free Video Stabilizer but don't know anyone who has one. Thanks!
Lillian, you'll find this and a lot more in this article from Chris Jones, 'The Perfect Guerilla Film Makers Camera Kit For Under £1k':
Hope this helps,
In reply to Arv Acharya's post on Sun 5 Feb 2012 :
i was just watching the bbc doc the first world war. lots of stuff from the ottoman empire – might want to see their sources and see what else you can dig up.
the episode is jihad – its also on youtube
I'm in a very similar situation to Mike above. I recently filmed a short doc about a small-time rock band in the UK, the first half of which was filmed in a rehearsal studio that they frequently use. I phoned the managers of the studio prior to filming and they said that they were happy for me to film there and take shots of their building.
However, during the first day of shooting there, they refused to sign a location release. They said that they were still very happy for me to film there and that I could film what I wanted and do what I liked with the final film. They didn't want to sign anything however, as they felt this would, potentially, leave them exposed to me later using the footage in a way that was damaging to them. I've spoken to them a couple of times since filming, as have the band, but they're sticking to this line. Apparently bands film at their studio quite frequently and this is the stance they take in all cases. I'm a stickler for crossing t's and dotting i's legally, so am not comfortable accepting verbal consent alone.
I'm planning on putting the film up on Youtube and Vimeo. I have no current plans to send it to festivals or secure broadcast distribution. Is this lack of a written location release something I should be worried about? My specific questions are:
Could the studio hypothetically take legal action simply because I have filmed on their premises, or would they need to show that I have damaged their reputation in doing so etc?
Would it be possible for me to put the video online and ask them to sign a release form just for that edit of that film (ie so that I'm covered, but they are also reassured that I can't then go and re-edit the rushes into something damaging to them).
I am in the UK and the doc was filmed here. I have signed releases for the other locations, all identifiable contributors and all the band's music.
Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated – this issue's held the film up for too long! Thanks a lot!
Personally I'd put it on the web and forget about it. Secondly, I think it's only broadcasters that require such extensive paperwork, not even festivals, generally. However, hypothetically any studio or any person could take legal action at any time for any reason whatsoever.
If it were me, I wouldn't worry about it a bit, Damien. But if it's keeping you up at night, you might want to get something informal with them via an email, even if it's just to explain their rationale as to why they don't want to sign a formal release. At least it's something where they state it's ok for you to film. But it's very unlikely they'll now turn around and sue.
Thanks a lot Jill and Doug, I really appreciate your thoughts.
I doubt this makes a difference, but I forgot to mention that I did not include the studio's name anywhere (eg interviews, on-screen text or shots of signage). It would be recognisable only to those who are already familiar with it.
That's very useful info (and good to know) about festivals Jill, thank you.
Thanks a lot for that suggestion Doug. I'm planning to email each contributor/location individually as soon as the film is uploaded with a link and message of thanks for their help. With the studio I thought I'd add a note saying that I appreciate their desire to look after their reputation and invite them to watch the film and let me know immediately if they have any objections. If they do not have any then at least I can move forward with evidence that I've taken reasonable steps to consider and account for their interests even without a signed release.
Thanks again both!
With the studio, I wouldn't rush to send them a link. But if you do, I'd absolutely never invite them to raise any objections.
Damien, you also may want to consider an on camera release where they just tell you on camera that it is cool for you to shoot there. Not sure how that will hold up, but it's something and might make you feel better. Also, if you are worried about legal action, which seems unlikely, you could just take the video down if that happens or put it on a private site with a password. Best of luck!
Thanks Doug, I certainly take your point. The studio were friendly and helpful throughout filming, and polite in their refusal to sign, but no need to open the door to problems! Maybe just a general email if any then.
Thanks as well Jill M. Filming is complete (and they're miles away from London!) so I think the window for an on-camera release is unfortunately closed. Thanks for the suggestion – I was actually curious as to whether taking the film down if trouble ever arose would be enough to solve the problem?
Thanks very much again everyone, I appreciate this is a lot of attention to be paying to what is essentially a long Youtube vid, but I can see this being a recurring issue in the future and for others!
I would like to submit my first very short film that I finally completed to my satisfaction yesterday for the comments and hopefully withering criticism of various mentors here.
I have generally found that the harsher the criticism, the more I can learn from it and because I am able to take such criticism with a minimum of disappointment, I have been able to substantially improve this film from the miserable state it was in last year.
This short is entitled "Twitter Time" and it explores possible responses to the exponential acceleration of our experience as discussed in Raymond Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near".
Here is a link to the film, best viewed in HD.
What follows in the next post is my discussion I intend to include in the "Director's Cut" DVD of the film for submittal to film festivals.
I look forward to your comments and criticism and, again, your discussion of the worst aspects of this project are most welcome.
Below is the discussion I intend to provide for the "Director's Cut" portion of my short film Twitter Time, as discussed in my immediately previous post:
Way back in the 20th century, a sound bite was used to refer to an abbreviated form of communication that became a widespread shorthand used to communicate more quickly and efficiently in an accelerating world.
Since that ancient day, nobody really has time for lengthy sound bites anymore, instead preferring to communicate in short, 256 character Twitter feeds.
As we connect the dots from the now archaic sound bite to the much shorter Twitter feeds of today, what may we look forward to in the future when nobody has time for Twitter feeds anymore?
I describe this trend as the exponential acceleration of human experience and it closely mirrors Raymond Kurzweil's discussions of the "coming singularity" when future information flows collapse into a black hole of ever accelerating processing machines that he claims is our destiny.
How can we respond to these cultural trends? Is it our lot to simply embrace, welcome and accelerate them, or are there alternatives that may provide more comfort, humanity and, ultimately, sustainability to our lives?
Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than simply accelerating its speed.
That's what this film is about.
The theme of this film is that the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan told us before Facebook went public.
The first part of the film deals with the inherent limitations of text-based communication systems such as email, Twitter and Facebook. Communicating in such media is inherently myopic and limited, as nuances of relationship, irony and subtlety are inevitably lost in the mad rush to discuss our world through the narrow prism of no more than 256 characters for a Twitter feed.
We are bombarded with so many fragments of messages and heavily commercialized memes that this tends to shorten our attention spans and harms our capacity to remember. It has been said that the United States is the complete opposite of the Balkans because nobody remembers anything. I'm persuaded that aphorism has the ring of truth due, at least in part, to the acceleration of our existence intensified by expending ever-increasing amounts of our time immersed in a strictly alphanumeric-intensive domain. It's a zero sum game.
The various data streams in the first portion of the film are exemplars of the phenomenon of information overload that we all face in this medium.
How can we respond to this spiraling, meaningless complexity that saturates this domain?
It is the function of the second part of the film to discuss this.
The second part of the film explores other media distinct from alphanumeric, textual formats, in increasing order of richness and resonance.
The medium of still photographs is presented in the second part of the film as an initial contrast to alphanumeric text-based communication software systems discussed previously.
The photographs are generally "letterboxed" in this film, which means they are surrounded by black horizontal and vertical borders to denote that the subject of the film not only contains references to the actual contents of the photographs, but also to the medium of photography generally, which is richer in its content than a life devoted to alphanumeric text processing only. One photograph is worth a thousand words and can convey nuances of emotion, humour and relationship typically lacking in Twitter feeds from cultural icons such as Justin Bieber.
Another medium covered in the film is that of film itself. I introduced the film with numeric countdown leaders and make liberal use of pure black visual spaces to indicate that I ask the viewer to not only immerse themselves in the various moving images presented in the film but also to explore the relative merits of the medium of film and video itself. The medium is once again the message here and the communicative domain of film can show subtle emotive and perspectival shifts over time not easily obtained from solitary photographs alone.
Finally, although constrained by the diegetic space of the film, I ask the viewer to contemplate what I call direct experience, be it the love of a woman, a walk in the woods, an exercise in tree planting, gentle conversation or whatever.
I find these final examples of more direct knowing to be a wonderful antidote to the exponential acceleration of human experience most clearly amplified by a life saturated with the endless task of processing alphanumeric text messages that are often, ultimately, trivial. A response to a life lived in "Twitter Time" if you will.
I posit that tree planting is just one of a myriad of options we have to stretch out, enjoy, celebrate and learn from our beautiful lives. Planting over 100 trees has clearly made me a better person and this will be covered in my next film "100 Trees", which describes the current benefits we enjoy around the world from various tree planting programmes instituted from the 12th century England, 16th century Tokugawa, Japan, to the 19th century projects of Johnny Appleseed and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on to more recent tree planting exercises that I have been fortunate enough to participate in.
That film is described here:
Thanks for viewing the film and I look forward to any thoughts you may have.
I can be reached through the incredible, untapped potential of email at email@example.com.
Looking for a Native American Documentary-maker
A NYFA thesis student from Bulgaria will soon begin shooting a doc about an Omaha Sioux family who are trying to maintain and nourish their traditional ways against rather daunting societal, economic, and now medical odds. She and I would both like to get her connected to a Native American documentarian for mentoring as she goes. It could be as significant or minimal as anyone is willing to do. She has great craft mentors through the school. And she will have the guidance and advice of several Omaha people. Still, while some of her faculty have made docs with and about Native Americans, none of the Omaha advisers knows anything about filmmaking and none of us has the prospective that an actual Native American might lend her. She'd love to find someone Omaha but will thrilled with anyone who could combine some knowledge of film making with a Native American personal perspective.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you, or someone you know, might be willing to help.
I have a few questions to ask. I'm working as a producer on my first Doc Feature "Two Blind to Ride" and I need to create a budget for grant writing.
We're thinking the length of the doc would be 60 minutes to 90 minutes.
1) Is 60 minutes better or 90 minutes? We're hoping for Cable, VOD or a content provider like Hulu as distribution.
2) What camera system would be good for this. Our DP wants a Red. We have DSLRs, but we don't think that's a good system for a project like this.
What would you recommend? I'm thinking of a Canon C300 since the output format is Mpeg-2. Would this be a good format for deliverables? What format/codec requirements is most common? Quicktime ProRes?
HDV? This would help us in choosing a camera.
3) What would be a good ballpark figure in budgeting for Post Production?
Can only address your first question, Ferdinand (which, of course, impacts the 3rd). If you're not looking for theatrical, you're far better off with 60 minutes in terms of being able to sell it to cable (and for international broadcast, as well). It will also cost you considerably less to make.
In reply to Ferdinand Casido's post on Mon 26 Mar 2012 :
re: your second question – i'd really hesitate to use RED for ANY doc project, and especially one where you'll be in remote/difficult locations for any length of time. you certainly don't need 4k for cable/hulu, and the cost of all the extra cards, hard drives, and costs in post production just aren't worth it, imo.
c300 makes a lot of sense for a project like this, as the image can be just as beautiful as the RED (but at a much more reasonable 50 mbps) making it possible to shoot on cheap CF cards, and less hard drive/power concerns while in the field)
but there is also something to be said about having a solid 1 piece camera that is compact, and doesn't need to change lenses. something like a Panasonic hvx 200, or hmc150, or ... will stand up to abuse in remote spots, and won't break if there is excessive dust, snow, etc... C300 is great, but it remains to be seen how well it will stand up to abuse in the field.
don't worry about delivery format until you are getting into post production. just acquire the best images you can now with the budget you have.
I'm in the middle of my first crowdfunding campaign on my first film entitled "Granny's Got Game". It is a sports doc with a twist – the athletes are seventy year old women who have been playing basketball together for almost 20 years. It is an inspiring story.
I've learned a lot in the archived "Crowdfunding" topic here on D-word. I did a month of prep before launch and reached my first goal in just 10 days. That was awesome. But contributions have dropped off dramatically the last couple of weeks despite have a surge of publicity and views on the campaign page. I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong. I'd really appreciate any feedback and suggestions people are willing to give. You can view the campaign here:
Angela, as a Professional member you don't want to be posting in the Mentoring Room, which is dedicated to Enthusiasts without access to all the other topics. Besides, Professional members rarely check out this topic – some do but most don't. We never encourage people to double post, but in this case you should re-post this in the Fundraising topic.
Thanks Doug and Riley,
I think we're moving away from the RED. Anyone with experience on the Sony FS100? That's a camera system we're looking at. Seems to have everything we need. Any pros cons and using that camera?
i haven't used it – my big concern would be ergonomics. i'd make sure i tried it before committing.
Yes – you certainly can't hand hold it without some sort of stabilization (which I'm still working on). I think you can get used to the buttons – although in cold weather, I'd probably find it impossible to use. Just like with the DSLRs you'll need to transcode the footage, which is a pain. You'll need ND filters since there isn't one built in. I'd also probably (and am planning to buy) the Atimos recorder – so you can record in Prores and or have a back up to those flimsy cards.
Compared to the cameras you guys have been talking about, I feel foolish asking about the ones I'm looking at.... but I'm going to do it anyway.
I am going to start my first Feature Doc this fall if not sooner, but I honestly only have about $5000 in my bank account and have no car, need to pay for food, rent, etc. so I'm looking at most in the range of the Canon 5D Mark II or the Pentax k-5... Snapsort helped me narrow it down to those two, but something about it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know it's my first doc but I feel like these cameras are just unprofessional. I don't want to be seen as a student making a movie, but I also don't have a car so getting my gear from place t place needs to be a compact operation and I can't afford anything nicer... any suggestions?
Ps. here's the Snapsort comparison: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EOS_5D_Mark_II-vs-Pentax_K-5
In reply to Kevin Hallagan's post on Wed 2 May 2012 :
If price is a constraint and you want to use a dslr, I would suggest one of the cheaper dslr's. I love my 5D Mark II, but something like a 60D or t3i would work just fine (and have an adjustable lcd screen). Also, the Panasonic GH2 can produce a wonderful image – you have to take the crop factor into account, but it's a nice doc camera as well. For all of these you'll need an external audio recorder – Zoom H4n is great.
I would recommend a shift in thinking over whether a camera is professional or unprofessional. They are tools – if you can get something cheaper that helps you do what you need to, get it. People take cues from how you conduct yourself. And often times, using a dslr helps on a doc shoot because you are hassled less from police, guards, etc because it's unassuming...
What Kevin says is right on. I shoot a 7D and love it most of the time. But the 60D and t3i is nearly as good as the 7d. Spend your money on audio. Get a good mic. Good sound is probably more important to seeming professional. Ultimately its not the camera that will make things look and sound good. Its you. Good luck.
thank you, Kevin and Peter. time for me to redirect my camera research.
I shoot with the 60D and vintage Soviet lenses w/adapter (which are not the most versatile, and not image stabilized, but all I could afford). The camera is great. Like you, I have no funding at the time and largely shoot/edit/produce alone. You will have to put the most thought into stabilization and audio recording.
For sound, I wear a small 4-channel field mixer around my waist where I can run a shotgun mic (mounted to the camera hotshoe) and wireless lav, then output via stereo cable to the camera input. It'd be better if I had a separate sound person but I usually don't, and after a lot of trial and error this seems to be working best for me.
As soon as I have a spare $600 or so I will get an image stabilized lens, but I have no idea when that will actually happen. Get one of those if you can. I rely on a combination of tripod, monopod w/feet, gorillapod, and rail system shoulder mount (which causes so much pain after using for a couple of hours that I rarely use it).
Also I found with the 60D it's much better to work with one of those magnification mounts you clip on to the LCD screen, this helps you see much easier if you are in focus. I guess you could also use one of those small LCD field monitors if you have somewhere to mount it.
Get a 60D instead of 5D and invest the savings into the other things you'll need.
Get some credit cards. Buy the camera you want used. Make your movie. Sell camera. Pay off card. Thats what I've done for 10 years. Will be worth having a camera with XLR inputs – I synced 100 hours of 7d footage. It sucked. Bad.
so what are everyone's thoughts on a Pentax K-5 with a BeachTek adapter for XLR inputs?