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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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James Hannon
Thu 7 Feb 2002Link
Hi Robert, whats a rostrum camera effect? Rostrum in the dictionary
is like a birds beak or an elevated platform, and i cant see the
connection there... I also dont have any of those programs to see the
effect...

P.s. if your message wasnt directed at me, ill keep quiet now...;)

Take care
-=James

Robert Goodman
Fri 8 Feb 2002Link
Rostrum camera is what we used to call an Oxberry or any camera
mounted on or over a motion control platform. You mount the
photograph on the platform which can be moved in the X, Y, or by
adjusting the height of the camera - in the Z axis.

These are all programs that allow you to do the same thing using
software. For examples - see any Ken Burns production.

James Hannon
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
Ok, now i know the effect you mention - It was actually what i had in
mind - just didnt know the name of it..

So the software packages you mentioned can do this effect on a
jpeg/gif already loaded on the system? I recently got an old copy of
After Effects (i think 3.1) that I havent used yet - Ill look in there
and see what it can do...

Thanx a bunch!
-=James

Robert Goodman
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
uncompressed images work better. Try Tiffs or Picts.

James Hannon
Sat 9 Feb 2002Link
Ok, will do - just started looking at after effects 3.1 - couldnt find
it so i hit the google newsgroup search (used to be Deja) and found
out that rostrum effects ony came out with version 5...

Oh well, ill see if i can find it on ebay...

Thanx!

Nina Gilden Seavey
Sun 10 Feb 2002Link
I was going back through postings in this discussion and was struck by
the filmmaker who was having trouble shooting at construction location
- people on the site where he was filming an independent project were
hostile and suspicious to his activities.

I was surprised that no one mentioned to this individual that in order
to use the footage that he was shooting that he needs releases from
these people or he can't use the material at all.

Thankfully, we have privacy laws in this country that allow action
against people who surveil us in any location of our lives without our
consent or a court order -- this prohibition even applies to
well-intentioned filmmakers.

If this filmmaker does not go back and try to procure permission from
the individuals he was filming, they can sue him. If it has gone to
air, his errors and omissions insurance can be revoked and he will
have a hard time getting any future support to have his work seen
anywhere.

One of the great challenges, it seems to me, in making documentaries
is garnering both the cooperation and trust of those who we are
filming -- in all circumstances. The onus is on the filmmaker to
engage his or her subjects in the filmmaking process, for both ethical
and legal reasons.

Nina Seavey
Director, The Documentary Center
George Washin

Tina Difeliciantonio
Tue 19 Feb 2002Link
Hi,

I'm hoping someone out there could help me find an old version
for Mac of Photoshop 4.0.

Does anyone know where I could acquire this version of the
program?

Thanks!

Doug Block
Tue 19 Feb 2002Link
No need to double post, Tina. Especially when both are in the wrong
topics :-) I've emailed you with instructions.

Rob Green
Thu 21 Feb 2002Link
Hi, Nina.
Reading the construction site discussion, I thought the same
thing, but isn't there some legal allowance for filming public
events? Where, as the lawyers say, people "have no reasonable
expectation of privacy?"
In an operational sense, I agree that it's always best to have a
signed release, but I have the impression that in certain cases it
isn't strictly necessary.
Am I wrong?

Nina Gilden Seavey
Sun 24 Feb 2002Link
Robert - As you say, there are public figures for whom you do not need
release -- individuals who, by virtue of their public standing are, in
fact, a sort of public property. Government figures would fall into
this category, sports stars may or may not, recalcitrant famous but
reclusive authors probably not, and the list goes on. It is a tough
line to draw - and a harder one to defend in court.

In addition, say you are filming a public person in an event and there
are other "non public" people walking around in front of your camera
and you capture them on film - you can't use them without a release -
even if the focal point of the shot is on this "public person."

But I have a good, and legal, solution to this provided to me by my
very excellent entertainment attorney, which I have been using for
years.

When we are filming in a public arena - an event, a stadium, a crowded
room, a construction site, etc - at the entrance - on a large poster
board - we put up a notice that entering into this space implies
release by all who choose to enter. You shoot that sign with people
reading it (as evidence that it was placed in a location where people
can see it) and you are in the clear.

Sometimes I also put flyers in plain site that people can pick up and
read that lets them know what the film is about and who we are. This
helps to keep questions to a minimum so I and my crew can focus on our
work.

Similarly, I have recently shot in concert locations and have had an
announcement come over the public address system reminding attendants
that we are shooting and we film this announcement as evidence of
informed consent as well. You must be able to show due diligence in
letting people know that the material you are shooting can be
considered for public consumption and that, as individuals, they may
be put on the screen.

But you must attend to these legal details or you can have both
problems with distribution and worse, you may end up invading the
legitimate privacy of individuals who do not wa

Robert Goodman
Sun 24 Feb 2002Link
I think there's a bit more room than Nina indicated. People attending
public events have minimal right to sue if they are not the focus of
the film. Merely showing someone in the crowd at an event doesn't
require a release. Everyday, the news media photographs people at
events without prior notice or releases. You do need a release if you
isolate someone in the crowd or in the case of construction example
which is not a public event (demonstrations, sporting events,
political rallies, performances in Central Park). There is also the
rule about identifiability. The person in the crowd must be clearly
recognizable and on screen for long enough for someone to recognize
them. The other issue that comes into play is what you say about the
images or the purpose to which the images are used. No one sues
because you shot them unless they happen to be there with someone
else's spouse or use the material to illustrate something contrary to
why they were there in the first place.

So, photograph someone at a political rally for nuclear disarmanment
and use the footage as crowd support for the KKK and you will have
problems. Of course, you will have the same problem whether you have a
signed release from the person or not.

Rob Green
Tue 26 Feb 2002Link
Nina - I've done the poster thing, too. The flyers are a good tip.
I'll keep it in mind. I think the situations the *other* Robert G.
mentioned are more like what I was thinking of. Where people
are truly in *public*.

In a pinch--with interview subjects who weren't able to read a
release, for example--I've also explained what we're doing and
gotten their agreement on camera.

I'm actually not sure if that would be legal or not. Just wanted to
show due diligence.

Thor Henrikson
Wed 27 Feb 2002Link
Just to chip in on the release discussion, I recently shot at a
large tournament in Stockholm and was lucky enough to be able
to get the organizers to mention in their welcome speech that a
film crew was there and if anyone objected to being filmed they
should talk to us us directly, we filmed this verbal (bilingual)
notice and no-one came to talk to us. Hopefully having that tape
will be enough. I realize that a troublemaker could always say
that they did talk to us and we ignored them, but I feel we are
covered. At a previous international tournament our PC had to
collect over 200 signatures from participants from 10 different
countries (and languages), something we did not want to repeat
having to do.

I did learn something about shooting in airports on this shoot
that I never knew before. Apparently airports are 'public spaces'
and a location release or permission is not required to shoot
there, (although with security being what it is it is best to call
ahead and let them know you are coming and what you'll be
doing there.)

My question is, if someone is in an area considered a public
space (ie; an airport) do they have any expectation of privacy? Not
that we were shooting close ups of strangers but as our
character lined up and said his good-byes there were strangers
standing around him who will end up on screen in the
background. What would the situation be there when it is in what
is considered "public space" and there is obviously a film crew
present and working?

Ben Kempas
Wed 27 Feb 2002Link
Thor - Welcome to the D-Word. This is the public forum {LINK NOT IMPORTED},
maybe you want to post your question inside {LINK NOT IMPORTED} as
well.

You can introduce yourself in {LINK NOT IMPORTED} and post
your question in the Legal Corner {LINK NOT IMPORTED}.

Carissa Potenza
Wed 27 Mar 2002Link
I'm a recent addition to the D-Word community as well, but
thought I'd inquire of this forum:

I'm re-directing my career (after 4 years in production at MTV
News & Docs), and am tremendously interested in outreach
campaigning for social impact docs. I'd love any suggestions or
advice about this area of work, as well as any ideas of who are
the best folks to contact to find work in this field. Thanks so
much!

Doug Block
Wed 27 Mar 2002Link
Carissa, you might want to peruse the MediaRights.org website for ideas. And read the Outreach salon we did here recently {LINK NOT IMPORTED}.


Carissa Potenza
Thu 28 Mar 2002Link
Thanks, checked them both out already, & they're great
resources!

Jesse Turner
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Hello

This is Jesse Turner, I'm a film student in Victoria B.C. I am
looking for everyone's personal definition of the "documentary". If
it isn't to much trouble I would really appreciate it if you
contacted me with your full name, an e-mail adress, and your personal
definition (please don't be afraid to be unique and poetic, though
you don't have to.) This is a study I am doing, your work will NOT be
exploited, I am just a very curious individual looking for a
proffesional opinion on the subject. Thank you for your time and
considerations, I am eager to recieve this information and look
forward to becoming closer to this community of brilliant individuals.
(I also think that this topic would make for a good conversation).

thank you.

please send name, doc-definition, and e-mail to james_pare@shaw.ca

Ben Kempas
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Please don't double-post. Most of us do read all topics. Thanks :-)

Doug Block
Mon 6 May 2002Link
My definition of documentary is pretty loose, since I love docs that
stretch the form and blur the line between fiction and non-fiction.

I guess I'd define it as, hmmm... I think I better think some more
before I answer ;-)

Doug Block
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Actually, post your answers here instead of emailing Jesse. He can
always come back, and it would be valuable to have the answers
archived.

Jesse Turner
Mon 6 May 2002Link
Thanks people. This will be a great help.

John Burgan
Mon 6 May 2002Link
"A documentary is a film without women. If there is a woman, it's a
semi-documentary." said Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures: quoted
by Fred Zinneman in his autobiography.

I don't necessarily concur with this opinion, but there you go.

Doug Block
Tue 7 May 2002Link
How's this...? "A work, such as a film or television program,
presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a
factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news
films or interviews accompanied by narration."

Actually, got this at www.dictionary.com. And it's about 20 years
out of date!

Today, it's more like... a story with a sweeping dramatic arc,
featuring fascinating characters in a highly unusal situation of great
conflict, where the filmmakers had complete access at all times.

Sound like fiction films? Well, check out the HBO schedule sometime.

Jesse Turner
Tue 7 May 2002Link
Thanks these are all fantastic. I look foreward to any others you
may have. Many thanks again, you guys are great.

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