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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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Doug Block
Wed 21 Apr 2004Link
aaron, you don't need a questionaire. ask if they feel it dragged
anywhere. if they were confused anywhere. if they feel anything is
missing. but mostly listen. you'll learn most from their visceral
responses during the screening.

Erica Ginsberg
Wed 21 Apr 2004Link
I'd start by asking them what they think it was about. Not that
there can't be multiple answers to this question (the best
documentaries leave lots up to interpretation), but it would be
helpful for you to know where they are coming from when they give you
feedback. And as Doug said, mostly listen. This is not the time to
defend your choices or people will not feel comfortable being honest
with you.

Lora Covrett
Mon 26 Apr 2004Link
I have a question about getting permission slips signed, etc. I've
seen documentary films where police are asking the filmmakers to
leave or a business is asking them to leave the premises. Do those
filmmakers get releases signed by these disgruntled folks in order to
release the film? If I'm interviewing someone for my film, do I need
them to sign a release?

Robert Goodman
Mon 26 Apr 2004Link
yes. If you don't have a release you can't use the interview.
Different rules apply to news organizations. Broadcasters require
independent filmmakers to carry errors and ommissions insurance for
every program as a requirement to air it. If you don't have signed
releases that will hold up in court, you will not be able to buy E&O
insurance or will have to pay a heavy premium to obtain it. E&O
insurance covers you in case you are sued for liable.

Maureen Futtner
Sat 1 May 2004Link
Ok, Wise Documentary Filmmakers -

I admit I am a novice, albeit a very ambitious one. I am working on a long-
term project about a musician who's returning to her native Cuba
to perform in a series of concerts in Summer 2005. I've been
shooting her periodically and will continue to do so all the way
through her trip next year. I have no written agreement from her
as yet, but she's reassuring me constantly that this is my project.
I am getting concerned, however. I realize I need to broach the
subject of obtaining a release from her, but I also believe we
need a contract of sorts that I have exclusive rights to this project
over x period of time. Probably what I need is a lawyer, I know.
But one filmmaker has said to me, "You don't want to enter into
a "contractual relationship". You just want a release. "
What are the opinions out there? Any help welcome. Maureen

Doug Block
Sun 2 May 2004Link
hey maureen, sounds like you and your subject should have a talk.
that said, if she's at all famous, i'd be surprised if she's willing
to sign something that gives a novice filmmaker exclusive rights.

but at leastg get a release from her, and as soon as possible. if
she's unwilling to sign one, you're in deep doo-doo and should
seriously reconsider continuing on with the film.

Maureen Futtner
Fri 7 May 2004Link
Doug & all mentors,

So i have had a discussion today w/my subject about getting a
release from her, and she basically told me she needs to get
paid; she wants a contract that figures in some kind of payment
to her. She said "I'm gonna give you my story, my life, I need
something in return." I told her people do not generally pay their
doc. subjects and she insisted because she's a performer, and
... on and on. This was all over the phone, and we have a real
meeting in a couple of weeks. She is not famous. I told her she
could get great publicity out of this. This didn't seem to sway her.
Seems she's been screwed over before, and while I've
established a great deal of trust with her (she now considers me
her friend), she does not want to feel exploited. She says my
paying her would give me creative control and I would own the
film (well, yea!).

Is this an absurd request? We haven't even broached amount. It
doesn't sound like she wants a mere token, however. At this
point, I've done 20 hours of exploratory shooting, have
researched for the last 8 months, and have mapped out my
future year and a half or more with this project in mind. Is this a
big red flag, or what?

Did Wim Wenders pay the musicians of the Buena Vista S.C? I
rather doubt it. Any wisdom welcome.

Maureen

Doug Block
Fri 7 May 2004Link
The subject of the successful French doc, To Be and to Have, famously
sued the filmmaker for a share of the profits last year. It's opened
up a lot of discussion on the subject.

It's not common at all to pay your subject but it's not uncommon, or
IMHO, necessarily wrong to share profits. Of course, profits are
usually dreamworld in the docworld, but if you hit the jackpot then
she shares in it. You might suggest that.

If she insists on payment, I'd be wary. Very very wary.

Maureen Futtner
Fri 7 May 2004Link
Doug,

I'm grateful you're out there. Thanks (as always) for your prompt
response. I'm sure I'll be keeping you posted.

Maureen

Dave Panitz
Tue 11 May 2004Link
Hi Working Pros,

I'm entirely new to film/video and starting a New York Film Academy
course this summer. Although I don't expect to become a filmmaker
in 12 weeks, I hope to pick up technical skills that will allow me
to start making videos/films and be valuable to potential employers
in the industry.

A couple questions: first, I've heard positive and negative things
about NYFA, and haven't paid yet, so if you think it's not a
worthwhile place to go, I'd be interested in what you have to say
(if you'd like to respond privately so as not to make a public
statement about them, that's fine!).

Second, I'm given a choice between a "film & DV" course or
a "straight DV" course. I'm leaning toward the latter, as I'm most
interested in documentary and like the idea of learning by lots of
shooting, without fear of wasting expensive media.

Miscellaneous advice is also very welcome.

Thanks for the help!
Dave

Rouane Itani
Tue 18 May 2004Link
Maureen,

My understanding about life stories is that it is a case by case
scenario. It is not uncommon for producers to have to pay money to
basically buy the right to the life story. Sometimes even other
members of the family will interfere and want money or say you have no
right to the story, especially if they are somewhat involved in the
story you're telling.

How much money to pay and whether to pay at all depends on situations,
stories, people. What the subject is asking for is not surprising,
perhaps only the attitude.

There are different ways of doing that, where perhaps a small amount
could be offered initially and additional amounts to be paid if the
film gets distributed and makes any money. and yes a release and a
contract would be signed. It is in a way like optioning a book.
There is a possibility that you could "option" the story for a term
[2-3 years for example], and pay a specific amount of money that gives
you exclusive right to tell her story. After that time expires, if you
secure additional funding or a distribution deal, then you can pay her
additional money.

There are many versions of this. I am not an expert, so you might
want to check elsewhere on this, but that is my general understanding.
and a lawyer could help draft a contract. Some samples are available
online and in some books and one could edit them to fit the case.

Hope this helps. This is an interesting experience and I would be very
curious to learn what happens as you keep negotiating with her.

Perhaps if she realises you're not interested in paying and that it
would mean that she would loose the chance of having her story told,
she might reconsider. Perhaps a small token might be convincing.

let me know if you find out some of what I said was completely wrong.
I am testing my knowledge here. so take it with a grain of salt. sorry
for this long post.

Adele Schmidt
Tue 25 May 2004Link
Perhaps you are interested:

Are You a Documentary Filmmaker Desperate for Feedback?
Been working on your film for so long that you can’t think straight
anymore? DOCS IN PROGRESS may be for you.

At the heart of DOCS IN PROGRESS is a monthly workshop
where film professionals and the general public screen
documentary rough cuts and offer constructive criticism to help
filmmakers get to the next stage of the editing process. The
workshops are moderated by D-Word's own Adele Schmidt
and Erica Ginsberg.

We are now soliciting submissions for the DOCS IN
PROGRESS workshop to take place on the evening of Tuesday,
July 13 at the Warehouse Theater in Washington DC.
Filmmakers do not have to be based in the area, but must be
available to attend the screening/feedback session at their own
expense.

To be considered for the July screening, you just need to send a
brief, written description via our website by May 31. See our
website for details: http://www.docsinprogress.org or contact us
at: contact@docsinprogress.org

If you would like to check out our next workshop, details are
below.

DOCS IN PROGRESS JUNE WORKSHOP
When? Tuesday, June 8 at 7:30 pm
Where? Warehouse Theater (1021 Seventh Street Washington
DC - walking distance from the Gallery Place or Mt. Vernon
Square Metro stations)

THE LAST COLONY - Rebecca Kingsley
In Washington DC, the capital of the world's best known
democracy, local citizens continue to be denied political rights
that other Americans take for granted -- the right to be governed
by their ownlocally-elected leaders rather than by the U.S.
Congress. This film looks at the history of Washington DC's
unique relationship with the federal government and its impact
on the city's residents.

DAUGHTERS of THE LEVANT - Rouane Itani
Women have often been at the forefront of immigrant families
and Arab-American women are no exception. This film traces
the stories of Lebanese and Syrian women immigrants to the
United States who settled with their families in cities and small
towns across the country and emerged as entrepreneurs,
artists, and activists in their new communities.

Doug Block
Tue 25 May 2004Link
Adele, this goes in the Classifieds and Announcements topic, not the
Mentoring Room.

when is release required
Sat 5 Jun 2004Link
A friend (amateur videographer) is documenting a travel
journey and the footage was originally just going to be
for family viewing. But as things develop it looks like some
interesting stories and people have emerged. Some footage
includes informal spontaneous responses from people along
the way, and a few people have given voluntary on camera
interviews with informal verbal approval. I'm going to send my
friend some written performance release forms in case he wants
to use them. We think we "might" be able to edit the material
eventually into some educational documentary or similar program
- who know if there would ever be any profit. Where do you
draw the line about who needs to sign a performance release
eg.,people on the street spontaneous interviews, etc. For those
interviews with no release he might eventually be able to track
down some but not all of the people to get a release. What
would you advise?

Simone Fary
Sat 5 Jun 2004Link
From digging around here I've learned that Errors and Omission insurance is a
necessity for a major broadcast or distribution outlet. (it's never been an issue for
any of the second tier festivals or broadcast outlets we've been in so far) The insurers
won't give you a quote until they've seen the finished film, which is understandable.
I've heard that if one doesn't have written releases the cost is higher than if you do.

Our project is doing a fair number of "man on the street" interviews in public places,
and the rest are of willing experts. We won't be doing what Micheal Moore
sometimes does - filming reluctant subjects in private places. I realize that a lawyer's
role is to help you protect yourself, so would probably advise us to have written
releases for all our interviews. However, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be worth paying
extra at the end (if the documentary turns out to be marketable enough) not to have
to deal with the written releases now. It's not the nuisance of the extra paperwork so
much as the chlling effect of asking somebody to sign that paper, and what it will do
to the tone of the interview and the subjects willingness to participate. We will keep
copies of the emails between interviewees/their agents where we explain the project
and who we are and their agreement to the interview.
If we do decide to do the full paperwork route, do folks have any advice on how to
present it in the least intimidating way possible? Besides having a "friendly young
female" production assistant to handle the matter which is not in the budget right
now :-)

This forum has been invaluable - thanks to all,
Simone

Chris G.
Sat 5 Jun 2004Link
Whenever I've had subjects sign releases, I always ask them
immediately after (not before) the interview or appearance
is completed, so that it doesn't make them freezeup or run
away. In my previous post re: my friend (amateur videographer,
traveler) he felt it would spoil the moment and will probably
opt to just get their name and contact info in a friendly
interchange after the on camera stuff. That way if we
eventually produce anything that might be distributed for
profit or aired etc. he'll try to contact them and get a release
signed at that time. In the worst case scenario where we couldn't
reach someone for a needed signature and we really want to use
the footage, I guess we could wait til they see or hear about the
release and pursue us asking for pay or whatever. He's not shooting
any reluctant people or embarassing type of subject matter.

Doug Block
Sat 5 Jun 2004Link
simone, i agree with chris2. have them sign after the interview.
explain that it's not your druthers but the broadcasters require 'em.
be low key and professional about it.

chris2, i tend to draw the line with people who speak on camera. or
if they appear prominently in footage that might cause embarrassment
later. otherwise, i don't worry too much about it. but that's just
me ;-)

Erica Ginsberg
Sat 5 Jun 2004Link
With the "willing experts," have them sign the release before the
interview. Usually, I send it to them a few days ahead of time and
explain why we need it and to feel free to call me if they have any
questions or concerns. I ask them to bring it to the interview.
I've never had anyone question it (but I did have a "willing expert"
become "unwilling" when presented with the release AFTER the
interview; it was a big blow to both of us for feeling we had wasted
the time of the interview).

With "man on the street," I judge the circumstances of the
interview. In general, I also try to get the release signed before
the interview, but have done it after as well. I usually find that
using a dose of humor helps - "Now's when I need to ask you to sign
your life away," followed by a brief explanation of why I need the
release (similar to what Doug said) usually does the trick.

Mfilmie28
Wed 16 Jun 2004Link
This is more of a producing question--but i'm looking everywhere for
help...I'm producing/directing/writing/editing, etc. a doc. about an
independent avant-garde record label. They want the copyrights and
so do I...what do you think is fair? can we share?
thanks if you can help,
sincerely,
meryl

Doug Block
Wed 16 Jun 2004Link
meryl, the simplest and lowest budget solution is for them to
maintain copyright and you simply license the music for the film
itself (worldwide rights, all media, in perpetuity). if you make a
big concession over the copyright you can probably get the price down
pretty low. then y'all can work as partners in crime in getting the
film out as widely as possible.

why would you need to own the copyright, btw?

Mfilmie28
Wed 16 Jun 2004Link
thanks for the response Doug. I am obtaining all licensing rights
for the musicindeed...what price are you talking about though?
to answer your question, I want the copyright because I funded it,
made it all myself, etc....so i feel as though I should own it. >?
is that stupid of me? as long as it is in the contract that they
will sell it in perpetuity, and if not, then i have the rights to
sell it..i guess it doesn't really matter. ?
they are licensing the music to me for free.

Doug Block
Wed 16 Jun 2004Link
oh, i misunderstood, meryl. i thought the issue was copyright to
their music. if it's copyright to the film, you should absolutely own
it, since you funded it.

i'm confused, though: the record company is the subject of the film.
are they helping you distribute it, as well?

Mfilmie28
Wed 16 Jun 2004Link
hey doug...ok good, do you know of any good books that cover the
business side of documentary...all of mine just touch very briefly
and aren't much help. i want to have a document in front of me that
i can show him so i can explain this.
yes, they are helping distribute it--it will be sold in tower
records, indie record stores, on their website, at their shows, etc.
but i will be putting it in the festival circuit and we'll see if we
can get it to some art houses first...maybe we'll make a tv cut too.

Will Blesch
Sat 17 Jul 2004Link
Hello there people!

I have a big question. I am involved in a project that is most likely
going to be shooting overseas. Now, having looked at Michael
Moore's "Farenheight 9/11" and how politically charged it is, I am
wondering about his need for release forms concerning Senators,
Congressmen etc. I doubt he got permission from some of the people he
interviewed.

Now my problem is this, (If things go well) I will be interviewing
politicians from countries other than here in the States....what sort
of rules apply?

Robert Goodman
Sat 17 Jul 2004Link
all sorts depending on where the doc will be shown. e.g., which
countries. You need a signed release as protection for your film.
The other rules apply to what you can and can't ask depending on who
you are talking to. Politicians have handlers. Expect them to set
rules.

Cameron Page
Fri 30 Jul 2004Link
Hi there everyone,

I have one specific question and one general neurosis:

Question---Where can I find a good comprehensive release form
online? Or do you any of you have a standard release that I can use?

Neurosis---for my film I will be shooting in the waiting room of an
emergency department. I have gotten permission from the hospital to
do this, but they are requiring that someone from their marketing
dept. be with me all the time. Any suggestions on how best to handle
this situation? Will people really talk to me with a marketing rep
around?

thanks,
Cameron

Cameron Page
Wed 4 Aug 2004Link
Hey, I'd love to participate in the political documentary forum, but
for some reason no text box appears when I go to that topic, even
though I do get a text box in all other topics. Anyone else having
this problem? Is this maybe why there are no comments yet?

Cameron

Doug Block
Wed 4 Aug 2004Link
It hasn't started yet, Cameron. It runs from Mon, Aug 9 to Fri, Aug
13. Until then, it's "read only."

John Philp
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
HI all. I've been working on a film by myself for about a year and now have
found someone i want to bring on as an assistant producer/associate
producer type. of course i don't have any money, and i'm wondering what i
can offer to keep their interest. deferments? percentage of any money they
raise from grant bodies, etc.? or should i just pay them a nominal amount (i.e.
$75/day)?

this is someone with no experience in docs but great experience as a writer,
etc. i.e. someone who deserves to be paid. what's usual? what's fair?

Doug Block
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
hard to keep an assoc. or ass't producer without paying something.
you could do a partial deferment. and/or % of funds raised. or,
better yet, make him or her co-producer and pay them nothing ;-)

John Philp
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
thanks doug. but by making them co-producer what percentage of the rights
do i have to cough up? i've worked for a year now on this and i'm not quite
prepared to give up 50 percent just yet.

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
John, do you have anything you could barter? Shooting one of your
AP's scripts, for example?

John Philp
Fri 20 Aug 2004Link
hmm. interesting idea, which i will float to her. thanks for the suggestion.

Doug Block
Sat 21 Aug 2004Link
john, you don't give up any percentage of the rights to a co-
producer. they don't get ownership. there are many arrangements but
one example is: a small fee + % of all funds raised (10% is
reasonable) + a small profit share (10%).

Cynthia Hill
Tue 24 Aug 2004Link
Hi everyone,

Does anyone have any pointers on creating a good four-six-minute
preview reel for a documentary film. The goal is to raise money for
completion funds. Thanks!

Doug Block
Tue 24 Aug 2004Link
cynthia, contact fernanda rossi, who gives workshops on trailers and
samples. she's great and offers a free 20-minute consult, too:
http://documentarydoctor.com/workshops.html

are you the cynthia hill i knew in ny about, oh, 5, 6 years ago?

Cynthia Hill
Tue 24 Aug 2004Link
Thanks. We are trying to bring Fernanda Rossi to our university
(University of Florida) to conduct a seminar for our students and to
help us with our current project. Thanks for the tip.

Cindy

Doug Block
Tue 24 Aug 2004Link
i guess not ;-)

Katie Oros
Sat 28 Aug 2004Link
hi! i've come up with an idea for a documentary which will consist
mainly of conversations with different people from as many different
areas as i can travel to and i'm wondering how i can break up
something like this to make it interesting visually. finding all the
right people and taking the time to interview, film, edit, etc. is a
task in itself, but who wants to watch a bunch of interviews back to
back? i was going to try to include sound bytes of famous/deceased
people with some artsy old footage of them while the quotes play, but
other than that i'm not too sure what to do.
i want what the people say to be the film's emphasis so i can get
their messages out there, but i kind of also want to show my journey,
how i happen upon some of these people... like it's a film about a
quest for knowledge or something.
any advice?

Erica Ginsberg
Sat 28 Aug 2004Link
Take a look at documentaries on similar themes to see how other
filmmakers have dealt with the traveling journey film and how to make
it visually appealing. Three which come to mind that you should be
able to find on Netflix or at the video store are Sherman's March
(Ross McElwee), The Journey (Eric Saperston), and "Pop and Me" (Chris
Roe). There are many others but my brain is fried, so maybe some
other folks have some suggestions.

Chad Perdue
Sat 11 Sep 2004Link
What goes along with winning an award at a fim festival? Is there a
cash prize, distribution, or just a pat on the back?

Erica Ginsberg
Sat 11 Sep 2004Link
Depends on the festival. Some offer cash awards or some kind of
certificate/trophy. Others just a pat on the back. Certainly
winning an award at a top-tier festival is a huge advantage towards
getting distribution.

Edward Tyndall
Tue 14 Sep 2004Link
I recently produced a 45 minute historical documentary. The History
Chanel is looking at it now (have no idea what such a film would
sell for). One of the funders of the film has approached me about
backing a small production companey. I'd really like to do it ( and
get out of my bar job) but am having trouble proving that such a
companey could support itself producing documentaries.

Would we just try and form a relationsip with ditribution companies
and then produce films we think they will buy? Would we make films
and take a chance on the festival circuit? I figure we would have to
make about $120,000 a year to support the operation (2 small
saleries, equipment, rent etc.). Would this be
possible selling 1 or 2 films a year? Any advice would be great. I'm
trying not to let my enthusiasm detroy my ability to be realistic

Edward

Robert Goodman
Tue 14 Sep 2004Link
If you make commissioned docs for cable or corporate clients you
could create a viable business plan. Don't think that you can make
docs for the festival circuit with the hope that someone will pick
them up for distribution.

Edward Tyndall
Tue 14 Sep 2004Link
Dear Mr. Goodman,

Thank you for the info regarding the business plan and the festival
circuit. Would it be best for us to have an agent that markets our
concepts to distributors. If so...how can one get a list of such
agents.

Thanks,
Edward

Doug Block
Tue 14 Sep 2004Link
edward, there aren't agents for docs, per se. there are sales agents
for selling to international television. and there are sales reps
(usually entertainment lawyers like John Sloss) who help build up buzz
and broker deals with distributors. but these are for the most
compelling and noteworthy docs of the year. you're selling a pipe
dream if you think this is a viable business.

Stephanie Vevers
Thu 16 Sep 2004Link
Is there a technical forum for doc topics?

Question: How to best transfer PAL mini-DV footage to VHS-NTSC for
viewing copies with TC. Is there an inexpensive multi-format VCR or
a good gizmo to use with a DV deck while making transfers to VHS-
NTSC? Alternately, how about burning and using DVDs of footage for
logging and transcribing?

Robert Goodman
Sat 18 Sep 2004Link
yes Stephanie there are topics for production nuts and bolts,
editing and post and a few others where you could ask this question.
PAL miniDV would need to be converted to NTSC and recorded on the
format of your choice. The best option may be to take your PAL
footage and burn a DVD with time code. That will play back on NTSC
or PAL players.

Doug Block
Sat 18 Sep 2004Link
actually, robert is referring to the d-word community, not the d-word
forum, which is where you are, stephanie. if you have professional
experience making docs, than you (and all others) are welcome to join
the community: www.d-word.com/community. if not, just continue to ask
technical questions here.

Robert Goodman
Sat 18 Sep 2004Link
whoops I forgot where I was in virtual space.

Eva Neide
Sat 18 Sep 2004Link
Hi everyone? I am shooting a documentary in The Amazon jungle in
Brazil and i would like to get some feedback on some accessories i am
adding to my gear. I already shot 40 hours using the DVx 100, an ME
64 and 66 Sunheyzer mics, a 3221 manfroto tripod with a 501 head. I
had some problems with the tripod and heads and would like to try
something else this time. I also would like to get an additional
shotgun mic (different from the ones above)and one weireless. I am
recording the sound on camera without a mixer. In addition, this time
i would like to add a small light on top of the camera for some
especial situations. Does anyone have any advice to give me about
these accessories? Of course i need to stay on the low budget
category. Does anyone knows about the new Sony wireless mic? And is
there someone who is a DVX100 fan? Please lets talk!

Thank you all and feel free to ask about my experience in shooting in
the Amazon.

Tchau,

Eva

Doug Block
Sat 18 Sep 2004Link
eva, you're better off getting this info in the community (i know
you've joined), which is geared to discussions among professionals.
the forum is better for one or two specific questions and is geared
more to doc neophytes.

Aaron Michels
Wed 29 Sep 2004Link
Hi, people. I'm new here and I have a quick question. I'm working on
DVD authoring (DVD Studio Pro/FCP) a series of lectures for a lab I'm
associated with and I'll probably need about 300 copies of the the
finished product. who do people recommend to print DVDs at that scale?
I'm trying to give a cost estimate per disk.

thanks a bunch!
-aaron

Chad Perdue
Thu 30 Sep 2004Link
I have a question. where can someone get stockfootage of
Pagan/religious rituals.

Doug Block
Thu 30 Sep 2004Link
did you try www.archive.org?

John Philp
Fri 1 Oct 2004Link
hi everyone,
massive questions, i know, but can anyone point me toward a good website
or someting that discusses documentary financing methods and the
differences between them. i'm a little confused abour presales versus co-
production financing versus corporate funding, etc. and what's the best for my
film.

Doug Block
Sat 2 Oct 2004Link
try www.marklitwak.com. i'm sure there are also books on the subject
at amazon.com.

Robert Goodman
Sat 2 Oct 2004Link
Lots of good books available.
Pre-sales: Broadcaster signs an agreement to pay a fee before doc is
finished. Money paid when doc is finished. Guarantees them input and
right to air.
Co-production - Broadcaster, production company - supply money and
help guide production.
Foundations - provide grants to fund all or part of a doc.
Corporations - provide money to fund all or part of a doc.
Corporations pay you to make a doc.

Doug Block
Sat 2 Oct 2004Link
with a pre-sale, part of the license fee is paid on signing a
contract. in fact, could be up to half.

Robert Goodman
Sat 2 Oct 2004Link
thanks - doug - meant to include word "most" Still recovering from
Reykjavik.

Doug Block
Sat 2 Oct 2004Link
heh heh ;-) (inside joke - you had to be there)

Dana Flor
Wed 6 Oct 2004Link
I'm wondering if anyone could tell me what exactly is the role of the executive
producer in a documentary? What are his/her responsibilities?

Robert Goodman
Thu 7 Oct 2004Link
prestige. money. guidance.

Dana Flor
Thu 7 Oct 2004Link
I'm assuming by prestige you mean that the EP lends his/her prestige to the
doc? In terms of money-is the EP generally responisbility for funding the show
or looking for the funding? And guidance, how much is the EP involved in the
content of the show, or does this vary from production to production? Thanks
for your help!

Doug Block
Thu 7 Oct 2004Link
it varies, dana. they could simply lending their name, but usually
they try to raise money. sometimes people buy their way to an exec
producer credit, but that's kind of rare for docs (drat!).

Andrés Livov
Thu 14 Oct 2004Link
Concerning documentary scripts required for certain european funds
(eg.Berlinale's World Film Fund):
What kind of script are they asking for? they fund creative feature
docs intended for theatrical release,
Should one attempt to write a script the way a fiction film is
written? I'm thinking of films such as "The Story of the Weeping
Camel" or "To Be and To Have".
Thanks for your help!
A.

Jessie Logan
Wed 27 Oct 2004Link
I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask this and if not I
apologize. I'm trying to get funded for a documentary on a troubled
family and I've put together two trailers in hopes of getting
investors interested in my project. The trailers were shot with a
very consumer camcorder and I've seen and heard better microphones on
the headsets of the employees at MacDonalds.

I was able to get two of the people from the family talking and from
that made the trailers. My question is would some of the experts or
who ever would care to please go have a look and let me know what
they think. It's at www.mvmaker.com first page has two links for
each trailer. I need these to be good enough to attract investors so
any comments are welcomed. You can email me at mvmaker@mvmaker.com
with your comments or post them here.

Thanks in advance JFL

Gregory Kellett
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
Hello y'all,..
.
I think that it is obvious to most of us that
too many documentaries do not get the
exposure they need and deserve.

I just got back from the United Nations
Asssociation Film Festival where I saw
several
great works which will unfortunately
bearly see the light of day outside of
the festival circuit.

A couple of buddies of mine (who are
computer saavy) and I have been toying
with the idea of creating a website for
the consolidation of documentary trailers.
A searchable catalog of sorts, where
the viewing public can go to get a sneak
peak at what is out there, learn about
the film makers and how to buy and
or rent the work in question.

This site would specialize in
documentaries.

We are trying to guage if this something
that fellow documentary filmmakers would
use?

In order to have the site support itself we
would need to charge something along the
lines of $100 per film per year. Streaming
Quicktime clips would be the main format
used. As a filmmaker and avid documentary
viewer, I know that this something that
I would personally use, but we are trying
to guage how other filmmakers feel about
the project.

Any thoughts?

Gregory

Erica Ginsberg
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
Gregory,

I cannot speak for all documentary filmmakers, only for myself. I am
all for greater exposure for documentaries and the ability to put
trailers online. I am not sure I would pay $100 for this service
though since I doubt that many of the people who are actually in a
position to buy documentary films for television, festivals, or the
educational market find those films through the Internet.

Doug Block
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
personally, i'd stream a trailer on my own website before i'd pay to
have it on another. unless you proved over time that buyers were
coming to the site and actually following up. it's a nice, idealistic
concept, gregory, but i'm skeptical if it would work.

Gregory Kellett
Tue 2 Nov 2004Link
Thanks for your input Erica and Doug.

So I suppose my question then is, where do people go when they have a
friend say to them,.."Damn,...I just saw this great documentary you've got to
check out"....or when they even just feel like perusing what documentaries are
currently out there.

If not 100 dollars then less?...The site does have to support itself, which I
realize will be directly related to it's marketing and ability to catch the eye of
the small but growing community of documentary fans. It could actually be
used by festivals and filmmakers as a direct link to streaming previews.

I just can't help but think of how a centralized location where film makers can
display a little teaser or two of thier work alongside their resume, web site and
a "where to find" link could be a great service to documentary makers as well
as their viewers and funders. Am I kidding myself? Is there some sort of
disadvantage to having one's work up alongside those of others?

Help me out here.

Robert Goodman
Wed 3 Nov 2004Link
usually the film's website. there are also places like doc-u-rama,
mediarights.org, and the distributors.

Jessie Logan
Sat 6 Nov 2004Link
Greg I guess the bottom line is.....can the site assure exposure to
the people that count. Think of it like this......The filmmakers that
will benefit the most from a site like the one you mentioned are
those who have a limited budget and a hundred bucks to some can mean
the difference between making the rent and getting kicked to the curb.

I for one would pay the money only if I was convinced that my film
would get the right exposure and a fair shot. The idea is admirable
and has been done with other sites, and some of those are no longer
around. For a $100 you can obtain your own site and brand identity
which may seem more professional and less desperate to investors.

Imagine sending a potential investor to a large site with hundreds of
doc clips all begging to be seen. Would be kinda hard to pump that
investor up for your project if they get the impression that "what
chance do we have if all these people can't get their's
made/finished/distributed."

The key word/s are exposure, exposure, exposure.

Eliran Malka
Tue 9 Nov 2004Link
hello nice people!!!
i am writing a script for a documentary about the lack of intimacy
in the western culture and some new directions in that field that
can be helpfull for the viewer.
the problem is that we have matter of fact 2 narrarive in one movie.
one, is a story based narrariva, verite style. the second is a
topical narrative which is basically visual article about the
history of the intimacyless.
questions :
do you have some advices about how can those two different styled
naratives be one next each other.
the second help i need is about refernces on the topical documentary
style.

thanks,
eliran {from israel}

Doug Block
Tue 9 Nov 2004Link
hey eliran, the isssue isn't that you have two different narratives
going, it's that you have two different styles. and it's difficult
for anyone to offer real advice until it's in a rough cut stage. it's
a tough thing to pull off and better if you don't try, but it's
certainly been done before.

Austyn Steelman
Wed 10 Nov 2004Link
I am currently in pre-production for a documentary I will be shooting in Minneapolis in
December that will be featuring two hip hop musicians affiliated with Rhymesayers
Entertainment. I would like to produce a DVD of the documentary once it is finished so I
am trying to find some sort of profit sharing contract that I can sign with the musicians I
am working with to specify who gets what if the doc. ever makes any money. I have
searched through "The Complete Film Production Handbook" as well as a book of
contracts for independent filmmakers and haven't found what I am looking for. I would
draw up the contract myself but I am afraid I might miss some legal detail that will bite me
later. Does any one know where I might find a mock up of a profit sharing contract that I
can use?

if so my e-mail is austynsteelman@hotmail.com.

I also posted this question in the classified section, but it seems like this is more the place
to post questions. Still getting used to this site.

Thanks for your help.
Austyn

Doug Block
Wed 10 Nov 2004Link
i recommend you draw up the contract yourself, austyn, and get an
entertainment lawyer to check and see if you've missed anything.
that'll keep the cost down. you might check out volunteer lawyers for
the arts, too.

Nathan Scholtens
Fri 19 Nov 2004Link
Friends!

Can anyone recommend a solid book on interviewing technique?
I know that interviews can be approached as science or fine art;
with many phases of questioning, each one framed in specific
ways, targeting answers, drawing the _subject_ from the
subject... I am looking for the heavyweight material (no Cliff's
notes/amateur's guides). Whether you have a personal favorite
book, guide, collection of essays, etc.--or if there is a
discussion on the subject in this forum's archives--I look
forward to reading up on all your recommendations.

Best,

Scholtens

Doug Block
Fri 19 Nov 2004Link
The Craft of Interviewing by John Brady is the best book on the
subject I've ever read:

<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0394724690/102-7955436-
6986551
>

Nathan Scholtens
Tue 23 Nov 2004Link
Thanks Doug, I ran to the library immediately after receiving
this recommendation Saturday morning, and ran through the
book--cover to cover! It is an excellent guide! I also checked
out--on a tip from an Amazon reviewer--a book called
"Creative Interviewing" by Ken Metzler. Don't be scared off
by the 'artsy' sounding title, creative interviewing is defined
by Metzler as interviewing that 'creates' responses and a flow
of ideas that could not have existed with just _one_ of the
two participants. John Brady's guide is experiential,
anecdotal, like a self-help book. Metzler's book is more
personal (using personal rather than general anecdotes) and
more academic at the same time. It is less prone to the
pitfalls of being outdated (as my Amazon reviewers so
eagerly pointed out), but let me add that it has the most
obnoxious illustrations; reminiscent of junior high textbooks,
or any elementary foreign language book. Both guides,
together, have been invaluable in the preparations made for
my first interview for my new documentary, to be conducted
tomorrow afternoon. Cross your fingers for me!

NWScholtens

Nathan Scholtens
Wed 1 Dec 2004Link
Click below to view hidden post. Show hidden content

Doug Block
Wed 1 Dec 2004Link
congrats, nathan. you didn't really have to hide that ;-)

Marc Maurino
Tue 7 Dec 2004Link
Hello there. I introduced myself to the D-word forum at 3.886 and
have spent the last few weeks reading tons of back posts and archives
on line and printed out. I read the entire history (from page 1
forward) of this particular topic and I am so impressed by the
generosity of spirit and talent offered forth by so many of the
regular veterans who post here. It was almost like a master class in
documentary filmmaking to read hundreds of posts more or less back to
back (over a few days) and I'm eager to put some of my questions out
here. (BTW, I have joined the D-word community thanks to Doug's
offer, but I'm hoping to continue to just read a lot over there and
shoot some interviews on my current project before posting there.)

So as I stated in my intro, I am intending to join a medical
delegation of Jewish doctors to the occupied territories of Palestine,
focussing for now on my physician friend who has a very literate blog
about the occupation, Israeli/Palestinian politics, and medical care.
After much discussion it looks like he is comfortable moving forward
with himself as the ("for now") focus of the piece. His trepidation
is that his interest is in healing and bearing witness, not being a
star, and I understand and share that mission but feel I need someone
to be a charismatic and compelling subject to vivify that journey, and
he agrees. We are now waiting to learn more details about the
delegation, and I am in preproduction. So here come the
questions--I'll try to keep them short, direct, and a few at a time!
Thanks in advance.

I'll likely be shooting alone using my Sony DCR TRV 11. (I've
considered bringing a DP or sound person or finding one there; while I
still may, I need to be sensitive to the fact that I myself am already
tagging along with doctors as they do important healing work, and I
don't think I can quite have a crew along, not that I could afford it
anyway.) So I'm going to be a one-man band with a one chip camera (I
can't afford a 3 chip, adn if I could I don't know that the occupied
territories is the first place I'd want to go with it.) I have a
lavaliere mike for staged interviews;
1, any recommendations on affordable shotgun mikes I can mount on the
camera?
2, any recommendations for modifications to make to the camera to
return the proper ratio (16:9???) imagery to best boost my chances of
looking professional/selling to TV, cable, foreign markets?
3, any and all advice about one-man shooting, and anywhere on this
site that this has been addressed in detail? I searched a bit in the
Community Nuts and Bolts and as I said throughout the forum but I'd be
grateful if this has been done before to be steered to the right place.
I think that's it for now. I'm getting some books and checking
out other websites (AIVF, IFP, etc.) Any recommendations on any good
how-to will be appreciated; I am checking out Mark Litwak for the
legal et al and some of the books and sites that have been mentioned
here before in the last few years. Eventually I'll also be doing a
lot of looking for like minded filmmakers already in the middle East
for advice and or support; any that are out there now or know of
someone who is please let me know!

I'm trying to write up an overview/interview list/theme
exploration of what I'm trying to do to take place of a script (that I
would be used to!) I'm sure I'll have more basic pre-pro questions as
time goes on. Thanks!

Doug Block
Tue 7 Dec 2004Link
hey, marc, check the d-word community's audio topic for shotgun mike
recommendations. there's also been plenty of discussion of 16:9
modification in the cameras and camcorder topic.

as for one-man shooting, nothing beats practice, practice, practice.
and don't forget close-ups, wide establishing shots and cutaways. all
are easy to forget about amidst the hubbub of shooting.

Ray Wood
Mon 13 Dec 2004Link
Hi Marc, Sounds like an interesting project. Is this connected with
Doctors without borders?. I believe I saw a piece on them in the
past. I would offer a suggestion: There are people in the industry
from that part of the world or live in that part of the world. I
would try and make as many contacts as possible. You can probably
find a sound person over there. I like the thought of you shooting,
just keep in mind that you will have to wear alot of hats. Clearly
defining what your objectives are will prove important. You will have
to focus yourself outside of the lense. While still getting quality
footage. Good Luck and keep me posted.

Marc Maurino
Tue 14 Dec 2004Link
Doug and Ray, thanks for your great words of encouragement. The group
I'm going with is not Doctors W/o borders, but the sentiment is the
same. I'm looking for people already in country--that's great advice.
The "defining objectives" part is hard . . . I'm sort of used to
having a script! I'm trying to work up a list of interviews, ideas,
etc., but I'm also going to just be "tagging along" a bit, so we'll
see what comes up. This whole project has come up for me in the last
few weeks with our trip scheduled in just a few months, so I unf.
don't have the chance to even take an intensive doc making class or
even attempt to raise money or find a producer; right now I'm sort of
looking for a mentor/associate producer that I can ask all my
questions--thank goodness for D-word! I'll be sure to keep you
posted. Thanks again--the encouragement means a lot!

Maureen Futtner
Wed 15 Dec 2004Link
Hi Doug & everyone,

Regarding releases -
if I'm shooting/interviewing someone on several different occasions,
is it enough to have that initial release from our first meeting or
do I need to ask them to sign a release each time?

Thanks for being here, by the way.
Maureen

Doug Block
Wed 15 Dec 2004Link
Thanks, Maureen. Nice to have you here, too. You're gonna like my
answer - you just need one release. I highly recommend that you make
xeroxs of your releases and keep them in separate locations.

Marc Maurino
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
Hi folks, a few questions that have come up as my project progresses.
First, what would be considered "not too low to be an insult" to
offer an editor in payment for getting involved in my project now
(before anything is shot) and expecting
involvement/collaboration/editing until it's done? (At this point I'm
imagining 30-60 minute short, POSS a feature.) I'm looking to get
someone quite experienced with editing both technically and shaping
narrative, preferably someone with fairly extensive doc and/or feature
experience. My thoughts were offer $1000 if it turns out to be a
short, $2000-2500 if it turns out to be a feature, and possibly some
points share (how much?) on the back end. (Yes, I know, points
sharing on a no budget doc is not going to be a whole lot if anything
at all!) Am I going to insult a professional with that?
Question 2: I'm looking to focus my doc on one character but
extensively look at and film a larger social justice group that he's
part of; they naturally are interested in a doc about their group and
goals, but also are interested in "ownership" of it b/c it will
reflect on them. Financial investment will be mine alone, and while
I'm hopeful (and expect) that this piece will reflect nicely on this
great progressive social justice group, ultimately it is going to be
my film, which i will direct, edit, control, etc. Naturally I know
about getting releases from everyone and all that, but here's a two
part question: any advice for how to deal professionally and politely
with a group from whom you want access but for artistic reasons can't
give control?
Secondly, do you ever get a release from a GROUP? Does an
organization have any standing regarding its image? (Sorry if this
one's been done before, I've read tons of back posts and haven't seen
it.) Thanks in advance as usual.

Erica Ginsberg
Tue 21 Dec 2004Link
Marc,

Regarding the editor, the prices you mention are quite low for most
professional editors and probably no editor in his or her right mind
would accept a deal for a doc with points share unless you are
Michael Moore or Ken Burns. That said, there are often professional
editors who are looking either for a labor of love, a project which
addresses a pet social concern of theirs, or something to expand
their portfolio (i.e., someone who does mostly corporate work or
Discovery Channel-style docs looking to work on a creative doc) for
lower pay than they are used to getting. You might even find someone
to barter with (e.g., an editor who wants to direct a film, but who
needs a cinematographer). Key is finding someone who you can sell
the project on with your enthusiasm and passion. You may end up
having to work around his or her higher paid schedule if you go this
route, but it may be worth it to you financially and professionally
to find someone who is as passionate as you about the subject.

In terms of ownership, has the group actually asked you to make a
promotional film about them? As you spend more time with them and
get their trust (presumably your main character can help be an
advocate for you), you can diplomatically state that what you are
making is a documentary and you want the film to reflect the reality
of what they are doing without being compromised by coming across as
an advocacy film. Very often, a doc can be an even more powerful
advocacy tool than an informational video because it is made with an
outsider's eye (a recent example is SEEDS about the Seeds of Peace
Camps; you may wish to contact those filmmakers for their
experiences - link to the website is at
<http://mergemedia.tv/projects/t2project_seedsdoc1.html>). You can
always promise to have a sneak preview fundraising premiere of the
film on behalf of their organization or share some of the proceeds of
a screening or allow them to have a certain number of free copies of
the film to sell or give as a gift to funders, but the key is that
you need to retain creative control.

Marc Maurino
Wed 22 Dec 2004Link
Thanks for your great advice Erica. This is just the answer I needed
and provides me a great tool for being frank and direct with the
group. I haven't been asked to make a promotional film; I want to
document my friend's journey, and he's part of the group, so while it
will reflect well on them, on not looking to make an informational or
advocacy piece; more of an exploratory film. I will def. contact
Seeds of Peace filmmakers as well, if only b/c our projects share
some of the same impulses.

On the subject of editors, I knew the $ amounts were a pittance, I
also agree, I need to sell someone who both sees it as a labor of
love and wants to be part of the creative team, and also someone
maybe looking to step their own game up a notch. I hope my doc
subject is compelling enough to find someone who will say, yeah,
that's worth my time. Thanks again for all the generous advice!

Doug Block
Wed 22 Dec 2004Link
marc, figure any editor with real professional experience and talent
comes at a minimum of $1500/wk. you can get someone less experienced,
of course (at your peril), but it'll be hard to keep them on for any
length of time just because it's your labor of love.

Marc Maurino
Wed 22 Dec 2004Link
Thanks Doug, for us newbies having an idea of what professionals
should reasonably expect is a great post-production planning tool.
Happy holidays to all!

Jim Wharton
Tue 28 Dec 2004Link
Okay, I am new to the site and have introduced myself on the other
thread so here goes the question.
I am prepping a doc about 2 unsolved murders and the effects of non-
closure on the family members. Much of the content will be their
ongoing search for answers and frustrations with the investigating
agencies. In shooting the interviews, I want to give a face to the
victims and show my audience who they were. I know that "talking
heads" can be VERY boring. Any tips on composing these interviews to
make them really interesting?

Doug Block
Wed 29 Dec 2004Link
it's not the composition that makes an interview compelling, jim. it
helps, of course, as does lighting, as does focus, as does good sound.
but worry about the interview itself and trust that the subject matter
is inherently interesting. there are lots of terrific docs out there
that rely on talking head interviews. this fella named errol morris
has made few.

Robert Goodman
Thu 30 Dec 2004Link
Jon Else's films are also another resource.

Maureen Futtner
Fri 31 Dec 2004Link
HI, again, oh Brain Trust.

Looks like I'll be posting to this site often in the next few
months, as I'm embarking on a new project.

OK - making a road trip from San Francisco (my home) to Santa
Barbara in mid-Jan to interview a man I hope to be a supporting
character for my documentary. In this initial visit I probably only
have 1 "session" of 4-5 hours with him, and have never been to Santa
Barbara. We are a 2-person crew, relying on natural light - hoping
to shoot outside. My subject lives in an apartment building, but I
was hoping to shoot him in a park or outside a cafe and walking,
maybe to the beach - out and about. My problem is I don't know
Santa Barbara at all. Is it ok to rely on your subject to "scout"
for you? I have already asked him if he wouldn't mind thinking of
such places where we might go. We'll probably shoot a little in his
house, but ideally I want the atmosphere of his city.
So, how does one "research" such a thing? Maybe we should show up a
couple hours early and scout on our own? Should we just rely on our
subject's recommendations? Visit websites? Any ideas?

Thanks, in advance. And happy & safe new year to all!

Doug Block
Fri 31 Dec 2004Link
maureen, i'd simply ask him to take me to some of his favorite local
spots. done all the time - by me, at least. while you're out and
about you can keep your eyes open but i'd go where the subject is most
comfortable.

Erica Ginsberg
Fri 31 Dec 2004Link
I'd recommend you ask him for ideas in advance and, if you can, get
to SB a day or two before your shoot to check out the locations to
plan how you want to set up the shot. A subject may have a favorite
park or cafe but may not be thinking about such things as noise or
available light. For instance, he may like to go to a certain park,
but always sits in a part of it that is very crowded and noisy.
Might be better to find a quieter spot for the interview or perhaps
consider one section for the interview and another for him
interacting with other people (if you want anything more verite).
Also not sure whether the city plays a sub-character to this
character; if so, the extra time will give you the opportunity to get
some beauty locale shots.

Jim Wharton
Sun 2 Jan 2005Link
Doug and Robert, thank you very much for your input!

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