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Old November 17th, 2005, 05:27 PM   #1
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Low Budget Documentaries

I'm a one-person documentary videographer looking to glean any information I can from watching available documentaries. What low budget picks do you have that I can get through Netflix?

I was shocked to read somewhere that "Blue Vinyl" cost $1.5 million. I guess all the travel added up?

"The War Room" demonstrated that story sells above polished style and technical mastery. That's real good for me to know.

"Hoop Dreams," "Woodstock," I'm gobbling 'em up. The filmmakers' commentary tracks are invaluable!
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Old November 17th, 2005, 05:49 PM   #2
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Sam,
As someone who recently completed my first "one-man' feature doc... I feel for you. It's a tough hill to climb. Fortunately, my doc "American Jouster" was picked up for sale in a major catalogue.... (drum roll) that was distributed this week. "Museum Replicas" has a circulation internationally for this cataloge of over 250 thousand. That's direct marketing to my niche market... so hopefully sales for Christmas will be good.

Cost can go through the roof with travel, and CLEARANCE rights. New York Times had a recent article "The Hidden Costs of Documentaries" that outlined the problems.

Doc making is almost always an act of love... very little money in it. But it is consuming! (I spent Halloween weekend in a womens prison shooting a documentary.)
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Old November 17th, 2005, 06:54 PM   #3
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Richard:

Richard,

Thanks for your support and comments. I recently got pulled into investing in camera and editing equipment because of a huge story happening right now with long range implications for my rural community. I felt like this story simply had to be documented NOW, as it is happening, AND into the future, as it continues to evolve. I'd be happy if one day I could just recover some of my expenses. My time, well, yeah, I'm willing to write that off toward "for the common good," as many involved in the story are. If things go well, perhaps this initial effort will be a launching pad for something that pays bills.

I have a 23-year-old degree in RTF that I parlayed for a few years into making 16mm training films for an Air Force A/V contractor, but since then my involvement with filmmaking has been just as a hobbyist, for family and friends--Handicam and iMovie on the iMac. So I'm very out-of-date on technology, but learning fast thanks to these forums and filmmaker commentary tracks on DVDs, and books, magazines, internet, etc.

I just picked up Megan Cunningham's "The Art of Documentary" from the library and, just flipping through, I find I'm immediately reassured by a quick skim of Ken Burns' interview and his comment that there's passion AND terror in what he does. I totally identify with both sides of that.

I look forward to seeing your film and knowing more about it. I guess you edited it too?

I know what you mean about consuming. I've cancelled traditional Thanksgiving plans so I can be present to the story. I'm grateful for an understanding family (up to now, that is :-).
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Old November 17th, 2005, 07:31 PM   #4
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Richard:

I just googled your film and I see that you edited it. I also came up with some earlier posts of yours in these forums -- very helpful info.

Your subject matter is certainly unique... I look forward to seeing the film.

[On a side note, the 4th grade teachers at my 9-year-old's school annually bring their classes on a field trip to Medieval Times (?) in Dallas (a 6-hour drive, one way!). Maybe there's a school market for your film. You've probably considered that.]
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Old November 17th, 2005, 09:02 PM   #5
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Sam,

Oh... I'm looking into every conceivable angle. I got an offer from a distribution company, but it wasn't that good... So I'm holding off on that for the moment.

The internet is a big help for marketing and getting the word out. Years ago, you couldn't get the kind of penetration that a web page and a copy on EBAY will get you.


R
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Old November 17th, 2005, 09:15 PM   #6
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I just completed a one man no budget doc that is on a tour of US colleges and being received very well. I did an interview with Entertainment Weekly that should run in the next couple weeks and it has been mentioned in the NY Times as well as many other publications. You can watch the trailer at www.strongenoughtobreak.com and the first 8 minutes are on iFilm at:

http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2681277

I would be glad to answer any questions or help in any way...


ash =o)
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Old November 18th, 2005, 03:53 PM   #7
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Thanks Ash for your comments and support too... I look forward to checking out the trailer and intro for your film when I get near a high-speed connection.

Taking you up on your offer to answer questions... how did you record audio? What mics did you use? How about you Richard?

I'm feeling tentative about doing interviews because some of my filming is on a construction site and there are no quiet places to record. I'm sure I could pick up a subject's voice with the Rode Videomic, but I'm not sure how to handle editing interviews with the obvious changes in background sound. Got any tips?
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Old November 18th, 2005, 04:03 PM   #8
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Well, You could go for the run and gun sound... just move in close and have the subject speak up... Ambient noise will be a factor, so you'll have to accept that. And it might be okay for the quicks one-off questions.

But extended inteviews will benefit from a set-up with Shotgun AND lav. I run the shotgun into the left channel, Lav into the right. As a one-man band, the shotgun is on a boom stand so I can still get it close to the subject, and out of frame. Closer is better than leaving it on the camera.

In post, you've got a choice between channels for your audio. Don't forget to get 'room tone' or 'ambient noise' on the location so you can use it in post.
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Old November 18th, 2005, 06:09 PM   #9
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Fabulous tips Richard... Thank you very much for taking the time to illuminate me.

Do you use a wireless lav? Which lav do you like?

I had been thinking I was about ready for a little explanation of run and gun. Is it verite with a little kick?
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Old November 18th, 2005, 07:03 PM   #10
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I don't have a wireless lav, I have a hard wired. Forget where I got it, old school but good. Not sure, Not SHURE. Maybe radioshack??? I'll dig it out and look. Everyone comments on how good it sounds.

"Run and Gun" slang from ENG which is slang for Electronic News Gathering... though in my early days in TV, run and gun was still used with film, though one guy called it 'scoot and shoot'... but that was in Texas anyway... Basically, keeping the camera handheld, shooting as your are moving... usually chasing down a suspect, errr... I mean 'politician' for a statement... typical of documentary or 'newsgathering' style.
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Old November 27th, 2005, 09:11 PM   #11
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I dont recommend it but all my sound was....gulp....on-camera mic. No budget OR room for an audio guy and didnt want to raise suspicion by micing everyone up. The new doc I am on is all lavs or boom.



ash =o)
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Old November 28th, 2005, 12:38 AM   #12
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Ash: I checked out the Hanson trailer. I never would have guessed that it was all on camera miced. I thought it sounded really good. What mic did you use? Also, what camera?
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Old December 4th, 2005, 03:41 AM   #13
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Mostly XL1s with the stock mic... I shoot very insular, not a lot of wides or establishing shots... out of necessity I went for a very intimate treatment. I just did an interview with Entertainment Weekly talking about it that should run soon.



ash =o)
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Old December 8th, 2005, 10:42 AM   #14
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Ash, my first time back on the site since my last post... Thanks for answering my question about your audio and making your bold admission. :-) That reassures me that things can work out okay for my film just using the Rode Videomic.

I didn't know (or really care) anything about Hanson before I checked out your trailer, but now I can't wait to check out the film. Your trailer grabbed me. Cool!

Thanks.
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Old December 8th, 2005, 04:03 PM   #15
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Thanks for the kind words. Let me know if you have any other questions....


ash =o)
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