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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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Chan Park
Mon 10 Oct 2011Link

Hello,

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 tangozen@hotmail.com. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Hey Chan, since you're a professional member, I suggest you copy and paste your whole question in the Legal Corner , where you're more likely to get the kind of reply you're looking for.

Edited Tue 11 Oct 2011 by Marj Safinia

Chan Park
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

Thank you, Marj. I am new to the forum. I'll do...


Marj Safinia
Tue 11 Oct 2011Link

We normally strongly discourage double posting in more than one topic, but in this case I think it's appropriate.


Benjamin Prawer
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

Hi mentors,

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!
-Ben


Marj Safinia
Mon 24 Oct 2011Link

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...


Benjamin Prawer
Tue 25 Oct 2011Link

In reply to Marj Safinia's post on Mon 24 Oct 2011 :

Thanks Marj, much appreciated!


Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

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.


Doug Block
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

Lucas, go to "Search Posts" at the top of the page and plug in "educational distributors". Should turn up some previous suggestions.


Lucas Catton
Mon 31 Oct 2011Link

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.


Marshall Burgtorf
Tue 1 Nov 2011Link

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.


Vijay Dewan
Thu 3 Nov 2011Link

Lucas,

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

Best,

Vijay


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 10 Nov 2011Link

Hi everyone,

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.

Thanks.


Robert Goodman
Thu 10 Nov 2011Link

why are you using Excel to do time code?


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 11 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 10 Nov 2011 :

Hi Robert,

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?


Robert Goodman
Sat 12 Nov 2011Link

A must for what?


Reid B. Kimball
Sun 13 Nov 2011Link

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.


Robert Goodman
Mon 14 Nov 2011Link

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.


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 14 Nov 2011Link

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.


Todd Leatherman
Fri 18 Nov 2011Link

Hello all-
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?
Thanks!!


Annmarie Pisano
Wed 30 Nov 2011Link

In reply to Todd Leatherman's post on Fri 18 Nov 2011 :

Hey Todd,

I might be looking for a few interns at Corra Films (www.corrafilms.com for more about us). Can you send me a note at annmarie@corrafilms.com?

Thanks!


ben epperson
Wed 30 Nov 2011Link

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?
help

ben epperson


Robert Goodman
Sun 4 Dec 2011Link

canon 2Ti with a Atomos Ninja.


Stephen Cooper
Thu 8 Dec 2011Link

Hi, everybody—

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--

Steve Cooper

P.S. Thanks to Lisa Hasko of IDA for telling me about the D-Word!


Stephen Cooper
Fri 16 Dec 2011Link

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--

Steve


Doug Block
Fri 16 Dec 2011Link

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?


James Longley
Sat 17 Dec 2011Link

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.

Edited Sat 17 Dec 2011 by James Longley

leonard schillaci
Fri 30 Dec 2011Link

Is there anyone in Atlanta/LA – Cartoon Network/ MTV experienced out there I can bounce a few ideas around with?
I have a cartoon series in development and need help!

Thanks

Len 704 491 2821
EnergyNC@hotmail.com or ClaimsNC@Gmail.com


Stephen Cooper
Sun 1 Jan 2012Link

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.


Doug Block
Mon 2 Jan 2012Link

Glad we could help, Stephen.


Maureen Ridley
Wed 4 Jan 2012Link

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.


Doug Block
Wed 4 Jan 2012Link

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.


Maureen Ridley
Thu 5 Jan 2012Link

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.


Doug Block
Thu 5 Jan 2012Link

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.


Robert Goodman
Thu 5 Jan 2012Link

these days likely less than half that figure.


Maureen Ridley
Fri 6 Jan 2012Link

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.


Maureen Ridley
Fri 6 Jan 2012Link

In reply to Robert Goodman's post on Thu 5 Jan 2012 :

Good grief. His prospects of success are being radically pruned.


Doug Block
Fri 6 Jan 2012Link

Welcome to the glamorous world of documentaries, Maureen :-)


Ajay Brar
Tue 10 Jan 2012Link

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?

thanks


Oggi Tomic
Tue 10 Jan 2012Link

Hi Ajay,

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.

Oggi


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 12 Jan 2012Link

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.


J. Christian Jensen
Fri 13 Jan 2012Link

SUBJECT: BEST STUDENT FILM, DOC SHORT, and DISABILITY FILM FESTS/COMPETITIONS

Hello Mentors,

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.


Ajay Brar
Mon 16 Jan 2012Link

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.


Ajay Brar
Mon 16 Jan 2012Link

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.


Jacob Brady
Wed 18 Jan 2012Link

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.


Jill Morley
Thu 19 Jan 2012Link

Hi Jacob,

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!


Jacob Brady
Thu 19 Jan 2012Link

Hi Jill,

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.


Jill Woodward
Fri 20 Jan 2012Link

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?


Jacob Brady
Fri 20 Jan 2012Link

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.


Jill Woodward
Fri 20 Jan 2012Link

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!


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