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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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Errol Webber
Tue 1 Feb 2011Link

Your opinion guys. I know some production people in the film industry may not take well to unsolicited contact about video work, but if you were to stumble upon a production company of which you like their work and would like to shoot for them on their upcoming projects, what is a good way (notice I said "good" way, because there's probably no "best" way) to approach them so they aren't initially turned off by your unsolicited contact? A phone call first? An email first? Both consecutively? A phone call to set up a meeting (if they are in the same city/state?) I have an approach I've used for years, which works out fine most times, but I want to know your opinions.

Ever since I started doing video in '03, I've worked mainly from referrals, so my former clients usually do the trumpet-blowing for me when it came to future projects with other directors/producers. But every once in a while I will find a project that I'm interested in and would like to work on, and I sometimes scratch my head, thinking of how to approach this particular person/production company.

What are your thoughts? If you ran a decent-sized production company that's been around for years or was a producer of a newly conceived film, how would YOU prefer potential shooters contacting you? Would you even mind them contacting you? And if you WOULD mind, what was the turn-off?


Randy Lee
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Do you know of anywhere that someone involved hangs out? Or a group that they're a member of? I'm a member of MCA-I here in Madison, WI, and have been able to get a foot in the door on several great projects by keeping in contact with people that I've met through the meetings.

Otherwise I can't see an email with a phone call follow-up hurting – have a reel or website ready, of course, but it can't hurt. Some places don't want outside involvement, or don't keep track of good people until it's time to hire, but some do, and are happy to keep your card in the rolodex – I'd say at least try contacting someone there. Research the place a little first, see if there's a particular person who you should ask for, and take it from there. I know that at the company that I work for, if someone calls when we don't have a call out for resumes, they'll be sent to some middle-management guy who's goal is to send you on your way as quickly as possible. If you know the name of our DP, though, or an editor, and ask for one of them, you're in in no time.


Errol Webber
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Thank you, Randy. Some good information, especially that note at the end about how big production companies think.


Doug Block
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Errol, it's hard to imagine someone being turned off by an email genuinely expressing appreciation for my company and wanting to become a part of it. They may not respond enthusiastically (and that's their loss), but why would they be upset?


Neil Orman
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Can anyone advise me on the simplest way to light interview subjects, as a one man band? Next week I'm doing a shoot in a house with lots of windows and pretty good light. Whenever possible, I hope to take advantage of natural light. But I just want to be prepared should I need to throw some light on a subject. In the past I've used kinoflos and lit people with the people of a PA, but this time I need to keep it to just me. And I don't want to be messing with c-stands, sandbags and the like. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.


Ron Osgood
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Neil – try to use the natural light as your main source and add a reflector to the opposite side. Or use a soft box, umbrella or diffused light as your key and the window as your fill. Don't forget to use CTB to match to daylight. Of course figuring out how to add a back light is important.


Neil Orman
Wed 2 Feb 2011Link

Much appreciated, Ron.


Avery Morgan
Fri 4 Feb 2011Link

I am making a short (10 minute) historical documentary. I have all of the important information, but so far the documentary is a little boring. Any advice on how to make it a little more interesting while still professional?


Laura Moire Paglin
Fri 4 Feb 2011Link

I'd have to know a little more about what it's about. But the key with any documentary is to remember that you are still telling a story. The story is more important than imparting facts and information.Think about Ken Burn's documentaries. Also figure out why you're using a visual medium to tell the story. What can you communicate in a visual way? Watch lots of historical documentaries. Try to figure out what makes you like them and figure out how you can apply that to your project.

Edited Fri 4 Feb 2011 by Laura Moire Paglin

Avery Morgan
Sat 5 Feb 2011Link

Thank you very much for your help. I will try to keep that in mind and will follow your advice before I start filming and putting together information. Also, the documentary is on Susan B. Anthony and her work as a suffragist for Women's Rights if that helps.


Dean Lenoir
Tue 8 Feb 2011Link

Hey, can anyone provide some general advice on which of the following cameras would be better to use:

Canon XH A1
or
Canon EOS 7D

Someone is letting me borrow the XH A1 for a couple of months to shoot a documentary I'm working on, but I can also get access to a Canon 7D through school. I also have access to professional lighting and audio equipment through school, compatible with both cameras, so I don't see that as much of a factor (although I am new to filmmaker, so maybe it is).

The lens that I have for the 7D are the following:
Nikon DX Af-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.89
Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens

In terms of image quality, which do you all think is best? Also, do you think that I could use both, or would there be a noticeable difference between the two?

I am really new to film-making, so any advice here would help!


Nigel Walker
Tue 8 Feb 2011Link

If you are really new to filmmaking I would strongly recommend the XH A1. The DSLR's have a variety of issues that have been well documented and although there are work arounds for many of them I would focus all your energy into making a film not dealing with the equipment.


Dean Lenoir
Tue 8 Feb 2011Link

Great point Nigel, indeed I think I will go with the XH A1. Thanks for the advice :)


Errol Webber
Tue 8 Feb 2011Link

Dean, I would get neither. The XH A1 only shoots HDV, which is QUICKLY becoming less favorable. I would recommend getting a Sony EX1R if you're a beginning filmmaker. It shoots XDCAM which isn't disappearing for a while, shoots at a significantly higher bit rate and gets a truer white balance in MY opinion.

Video shot on a Canon XH A1 Video Camera tends to have this greenish brown tinge to it even when you supposedly have correct white balance. There is a technical reason for this, but I won't go into that detail. Also, with the Sony EX3, you have more handling options thanks to its ergonomic hand-grip.

But yeah, if the ONLY options were XH A1 or 7D, I'd choose the XH A1 for the same reason Nigel said.


Randy Lee
Wed 9 Feb 2011Link

I would definitely make use of the 7D while you've got it available though, too. It's a great tool when used properly, and there are enough people using it that avoiding using it is a bad idea, because you never know when it'll pop up as what you need to use. But as far as focusing on telling a story and learning video gear go, definitely the XH A1.


Angela Snow
Mon 14 Feb 2011Link

I've been approached by a distribution company in Europe regarding my first documentary film.

I've never gotten to this stage before and am looking for advice on international distribution. I would really appreciate any and all information, from basic to specific.

My main specific questions are
-Is it normal / OK to give exclusive distro rights for all of Europe or internationally to one company? Do you often pick distributors based on countries and break it up that way?
-What are some questions that I can ask them to discover what level of a distributor they are? WHAT SHOULD I KNOW? How can I make sure they have the contacts / experience / can get my film out there...
-What % is normal for a distributor to take as a commission of sales and pre-sales?


Doug Block
Mon 14 Feb 2011Link

Angela, first of all, congrats for getting your first film made, and for doing it well enough for there to be interest from a distributor.

For U.S. filmmakers, it's pretty typical to have a distributor (and sometimes even a sales agent, if there's theatrical potential) for domestic distribution and another company handling sales for international distribution (especially, broadcast). Since most of your international sales will be to broadcasters, you don't need a distributor in each country. You just need one sales agent who can approach all the broadcasters at markets like the EFM in Berlin and MIP in Cannes.

The best ways to tell if this company is legit are to check out the films they have in their catalogue, check out their website to see how well they promote the films online and contact the producers of some of their films and see what their experience has been like. Did the company work hard for them and make sales? Have they been reliable in their reports and payments? Were they easy to communicate and collaborate with? Stuff like that.

I've found it pretty typical for an international sales agent (or distributor acting as one) to charge a 30 to 35% fee for their sales. I think it's generally less for pre-sales (25%?), but I'm not sure how common it is anymore for them to actively look for pre-sales.


Angela Snow
Mon 14 Feb 2011Link

Doug,
Thanks so much, that's the best feedback I've gotten thus far in my quest. So, it is normal to contact past producers that worked with them? I've gotten this advice before. Most are European films that I'm having trouble hunting down contact details for, would I / could I ask the company for referrals?

This company is pretty small, so trying to determine if that can be a good / ok thing.

THANKS!


Laura Moire Paglin
Tue 15 Feb 2011Link

Angela – It's absolutely acceptable and normal. And if the company is reluctant – that ought to be a red flag.


Doug Block
Tue 15 Feb 2011Link

I agree with Laura, and they'll steer you to the producers who they know are happiest. You might want to use your internet detective skills to track down other producers they don't list.

In the meantime, you should register for professional membership here, which will give you access to all 50 of our discussion topics.


Daniel McGuire
Tue 15 Feb 2011Link

And don't forget the overhead clause...<http://vimeo.com/14071168>


Mark Barroso
Tue 15 Feb 2011Link

that's some funny stuff


Jo-Anne Velin
Tue 15 Feb 2011Link

In reply to Angela Snow's post on Mon 14 Feb 2011 :

... where you can list a couple of titles, and we in Europe may know the people who made the films.


Angela Snow
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Tue 15 Feb 2011 :
HAHA. Amazing. Could always be worse.

Thanks all.


karen donald
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Dear Doug

How are you? I am a first time film maker and live in Bali.

Tracks Magazine in Australia are interested in providing the finishing funds for my documentary about an Indonesian surfer. However, they want to produce a DVD for the front of their magazine but I want to broadcast the project and I would like to find a broadcaster with your help at the D-Word.

This way I will reach beyond the surfing audience which has always been my vision. Please post advice soon.

Best wishes
Karen


John Burgan
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Welcome to The D-Word, Karen. It's quite a challenge to find a broadcaster, particularly as a beginner and another thing again to produce a piece for a specialist magazine. Have you already shot some material and do you have a trailer online?

Edited Wed 16 Feb 2011 by John Burgan

karen donald
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Hi, yes they have seen the 12 minute trailer and then offered finishing funds. They are media partners with the sponsor.


karen donald
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

We already have 1/3 footage. The rest to be shot in Oz and maybe a return to Sumbawa. There's vintage stock footage to add that requires conversion from 16mm


Daniel McGuire
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

I'll chime in – I've seen some of Karen's piece.
It's a portrait of an Indonesian surfer from a tiny, remote village who has made it to the big time of the surf world.
There are so many unknowns here – The key one as far as I can see is exclusivity – does the magazine want some ownership of your film in exchange for the finishing funds? If all they want is to put your film on a DVD with your magazine, but you have all broadcast sales rights, that might be a good deal for you. But you might not be able to get your film in certain festivals if it has already been distributed on DVD. I am not certain that magazine/dvd distribution will hurt broadcast sales, which would be aimed at a general audience. Perhaps you could negotiate with the magazine that you are given a window (before dvd distribution) where you could enter the film in festivals.
DAN


Daniel McGuire
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

You should also research your market and find other films in the genre and talk to their producers – how many surf films get TV sales? How much do they sell for? Are your hopes and expectations realistic, and based on an understanding of the market for this genre of film?


Doug Block
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Karen, seems like you're getting good advice from others. So I'll mostly just welcome you to The D-Word and let you know we've upgraded you to Professional status, as befitting how far along you've taken your film.

This is an interesting discussion and now belongs in the Funding (Europe, Elsewhere) topic, where more people will see it and weigh in. We don't encourage double posting, but in this case feel free to post again there.


Neil Orman
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Hey, I had three quick questions related to a short doc I just did, related to sound editing, classical music licensing and posting this on the Web. Any advice on any of these would be greatly appreciated!
-Sound editing: I have a short problematic portion with a low electromagnetic hum related to, I think, someone's cell phone being turned on. It's not loud but it's noticeable, and occurs for maybe 5-7 seconds of a 30 second interview portion I'd really like to use. Is there any way to remove/minimize something like that in either Pro Tools or preferably Final Cut, because I'd prefer to handle this myself and I don't have Pro Tools?
-Classical music licensing: I want to use a 30 second portion of Vivaldi's 4 Seasons, and this piece is for someone to post on their Web site to promote their business. Is it necessary to pay to license the music for something like this, which won't be widely seen, and if so any recommendations on good Web sites or sources?
-Web streaming: I want to deliver this in a version that's going to be a good-looking Web viewing experience. In the past, when I've posted something on Vimeo for example, I've just exported a Quicktime using the Broadband choice. Is that the best way?
Much appreciated,
Neil


Doug Block
Wed 16 Feb 2011Link

Neil, the Mentoring Room is for Enthusiasts who don't have access to the many discussion topics open for Professional members. Since you have Professional status, in the future please ask these questions in the appropriate topics.


Bill Jackson
Thu 17 Feb 2011Link

In reply to Neil Orman's post on Wed 16 Feb 2011 :

If it is just that one clip, you can send it to me and I'll send it back. I probably can completely get rid of it in Pro Tools, depending on what it is.

If you have Final Cut Studio, Soundtrack Pro Audio Restoration can lessen or remove it.

Music – You would need permission to use the recording, unless you record/perform the music yourself. Someone on here knows more than I do about the legalities.

Can't answer the Vimeo part...


Neil Orman
Thu 17 Feb 2011Link

Got it, sorry about that Doug. Bill, I really appreciate that and will get in touch via email. Thank you!


James Longley
Wed 2 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Neil Orman's post on Wed 16 Feb 2011 :

Neil – cell phones generally don't make humming sounds on recordings. They make twittery, high-pitched interference noises. To minimize a hum sound in Final Cut, try using the multi-band equalizer tool and find the frequency with the hum. Then turn down that frequency for the duration of the problem. Any tool that allows you to selectively adjust volume across a small band of frequency will work for this. You might not be able to completely eliminate the offending noise, but you can make it less horrifying.

About Vimeo, try making your video 720p H264 format, assuming you are starting out with HD material. Without knowing your original format it's a little tricky to advise you on this.

But Doug is right (always) – you should be asking these questions in the pro topics.


Laura Marshallsay
Sat 5 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Avery Morgan's post on Fri 4 Feb 2011 :
What is your topic? I'm a novice doc maker, but a seasoned public historian.


J. Christian Jensen
Fri 11 Mar 2011Link

I just received word about my acceptance into Stanford's MFA program as well as the MFA in Film & Electronic Media at American University. I've done a fair amount of research about both programs online so I have a good idea of certain information, but I've found it hard (particularly with American University) to answer a number of questions not covered on website FAQs.

Is anyone familiar with the differences in structure and curriculum from the two programs? Perhaps any American University grads out there? I've already spoken to a number of Stanford grads, who were very helpful.


Erica Ginsberg
Sun 13 Mar 2011Link

I am an AU alum. I graduated a while back just when they were starting the MFA program (I opted to stick with the MA). Can't compare it to Stanford b/c I don't know Stanford's program. AU is a great program if you plan to make social issue documentaries, environmental documentaries, or want to be close to the research facilities of Washington DC. It is very much a practical-focused program (since it is situated in the School of Communications).

For perspectives from more recent AU alums (including ones who have been through the MFA program), you might want to repost(sorry hosts) your specific questions in the Teaching Docs topics since not all the professionals who could answer your question check the public topics.

Congratulations on the acceptances to both institutions.

Edited Sun 13 Mar 2011 by Erica Ginsberg

Jacob Bricca
Tue 15 Mar 2011Link

I'm an established doc editor venturing out for the first time as a producer of his own doc. I got a couple small grants which got me started, and now have a bunch of footage shot, a trailer, treatment, and prospectus materials. I have non-profit status with IDA and intend to raise some funds that way, but want to solicit larger chunks of change from investors. I'm looking for resources (example documents, books, advice) about how to set up a situation where I can engage investors in my film (total budget = approx. $160K.) Must I set up an LLC? Is there a quick-and-easy way of doing this? What do the contracts look like when people invest? Any pointers or advice is much appreciated.


Ben Kempas
Tue 15 Mar 2011Link

Jacob, now that we just gave you Professional status due to your impressive experience in documentary editing, let me suggest that you just start searching and reading our whole category of Business Topics. I'm sure you'll find many answers and ideas there.

While you're at it, you should really Introduce Yourself and tell this community a bit more about your background. Thanks!


Jacob Bricca
Tue 15 Mar 2011Link

I've been searching as you suggest and have found lots of useful tidbits. Will do an introduction, too. Thanks, Ben!


Martin Kelly
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

Hi,

I'm starting a documentary project that will be shot in HD, and someone at the Apple Store recommended that I talk to Maxx Digital (http://www.maxxdigital.com/) about getting consultation for a RAID setup for a MacPro that I'm thinking of getting. Has anyone dealt with Maxx Digital before? How's their consultation and, more importantly, their products?


Kevin Hallagan
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

hey everybody,

I don't know if this is the section to be doing this in, but here it goes.
I have some experience, but not much, so I was wondering if any filmmaker would like some free help on a project this summer? I am a fast learner, but I want to be a documentary filmmaker and the cinema department at my school isn't giving me very much practical experience.
Please respond if you're interested. I have a passport and am willing to travel. I'm friendly and easy to work with, I promise.


J. Christian Jensen
Tue 22 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Sun 13 Mar 2011 :
Erica,

Thanks so much for your input. I apologize for my slow acknowledgement of the reply. I was away for a few days. I've decided to put my lot in with Stanford because of its more intimate atmosphere as well as the long-standing reputation and pedigree. The decision wasn't made lightly though. Stanford, AU, and NYU (which I just received acceptance to) all have really amazing aspects that I wish I could benefit from. If only I could afford to go to all three... :)


Erica Ginsberg
Wed 23 Mar 2011Link

Well it says something about you that you were accepted into all three. I know a lot of really amazing documentarians have come through the Stanford program so certainly a good choice.


Doug Block
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

Independent Film Week

Seeking Scripts and Documentary works-in-progress – Emerging Narrative and No Borders now open for submissions! Spotlight on Docs opens April 15!

http://www.ifp.org/independent-film-week/


Kristen Turick
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

My husband is a DP/Director and was contacted about 2 years ago by a client wanting him to shoot an interview and broll for one woman's story of abuse, survival and healing through an alternative method called Transformational Bodywork. There was an urgency to do the shooting asap as she was also diagnosed with 4th stage Ovarian Cancer and her prognosis was not good. The purpose was to have her story documented so that sometime in the future it might be used for a documentary about the kind of work this therapist is doing. 

Some time later, my husband was contacted again by same client to come out and film some more footage with the same subject as she had now finished with chemo and was in remission. She had made great strides in her work with our client/her therapist and was celebrating her life. This time, I went with him and shot several days with her. During the shoot, it became clear that my husband and I had gained a remarkable perspective on how best to pursue this documentary. Since the client hadn't even yet lined up a director, we pitched to him that we could helm the project, and he wholly agreed. We then did one more round of shooting this past March.

Through each stage, the client had paid my husband his standard dayrate, so everything was essentially a work-for-hire gig. But as some other parties have now come forward with additional financing and the documentary as a whole is picking up steam, we're now floundering with the business end of all of this, playing catch-up to this bass-ackwards way of producing a documentary.

Which brings me to this... We need help! We have a producer we'd like to bring on board to handle all the administrative details moving forward, but we're so ignorant about what all those details are exactly. In doing research, I've read things about fiscal sponsorship, advisory boards, non-profit, etc. As of right now, we are slated to do our final round of principal photography this May in NY and CA and still have no protection in case things go horribly awry. Husband is currently talking with a lawyer about forming an LLC and drafting an operating agreement for the three parties involved: my husband and I, and the client-turned-partner. But we're unclear how to handle things such as:
- Who should own the Copyright?
- What is an appropriate split for profit/loss between us and client-turned-partner?
- How to accept outside monies which are still unclear yet as to whether or not they'll be Donations vs. Investments?
- If the incoming monies are Investments, what's an appropriate way to handle profit splits between we the filmmakers, and them?
- Do we need an advisory board? Does it help? Offer more credibility?

I apologize for the novella, if you've made it this far... any insight into these questions would be immensely appreciated, or if there's something else I might be altogether overlooking. Thanks so much for any and all help!


Doug Block
Thu 7 Apr 2011Link

Kristen, smart questions. I just emailed you to suggest a consultant (and it's not me, even though I consult quite often). It seems like you need a good one badly and I recommended a great one.


Kristen Turick
Fri 8 Apr 2011Link

Thanks very much Doug.. Much appreciated! I realize it's a lot to ask. :)


David Freed
Sat 9 Apr 2011Link

Hi, my name is David. I'm new to this group and to making videos' I've mostly been doing photography and printmaking up to this point.

A starting question: I want to make a short video about my art and artmaking. I'd be in it--in my studio--talking about, making and showing my artwork, hoping to make it informative and interesting. My question: is this considered to be a documentary video/film, or is there some more appropriate name for this kind of video?

Thanks, David

Edited Sat 9 Apr 2011 by David Freed

Bipasha Shom
Mon 11 Apr 2011Link

hello, i'm an editor who wants to edit more documentary projects. i have an extensive background editing tv commercials and music videos. i have also cut two features and have edited a number of short (30 minute) docs for warner bros and dc comics. i would really like to work on a feature length doc with more substance. does anyone have any suggestions on how to go about finding projects which need editors. thanks!! bipasha


Doug Block
Mon 11 Apr 2011Link

Yes, Bipasha. Join The D-Word as a professional member and put up a post in the Professional Classifieds topic. You can already put one up in the public Classifieds topic.

We have a lot of LA area members, so once you're a professional member you can check the F2F topic to see when there will be gatherings. Also, are you a member of Doculink? If not, would be helpful for you to join.

Edited Mon 11 Apr 2011 by Doug Block

Brenda Essahaty
Sat 16 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Kristen Turick's post on Thu 7 Apr 2011 :

Good luck karen,It was interesting to read your post,isn't it funny how complicated the business world is,by the time most finally get there they barely could breath,not having a one clear direction/one stop to help people forward with business is frustrating.

It's a very interesting documentary and I can understand why it's picking up.I have been bitching tv shows to producers,I would think the patient/partner is the owner of the copy right cause he called you to do the documentary for him.This can turn around on you 200 degrees,look at these points...He has paid you to do the documentary and the idea is his,so where do you think you fit in now??

I refuse to have anyone get in partnership with me on any of my ideas,and was determine to take the government funding and make a loan to top it up.I was told anyone who take part financially will not want to get nothing out of it,but a sponsor might pay something to contribute but have the priority on advertisement which means their logo will appear some where on the film and at every ad,but their appearance will based on how much they contribute.

Film industry is a bit difficult to get into and certainly not hassle free.

Good luck anyway,sorry can't help.But I like what you are working on.

Edited Sat 16 Apr 2011 by Brenda Essahaty

James Longley
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Jacob Bricca's post on Tue 15 Mar 2011 :

Great to see you here, Jacob B. – I hope you find the site useful.

(Jacob and I were film students together at Wesleyan U. – I will vouch for this man.)


Christina Katsiadakis
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hello. I am a new documentary filmmaker. I am currently working on a documentary about 30 something people in Greece. We are interviewing people of different backgrounds and different situations. I expected that it would be hard to work with people who are new to facing a camera, but it turned out that it is even more difficult than I expected. Are there any tips of more experienced filmmakers on how to make the person in front of the camera more at ease and less self conscious?
Thank you very much.
Christina


Ernst Gossner
Sun 17 Apr 2011Link

Hi,
I'm now on d-word trying to find my way around. Seems like a great place for doc newbies like me. I was wondering how I could ask filmmakers on here for advice on a sales agent. we are just about to finish our doc GLOBAL WARNING (45minutes) and we will premiere it at a festival in my hometown with following screening tour, DVD release and Online Release but we'd like to hand the rest of the world over to a sales agent. How should I ask them for their recommendations? Which forums are best? Thx, Ernst.

Edited Sun 17 Apr 2011 by Ernst Gossner

Doug Block
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Crack some jokes, Christina. I'm not kidding. It's all about having them be relaxed, and it's your job to relax them.

Ernst, assume you mean an international sales agent. But not sure what you're asking. Can you clarify?


James Longley
Mon 18 Apr 2011Link

Whoopee cushions work well, particularly when preparing to interview autocratic heads of state.


John Sanvidge
Thu 21 Apr 2011Link

Hello

I've just completed my film "Finding Seoul"- a documentary I made about trying to find my birth parents in Korea. I've started applying to film festivals (TIFF and HIFF) and was wondering if anyone had other suggestions on where to apply, or what festivals to maybe avoid?

You can check out the film trailer here: http://vimeo.com/22299145
Maybe that will help get information on what festivals to try and submit to.

Thank you (I hope this is in the right section)
John Sanvidge


Rahul Chadha
Fri 22 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

Try not to formally cue your subject to start the interview. I usually one-man crew my shoots. I like to set up my shot, then ask the subject what they had for breakfast to set my audio levels. I hit record and then segue into my interview questions without alerting my subject. I feel like subjects flip an internal switch that makes them very stiff if you cue them to the fact that recording has started. People are much more natural/conversational if they think they are having a conversation with you, and not the camera.


Stephen Troy
Sun 24 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christina Katsiadakis's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :

I like to start interviewing them with questions I don't really care about, and allow them to drive the interview. I never stop them and tell them to rephrase, and I will allow the interview to get as off topic as they want it to be. I use a very light hand as I guide them toward the questions and answers I care about, that way by the time we get there they are comfortable and feel as if they brought up the topic themselves. That way they don't feel like they're in the hot-seat.

Note: some people will never be very comfortable in front of a camera, some will automatically be super comfortable. All these tips everyone is giving need to be tailored to each specific person you speak with.


Jill Morley
Mon 25 Apr 2011Link

Definitely put them at ease while you are setting up for the shoot. Sometimes the more technically oriented will futz with the camera, sound and lights in silence, without putting the subject at ease with jokes and light conversation. That can get them more tense. I also find that if I want to relate to them on a very personal level, I might shut off the camera and tell them a related personal story that will elicit a charged response from them. If you set the tone that it's encouraged to be honest about how you feel instead of "performing" for the camera, I find it helps getting more powerful interviews.


Christina Katsiadakis
Tue 26 Apr 2011Link

Thank you very much for all the tips. I guess making people feel at ease is key! My next group of interviews is next week and I have the feeling it will be better than the first one. Thanks a lot!!!!!!


Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Lynnae Brown's post on Wed 4 Feb 2004 :

Hi, I'm not sure if you still looking, but here is the company I represent, we would be glad to have your business, and if you know that someone else is looking; please recommend us for their transcription services. http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com
We've done a lot of caption work, video work, etc... We will be glad to provide references


Jan Kriv
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Christopher Wong's post on Mon 28 Jan 2008 :
Our rates for transcription services start at $90 per hour, we can also provide a volume discount. We will be happy to do a free evaluation for you. Please visit us: http://www.transcriptioninstitute.com All of our transcribers are based in US


John Burgan
Thu 28 Apr 2011Link

Jan, you're welcome to join the public discussions at The D-Word but I think everyone has got the message loud and clear by now. Take a look at our FAQ if there is any confusion – in particular the following:

Do not use The D-Word only to pitch your product or service. Feel free to recommend products and services in the course of conversation, but do not offend other users by coming in only to sell something


Doug Block
Fri 29 Apr 2011Link

And kindly refrain from multiple postings in the future.


Aldo Bello
Mon 2 May 2011Link

In reply to nick toscano's post on Mon 7 Sep 2009 :

Nick, this is a great "Fair Use" site by American University...hope it helps everyone on this forum: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/best-practices/documentary/


Ivan Serfontein
Tue 3 May 2011Link

Hi everyone

I am starting a documentary series much like Louis Theroux. I am the presenter and also director and producer. The first episode deals with bouncers and I am basically looking for some advice on getting people to be in the documentary and any production tips for the crew. For example: whats better a rifle mic or a lapel mic? Essentially I am also trying to understand why documentaries like that work. Is it the amount of time they spend with their subjects and if so, do they spend that amount of time with many subjects but end up only using a couple?

Any tips would be much appreciated
Thanks
Ivan Serfontein


Ray Metoyer
Fri 13 May 2011Link

Greetings All,
Can anyone suggest to me how I could find out what the value is for a documentary on the international scene; primarily Europe and the UK?
I've had some interest in a doc that has aired in the US, but how do I determine what it's worth? Is there a consultant or a company I could go to?


James Longley
Tue 17 May 2011Link

Having a sales agent for international sales is sometimes not a bad idea. The rates for documentary sales vary widely depending on the broadcaster/distributor and on the film itself.


Ray Metoyer
Tue 17 May 2011Link

James– thanks for your reply. If there's someone you would recommend– please send me a note to my email address:
rmetoyer@mindspring.com


Adam Johnson
Mon 23 May 2011Link

Can I buy someone lunch? I'm looking to bribe a friendship with someone who has more experience than me as a doc filmmaker. If you are up in LA or OC or even San Diego, I'd be happy to take you to lunch and talk about my project and how to proceed, what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.

My Project centers around a horse sanctuary that takes in abused and neglected horses- but also profiles the various volunteers who have their own afflictions such as Post Traumatic Stress, Autism, Fetal Alcohol, etc. A reciprocating therapy takes place and could provide a more widespread solution to many of the mental health and social issues of today. We have about 50% production in the can. Would like to submit to the festival circuit eventually.

Let me know if you would like to provide some mentor-ship in exchange for a Big Mac... ;) email me if interested.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

Hi everyone,

In an effort to keep this short I'm leaving out the background info, but if needed, I'll gladly post it.

How can I ensure a collaborative and successful interview with an organization and their representative when I'm certain they'll find out I don't like what they are doing? The specific person I want to interview is surely to raise some eye brows and with a quick visit to my film website, they'll likely get the hint that I'm not on their side.

Regards.


James Longley
Tue 31 May 2011Link

You cannot ensure it. You can be open minded and demonstrate a desire to let them tell their side of the story, whatever it is. But in the end, it's up to them to decide whether to go on record or not. I've personally wasted piles of cash traveling across the country to interview people only to have them chicken out at the last minute. All you can do is offer them a chance to be interviewed. If they refuse, include their refusal in your film. That way, your audience knows you offered them a chance to refute any negative claims made in the film. And make sure to go over your film with a good lawyer if it's something that could potentially stir up legal trouble. And get E&O insurance.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

In reply to James Longley's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Hi James,

It's so great to see you taking the time to answer questions from beginners like myself. Thumbs up!

Your answer is a huge help, especially since I had never heard of Errors & Omissions insurance before.

I understand now the potential to waste a lot of money traveling. I'll try to minimize this by asking the organization for a day of interviews with various people so I can learn about their activities in research, community/membership education, fundraisers, etc. If the main person I want to interview backs out, maybe I can get the other interviewees to provide the same information.

Thanks again James.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 31 May 2011Link

Would enjoy hearing from others how you go about finding music for your films? I'm searching for a "sad" song for a trailer piece I'm working on and having a tough time. What do you do?


James Longley
Wed 1 Jun 2011Link

I make my own music. It's cheaper.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 1 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 31 May 2011 :

Moby has a wide range of free samples for people working without money or very little of it. Conditions are attached to their use, but fair ones.


Reid B. Kimball
Thu 2 Jun 2011Link

Thanks to both James and Jo-Anne.


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Hi all,

I'm looking for a replacement for my Rode Video Mic because it makes too much noise when I'm walking around and filming. This is because it uses rubber bands for its shock system and they make squeaking rubber friction noises when moved.

Can anyone recommend a small mic that gets at least as good audio quality as the Rode Video Mic and can be used when the camera is moving around, say when walking with someone during my documentary interviews? I've looked at Rode's Pro model, but fear it uses the same rubber bands and will be noisy.

BTW, I have a lavalier mic sys, but still would like a mic I can mount on my cam and use when I don't have time to mic someone up.

Thanks!

Edited Fri 3 Jun 2011 by Reid B. Kimball

James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

People say nice things about the Sanken CS1. But the shock mount is not usually part of the microphone, so you should be able to replace your mount without buying a new mic. Without actually knowing which mic you have it's a little difficult to tell. What kind of camera are you using? What's your price range? What is a "Rode Video Mic" exactly? Link?


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Hey James,

Here's the one I'm talking about: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/363083-REG/Rode_VIDEOMIC_VideoMic_Camera_Mounted.html

A good picture of the shock mount using rubber bands:
http://www.pctodays.com/userimages/08%2001%202006rode_videomic.jpg

I am using a Panasonic HDC-HS700 – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/674251-REG/Panasonic_HDC_HS700K_HDC_HS700K_High_Definition_Camcorder.html

The link is for a more recent model (700K).

I hope to pay no more than 400 for a new mic.


James Longley
Fri 3 Jun 2011Link

Okay – for that size camera I honestly don't know what mic to suggest. But it sounds like your real trouble is the shock mount, so you might just experiment with different rubber bands or doubling up bands to see if you can get something that doesn't make noise when you move it. With audio gear, you generally get what you pay for, and most mics that are considered professional start around twice the price you are looking for. Remember, though, that a great microphone can last for decades if you take care of it, unlike digital cameras these days, which usually have to be upgraded every couple years. So investing in good sound gear makes some sense if you plan on making films for a while. Also, really good microphones tend to retain their resale value. But for now, focus on trying different rubber band configurations.


Reid B. Kimball
Sat 4 Jun 2011Link

Alright, you make a good argument for investing in a quality mic. Will try messing with the rubber bands just in case I can hack something together. If I start spending too much time on it, I'll just buy a higher quality mic.


Reid B. Kimball
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

Hi everyone,

My documentary is health related and I'm having trouble finding a gastroenterologist who will agree to see me for a general consultation check up and be filmed while that is happening. I've talked to 2 offices and all 12 GIs have declined to go on camera during my appointment.

Having them on camera I think is really important for people at home to see what happens during these appointments. If you have ever seen the documentary, Super Size Me where Morgan Spurlock visits doctors in the beginning, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

I will keep searching, but I'm thinking of a backup plan and want your feedback. That plan is to get a small pen camera or easily concealed audio recording device and getting it on record that way, regardless of permission. Then in the editing process I will of course make sure there aren't any identifiable elements on visual and audio.

If I do this, I think it can add some needed tension to the film anyway. "What are they hiding? What don't they want you to know about?"

I'm hoping that as long as there isn't any way to identify the doctor I see, there shouldn't be any legal issues. Thoughts?

If you think the backup plan can work, have any suggestions for "spy" cameras or audio?


Linda Wasson
Tue 7 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

well Reid, for one thing, they are afraid of malpractice suits, as they very well should be. drs have more to answer to than just their patients, believe it or not.

one of the drs in SSM was Dr. Isaacs, who was actually my internist for a while back when I lived in nyc. He's originally from S. Africa so I'm thinking maybe he doesn't scare easily – he certainly impressed me in many ways when I knew him – and it was a real hoot seeing him in the film.

not sure why you feel "the people at home" need to see you with your dr. most everyone over the age of 18 (and many under) have been to a gastro specialist so why is this so special?

at any rate, you might want to try medical schools. do you have a legal release ready in a pdf or fax format that you can provide immediately? and have you stated as such? that should be your top priority.

you might also call your local med asso and ask them for names of drs who do any kind of educational programming or promotional work – that might at least give you some contacts but you'll still need a hefty release.

btw, the release probably should be prepared by a product liability defense attorney since that's who would be defending a dr in a lawsuit...

good luck!


Reid B. Kimball
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Linda Wasson's post on Tue 7 Jun 2011 :

Hi Linda,

I feel it's important to get this on camera because it's part of my story of dealing with Crohn's disease and how I answer the questions they ask and how they respond in turn when they learn I'm not using conventional treatments.

I do have a release form that I call a "model release" and it's worked fine so far. Here's the link in case you want to see it: http://crohnsend.com/documents/model_release_template.pdf

Interesting idea having someone write the model release to protect the doctors and not me... if I understand that right.


Reid B. Kimball
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

Also, I don't understand why a doctor would be concerned about malpractice suits suddenly if there's a camera in the room. What's that got to do with how they practice medicine? I know, I should be asking them that question.


Bill Jackson
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Jake Salyer's post in Introduce Yourself
I really liked your images. I wasn't expecting to see the whole film; I was expecting some clips or a trailer.
You might want to consider making a very short version, if you haven't already, to give people a taste of what you have done and draw them in to want to see more.

I would seriously think about redoing the narration before submitting to festivals. Not only is it technically thin, but (even though it is probably your voice) it sounds like it is being read, rather than told with enthusiasm/interest. Also, the film could use some pretty serious work on the overall sound mix.

It is a very interesting story of which I had no previous knowledge.
Others here may have better insight into how the story and editing are working. I just wanted to bring up my thoughts on the narration.

Good luck!


Linda Wasson
Wed 8 Jun 2011Link Tag

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Wed 8 Jun 2011 :

the release is to protect you – by having one drawn up by a lawyer that deals w/product liability (which includes med mal) you are assuring all parties involved that you are sincerely making an effort to keep everything correct and are not trying to set someone up. I know if I was a producer on such a doc, it would be the very first thing I would put on the list of priorities with regards to interviews. a model release in this situation simply isn't adequate.

additionally, if you don't have an established track as a filmmaker, what's to prove this film will actually be finished, released and worthy of having this particular dr (whoever it is) in it? that is, you could have some alterior motive unknown to the dr.

just look at Breitbart who set up the Acorn sting as well as a couple others and then railroaded A. Weiner into a corner (ok, some say he did it to himself but personally, I could care less about this guy's sex life; he's damn good at progressive politics and that's more important to me)

Reid, one of the most important considerations to learn when making docs is whatever passion you have for the subject is of course, a good thing, but whenever people are involved, you are asking something of them. You are asking their time, input, energy, opinions, whatever and how you ask and what you ask for can have significant impact on your final production. It's critical to look at their side of it, and understand the fear, suspicion, worry, etc., that participants experience whether they are willing or unwilling.

We as filmmakers are only storytellers. without the generousity of those who share with us their true stories, well, I suppose we'd be making narrative films :)


Reid B. Kimball
Fri 10 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Linda Wasson's post on Wed 8 Jun 2011 :

Hi Linda, I agree with you. I think my hang up is I don't know what is different about the product liability model release from the one I already have in specific language, but not to waste any of your time I'll try to find a lawyer and ask them. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

I hope it doesn't mean I will need to waive my right to sue, not that that's my goal, but in principle I think citizens are giving up too many of their rights and I don't want to continue that trend. BUT! If it means getting a Dr. to agree to go on camera during my visits then I may have to sacrifice my values to get the job done.


Lillian Baulding
Sun 12 Jun 2011Link

Hi:

I'd like to purchase a consumer camcorder in order to shoot some pieces for my blog. I currently have a Flip cam (r.i.p.), but would love to get something that has a better zoom and an external microphone jack. Can anyone recommend good one? I've heard Aiptek's are good, but which model?

Thanks very much,
Lillian Baulding


Reid B. Kimball
Mon 13 Jun 2011Link

Hi Lillian,

Are you looking for a camera that can do High Definition (HD) resolutions, 720x480, or higher? Do you want a camera that gives you a lot of control over sound and picture settings?


Tim Keane
Mon 13 Jun 2011Link

A distributor interested in a project I've worked on insists I need to get a Title Report. There in one place that will generate it for about $375. Any ideas for a less expensive alternative?

Thanks in advance,
Tim


Michael Rossato-Bennett
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

Hi,

I am not a beginner but I can not figure where else to post this- I need some doc pals! I am doing an Alzheimer's Doc and need some feedback on my first assembles. Anyone in NYC? East Village? I am buying lunch!

for a quick look at the project go to- www.XimotionMedia.com

Thanks-


John Burgan
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

This is a Public Topic open to everyone, but if you had wanted to restrict this to Pro members it could have also gone in the Works in Progress topic, Michael.

Edited Tue 14 Jun 2011 by John Burgan

Doug Block
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

And since you already posted it in the Editing topic, just a gentle reminder that we don't encourage double posting, Michael.


Lillian Baulding
Tue 14 Jun 2011Link

In reply to Lillian Baulding's post on Sun 12 Jun 2011 :

Hi Reid: Yes, I'm looking for HD, 720X480 and control over audio.

Lillian


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