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Old November 17th, 2008, 10:36 AM   #1
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Mining for Ideas - Documentary Contest

I've been giving this some thought, and right now I'm hunting for some feedback on our (very) new contest before running it again.

Here's what I'm looking for some feedback on:

1) Length of time. We had some discussion on this earlier, but what do you think is a comfortable amount of time to shoot, edit and polish a short (5-10 minute) documentary?

2) Length of film. 5 minutes seems good to me -- it seems like if we go much longer than that it'll be tough to finish it. But, is anyone interested in going as long as 10-15 minutes? This would probably coincide with a longer length of time to work on the project.

3) Content - do you prefer having a theme to work from, or would you rather it be completely open-ended? Again, we've talked about this a bit but let's look at that again. I tend to like to have some starting point, but if you already have an idea for a project and want a venue for it, maybe going open-ended would be appealing... ? Let me know what you think.

4) Contest name. If you have a snappy, relevant title to put on our contest, let me know and I'll consider it.

Thanks again Chris Barcellos, Chris Swanberg, and Ken Bates for sticking it out through the first round. It was a great time, and I think we all learned something from it. I'm looking forward to doing this again.
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Old November 17th, 2008, 04:37 PM   #2
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My 2 cents:

Length of time: 1 month - realistic timeline for a broadcast piece or news magazine piece

Length of piece: 5 minutes forces the producer to self edit. The best videos are the ones where extraneous material is left on the cutting room floor. Allow 30 seconds either way. More or less than that, you're disqualified.

Content: I'd love to have a VERY vague suggestion. Possibly one word like "change" or "colour" or "love"

And I REALLY want to find time to participate this time around!
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Old November 17th, 2008, 09:15 PM   #3
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I hear what Shaun is saying.... and here is my 2 cents...

A documentary is a story, and done "right" sometimes not so contrived a story. That said, it seems obvious that some topics may need a little more time than others. Maybe we set a range, say 6 mins to 10 or 15 mins (or whatever), with points off for longer than say 10 (or whatever). I hate to cut short a good story, and at the same time I detest film-makers who love what they shot so much they cannot cut it. If you lose points for overlength, your content better make up for it!

A month may work for a team working for a media outlet whose job it is to produce a broadcast piece, but for working stiffs who have other unrelated full time jobs, it may be a little short. I think the difficulty of a documentary and the time limits in our last contest eliminated a lot of interested talented film makers. That said I cannot tell you WHAT it should be, but I think if this is only going to occur say 4 times a year (every 3 months) for example, you give your filmmakers at least HALF of that.

As to thematic direction.... that is a tough one. We did one WITH a "theme", I'd enjoy trying one without a theme, and then decide.

I really want this contest to succeed and we need to err toward inclusion, rather than exclusion. There are so many great film makers on this site I want to learn from their efforts. The "poor man's film school" is a terrific place to learn.... by doing and seeing other's work.

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Old November 17th, 2008, 09:23 PM   #4
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5 minutes and a month sound reasonable - I guess you could look at 10 min and 2 months but that's a lot of footage and work.

I'm interested in participating to learn, I have and will continue to participate in UWOL for similar reasons - from that point of view smaller 'bite sized' chunks are better. I can submit without losing too much sleep and get feedback on my work before trying again.

I think a theme is necessary to get started with - the more generic terms can be interpreted in many ways but without a start and finish date and a content 'word' I'm less likely to get off my butt and do something.

name - if we want to be consistent (and gain entry to the prestigious DV Info Net community contests forum) maybe we should have the DV Info Documentary competition. or how about "State the Facts"
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Old November 17th, 2008, 09:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Mailath View Post
.

I'm interested in participating to learn, I have and will continue to participate in UWOL for similar reasons - from that point of view smaller 'bite sized' chunks are better. I can submit without losing too much sleep and get feedback on my work before trying again.
A good point. I would only point out that as the film-makers here get better, giving those that want it a little more time, without penalizing those wanting to spend less might be a good compromise. That was the genesis of my idea of a time range. In so doing, those choosing to go longer may find that their verbosity and excess gets criticism, and they too can learn on that end of the time scale. But, your point is a very valid one.... and organically the core of these contests on this site. I don't dispute that.

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Old November 17th, 2008, 10:20 PM   #6
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1-2 months sounds comfortable for this contest.

A 2 hour narrative movie usually takes about 12 weeks to edit. That's approx. 2 working days for each minute of finished film. A 5 minute contest would need at least 10 days of full time editing. I'm sure people can get it done faster, but I'm just saying.
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Old November 17th, 2008, 10:50 PM   #7
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I like 'State the Facts (our documentary contest)'. That might be a keeper.
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Old November 18th, 2008, 08:34 AM   #8
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Not sure if you've seen this yet, but for inspiration here is another documentary making challenge: -_-_- THE INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY CHALLENGE -_-_-

This is a sister contest to the National Film Challenge and 48 Hour Film Challenge, as such it is a timed comp. You have 5 days to make the documentary. You are given a "genre" (i.e. character piece, political doc, portrait of a place, etc) and a theme to incorporate into the movie somehow. Similar to the ideas that have been discussed in this thread already (one word theme, like "freedom")

It seems most people here want to have a longer time period for a challenge like this, but I'll just play devil's advocate and argue that there are some good benefits for it being shorter. If you give too much time, participants might have an overinflated sense of security and ultimately end up not finishing. This is why I am a huge fan of timed comps, because it really forces filmmakers to get their act together and finish their film. The end product might not be as if you had months to plan and produce, but I have still seen some amazing films made in these timed competitions. Check out "Ars Magna" (P.O.V. - Online Short Film Festival | PBS) which was made for the competition. Of course, I agree with the struggles of the "real world," a month is probably the most appropriate length.
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