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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.

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.


Yixi Villar
Wed 15 Jun 2011Link

Hi everyone I need your help. We are working on a doc "Life In The Balance" check out the link below for more details
We have just been fined by the gov over $10,000 and counting for not having works comp for our "freelance" 1099 employees. We have insurance for the production and they told us we didn't need that because our employees were not only employeed by us. has anyone else gone through something similar. It seems like everyone is just giving us the runaround and we want to get this resolved ASAP. If anyone could be of help it would be greatly appreciated. Also the gov said that to be considered a private contractor they have to meet all the criteria check out the link below
but clearly some of our people work on other films but don't have "their own business" and we even have a student. Does anyone know how to navigate guidance would be much appreciated.
Have a happy day!!
Yixi Villar

Marth Christensen
Wed 15 Jun 2011Link

Hi Yixi,
With a fine already assessed (by the state "gov"ernor, I assume), it is time to contact an attorney. Contact your local county bar association, for starters, if you do not know someone. You have more to worry about than just state workers comp, e.g., FICA, Unemployment insurance, and state and federal withholding...
Do some research on private contractor vs. employee. Check IRS Pub 1779 and other references. Someone in your organization needs to fully understand the distinction, especially if you intend to operate at the edges.
What sort of entity have you formed to produce the doc? I see that you have fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas.

Robert Goodman
Fri 17 Jun 2011Link

there is an agreement in place with the IRS for the film and video industry. You should read this link
so you understand who is and isn't an independent contractor.

The simplest way to have avoided all the issues is to use a payroll service that will be the employer of record. Now I would throw yourself on the mercy of a good accountant and perhaps Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts if they can hook you up with a good tax attorney.

These threatening letters from the IRS or State department of Revenue agencies are often designed to throw the fear of god into you. In all probability, the situation is much less dire. Consult a good accountant.

Marth Christensen
Fri 17 Jun 2011Link

Interesting, although the agreement is aimed at production of commercials or corporate videos, with a specific disclaimer as not applicable for feature films. Do you know if IRS has applied this to independent filmmakers? I would think that the logic would pretty much apply.

Robert Goodman
Sat 18 Jun 2011Link

The reason it does not immediately apply to feature films is that Hollywood feature films are done under union contracts. Taft-Hartly applies which means that anyone working under a union contract is automatically an employee. The same logic used under this agreement we negotiated should apply to indie filmmakers. It's not much different other than less dollars involved.

Reid B. Kimball
Mon 20 Jun 2011Link

Hi all,

I've had a few requests from interview subjects that my contract model release form allow them to review the final cut of the film before it is released so they can provide feedback.

I don't mind doing this, with the understanding that I am only allowing them to see it and that any feedback they have may or may not be implemented.

Does it sound OK for me to accept these requests from interview subjects? I want to make them feel comfortable and I think this is one way. Or is there a reason I should not honor this request?

Thanks, you've all been a big help for me so far.

Matt Gardner
Mon 20 Jun 2011Link

Hello, filmmakers

I have become burnt out on commericals and wish to go into the documentary world. However, I have a wife and kids. Is there jobs out there for documentary filmmakers? A place where I can go and work on passion projects and get paid a salary?

Robert Goodman
Sun 3 Jul 2011Link

the silence has been deafening. The answer to your question Matt is a resounding unlikely to no. My answer would be no. Some others might say there's a 1 in a 1000 shot at finding the dream job. Think you'll have to do both to survive.

Linda Wasson
Mon 4 Jul 2011Link

In reply to Matt Gardner's post on Mon 20 Jun 2011 :

Matt, your question is far too broad and all-encompassing – and you don't even mention what aspect you wish to work on – do you mean to produce and direct? edit? shoot? write? r&d?

obviously there are paid jobs in documentary filmmaking or else they wouldn't exist. what you expect, what you can contribute, all makes a difference.

do some r&d on your on, including geographics of where you live/want to work. check out academic programs for furthering your skills.

if you are serious, it's up to you to follow your dream and make your path, no one can really answer that for you.

good luck!

Linda Wasson
Mon 4 Jul 2011Link Tag

In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Mon 20 Jun 2011 :

screening a rough cut is proper and normal – but no reason to put it in the release – if someone is that concerned, offer to withdraw the request for their participation. this is your film and you retain editorial control, that should be made clear.

then smile as sweetly as you can and assure them they will look great :)

Reid B. Kimball
Sun 10 Jul 2011Link

:) Thanks Linda. Ended up working out fine and the person withdrew the request.

Would anyone mind if I post a link to a video I'm working on? I'd love to get feedback from the members here. It's 3min 37sec long. It's not a trailer, not really sure what to call it, but it contains content and themes from my doc.

John Burgan
Sun 10 Jul 2011Link

That's what this place is for, Reid. Go ahead.

Reid B. Kimball
Sun 10 Jul 2011Link

Thanks John.

Here's the link: and the password is epatients.

I'm interested in all feedback. Especially if the video makes sense since I don't do a lot of explaining. If anyone has trouble with watching it on vimeo, you can try the YouTube link here: (no pass req.)

Dièry Prudent
Sun 24 Jul 2011Link

I'm urgently Seeking a Camera/Sound Tech for a doc shoot in Brighton, England August 2, 2011

I'm asking the D-Word community for help locating a skilled videographer with a decent light/camera/sound kit in that area. I'm in search of a pro who'd be willing to shoot this interview on a deferred payment basis. Shooting/sound credit assured. Does anyone know of a jazz-loving professional camera/sound/lights artist who would be up to the task?

The job consists of framing, lighting and sound-recording an hour-long interview on location at the manager's home. The whole job, from setup to strike, can be completed within 2 hours.

If so, they may call me directly anytime at +1 917.975.5940

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes to all,

Dièry Prudent, producer
"Moody's Mood for Love: the Story of a Song"
+1 917 975 5940

Stephanie Caruso
Thu 28 Jul 2011Link

I'm about to meet with a potential subject for my new documentary. Is it necessary that I have him sign a non disclosure agreement? And if so, any suggestions to where I can find an example online?

Anna Fischer
Thu 28 Jul 2011Link

Hi, I am currently subtitling my film, Lucky Express, and I need advice about how to subtitle? Two questions:
1- I have put the translated subtitles as they are sometimes the sentence is finished on the next image. Do I use an elipsis because the sentence is not finished?

He went to the store and bought ...
(and then next image) ... some milk and some bread.

Do I use the elipsis or not? Am very confused!

Question 2:
I have to subtitle my lead character because even though he is speaking English, it is really bad and basic English. So when I correct him, how much can I correct? The tenses? The words?
As long as I stick to the meaning of what he is saying, is it alright to put words into his mouth?
Right now, I have tried to use the exact words he is using even though the English is wrong. My theory is that all people will be able to understand the basic idea of what he is saying, even though the English is wrong.
When I corrected his English too much, later when I was reading the subtitles, I noticed that it was harder for the brain to fully understand the meaning, because what he was saying in English and what I was reading were similar but different.
Does this make sense? Its so hard to explain!
Anyway, is there a basic Rule Book for handling subtitles correctly which I can refer to?
Many thanks,

Edited Thu 28 Jul 2011 by Anna Fischer

Ramona Diaz
Thu 28 Jul 2011Link Tag

Ann – for starters see hidden section. These are not rules, just guidelines.

Show hidden content

Anna Fischer
Thu 28 Jul 2011Link

Thanks that was helpful!
Now I still have to get some help on how to translate accurately?
Stick to bad English or translate and correct the English but confuse the reader?
What to do?

Ramona Diaz
Thu 28 Jul 2011Link

That's always tricky. First of all, is he really difficult to understand? Do you really have to subtitle him? I've vowed in the past not to subtitle characters speaking English but because of outside pressures (like broadcasters, distributors), I've had to do it. So I treat it like I would treat other subtitles, I "translate" it so it's grammatically correct. Offensive all around but if you have to do it....

Rina Sherman
Fri 29 Jul 2011Link

Anna, hi
You can also have a look at this:

All the best,

Rina Sherman

Nefin Dinc
Fri 29 Jul 2011Link


I am planning to apply for a grant to make a documentary and they are asking for "letter of commitment" from the advisors.

Could you tell me where can I find a sample for a letter of commitment?

If I were to create it myself, what should I include in it?

Thank you,

Reid B. Kimball
Fri 29 Jul 2011Link

I would suggest you subtitle exactly as your subject speaks. Documentary films are supposed to be accurate, representing truth. If a deaf person learns that the subtitles were not reflecting actually what was said then you lose credibility. Also, I don't think your subject would appreciate words being put in their mouth.

If your subject is really that hard to understand, then can you not include them in your film? I always vet my subjects for camera presence before I spend the money and time with them.

Ramona, that's a shame you don't want to subtitle your films. I'm hard of hearing to point where I need to wear $6,000 hearing aids. I absolutely must have subtitles for me to watch a film and understand most of it. Then there are people who are completely deaf and they need subtitling too.

Ramona Diaz
Fri 29 Jul 2011Link

My films are close captioned for the hearing impaired. I think that's what you're referring to.

Subtitles are a completely different matter. I subtitle my film if they are not speaking English and it's for b'cast in this country or distributed in English speaking territories. My point about not wanting to put English subtitles on someone already speaking English to begin with is that it is offensive to the person filmed. But sometimes, due to distribution contracts, it has to be done. And if I only choose subjects who are easy to understand (and who will define "easy to understand" to begin with?), then I'm hosed.

Rina Sherman
Sat 30 Jul 2011Link

I have an hour long timeline in Sony Vegas sub titled with a media generator legacy plug in. About 40 minutes into this hour SV started crashing repeatedly.
I have tried and tested all and any solution that various colleagues have suggested, to no avail.
I have several more hours of of sub titling to do and I am now looking for an alternative method. I need to print to tape and DVd authoring, so my titles cannot be made purely during the DVD authoring.

Any suggestions welcome. My sub titling is from Otjiherero to English and the same to French – two versions.

I will be looking at Subtitling Workshop, but any other ideas?

Thank you in advance,
Rina Sherman

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