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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Angela – It's absolutely acceptable and normal. And if the company is reluctant – that ought to be a red flag.
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.
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.
In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Tue 15 Feb 2011 :
HAHA. Amazing. Could always be worse.
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.
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?
Hi, yes they have seen the 12 minute trailer and then offered finishing funds. They are media partners with the sponsor.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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...
Got it, sorry about that Doug. Bill, I really appreciate that and will get in touch via email. Thank you!
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.
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.
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.
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.