In reply to Ben Kempas's post on Mon 10 Mar 2008 :
Hey thanks! At least now I know someone, somewhere read it:)
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.
In reply to Ben Kempas's post on Mon 10 Mar 2008 :
Hey thanks! At least now I know someone, somewhere read it:)
Shauna, no need to double post at The D-Word. Just find the most pertinent topic. In this case, the Classifieds would have been best.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 11 Mar 2008 :
Yes, Ben mentioned he read my post 3 times. I'm a bad, bad newbie;)
Also, Shauna, since we're mentoring (and you take mentoring so well), no need to use the "in reply" button when you're replying to the post right above you.
Question on submitting an idea. I got in touch with a production company and they're willing to read my informal project idea/proposal. I feel strongly about the project and 1. would like it to come to life and 2. would like to be involved with it. I'd like to express this to the producers but can see how from their point of view that might be asking too much (especially for a newbie).
The producers are merely willing to look at the informal proposal, which to me is really great news anyway, but as with any idea there's a chance they might like it and might want to work with it. I read that there's no such thing as a copyrighted idea so should the producers like what they read, can they just use it anyway?
What's you advice on submitting ideas when you don't have the means to produce the project yourself?
get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you share your idea with them. Definitely not iron clad, but my guess is it would be enough for them to not steal your idea outright.
ana, it's not a problem that you don't have the means to produce the project yourself. just make sure that you have an angle into the project that clearly shows why YOU should be involved with it. whether that means you have exclusive access to the main character of the film (e.g. your father is the ringleader of a terrorist group) or whether you have certain skills they need (e.g. you know the hidden tribe's language), you somehow need to prove that you are indispensable to the project. but simply having an idea is not enough. (unless, of course, this is a pitch for another reality show, in which case, you can disregard all my comments...)
Thanks all! I really appreciate your suggestions. It's definitely not a reality show and I think a lot of people would benefit from it.
Film school question.
I'm considering starting over and take film more seriously (currently I'm a communications professional in New York). It's a bit scary, especially after having attended grad school to find out it hasn't made much difference career-wise. I'm mainly interested in schools in Europe.
If you went back, why did you do it (for yourself or as a job requirement)? Any input?
Film School is pointless (especially if you already have a terminal degree) unless you want to pursue a specific craft or don't have a terminal degree and plan on teaching Film. If you want to pursue a specific craft you'd be better off working with someone whose work you admire. Really the only fast track in this business.
Agreed. Like many others, I was brought up to believe that if you want to accomplish anything in life, you first have to go to a school and get a degree in that subject. True for medicine; false for film.
This goes double for documentary filmmaking. If you're persistent enough, you can get experienced doc filmmakers to be mentors and advisors for you, without paying the exorbitant film school tuition. Start watching doc films (one every day if you can), read some books (Rabiger's book on documentary), and begin shooting a subject easily accessible to you (e.g. your family).
Film school undergrad work was a worthwhile experience for me, Ana. However, a good film tech school is often an affordable alternative if your main goal is to be trained in on equipment.
Thank you! That's what I hear from a lot of folks. Networking seems to be the way to go with everything.
A question for foreigners trying out for film in the US (or in other countries): what's your experience been like and do you have any suggestions.
I really do appreciate all your time!
I had a quick question. I’ve got my short doc (26min) in the can and DVD-pressed, and it’s gotten 4200 plays on Vimeo so far (with 120,000 references – whatever that means.)
Since I did the thing myself, and have a day job, and nothing to lose, I was wondering if it would be a good idea to team up with a local indie production company that would be going to a film market anyway, and have them offer sampler DVDs, with the idea that they pick up a share of the profit if that sells. I figure it would be cheaper than going myself. What do you think?
brian, congrats on getting your doc out into the public. while i don't have specific advice for you, i think you'll get even better feedback in the Members section of D-Word. having already finished a 26-minute doc yourself, you definitely qualify. so apply for full membership.
Brian – we've decided that although you have some relevant experience already, you haven't yet acquired enough to join the Community as a professional doc filmmaker.
The good news is that as you seem to be heading in the right direction, we've tagged you for a follow-up later this year. Perhaps you will have made some progress with distributing "Makers" – are you planning to submit it to any festivals?
At any rate, we hope you'll stick around and let us know how things develop.
I've submitted Makers to Austin Film Festival, and the DVD is in the mail to Withoutabox. Because it's a documentary short, and I have already gotten a bigger audience through the Internet than I ever could via film festivals, I'm not sure whether I should bother submitting to more than Austin FF and SXSW (which are both local to me.)
Of course, this is the kind of advice I was looking for with the original question... ;)
sorry about that, Brian. i shouldn't have assumed that you hadn't already tried to apply for membership. but i think you'll definitely be a full member in the not too distant future. in the meantime, let's all concentrate on answering your original question about teaming up with a local indie production company at a film market:
Not sure if this "mentoring room" could help with my question...
I am interested in advice on how to find right person (film maker) and fund a small documentary style effort and what might be interesting goals / benefits that makes it a win/win for company and film producer.
Some nice to have goals for company might be:
+ capture people's reactions around new product innovation at large/major event in Eastern Europe (new product concepts around several themes, dramatic event experience in major city, new products being launched, other interesting products being demonstrated/show for sales in both business to business and business to consumer arena)
+ capture value design is adding to business
+ possible interviews with CEO/CMOs from top companies
+ many other areas that could be mutually interesting if discussed... but trying to understand if this might be interesting to a qualified independent film maker or high potential starting out
There could be two cuts... both would likely be very people-focused. But, one could capture essence of business value and the other could be all around creative/design side of things.
Brian – welcome to D-Word. It's rather difficult to respond to your post as it's quite abstract. Obviously you don't want to let out any trade secrets, but could you explain more concretely what it's all about?
Say you have a big event every year like MacWorld (AppleWorld) or an auto show (but put on by only one company, not a tradeshow)... you show off your latest products, you launch 2 or 3 new things, and you show a vision of where your company is going (concept cars, or other physical immersive manifestations). You have to entice the media and your top customers to attend and you want to broadcast and create discussion around all 3 parts of this event experience...
I am exploring how a highly experiential event with similar attributes could leverage film/documentary storytelling in interesting, meaningful ways – meaningful to the company, its stakeholders, and the film maker...
Hope that helps explain things a bit more...
Very interesting idea, Brian. I should think there would be several filmmakers in here who would be interested in discussing this in more detail. It is a rather large undertaking, and producing a film could be done many different ways depending on more specifics on corporate goals and the event itself. If I understand you accurately, the Mentoring Room might not really be the place for this. I'd suggest posting also in the Public Classifieds... if you haven't already... you might get more responses in there.
I would highly recommend you attend film school if you really want an in depth knowledge of the deep traditions you are working in and attempting to build upon and if you can afford it.
However, if you just want to get as much cash as quickly as possible, that may be necessary.
But consider the case of James Longley. He is thankful that he attended two years of film school in Russia, studying Soviet montage. And his films are truly masterful in their editing. Check out his mastery of Soviet montage in Iraq in Fragments. I daresay you haven't seen editing of that caliber frequently.
Longley has only made three films. However, all three have been nominated for Oscars, and deservedly so. I'm sure he would tell you that film school was not irrelevant in that score.
And ask yourself, if you have only made three films and been nominated for three Oscars, what are your career prospects?
So if you are interested in more than fast money, I would recommend you actively consider it.
Just my view. There's 100 years of film history by people more profound than myself that deserve more than cursory and casual attention.
I just don't see what's wrong with a detailed study of Vertov, Hitchcock, Bunuel, Kurosawa and Kubrick. Study, deep study and reflection, on their own terms, free of hypercommercialized and contaminating influences that command us to: "G go make money now".
The hypercommercialization of cinema (and culture generally) has its drawbacks. They should always be contemplated when making big decisions such as this.
In reply to Ana Da Silva's post on Mon 17 Mar 2008 :
In reply to Matt Dubuque's post on Tue 25 Mar 2008 :
Thanks for your opinion Matt. Making big money is not why I want to go into film. I really do love it as an art and am disappointed with the mainstream industry. The catch-22 is that not being money-driven, I'm money-less so I've started studying and researching on my own in the meantime :)
New to New York. My hard drive has fizzled.
I had taken my G-5 to the genius bar three weeks ago...in anticipation of trying to prevent something going wrong, and it did today.
I've been on the phone with my Boston computer guru for an hour. We need to take it to the next level...have someone who can help me...
Any great computer gurus for doc folk in Manhattan that do house calls?
Thanks! (I know this isn't real mentoring, but....)
I'm working on my first documentary (and my first film since film school 25 years ago!). I'm having trouble determining some of the line items to prepare a budget. I have so many questions it's hard to know where to start! I'll try a few for now and any help would be greatly appreciated!
One of my main questions would be how to determine crew costs. I will be contracting out all production and I will need to travel overseas to two different locations. Should I submit my treatment to production companies to give me quotes on their costs to do the filming? (a friend did a documentary and his production company quoted him on all his overseas costs, but he didn't have to do a budget up front, he funded everything himself. I'm not in that position!)I'm not sure that I can accurately determine any type of shooting schedule because I have not done a site visit. I should probably do a site visit before, but I don't have funding yet. I feel like I'm in a catch-22 every way I turn! In order to pitch for funding, I need the budget, in order to determine the budget, I need money! I also don't know how to factor in licensing costs on footage or photos I may have to purchase. My subject is an Olympic athlete and I have already contacted the Olympic Television Archives Bureau, but they want to know what footage I would need and how it would be used before being able to give me an approximation on cost. Until I know who will be funding the project, I can't tell them how it will be used! (They want to know if it will be cable, international, etc...what I INTEND and what may actually become reality may be different!)
Also, what is a realistic salary for writer/producer/director? I will need to factor that in to the budget as well so I at least have a salary to work with.
One more item for now would be if anyone has a recommendation on budget software/film software, etc. I've read about many different programs and mixed reviews on whether or not they are needed. I thought maybe it would be helpful to use a software program so I wouldn't leave out any important line items! One program that caught my eye online is called Gorilla...any comments on that one?
Thanks in advance for any help. I hope to one day be able to apply for membership here!
Hello everyone. I am very close to finishing my film. I just had a small viewing, and general point of view was that I needed to shorten it and add some more p.o.v. of the women. (It is so hard to cut when you love the footage!!!) Anyway, I have begun to cut, and I found an area that I will add. I have a section that I want to add about what the women want to do with their lives when they get out of the business. One of the women keep saying how she wants to own a Dunkin Donuts. I know DnD never pays for product placement, and I am sure they wouldn't pay for it in my film, and I am not asking for that, I just am wondering if they could sue me for leaving them and their products in my film.
For information about my film check out the trailer at
or check the website
Thanks in advance.
tara, how do you know that Dunking Donuts never pays for product placement? did you ask them? (not that i don't believe you...) i actually have quite a few Dunkin Donuts references in my film (none of them at all negative) and was considering approaching them for a long time, but just never got around to it.
in terms of them suing you just because you keep a reference to them in the film, you shouldn't have to worry about that. Fair Use covers you completely as long as the mention or appearance of Dunkin Donuts occurred incidental to your filming (and not intentionally so). and unless one of the women in your film is using one of their products in a rather blatant, lascivious way, i can't imagine Dunkin Donuts caring.
I do know that they don't pay for product placement because I worked at a place once that tried asked, and they said they didn't. It is also on their website. And, the product appears in my film 2 times, one time she refers to her husband when she first met him walking in with a DnD ice coffee in his hand, and the second time she talks about how she is saving money trying to get enough to open up a DnD location.
If they sue you it could be invaluable publicity for your doc. The bigger problem might be getting E&O (Errors & Ommissions) insurance should you want a broadcast. But I think Chris is right, can't imagine it being a huge isssue. You should join up as a full D-Word member , Tara, and ask again in the Legal topic.
I have several treatments and not sure how to proceed.
My main concern is copyright as I want to develop the ideas further. This isn't documentary related but I hope some of you will come to bat with some opinions.
Can I copyright a treatment? Do I need to develop the ideas further into a script and submit it to the Canadian Copyright office at that point?
I want to share the treatments so I can promote their development. How do I protect myself?
I have so many other questions but I'll leave it at,
Yes, you can copyright a treatment, it doesn't need to be a full script.Be aware, however, that you can't copyright an idea.
There is no point in copyrighting treatments. If you are writing a fiction film script and are a novice, you need a killer script sample. That means a full well-realized script. If you find people who like that they'll pay you to write treatments or to develop a two paragraph pitch into a treatment.
Ideas are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Execution is all.
I should further elaborate. I wish to make these films myself. As you say Robert, execution is all. Some of the ideas I'm exploring for documentaries have crossed over into dramatic as I'm curious about using the tense "is happening" rather than "has happened".
I have no illusions about the daunting tasks that lie ahead but I know with diligence and and a stepped approach I will realize these in some way. My experience over the past 25 years has shown this in everything I do so this is no time to change my thinking.
How did other filmakers discuss/collaborate their ideas and treatments in the past? I'll use the example of Lucas who only had a treatment for "The Star Wars". I stress I'm not Lucas but to bring a project to realization using a treatment only is possible. I'm not a script writer I want to make documentaries and films that hopefully communicate the ideas i envision.
John, when you say the idea can't be copyrighted, can we use an example? Is Indiana Jones, handsome archeologist professor saves the world from nazis by finding the lost ark, the idea?
So I can make a handsome, professor archeologist just as long as names, places and ark are not the same?
I apologize for the broken writing but I'm wee tired.
Don't forget Lucas had THX1138 and American Graffiti under his belt, so Star Wars wasn't the first thing he did. He was also one of a group of directors (including Spielberg and Coppola) that were given relative carte blanche on their projects at that time.
Yes you can make your version of Raiders if you want. Happens all the time in the low-budget world of B- and C-movies (even A-list movies). All variations on a theme.
As for collaborating and discussing – lots of these folks have friends that also make films or write, etc. I have several good friends that are also filmmakers that I've known for over 20 years. We'll chat endlessly on any number of projects we have going at various stages, from writing to post-production.
Occasionally I'll stop in a bookstore and read some books on how other writers or directors got their start. Many great books with interviews out there. Just a quick search at Amazon on "directors first films" turned up this or this .
Robert's right. Write an excellent script and it'll take you places. Keep in mind what Robert McKee says in his book STORY about Hollywood:
"With rare exceptions, unrecognized genius is a myth. First-rate screenplays are at least optioned if not made. For writers that can tell a quality story, it's a seller's market – always has been, always will be."
Oh I haven't forgotten about THX or the situation. For example in Canada I hear a treatment is more likely. I have to re-iterate my target is not hollywood. I'm not sure why we thought that. But anyway, I bought a copy of Syd Fields books which helped out alot in answering this question.
My original question was related to how to protect a script in order to collaborate in any sized project. From a 30 seconds spot to a feature film. I have used NDA's before but I know there had to be something with more teeth.
Don't get me wrong though, it's not as though I haven't thought about writing a great script and having hollywood make it, or myself, who hasn't? :-)
We probably thought Hollywood since you used Lucas and Raiders as examples.
Copyright on a treatment can work, the value is in how detailed the treatment is. Are you talking about a treatment that's only one page long and just basically expresses your idea? Or are you talking about a 10-15 page treatment that details how the story unfolds scene by scene? The latter can work and it'd be good to copyright.
Not sure how Canadian law is for copyright, but here in the states, copyright attaches as soon as you put it on paper. You can also send it to the Library of Congress. Here's the procedure from the US Copyright office.
Probably the best protection is to deal with professionals with proven track records. Is there a well-known producer/filmmaker in your area that you can try and contact? S/he may be able to give you some suggestions for moving forward in your area and people to work with.
Overall, I wouldn't worry too much that someone will steal your idea – except maybe in commercials since they are basically ideas anyway – Ideas are actually pretty easy to come up with, it's being able to flesh them out that's hard.
I am currently producing/directing a short nonfiction piece for a senior thesis course in Film/Video production. The piece is a short video portrait of an elementary school with a rare teaching approach. The piece aims to mesh elements of documentary and experimental filmmaking. Now, I have produced a short doc on the passing of Gerald R. Ford, and I have directed a promotional video for United Way: Student Service Learning... both projects I networked and dealt with adults.
Has anyone any advice on working with children? I have permissions and everything on the producing end in order (which took me more than 4 months!), but we are gearing up and almost ready to introduce the camera to the children. I have done all the prep I can think of, but was just wondering if anyone had any experience with filming children, and any last minute advice before I jump off the deep end with this project!
The film that springs to mind is Nicolas Philibert's "Etre & Avoir" about a school in rural France. Check out the director's comments about working with children in the interview section of this website
Hi there! I'm new so hope I'm doing this all right!
My story is that I've got a great general interest educational documentary series idea. It's going to include many episodes (each following basically one subject) that will be shot over a long period of time (the series will be shot over a long period of time, each episode will take about 2 weeks to shoot). The problem is I really don't have any idea as to how to get started. I have studio film experience, but only on the marketing side. Basically, I have many questions which I hope you all have the answers to and I'm hoping you'll share your expertise with me Hopefully one day I'll be at the level where I can share my expertise with everyone else!
What do I need to do to get started? If for the first couple of episodes I will be just following around one person, do I need to hire just one camera person (digital) and a boom operator on a payment differed basis?
Basically, initially I just have to follow a person (who will be the subject) throughout their week. I will choose someone who has limited locations and interacts with not so many people, just so start simply. Should I just worry about getting footage first? In which case, who do I need to hire? A cameraperson (do digital cameras come with great sound, or do I need to hire a boom operator too?). Then do I need to hire an editor? What should I offer them in a standard deferred payment agreement? Again, I want to be fair. A percentage, an hourly fee?
I know I could take some camera classes, but I want them to be professional quality, not shaky.
How will this footage they get be stored? It's going to be digital, so I can just store it on a virtual server, or ask them to hold on to it? Or is the footage just stored on a digital tape, so I don't need to store it anywhere? Yes, I really don't know about this!
Do I need to figure out the formatting/runtime in advance before shooting? For example, let's say I plan on distributing the episodes on my own website, but I would like to have the opportunity for this series to air on public television or something –do I have to keep that sort of formatting/editing in mind in advance before I start shooting to be sure it'll be okay to air on public television, or will all the original footage just be recut to fit the format of the particular method of distribution? Is this not something I need to think about at all at this point?
Then once I have this video edited, should I put it online to show to potential advertisers?
How do I go about getting advertisers, and when should go about getting advertisers?
Should I make one finely crafted episode to show to potential advertisers? Or should I pitch the idea to advertisers before I even start shooting, that way I can pay the small crew I hire right away rather than do a deferred payment agreement?
Do I need to decide the business model/method of distribution before I start filming and editing? My original idea was to just have my own website with tons of my own videos that people could choose to rent or download. I think the best model out there might be free for the user or ad supported. I'm also willing to have people pay like $2 to rent it. If they can download it online, is there any way to make each episode non duplicable so that it won’t be spread around? How does itunes stop it from being duplicated?
What sort of releases do I need if I am following the subjects on certain locations, such as their workplace or school?
Non-Profit versus For-Profit: or is there some sort of hybrid?
If I do decide for this series to be fully free for the user and to be fully advertiser based, how much money can I expect to make? How much could I expect to change an advertiser? How do they decide how much they'll pay you – based on click through rate?
If I elected to go the non profit route, I'm pretty sure this would be eligible for grants, but would that limit me to only air in certain venues? If I went the on profit route, could I show my work for free on my own site, but still expect to get paid a lot per episode, with residuals, etc? Is there such a thing as a hybrid non-profit for profit where I could accept advertiser funding and also make a strong revenuer for myself? How would I pay myself, if I went for profit, as writer/producer (I believe the laws are that it has to be a reasonable income)?
Are the business models something I need to figure out first or can figure out later – should I just worry about getting the footage now and working on how it will be distributed later?
As you can see, I’m a bit paralyzed by all these questions before I’ve even begun. Can someone tell me what I can do to get started now? Should I just worry about getting the content on tape first and then figure out the rest later? If someone could just tell me the steps, I’d be ETERNALLY GRATEFUL.
I'm open to any suggestions, advice, book recommendations, anything.
Thanks so much, Theresa
Phew, Theresa, it would take a very long time to provide the answers to all your questions in one fell swoop. For starters, you might start here and buy a few books on documentary filmmaking and read them. The other thing it sounds like you might need to help guide you through the maze for the first time is to partner up with or hire or otherwise engage a producing partner with some experience in the industry. But I'd definitely recommend doing some reading first. Maybe taking some classes would be helpful. Good luck!
if you're going to read a book, most of us in this community like Michael Rabiger's "Directing the Documentary". you should be able to get a used copy online somewhere.
if you're going to take a class, take an editing class. to learn to shoot, you actually have to learn first what shots you need in the editing room. it sounds backwards, but sometimes the best shooters are often the best editors too.
if you know the school you are going to be shooting in, start getting releases now. you have to get them from one parent of every student who shows up in the film. and it takes a LONG time... getting releases is also a good time to start building trust with your future subjects. don't just get them to sign a form. get them to "buy-in" to your idea first; then get the form signed.
lastly, forget the whole business end of the doc right now. there will be time to think of it later, but you need to concentrate on the film itself. "it's the story, stupid" (quote from a wise filmmaker)
as someone who is currently engaged in a 3-year odyssey to finish an educational documentary, i wish you perseverance and lotsa good luck!
I am currently working on a short piece on a school, and I can say from my experience that the obstacles are many, from preproduction thru post. One way to eliminate some of them early on, which is explained in detail by Michael Rabiger's book, is thorough preproduction. Especially when documenting an institution, first sell your idea to the head authority. The first thing I did was write a letter to the principal. Email is does not catch their attention quite like a letter, and as far as phoning your pitch, no one wants a pitch to from someone they've never had contact with before. Write a letter, BRIEFLY explain yourself as a film/videomaker, and simply request an audience with them.
Although the principal took more than three weeks to respond, she thought my letter was very professional and innocent enough to at least hear me out. From there I was able to convince the principal, and with her on my side convince the staff, and with the staff on my side convince the parents, and with the parents on my side, ultimately, convince the children to participate. Definitely, pick up Rabiger's book! Its been a great help to me, especially when it comes to tackling preproduction!
Hi all, I am Earl. I have a project I am ready to begin to produce, a documentary project that has been dropped in my lap. The story is about how a city, police and community (businesses and residents) will come together (or not) and combat prostitution. The City Police, City Hall, and Community. The community has petitioned the city, the city charged the police, and the police are reacting. What we want to show (besides the prostitutes) is how these three will solve this problem. Suppression, Prevention, and Intervention.
I have met with the police. I have DIRECT access to all parties, willing participants, it was "dropped in my lap" by the police. They are the ones that want to document the story. The city manager has asked them to be creative in showing the problem with the cities prostitution because the community has rallied. The police want to create the documentary.
Like I said it has been dropped in my lap. Where do I start? What do I need, who do I need? I need to shoot this in June and July. for viewing in Fall. I need to crew build. Needs to be broadcast quality.
All thoughts are welcomed and needed!
What process would best help in me trying to obtain an experienced producer. Since I have never shot a documentary, everyone is pretty much saying that would be my first step. (1) Find/Hire/Partner with an experienced producer. Would everyone agree? How is that done? Do I need to start a production company?
earl, others with more experience that me should answer, but as one who is basically "one step" ahead of you in the documentary process, this is what i would suggest to start:
1) watch as many docs as you can that have multiple groups and perspectives represented. usually, these groups are warring against one another, but not always. but since your story is one where you will constantly have to get the other side (e.g. police, prostitutes, city hall), you want to figure out early on how you want the action to unfold. so, examples like Barbara Kopple's "American Dream" (workers, union, company) will help you see how one person did it. or, if you want to see what a doc is like when the filmmaker gets involved, any of Michael Moore's docs (especially "Bowling for Columbine" or "F911") will do. but i would doubt that the people who are commissioning the doc want that style. also, figure out if you want to make an "issue" doc where there are a lot of talking heads and interview segments, or if you want to make a "verite" doc where the story evolves as you go, and the characters actions drive the narrative.
2) In addition to the D-Word, look for a producer by first contacting film organizations. Most producers won't take your pitch seriously (especially if you haven't done a doc before); but if you first "sell" your story to a film organization that the producer is familiar with, and the org refers you, then the producer will listen with more interest. Different organizations would be: IDA (based in L.A.), National Black Programming Consortium (contact Leslie Fields), KCET or any local PBS station that might even be able to give you seed money or resources to do pre-production on a story very important to the L.A. community.
anyways, that's a start... hope this helps.
Hello All (again)
Its been many months since I was last here and I am in the final stages of editing my film about the destruction of the oldest drive-in theater in the state of Illinois. In my closing "argument" of the piece, I want to talk about the homogenizing of the suburban landscape, and want to include a very quick montage of images of typical storefronts, like Starbucks, McDonald's, etc.
So, my question is, what can I use and not use? Can I use shots that show part of the name but not all of it? Can I drive down a street with my camera taping? Or is it fair use to show a full-on shot if it's only on for a second or two? Or if I show the building but not the sign? All told, the entire sequence of shots would last no more than 15 seconds total (if that matters).
Thanks for the help!
thanks for responding to my last post everyone – good advice in there and I've ordered direcrintg the documentary.
now i have another question – whats a really good digital camcorder i could get – what do the pros use? my documentary is probably going to be distributed online, but i want it to be good enough to show on a big screen or on tv – so something professional grade! anu suggestions? i have no idea! thanks, teetall
theresa, assuming you have very little experience with docs and camerawork, i think the best camera for you would be the Panasonic DVX100 (A or B model, either is fine). right now, you can get these cameras very cheaply (especially if you buy used) b/c most professionals are upgrading to HD or HDV cameras. this is really the perfect tool for you because it's simple enough to learn on, and professional enough to grow with. and there have been more than a few well-respected docmakers (even on this site!) who have shown on the big screen with footage from that camera.
A great place to buy used gear is DVXuser.com.
Earl: you need to talk to a tv news cameraman about the legal land mines that you may step on if you're out taping with the cops. It doesn't matter if they say it's okay to shoot. Suspects have rights, too. Is California a one-party consent state when it comes to recording audio? Laws about surveilance video vary state, too. You could shoot for months and find out you can't use any of it because you broke the law.
Everyone concerned about the do's and don'ts of copyright: here's the law in comic book form from some professors at Duke University: http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/zoomcomic.html
In reply to Boyd McCollum's post on Tue 29 Jan 2008 :
I use MovCaptioner also. For the money ($25) you won't find a better app for doing transcripts and movie captions. BTW, their URL has changed to http://www.synchrimedia.com. I talked to the developer last week and he said he's working on getting it to create Spruce STL files so that you can import captions into DVD Studio Pro or other programs that use STL. It currently does 2 types of transcripts (paragraph form and line-by-line with timecode), but it will also do embedded QT captions, Flash captions, SRT and SUB (used by Google video and others), SAMI for Windows Media, and QT SMIL. Also, the developer says that all upgrades to new versions will be free to purchasers! Good luck with your project.
In reply to Boyd McCollum's post on Sat 5 Apr 2008 :
Thanks to everyone for their answers surrounding copyright.
I'm starting my first documentary next week on Egyptian Identity. I plan to start in places familiar to me in Egypt and where I currently have contacts on social development initiatives, clinics etc.
I've found alot of the model release, location etc. forms but curious if I will need Arabic versions? I"m sure they can be translated but perhaps the few in Egypt or been there can shed some light on that.
I'm nervous as hell, with little details floating about, equipment list etc. etc.
I'm leaving on the 22 of April so if you have some advice, slap it to me.
Thanks in advance.
The not so dirty secret in the legal world is called exposure, like in, "how likely are you to be sued by subject x?" I doubt someone from Egypt is going to travel to canasa and sue you. In fact, they can't. If it were me, I would just get permission on camera. If you whip out a form, someone is going to want to get paid for their signature.
And I thought it was NC lingo for Canada.
Is an on-camera approval (or recorded voice for audio only interview) the equivalent of a release?
in news it is. I don't know about audio only, but definitely in video. You might have to have it on each cassette if you are recording to tape.
Does anyone know where I can find a DVCPro HD codec that will allow me to view/edit footage shot on a Panasonic HVX200 (720 @ 24 native) on a Windows computer?
I want to be able to use either Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas Pro.
You need to be realistic about where this film is to going to be seen and conform to the laws of that country. It's folly to ask someone in the States or Germany about releases. If you want a lock-tight, international release because you're making the next $100 million dollar grossing documentary, then yes, get the most airtight release. Otherwise, you're just going to waste time and intimidate interview subjects.
In the US, news people do not need releases. Filmmakers do. On-camera releases are second best to written ones, and generally accepted for non-controversial interviews9"Boy, that show was great!")
Thank you Robert :-)
Is there a way to find out what networks or distributors pay for documentaries that are similar to mine? Do I need to contact the producers of those films directly or is there an easier way?
you can search the trade papers – hollywood reporter and variety – but take the numbers with a grain of a salt. Most docs are sold for very little money.
I'm in the education field overseeing students making their films. Occasionally I have students interested in Documentaries and they often have questions about legally using images, people, etc... is there a website or anything that kind of lists when you do and don't need to get release forms on people in your documentary? Or, for example the legality of using images from Scientology, that were shown in public, but using them for your film without approval from Scientology? Or taking images from websites such as YouTube and putting them in your film?
Sean, maybe your students will like this comic book written for filmmakers http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/zoomcomic.html.
But the bottom line is, are they likely to sue you? Scientology, yes. Wilma from Walla Walla on you tube, no.
In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Tue 22 Apr 2008 :
thank you Mark for the additional info. I'm trying to gather as much info as I can so I Can set some realistic boundaries.
Mark, that comic book is awesome! Thanks for sharing it.
Very good find Mark, best reference to copyright isseus i ever saw.
Anyway, i'm about to make my first big investment in a camera. My budget is around 2000 bucks. For standard def i was thinking about a sony p170 or a panasonic AG-DVX100B. For High def i was thinking about a sony HDR-FX1 or the Canon XH-A1.
It's going to be used for interviews en concert footage. But it's also gonna be used for school assignments and who knows what i'll like in the future.
Advice would be greatly appreciated. Ow, if you have other suggestions, feel free to state them.
And as exchange i have a good tip for everybode > www.vimeo.com a great place to put yr vids/trailers/whatevers online
Standard definition is dead. I'd look at the Canon HV20 and buy a good microphone. It's never just the camera. You need monitoring, batteries, tripod, case, microphones, isolation headphones, etc.
Ralph, you might want to take a look at the Sony A1E. Poor low light focussing, but very useable otherwise. Should be within your budget.
In reply to Ralph Lindsen's post on Mon 5 May 2008 :
Ralph, camera choice is a pretty personal thing, and depends as much on your own style of working and/or visual style as it does on your budget. Among the cameras you've suggested though, my own recommendations would be the DVX100B and the XH-A1, because both will give you many more creative options than the PD170 or the FX1 (progressive frame rates, gamma selections, fine picture adjustments, etc.). You may or may not use a lot of those functions now, but it's good to have the option in case you find your style evolving or working on a project that needs those effects.
Again though, it ultimately boils down to which camera is best for you, and I suggest playing around with some (if not all) of those cameras a bit, if you can, before you make a decision.
I am with Joe on that one. If it takes you two years to make a doc, it will be unmarketable in standard definition. Everything will have to be HD by then.
In reply to Joe Moulins's post on Tue 6 May 2008 :
I'm not 100% sure I agree with you, Joe. On the surface what you're saying makes sense, but if you look a bit deeper, it's sort of like saying "don't buy a super-8mm camera under any circumstances because 16mm is better." More resolution is not necessarily better--some shooters might be after the look of SD for their own aesthetic reasons, or might find that they can get more manual control for their money in an SD camera than they can get in an SD camera. I'd argue that manual controls and flexibility are a far more important factor than resolution. Flexible HD cameras are becoming more and more affordable, true, but when you factor in the possibilty that people like Ralph might also have to spend $1,000 or more upgrading their computers to be able to handle HD footage, the cost shoots up quite a bit.
I guess what I'm saying is that blanket statements like "don't do such and such" or "do do this and that" are rarely applicable across the board. SD is not "dead," it's just losing popularity as a format. There's a subtle but key distinction to be made here.
Please, no flames. :)
In reply to Peter Brauer's post on Tue 6 May 2008 :
No offense, Peter, but people have been saying exactly this for several years and it has yet to come true. :) Yes, things are moving toward HD, but I'll point out that BD sales have barely increased at all since HD-DVD bit the dust, just to give one example. The world at large is not lapping up HD as fervently as camera people are. They will, of course, but it's not as if someone who buys an SD camera right now is necessarily an utter moron, as you guys seem to be suggesting. :)
This is not about DVDs. This is about theatrical and TV. I know SD can look good. I mean Second Skin is shot on a DVX100a, tons of people ask if it is HD. But for certain markets HD will be mandatory. I think this will especially be the case after the US shifts everything to digital broadcast. I am not saying anyone is a moron. I am saying, I will not buy another SD camera. I am lucky that we already have a good SD camera. When we got our camera several years ago we could make money as a DP with our own camera. Now everyone wants a DP with an HD camera. It just seems to make good business sense to recommend HD over SD any day.
I don't really disagree with you as much as you might imagine; I wouldn't buy an SD camera right now either. However, what's good for the goose is not always what's good for the gander, and no sweeping generalization is going to apply in all cases.
Likewise, it may not be about DVD's to you, but someone else might be planning entirely on self-distribution and not at all worried about the needs or requirements of theatrical distributors, broadcasters, etc. And my point with the BD thing was simply meant to illustrate that HD is not exactly being adopted as widely as we might like to believe. And bear in mind that when U.S. broadcasters make the switch to digital broadcasts in 2009, it doesn't necessarily mean that all television will suddenly be in HD--it just means that analog receivers will no longer work. Who knows what the cable channels will be doing?
Again, your situation doesn't apply across the board, and yet it kind of sounds like you're suggesting that it does.
"I would not buy an SD camera right now" is not the same as "YOU should not buy an SD camera right now." That's all I'm saying.
In reply to John Burgan's post on Tue 6 May 2008 :
It depends on how hungry I am. :-D
Actually I am constantly telling young people seeking my advice to buy a cheapy camera for practice. If you don't have the money to go HD, don't worry about it. Just make a movie. It is the only way to learn. My first video camera was a 3 years out of date DV camera. It looked like crap next to what was good at the time. I still managed to make an award winning instructional video on it. The video quality was low, but the subject spoke for itself in the disability community.
Shoot your concert footage on a K-3. Much better in the high-contrast lighting environment.
Any video camera will work well for interviews if you've got a good DP, good gaffer, and a good make-up artist.
In reply to Jarrod Whaley's post on Tue 6 May 2008 :
I'm not sure what "the look" of SD is exactly.
As the happy owner of a Sony A1, I'd recommend the Canon HV20 and a good microphone. And maybe pick up a cheap SD camcorder to rewind tapes with. :)
Right, because there are no interlaced HD formats at all. ;)
SD does have a look that is distinct from most HD formats. The DV codec comes with its own kinds of artifacts, macro-blocking, etc., and whether most people really "see" them or not, they do at least subconsciously contribute to the way in which the image is perceived.
My point was that a lot of times people shoot on super-8 as a way of suggesting "old home movies," and that filmmakers might begin using mini-DV in a similar way as HD gains more and more ground.
Anyway, no need to belabor this point any further.
This is about finding my story –
I've shot 16 hours of footage (in Italian, of which I'm not fluent) and need to cut a trailer for fundraising.
I think the footage that was shot is very "trailer-friendly," but I do still need to find my story. And while I directed what we shot, I can understand about twenty percent of it (language barrier).
So, what I'd like to do is get the 16 hours of footage translated then watch the footage and find my story (at the same time eliminating hours so that when I go to an editor, I can have less to sort through).
But someone suggested it would be cheaper to sit with an Italian-speaking editor and cut the trailer.
The thing is, an Italian-speaking editor I'm talking with is asking me what my story is – . . . see?
So, is it possible for me to sit with the editor (while she knows what's being said and I don't) and find my story or . . .
Blugh. Okay. I hope what I'm asking is clear: two avenues (and maybe a third I'm not seeing?) a) translate all footage and look through it myself and find my story and "tag" what I want to use for the trailer, than bring it to an editor or b) start with all 16 hours and an Italian-speaking editor.
Which is more realistic? Cost-effective?
Darla – you're the director, so you need to get the footage translated/transcribed. Otherwise it'll end up with the editor or whoever does understand the footage directing it – which isn't what you want. Get it transcribed with time code and then go to the edit. I can't see any other way to do it.
Okay, Rob. So then I need a tranlsator who can also transcribe.
Know anyone? :)
If you look back I'd already answered this and many other questions before – or just after – Christmas, if I remember correctly. The answers remain valid.
As I wrote you then, you would have been much better off having someone transcribe the tapes in Italy. Anyone could have done that for you over there. Then you could have chosen to have the transcripts translated in Italy or over here.
Check the old posts.
Thanks, Wolfgang – some things have changed, though. One being that I'm not in Italy any longer, so I can't really look at "should haves" at this point.
Well, another option would be to go over all the footage with the editor, which I'm sure you're going to do anyway, and log it with notes on what is valuable in terms of dialogue. Make quick notes while you're in capture, for instance. Lots of your material will probably get thrown out because of image problems anyway, most likely. So then you can get the pick of the material transcribed/translated. But you'll probably regret not having it all when you come to think about voiceover possibilities – when the track from substandard or problematic picture might still be very valuable. The best route is just to bite the bullet and get it all done.
Do I know anyone – well, contact me offline if you want to discuss it.
"The best route is just to bite the bullet and get it all done."
While all the while telling your self that money has nothing to do with filmmaking.
Rob, What would be "biting the bullet" in this case? I wasn't clear (sorry, newbie). Also, I did try e-mailing you at the address on your site, but the e-mail bounced. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contact me.
"biting the bullet" = paying money to have your tapes transcribes/translated.
BTW, I'll be very interested to see how this turns out for you.
For a variety of reasons, I'd like to do one of my "hardcore love stories" with a spanish-speaking couple. But while I speak spanish well enough to travel in Mexico, I can't image editing in Spanish, at least not the way I edit my english films.
Well, Tony, if I jump off a bridge in the midst of this . . .
My gut is telling me to have it all transcribed in English with time codes – that I spend my money there rather than with an editor.
I trust my editing (although I'm a book editor) to at least get my first 16 hours into a trailer (with some help) and get a better grasp of my story.
Ideally, I could sit with someone . . . but I just don't have a bazillion dollars right now. I have like twenty bucks :)
Really, I'd put out a couple thousand, but not like five.
So I don't know if this plan/gut is reasonable. I think so.
Tony, that's an interesting remark. BTW – I'd love to get ahold of your films, they really look fascinating.
Having just completed 18 months work in Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil (none of which I speak, except Hindi I understand maybe 30%) I'd be interested to know why you wouldn't be able to edit in a language you understand like you do in English. Once you have transcriptions and so on, what other problems would you be facing?
The best advice I ever got (as far as indie filmmaking goes) was "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly."
FWIW. I never use transcripts, or haven't since I bought my own edit suite about 15 years ago. I just watch the stuff over and over and over and over and over and over until it's all completely memorized. Probably not the most cost effective way to do it, and probably completely impossible in your transliterated case. Of maybe not. Maybe if you watched long enough you'd learn italian.
Which is why I'm curious to hear how it all turns out for you.
Good luck. And you still need a shirt and/or sweater, I'm cleaning out my closet. I could send something to you.
Rob, as mentioned above I don't use transcript. Originally this was a cheap ass cost saving measure. But over time I came to feel that having a vivid sense of how something was said was at least as important as knowing what was said. Transcripts just don't convey that for me.
Also, despite being told on many occasions that spending so much time watching footage and scanning footage to find what I was looking for was a big waste of time, I've had too many "happy accidents" where I've stumbled across the key to the whole film while looking around trying to find something I thought I remembered someone saying. (I recently read that Walter Murch feels the same way about scanning, so I feel vindicated.)
Tony, you inspire me. I want to learn to edit myself. I think I'd love it.
Anyway, I think you can keep doing what you're doing but with transcripts and translation, no? I mean, in the case of your Spanish film, you can memorize what's been said (once you have the footage translated).
All right, I'm just going to worry about my own problems here.
The mechanics of editing are not especially difficult, expecially now with things like FCP. Probably it's sort of like writing a novel. I'm sure you've heard the aphorism that everyone has one novel in them; probably everyone has one film they could edit in them, person connection and passion an adequate substitute for art and craft.
I'm still waiting for the world to catch on to the fact that I probabyl the most ham-handed hack ever to make a "career" for himself in film. Hopefully by the time they do I'll have enough rental properties and t-bills it won't matter!