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Documentary Techniques
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Old November 10th, 2005, 09:48 PM   #16
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Permits are generally required by governments to be sure you are insured.

1. As a one-person operation, you can usually get by without permits, but this varies by city and by what kind of camera you are using. Try shooting with a PD-170 on the Staten Island Ferry without a permit, and you will be thrown in the East RIver or sent to Guantanamo. With a one-chiop consumer cam, you will likely be fine.

2. You can buy insurance from RVNuccio for a couple of hundred dollars a year, and it covers your equipment as well as liability up to a million dollars. This is the magic number that gets you a film permit. And most (not all) permits are free, they just want you to have the insurance in case someone gets hurt. If you have insurance, THEN you can make a case for a "documentary rate" if the city charges for permits.
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Old November 11th, 2005, 09:00 AM   #17
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Thanks guys I appreciate the info.
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Old November 11th, 2005, 09:08 AM   #18
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Just adding a little thing - as far as I know ambient music which plays somewhere in the background and records to your tape will not go under copyright and therefore you will not need any permissions or agreements for that. I don't know the exact source, but it was some professional.
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Old November 11th, 2005, 09:16 AM   #19
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Old November 11th, 2005, 09:23 AM   #20
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In many countries, believe it or not, tripods make the difference. You can film off the shoulder without a permit but as soon as you have three legs on the ground, you need a permit. That's the case in Switzerland.

One last little note. DO NOT ever go near an embassy without formal permission. I just had a really bad experience filming in Rwanda.
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Old November 17th, 2005, 12:00 AM   #21
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i shoot all the time in SF and around bay area with out a permit. try to look like a tourist !! wear shorts, bright colorful shirt, hat and have a MAP stuffed in your back pocket ..
on the street i use hand size camera. no tripod ( do use a monpod sometimes) no boom , no softbox/reflector .. i use wireless mic's not gather in a group where you are shooting .. if you need to discuss things do it away from the spot you want to shoot .. i've only been stopped once and that was in golden gate park !!! using long lens ...actors were 25 yards away in crowd. camera was on tripod. they asked for permit ..then gave us 5 min to clear out equipment or they would take it ...
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Old May 18th, 2006, 10:56 PM   #22
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Using public advertising in a documentary

Hey everyone,

I'm thinking about making a documentary about public advertising and was wondering what fair use policies are in effect in cases like mine. Can I show footage of TV commercials (direct feed from the TV to the camera or the camera shooting the TV), newspaper or bus ads, t-shirt logos, pop machines (and pop cans), billboards, radio commercials and other public advertising? Are there any limitations to how much footage can be used, in what context it can be used, required creditation, permissions, fees, limitations on what logos can be used during interviews talking about those products, or anything else along those lines?

The plan is to acquire footage of many different mediums of advertising and show exactly how it is portrayed to the consumer. I've seen many documentaries where they show different forms of public advertising and I highly doubt they have to pay huge amounts of money to do so. How can I make sure that not only will I not have to pay these companies now, I won't have to down the road either?

So aside from my other questions, is there anything I should be concerned about relating to the use of company brands and logos in an analytical documentary, or anything else about this kind of work in general?

I realize that without speaking directly to a lawyer, I can only rely on this advice to a certain point. Still, your suggestions are highly appreciated.


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Old May 18th, 2006, 11:30 PM   #23
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I thought I'd chime in because there is likely a difference between Can and US on this one.
I been researching some issues like this and plan to speak to a lawyer next week (though at $300 per hour I probably won't get into your specific question). I think it depends on a couple of things:

How is the company being portrayed by you? If they are being portrayed negatively, then you're asking for trouble.

Are you profiting from the film? If so, expect trouble again.

Normally companies like to have extra advertising, They pay big bucks for product placements in movies, but they don't want negative advertising.

Not that you can't do it. Hell, I'm working on a doc to save some parkland and want to expose city officials as corrupt.

I think if you balance the advertised products (ie. show both Coke & Pepsi, Ford & GM) you'd be better off.

Oh yeah, and depending on the project, you will most likely skate free until it receives any kind of recognition (ironically media attention), then they'll nail you. If it stays underground, they likely have many bigger fish to fry.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Good Luck, it sounds like an interesting idea.

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Old May 18th, 2006, 11:38 PM   #24
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If you haven't read it yet, check out the STICKY on top 'Will I get caught..' by Richard Alvarez.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 12:06 AM   #25
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Thanks for the reply, Ken. My questions aren't so much about whether or not I'll get caught, it's if I even need permission in the first place. You're probably right about Canadian and American laws being different. I've got just a few followup questions.

Doesn't the fact that it's a documentary make a difference? If it was a fictional film about a guy who hates Pepsi, that might be one thing, but I'm hoping to provide an analysis of public advertising. It would be a critical analysis (questioning the ethics of these forms of advertising and their results), butI wouldn't be focusing on any specific brand, type of product or even medium. How do TV news segments get away with it?

I watched a documentary this evening (which is actually what got me motivated to get working on this project) and they used companies' logos fairly frequently. It's called Big Sugar (link) and was about the way sugar is used in the world. In one scene, they had about 20 products that each contain sugar on a table and mentioned about 5 or 10 different product names as being items that contain a certain amount of sugar.

Is it the fact that they are being unbiased and clearly fact-based when showing those product shots?

Shortly after, they talked about Pepsi having licenses in schools and showed shots of a school vending machine and people drinking Pepsi. They were very obviously being critical of Pepsi about it.

The documentary was CBC-funded so who knows, maybe they had the budget to pay these companies for permission to use their logos? I doubt it, though. Plus, I've seen several low-budget documentaries aired on national TV that also show logos and definitely didn't pay anyone to be able to.

I just remembered I've got an aunt who's a lawyer (though she doesn't really deal with this kind of thing) so I'll give her a call and see what she thinks.

Thanks again for your help! I'll let you know what I find out.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 04:59 AM   #26
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I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV...

There's often a distinction made between appearance of trademarks and copyright material in works of journalism versus the same imagfes in other kinds of work. If the film on sugar and soft drinks in schools was made as a piece of investigative or even editorial reporting one set of rules will apply. If it's an entertainment, promotional, or educational piece on the "Wonderful World of Sugar" a different set of more restriuctive rules kicks in. If it was advertising for a certain brand of artificial sweetener and the sugar company's trademarks were being shown covered by the red circle and slash mark "forbidden" symbol even more restrictive rules would apply.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 01:31 AM   #27
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I really doubt that CBC would pay for any use of logos. But I bet they have a team of lawyers who understand every nuance of copyright law.

I would try to get some free legal advice on the topic, only problem is most advice is worth what it costs. I might sneak the question in to the lawyer I see who apparently specializes in such things.

I always thought the the 'Trailer Park Boys' blanking out of brand names was just as a cinematic style, maybe it has some legal merit.

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Old July 24th, 2006, 06:06 PM   #28
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Documentary Filming

Hey all -

So I am planning on shooting my first 15+ minute documentary while I am down at the beach this summer. I have already talked to various places to see if filming would be ok and if I could have people to interview etc. I am planning on shooting this as a travel documentary with some structure as to how I am shooting it (i.e. the places I am visiting) but kind of also shooting it as I go.

My question is: is there any way I can plan this out/script it somewhat. I will be using a sibling as the "host" of the doc and following them around, so I do want it somewhat scripted. But I was just wondering how I could do that so it was somewhat organized, and how I should shoot V.O. stuff.

Any advice is appriciated!

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Old July 24th, 2006, 08:36 PM   #29
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You will learn the art of how to put this together by actually jumping in and just doing it. The first one will be a learning process. Just know that ahead of time.

Now, here's a few things to consider. Btw, I have not filmed a docu, but I've done a rather involved and scripted short film and a few "unscripted" weddings. Both things, as well as a docu, are greatly enhanced by a lot of preparation and then the ability to let go and discover and improvise as you go.

--But I would plan out as much as you can. Think of a storyline, or some kind of structure for the ideas. Are you using text screens? Think of appropriate images that you can film. Write and re-write a voiceover, while saying it aloud to yourself and imaging the images that will be playing. By doing this, you'll improve your "sense" of how things will edit together. I find this part to be the most fun. There's no limitations yet. No problems. It's pure exploration. Don't rush into the hard part. Let the ideas percolate.

--Have your sibling practice being the host at home in a controlled environment. What will your sibling say? What's the tone?

--How experienced are you with the camera? Do you know how hard it will be to get clean audio outside? Are you good with exposure, shutter speed...? Are you hand holding the camera or using a tripod? Handholding can be shaky, tripods boring.

--If you intend this to be of any quality, I'd expect to do the first few days of it twice. Once you prepare, go out there and jump in, make mistakes, then figure it out.

--A lot of documentary films are hours and hours and hours of footage, recorded with a good idea of what you want to say beforehand, but it always changes as you go, you always discover things. Then you just sit with what you actually filmed and find some kind of thematic throughline or story or logical structure for the ideas. Good luck.
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Old November 3rd, 2006, 01:01 PM   #30
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Documentary Releases

I will be shooting a documentary in villages in Central Africa. What is the situation regarding releases from the villagers who will be appearing. Any experience/suggestions/reference points,


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