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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.

John Burgan
Mon 13 Aug 2012Link

Much as we'd like to think that The D-Word has that kind of power, Olivier, it seems that Apple has made its decision about the direction it intends to take come what may.

Check out industry veteran Walter Much's reaction and also Walter Biscardi's thoughts on the subject


Marcus Torrez
Mon 20 Aug 2012Link

In reply to Rebecca Rolnick's post on Tue 10 Jul 2012 :
Have you considered reaching out to Kuwait film makers? There's a lot there and they have visa permission to go into Iraq.

Other than that, one might contact and Iraqi Student whose home for Ramadan?


Marcus Torrez
Thu 23 Aug 2012Link

I'm sure this question's been answered several times: What's the best way to secure permission to film a documentary? On screen Ok's. Since mine includes a lot Veteran Support groups, I'm running into an issue.

I'm documenting my experience getting help/lack of help. But the moment I call mention I'm making a documentary, they roll out the red carpet. The Military has always been like that. If it's going to go public, you're the star Soldier.

Can I just shoot first ask later? No pun intended.


Andy Schocken
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

You don't need permission to film a documentary, unless you're on someone else's private property. You'll need permission from the people on screen if you want to distribute it. To get distribution and the E&O insurance that's required for it, you'll need to have written release forms from your subjects. Google "appearance release" or "talent release" and I'm sure you'll find some boilerplate versions. On-camera releases may be better than nothing, and they're probably fine if you don't have big distribution plans, but I doubt they'll be sufficient to get E&O for a broad distribution.


Mark Barroso
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

Andy's right if you intend to ask a festival , theater, or broadcaster to show your film. However if the extent of your ambition is to show it on the web or private screenings, written releases are not required. In the US, you have the First Amendment right to shoot anyone you want in public. It's the insurance companies that demand releases (which can also be gotten after the fact). If you are in the beginning of your filmmaking don't get too hung up on getting written permissions for every little thing or person.

Others may disagree, but I advocate for exercising our rights to the fullest extent, particularly if the film isn't going to be on a big screen or broadcast.


Marcus Torrez
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

In reply to Mark Barroso's post on Fri 24 Aug 2012 :

In reply to Andy Schocken's post on Fri 24 Aug 2012 :
Thank you... Yes, I'll publish/distro to the public. You definitely answered the question. Thank you!


Summers Henderson
Fri 24 Aug 2012Link

Marcus, be careful about recording phone conversations. Depending on the state you're in (including California) it can be against the law to record someone else without their knowledge. I don't know about Arizona. However, while it may be illegal in such situations to record someone else, that doesn't necessarily mean it's un-ethical. If you're phoning a health care provider, and you need to document the poor level of care they're providing to you BEFORE you tell them you're making a documentary, then I can see an ethical argument for doing so. You have to weigh that against the likelihood of criminal prosecution, which I would guess is small, but I'm not a lawyer.

In almost every other situation where you're filming someone (short of some crazy hidden camera scenario) they're going to know that they're being filmed, and will behave accordingly. They may or may not be willing to sign an appearance release, but that doesn't impact your right to film. Of course, if you're trespassing on private property, they can try to bust you for that, but the camera doesn't change that one way or the other. And of course, US military property is public, not private.

I agree with Mark that if your primary goal is to get the film made, then you should try to get a release, but don't be stopped if you can't get one. For professional documentary filmmakers, who are motivated by trying to earn money to pay the lease on their Volvo station wagon, it doesn't make sense to film someone without a release. Because they need that release to get E&O insurance, which they need to sell their film to PBS or HBO. But if you're motivated by a passion to document your own experience, then you can still make a film that people will see someday, even if not on HBO.

Good luck!


Todd Johnson
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

Hi---I am working on a short documentary that has 4-5 talking head interviews. After putting up graphics to identify who is being interviewed for the first time---how often (if ever) would you "re-identify" who is speaking? Is the viewer supposed to remember the name if they haven't seen them on camera for a while? Should you identify them say the first two times they are on camera and then none after that?

What is the rule of thumb so to speak on putting up titles on interview subjects? I keep going around and circles between identifying my interview subjects too much and not enough. Thanks so much in advance for any feedback or advice you can give me. I appreciate anyone taking the time to respond with advice!


Tom Dziedzic
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

In reply to Todd Johnson's post on Sun 14 Oct 2012 :

Todd, if I ID with a lower third I do it on the speakers first or second on-screen appearance. Sometimes a film may have a montage of opening comments and then the IDs come in after the opening as the narrative opens up.

The old rule of thumb was the ID should be on long enough to read twice but that has gone out the window with lots of other thumb rules. I prefer 4 seconds at least. I've seen many only 2 seconds.

If the piece is long enough, say over 25 or 30 minutes, you can ID again if necessary especially if the person hasn't been on lot in the first section. Sometimes you can get away from on screen IDs by having people introduce themselves or have a narrator introduce them (if there is a narrator).

Ideally the film should give you a sense of who they are because most viewers won't really remember the name but need to know what they do or how they fit into the narrative. Hope that helps.


Todd Johnson
Sun 14 Oct 2012Link

Thanks, Tom---Appreciate your taking the time for that feedback!

I think I'll go with the "old" rule of thumb, and do them twice. That seems to fit mine, which is about 24 minutes or so.

Thanks again,

Todd


David K Jones
Thu 15 Nov 2012Link

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

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Daniel McGuire
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

I'm going to be shooting a project on a canon XA10 and a Canon 5d.

I will use one camera for certain applications, – the xa for run and gun, the 5d for interviews and tripod shots.

I'm confused by all the available formats, and wonder what formats would be ideal that would allow all the footage to be dragged to the same timeline in FCP7 and edit with a minimal amount of render time.

Right now I log and transfer footage from both cameras to Prores422.

The XA10 offers this option of quality:
Mxp (24mbps) FXP (17mbps), XP+(12mbps) SP (7mbps) and LP (5mbps).
Frame rates are 60i, PF30, PF24, and 24p

The 5D has a choice of video system NTSC or Pal
If I use NTSC, the
Movie Rec size options are 1320x1080 (30) and 1320x1080 (24)
(it also has SD NTSC)

If I use video system PAL, the
Movie Rec size options are 1320x1080 (25) and 1320x1080 (24)
(it also has SD PAL)

So the question is: What settings for XA10, what settings for 5D, so they cut together as well as possible.

And BTW, what is the difference between PAL 24 and NTSC 24FPS on the 5D?

If this question is off the mark, of if you can point out something I am misunderstanding, please do.

Thanks,
DAN MCGUIRE


Kevin Wells
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

In reply to Daniel McGuire's post on Mon 19 Nov 2012 :

No reason for you to film in PAL unless you're shooting specifically for European delivery. Standard here is NTSC. Regarding the resolution, I think you mistyped – it's 1920x1080. Also, the PAL option would be 25p, not 24p, correct? Either way, shoot NTSC.

I would definitely suggest continuing to transcode both sources to ProRes – 422 is great, but you could probably do 422 (LT) to save space (if needed). Shooting 24p or 30p is a completely aesthetic choice. I personally dislike the look of 30p and shoot 24p almost exclusively. Just make sure to pick one and stick to it on both cameras.


Daniel McGuire
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

You're right about that typo. But if PAL and NTSC are both 1920x1080, and there is a 24 fps both NTSC and PAL – what is the difference?
And what about data rate?


Kevin Wells
Mon 19 Nov 2012Link

Unless you have a reason to film PAL, have it set to NTSC. I don't know the differences between their 24p – for simplicity sake, use NTSC. It's not worth the time researching, testing, looking up the difference, when you have no reason to film in PAL.

For data rate, always shoot the highest possible you camera allows.


Heath Cozens
Tue 20 Nov 2012Link

Hey Dan, there's no difference between the NTSC and PAL 24p. They are both exactly the same – 1080x1920. And both record at a truly cinematic 23.976fps.

It's just a confusing menu interface. There is in fact no such thing as PAL 24p or NTSC 24p. 24p is 24p. To be more precise, it's 23.976p. Which is what film runs at.


Robert Goodman
Sat 24 Nov 2012Link

Your statement is incorrect. A camera set to PAL and recording in 24P will record at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. A camera set to NTSC and recording in 24P will be at a frame rate of 23.976. Film runs at 24 frames per second flat.

The problem will not be in picture but in sound. If your editing system is operating on 60Hz power then you should use the NTSC setting otherwise the sound will drift out of sync.

If you are doing double system sound the issue becomes even more important if you want to have the sound stay in sync.

It may not seem like a big difference but a .004 frame difference over 10 minutes is lip flap and a post production nightmare.


Tymon Ruszkowski
Fri 8 Feb 2013Link

Hi

My name is Tymon Ruszkowski and I am a journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland in my final year.

I am writing a dissertation on monetizing non broadcast documentaries.

I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your projects and how posting video online can bring profit to filmmakers.
I am also curious about how audiences had changed and what does it mean for filmmakers.

Is it possible to send some filmmakers few questions over an email?

Regards

Tymon


Jo-Anne Velin
Thu 14 Feb 2013Link

Try asking the people who created Distrify. You can find them through their website. Peter designed the current D-Word website and he and his partner in Distrify, Andy, are filmmakers. Their toolkit was created for especially for filmmakers. Also, look at the http://www.onlinefilm.org/ – and ask the same questions there perhaps. Onlinefilm grew out of the initiatives of some people associated with AGDOK (the association of doc filmmakers in Germany). They were thinking about this many years ago.


Tymon Ruszkowski
Sat 16 Feb 2013Link

Awesome thanks:)


Ellin Jimmerson
Mon 4 Mar 2013Link

I have a mundane question, but one I don't the answer to (I am a first time film maker and first time festival participant). What is the purpose of post cards ? What goes on them?


Jill Morley
Mon 4 Mar 2013Link

Hey Ellin, Postcards are usually made up for screenings. You do all the regular stuff: Title, directed by, artwork/photo, website, sponsors, etc and then leave room for a sticker.

(The economical way to do it) The stickers will change with each screening. This way you can use the same postcard for festivals as well as theatrical screenings or even if it will appear on cable. You can just put the info on the sticker and make a new sticker when the info changes.

You might redo the card later with reviews, festivals your film has played at, etc. When you go to a fest, you see a lot of people handing out postcards or postcards in the local restaurants, hangouts, etc. I used to get them at 1800Postcards, but not sure where the best place is these days. Hope that helps!


Ellin Jimmerson
Mon 4 Mar 2013Link

In reply to Jill Morley's post on Tue 5 Mar 2013 :

Thanks, Jill!


Doug Block
Tue 5 Mar 2013Link

Ellin, in the future no need for you to ask questions in the Mentoring Room as you're a professional member. This is more for "enthusiasts" who don't have access to most of the topics. And professional members rarely come here to answer questions (Jill being a very nice exception).


Ellin Jimmerson
Tue 5 Mar 2013Link

In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 5 Mar 2013 :

OK. Thanks, Doug. I didn't realize that.


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