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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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Ian Hawkins
Mon 1 Nov 2010Link

Hi Nicola, what a helpful answer! You've given real detail and that's what I was lacking. Plus 'shut up and listen' – great advice.

Thanks for the link too. I think my time this week will be spent talking to myself with a stopwatch.

Many thanks.


Doug Block
Mon 1 Nov 2010Link

Along the lines of "shut up and listen," whatever you do don't be defensive. If one of the commissioning editors says only a martian would be interested in your film, nod as if the person is a certified genius. Good luck, Ian.


Sebastian Serrano
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Hi, i have a question about how much Natgeo or History pays for a chapter of 50 min for the US market. Can you help me with it?
Thank you


John Burgan
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Welcome, Sebastian. Everyone at The D-Word registers with their full name, so please add your surname to your profile.


Sebastian Serrano
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

Hello John, nice to meet you. Can you help me with my question? Thank you


John Burgan
Wed 10 Nov 2010Link

I'm afraid I can't, Sebastian, but hopefully one of our many members can...


Nicola Lees
Thu 11 Nov 2010Link

Hi Sebastian
Visit Documentarytelevision.com for all kinds of useful channel budget information. Here's the entry on History: http://documentarytelevision.com/2010/03/10/what-does-history-pay-for-programming/


Jason Perryman
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Well this seems weird posting in here but after trying t figure this place out, I was told to post my questions here.

So I have made a 23 minute DOCUMENTARY on TIGER SHARKS that I need help trying to DISTRIBUTE. It's about diving with Tigers and then how they get killed in the beach nets, wounding their population etc. It's categorized as part amateur part professional in that it was shot on a home movie SD camera, but I got professional people in post production on it, animation, music etc.

How do I distribute this film to it's potential? What Distribution companies or Acquisition companies can I find to get this film to? How do I find these companies? If so, what's the process of approaching them?

I'm interested in getting this shown anywhere. TV, internet any small channels or being inflight movies etc. I know there's loads of different avenues that could show this film. Does anyone know how to do this or where to basically start? Any help would be a MAJOR push, thank you.

(Nat Geo turned me down. Discovery are useless, can't find a proper person to get it to there)


Rick Dillwood
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Has anyone had any experience with CFMDC (Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre)?

I got an email from them expressing interest in a short doc I made last year (exciting!), but I wondered how many of these kinds of offers are legitimate.

They're asking for a $75 lifetime membership fee and a list of deliverables.

Any help would be appreciated,

Rick

Edited Fri 12 Nov 2010 by Rick Dillwood

Jo-Anne Velin
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

Perhaps contact the DOC association of Canada, either the HQ in Toronto or the regional people, and ask who knows what, or find out from CFMDC which filmmakers are with them and talk to the producers or directors. DOC can help connect you with people who know more, or you may hear about their informal reputation (especially if there are "issues"). Hopefully this is a good outfit – I have no opinion. Good luck!


Mark Wojahn
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

I am starting an edit with some HD files on an external drive and am not able to open the files up in QuickTime Player10 or in Final cut Pro 5.1.4. When I double click on the file to open it up in the viewer I get the warning bubble that says "Codec not found. You may be using a compression type w/out the corresponding hardware card" I am running an Intel imac on OX 10.6.4. Has anyone had this problem too? Whats the fix? Thanks.


James Longley
Fri 12 Nov 2010Link

In reply to Rick Dillwood's post on Fri 12 Nov 2010 :

Personally, I wouldn't trust any distributor that sends you an email and asks you to pay them money to distribute your film. A good distributor could offer an advance against future earnings if they actually anticipate being able to distribute your film in a mutually profitable way. But a distributor that asks you to pay them is just a scam operation.


Timoty Gibbs
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Can anyone talk about the Oprah Winfrey Documentary Club that's premiering in 2011? I understand she's featuring one documentary a month? Anyone think this is a good opportunity? I can't imagine how having Oprah involved with your film could be bad. How can one get a film to Oprah?


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Catapult.


Doug Block
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Timoty, I think you submit through Annie Roney at RoCo Films.

Jason, wish we could be more helpful with suggestions about distributing your short. They're just very tough to get out there, and you already contacted the two most logical broadcasters.


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Sorry to be flip. Doug is correct, as usual. That's why he runs the joint.

Edited Sat 13 Nov 2010 by James Longley

Timoty Gibbs
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Thanks, Doug, I'll investigate. Have you heard anything about this "club"? I'd think if someone like Oprah was looking for documentaries, it would be another great broadcast opportunity but no one seems to be talking about it. Do filmmakers not know about it or is it a bad thing?


James Longley
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

It is a good thing. Any invitation to watch documentary films is a good thing. Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch! But watch docs. We live in the real world.

Edited Sat 13 Nov 2010 by James Longley

Jason Osder
Sat 13 Nov 2010Link

Here is info on the OWN documentary project – you need to click into the Flash site from this link.

http://www.rocofilms.com/

The "club" is based on the book club: one doc per month on cable TV and DVD mail order – an invitation to "get off the couch" have a discussion, do something.

I agree with James says: a good thing.

To me, it's sort of like a new model: traditional, digital, hybrid, Oprah.


Laura Moire Paglin
Mon 15 Nov 2010Link

My hunch is – to be broadcast by "the club' that your a doc already has to be successful – a hit on the festival scene, awards, nominations, etc. – I could be wrong of course....


Timoty Gibbs
Tue 16 Nov 2010Link

Funny that an announcement was just made about acquitions to the OWN club.

http://www.indiewire.com/article/2010/11/15/own_picks_up_three_docs_for_spring_debut#

Three of the acquisitions are One Lucky Elephant, 65_RedRoses and Most Valuable Players.


S.Tavaris Belle
Sat 20 Nov 2010Link

I cant remember where I got the information from on the website but a post was made about documentary researchers with there name and contact information. Could somebody help me find it again? I tried using the research tool but couldnt find it


Nadia Hennrich
Tue 30 Nov 2010Link Tag

In reply to Bill Jackson's post on Mon 23 Aug 2010 :

Hi there Bill, I haven't figured out how to post a new thread here, so i am replying to you hoping someone will see this post: fact is I know there are some sound studios specialising on inexpensive sound mix for docs in LA, would you know any places? sorry to bug & thx

Edited Tue 30 Nov 2010 by Nadia Hennrich

Christopher Wong
Tue 30 Nov 2010Link Tag

for my sound mix, i used a really great guy who has a nice little studio in downtown LA. his name is Nathan Smith and he runs a company called NL3 Audio. very inexpensive rates, and he is absolutely obsessive-compulsive about good, clean sound. we had some troublesome air conditioning and street noises in various scenes, and Nathan did a great job with it. tell him i referred you! you can check out his work at www.nl3audio.com


Derek A. Reuter
Thu 2 Dec 2010Link

Hello, my name is Derek and althought I have commissioned documentaries and non-fiction film work before. I am now taking a step to be D.I.Y. and do one myself for a bit of a change of pace and discovery.

I would deeply appreciate any help and advice experienced people like yourselves can offer someone as crazy and adventurous as me. I do enjoy diving head first into a new medium that I have no previous formal training. If anything this allows me to innovate, but none-the-less there are plenty of mistakes I could make that could greatly hinder the products production/budget/success etc and nothing is more important than the product itself and its purpose.

My first question has to do with affordable resources and crew suppliments.
I am mapping out the film schedule, travel arrangements, and appointments with talent and talking heads. Already there is multiple conflicts with traveling with my current DP. So understanding that I can't always drag him with me to every opportunity to film or meet with an individual.

So is there a network out there where I can cherry pick videographers, sound engineers, etc that are affordable or willing to do in-kind work from various parts of the country?

My next question has to do with fiscal agents. I am currently investigating and informing my associates about CID (Center for Independent Documentaries) and am in love with what I have found. Especially as someone who is normally playing the role of being the Fiscal Agent/nonprofit resouce. But these relationships can be competative and there is no guarentee that the board and staff will feel inspired to work with us on our topic/film. Are their other non-fiction film organizations that have a good track record and are experienced at being a fiscal agent? Certainly a documentary based FA would have much greater advice and resources to guide or film to reach the market and viewers.

Last but not least. Considering we still have a few months before filming starts. I have yet to invest budget monies towards the bulk of video and sound equipment needed. Our documentary will be taping multiple live performances/jam out sessions, talking head interviews, stills, and moving shots.

Rigs and all aside. We are currently looking at a Canon EOS Mark ii for filming and stills, can anyone recommend a sound setup that can pair with this camera that will caption quality sound? Or better yet, recommend a video/audio pair that you have found most effective in capturing the essense of asceticism in video and sensation of good sound at a comparable price.

I would appreciate any and all advice on these questions and am always willing to be of service should you have any questions for areas I am experienced in. Agreed these are more questions for the member area but I have no creditals thus far in the genre so membership is doubtful.

Maybe in trade of consulting I can help in your films with an environmental, activist, natural resource management, policy, elections, music festivals, community organizing, nonprofit themes.

Always open and always willing,

Derek A. Reuter


John Burgan
Thu 2 Dec 2010Link

Derek – when your schedule has firmed up, feel free to post your crew requests here in Public Classifieds .

Additionally you can search by location/job at http://www.mandy.com/1/filmtvservices.cfm

Hopefully in this manner you'll find some competent and affordable collaborators. Not quite sure what "in-kind work" you're offering, though.

Edited Thu 2 Dec 2010 by John Burgan

Derek A. Reuter
Thu 2 Dec 2010Link

Thank's john, logging the links now.

I often do things for an altruistic purpose and try to cut costs everywhere I can so that the objective and community benefits are achieved or not compremised. Volunteering professional services on a chartiable or education project is in-kind time. If possible maybe some of these videographers would be willing to help for a day for recognition on the credit rolls, webiste, etc instead of wanting a chunk of the funding. By having a nonprofit umbrella the project and leverage their designation it allows for any person to get a tax write-off (in some cases monies paid later by foundation/invoices not project budget) for the hours, materials, supplies, services supplied towards the project.


Derek A. Reuter
Thu 2 Dec 2010Link

As for "in-kind" work I am offering. Simply ask, each situation I have encountered in regards for help has always been different. If I am unable to help myself I may have a list of resources to direct you to.


Linda Wasson
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

I'm confused about the various "no student films" or "no student funding" or "film must not have been made while a student" etc. ad nauseum....

what's this about exactly? and does the fact that I'm a student and making a film, even outside of class, automatically target me as someone not eligible for funding??

it's sooo frustrating and just a bit unnerving... the current film I'm seeking finishing funds for and other guidance – it's grown outside of my original class project and truly taken on a life of its own. I'm happy of course and no longer see it as a student film (again, am not sure what that is even supposed to mean!).

can someone help explain this to me please??


Jo-Anne Velin
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

As far as I know, student films are classified as this because they are made with film school resources. If this disqualifies you for certain finishing funds, maybe the school can point you to an alternative. Take this up in the NAmerica funding topic?


Linda Wasson
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

Jo-Anne, thanks but I'm still not clear what exactly constitutes a "student film."

also it raises a new question – what you said about school resources – why would that make any difference?

and no, my school knows no more resources than anyone else.


Linda Wasson
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

*this is posted here because the term "student film" is used in a number of designations not just for funding, i.e., film festivals, etc. sometimes there's even a separate category.

maybe every instance "student film" has its own definition??? it's so exasperating....!


Ramona Diaz
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

Hi Linda, it's really not that complicated. A student film is a film for which you received credit toward a degree using the school's resources – be it their equipment or their editing facilities, etc.


Linda Wasson
Fri 3 Dec 2010Link

so why the discrimination? who cares whose facilities are used? what's the dif?

and what about a film (such as the one I'm in the midst of now) where it started as a class project but outgrew it and now I'm finishing it separate from class?

some situations have also used the designation "no students" rather than "student film" which makes me feel like my work is somehow automatically disqualified just because I'm a film student.


Derek A. Reuter
Mon 6 Dec 2010Link

Hello members, anyone have any suggestions as Gaffers, DPs, or Directors what lighting/camera combination has worked best for you?


Sahand Sahebdivani
Mon 6 Dec 2010Link

Hi Derek,

It somewhat depends on what type of shots you're making. Talking heads inside will obviously need a different appreach than outside shots. You're also constrained by your budget. Care to tell a bit more what kind of project you're embarking on?


Derek A. Reuter
Mon 6 Dec 2010Link

Filming subject is upon American Folk Music from the region and its events. From Old Time to modern emerging genres.

Most interview shots would be scheduled in home, office visits, classooms, archive areas, and outdoors. The other shots will mostly be from outdoor summer events, darkly lit venues, front porches, barns, and in home band jams. At times we will take shots of nature, buildings, homes, and scenes of natural discourse and activities of the human talent and scholars. Of course always expect random opportunities.

Budget most likely won't allow for multiple cameras and light setups but has yet to be invested on equipment so currently very flexible for any recommendations.


Derek A. Reuter
Tue 7 Dec 2010Link

At the very least I want to be able to do a light triangle w/background light that gives a good rim on the subject and would be a bit too much during the night. Any suggestions on a package or combination that would work well and is travel friendly?


James Longley
Tue 7 Dec 2010Link

Derek – here's a pro bono promotional video I made for a school in Pakistan using a Canon 7D and a monopod. Edited using Final Cut Pro on a laptop – it was almost free to make it, apart from a few days of my time. I'm not sure that's exactly the style you're going for, but it's cheap and fast and fairly easy.

http://www.vimeo.com/12450414


Jessamy Meyer
Thu 16 Dec 2010Link

Hi,
I am starting to edit a trailer together for a doc project in the beginning stages of editing. I need to get the trailer to show and help with some financing. The doc is very archival heavy and has a main character with a lot of published philosophies on various topics of interest to the film. So, the director and I are playing with the idea of including text in the trailer so I'm looking for some advice on maybe good examples of films that use text in a way that is informative and also stylistic interesting and significant. Beyond examples, any experiences with using text/quotes in films? Thanks in advance for any feedback!


Daniel McGuire
Thu 16 Dec 2010Link

In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 7 Dec 2010 :

Wow, what a beautiful piece, James.


Kristen Kellogg
Sun 19 Dec 2010Link

Hi everyone. I am just breaking into the world of film making, and I have a great idea on a unique story in Bali and how a couple that moved there is changing the way we eat throughout the world. There is much more here, but that is the gist. They have responded to my interest and want to know my proposed plan. I have never made a film before, and want to find someone to work with me on this project who is a cinematographer. Also I need to get back to them and let them know my ideas this week. Any suggestions how to approach this? Thanks, Kristen


Bill Jackson
Sun 19 Dec 2010Link

In reply to Nadia Hennrich's post on Mon 29 Nov 2010 :
Hi, Nadia. Sorry I didn't get right back to you. I have been on a couple of projects that have consumed all of my time, and I haven't been on D-Word for several weeks.

If you still haven't mixed yet, get in touch with me. My schedule opens up after tomorrow.


Daniel McGuire
Sun 19 Dec 2010Link

In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

Well, I just got back from shooting in Bali 2 weeks ago, and currently live about an hour from you, so perhaps we should talk. dan at gmail dot com


Kristen Kellogg
Sun 19 Dec 2010Link

In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

Hi Dan. I am currently in Australia, but do you have skype? Maybe we could have a chat on there? Or shoot me an email kellogg.kristen (at) gmail.com Would love to hear about what you just wrapped up as well.


Kristen Kellogg
Mon 20 Dec 2010Link

Can anyone recommend any great websites (other than this one) where I can get help on how to make my first documentary?


John Burgan
Mon 20 Dec 2010Link

Not sure a website or a book can replace the experience you will gain by launching in and actually making a short doc exercise – ideally something in your own back yard – walk before you run. I presume you have access to a basic DV camera and edit software? How about a 2-minute portrait of "someone at work" – that's always a classic subject. Try to interpret it in visual terms, rather than relying on interview/talking heads.

Also search for "documentary filmmaking" on amazon.com – check out Andy Glynne's Documentaries and How to Make Them and Michael Rabiger's much more comprehensive Directing the Documentary


Timoty Gibbs
Tue 21 Dec 2010Link

Can anyone talk about educational distribution? Who are the game players? Can it be lucrative? Is it a difficult market to crack?


Justine Jacob
Tue 21 Dec 2010Link

In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

Documentors started about a year ago and have a lot of resources on their page. I loved their film, Shakespeare behind bars and they are really nice folks in general. They do charge for most things, but looks like you can do a subscription as well.

http://www.documentaryhowto.com/


Christopher Wong
Wed 22 Dec 2010Link

In reply to Kristen Kellogg's post on Mon 20 Dec 2010 :

If you need to come up with a proposal quick, watch as many documentaries as you can. Make sure you have a good mix of different genres, old and new. Then, figure out what you want to borrow from each, and start conceiving the proposal from there. A quick list of varied docs might be:
SALESMAN (Maysles Brothers)
GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog)
HARLAN COUNTY USA (Barbara Kopple)
IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (James Longley)
DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE (Hubert Sauper)
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (Michael Moore)

this list could go on forever... but other than making docs, watching docs is the best way to learn.


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