Budget Proposal for documentary

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thewheel

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Budget Proposal for documentary

PostFri Oct 22, 2021 2:11 am

Hello Mentors and Friends:
I am a historian, collaborating with another historian, to make a documentary. We are trying to write up a punchy and compelling proposal to attract funders and supporters. I think we are fine with the copy and wordsmithing. But to lay out a basic budget for the whole thing.
Does anybody have a template for a spreadsheet or google doc for a documentary budget?

thanks in advance!
Michael
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Jamie LeJeune

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostFri Oct 22, 2021 8:02 am

This is the ITVS Budget Template:
https://itvs-website.s3.amazonaws.com/filmmakers_resources/d276102f-fdcb-4b2a-adb1-d2bc1a409607/ITVS%20Budget%20Template.pdf


This is another resource (though I strongly disagree with the extent to which it excuses and normalizes the awful practice of docs that get made via indefinitely deferred payment):
http://assets.hotdocs.ca/doc/HD17_IND-BUDGET.pdf
www.cinedocs.com
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4601572/
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thewheel

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostSat Oct 23, 2021 3:52 pm

thanks Jamie!!!!
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Jamie LeJeune

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostMon Nov 15, 2021 7:23 am

This just released set of recommendations for planning edit schedules for documentaries is well worth reading and following:
https://secureservercdn.net/45.40.150.47/h5o.2c0.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/ADE_Edit_Schedules_Guide.pdf
www.cinedocs.com
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4601572/
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thewheel

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostTue Nov 16, 2021 5:59 pm

wow. Really cool. Thanks, Jamie.
Especially the claim that doc editors are at heart narrators and storytellers.
Q: Have you ever heard of --on small budget docs-- the directors doing a very rough initial editing job--- that is to arrange the major and most important parts of interviews, and key shots in basic order with a rough sense of transitions, essential b-roll? So that a real editor/colorist can go in and make it sing, tighten it, figure out the music and weave it in, and call for different, more, or better b-roll, etc?
In other words, as the directors (we are historians), would it be backwards to try to frame together a rough, rough edit to start with? (As historians, we are narrative creatures who care deeply about how narrative works.)
I'd love to hear your opinion.

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rNeil H

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 17, 2021 3:03 am

I'm probably someone with tendencies like yours. I like control of the story, and I want the full story.

Unfortunately that is not what is realistically needed for a show that is interesting for "regular" people to watch. I want way too much fine detail.

I've found that out across numerous projects over several years. My mental approach is simply not the best one to get an interesting story created. Or at least, one interesting to anyone but me.

I love all the details. I love the way an interviewee will rephrase something adding a bit of depth and nuance.

And everyone else says "He just said essentially the same thing three different times in a row. NOT counting he'd already covered that in his opening comments."

I'm not a good editor for something like that ... so my advice is clear: hire a good editor. Trust the editor.



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Ellory Yu

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 17, 2021 4:15 pm

Jamie LeJeune wrote:This just released set of recommendations for planning edit schedules for documentaries is well worth reading and following:
https://secureservercdn.net/45.40.150.47/h5o.2c0.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/ADE_Edit_Schedules_Guide.pdf

Is there any documentation like this with recommendations for planning edit schedules for narrative/independent film making too?
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Jamie LeJeune

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostMon Nov 22, 2021 4:19 am

thewheel wrote: Q: Have you ever heard of --on small budget docs-- the directors doing a very rough initial editing job--- that is to arrange the major and most important parts of interviews, and key shots in basic order with a rough sense of transitions, essential b-roll? So that a real editor/colorist can go in and make it sing, tighten it, figure out the music and weave it in, and call for different, more, or better b-roll, etc
Yes. "Paper edits" are common — meaning that directors/producers take the transcripts and copy paste sections together with notes on the scenes and visuals put together into a script. Directors who know some editing software may prefer to do this in an NLE, though there's not necessarily an advantage to that over a clear script. There are also tools like Lumberjack Builder to assist with sifting through interviews and exporting edited interview selects to an NLE http://www.lumberjacksystem.com/builder-nle-2/

Whether a paper edit (or pre-edit) done by a director/producer ends up saving the editor much time depends both on how well it is structured + written, and how well the source material was captured in line with the story outlined in the paper edit.

If you're making a feature length documentary, I'd strongly suggest hiring an experienced assistant editor to ingest and organize the media before the editor starts work. If you don't already have a post team and workflow in place, generally it is best to hire an assistant who the editor has worked with before.

Also, I would advise against considering editor and colorist as a combined role. Editing and color grading require very different skill sets. It is extremely rare that a talented documentary editor also happens to be a talented colorist.
www.cinedocs.com
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thewheel

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 24, 2021 3:33 am

rNeil H wrote:
I'm not a good editor for something like that ... so my advice is clear: hire a good editor. Trust the editor.

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Thanks: That is a danger that I need to take seriously.
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rNeil H

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 24, 2021 3:36 am

A very experienced documentary editor should have organizational skills and practices that will speed the entire project.

And provides a greater safety from project troubles.

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thewheel

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 24, 2021 3:42 am

Jamie LeJeune wrote:
If you're making a feature length documentary, I'd strongly suggest hiring an experienced assistant editor to ingest and organize the media before the editor starts work. If you don't already have a post team and workflow in place, generally it is best to hire an assistant who the editor has worked with before.

Also, I would advise against considering editor and colorist as a combined role. Editing and color grading require very different skill sets. It is extremely rare that a talented documentary editor also happens to be a talented colorist.


Thanks Jamie: We budgeted for a colorist and a separate editor. I especially want a good colorist because I think that it where my mistakes in filming -- white balance, choice of ISO, slight underexposure, etc-- might be best managed and minimized. I'll check out Lumberjack. As a historian, I am pretty comfortable with focusing on powerful comments or passages and weaving them together. Though I imagine that managing this with film will be a challenging shift away from texts.
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Jamie LeJeune

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Nov 24, 2021 6:48 pm

thewheel wrote: I imagine that managing this with film will be a challenging shift away from texts.
Yes, that's definitely the case. What works as text vs what works on screen in a documentary tend to be quite different. For example, Michael Pollan is an amazing writer, but compare his excellent books to the documentaries based on them and see what you think about how well his writing translated to the screen or not. It's a tough shift to make.
If this will be your first time making a documentary film, best bet is to collaborate with an experienced documentary editor starting right from pre-production.
Also, watch as many different documentaries as you can to see which approach and style resonates most with you and your topic, and then take that as a model to follow.
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thewheel

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostMon Nov 29, 2021 11:22 pm

thanks Jaime! I know I like Morris; and I like the recent Murder Among the Mormons. We hope to use some hauntingly good animation to capture religious experience, interviews, and longish shots with great music...
I'll keep watching.
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Jamie LeJeune

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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostTue Nov 30, 2021 3:44 am

thewheel wrote: I know I like Morris.
He's made so many great feature docs.
One thing about Morris work which I've seen many miss in trying to emulate him is his pacing. His docs appear to be nothing but interview, but IMHO its the pauses, specifically their length and timing, that are what set his style apart from most interview driven docs. A good test is to take his doc Standard Operating Procedure, throw it on an NLE timeline, delete the picture and then make edits at the start and end of every time someone speaks. Then take a good look at how much negative space is there when no one is talking and how Morris uses the rhythm of those pauses to create emotion along with the music.

Anyway... I've drifted far away from the main topic of this thread.

I wish you the best for your doc film fundraising!
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Re: Budget Proposal for documentary

PostWed Dec 01, 2021 1:32 am

I know someone who worked at an award-winning documentary production company. The producers would build a complete timeline of the documentary and use slugs where interviews would go and also grab archival footage and photos from the web, Youtube, or from a stock house or whoever owned the originals. They would shoot the interviews to replace the slugs and price out the clips they had to buy on an ongoing basis or replace it with the video they would shoot if it was cheaper or better than stock. The producers had an intern monitor the timeline clips and make the call to price each clip they had to buy on an excel spreadsheet.

The producers had different editors and segment producers at different times during production who would argue, take apart and rebuild the timeline until they reached a consensus, then they would do some testing before the final online edit which is what the person I know did. SOme of these productions went on for 2-3 years and about half of that time there were maybe two people working on the production.

As for cameras they had about 3 to 5 cameras at any one time with at least 2 cameras out on the road getting knocked about. They got new cameras every three years so after a while they dealt directly with Canon, Sony, and eventually, Blackmagic sales reps who would let them 'test' gear long term and give them great deals.

One thing they did that was IMO smart was once they booked an interview they really got everything they could out of the subject so when they did follow up documentaries they already had the video. They would use that stock video they owned to make trailers for new docs! They would also make sure they got all the photos and video or old films the subject had to help fill in the timeline.

As for budgets I have spoke to many PMs and Producers and they say basically the same thing, 'the budget is what the budget is'. If you can pay the shooting crew and the editor a living wage or in some cases market rates you are good to go into production. The Shooting crews had one experienced Operator and a Intern. The Editors came and went during the beginning because they were just filling in the timeline as archival footage was cleared or not along with the video the shooting crew was sending back. It's a running calculation you have to keep updating in your head and since production can span years the production team expands and contracts as required. What would happen is they would get one series of interviews in England for example, then those people referred the producers to other interview subjects they could not get before so they would have to go to Berlin or Paris and shoot those right away. At one point the producers had two X 2 person crews traveling Europe, and the USA for 3 months at a time. The producers won lots of awards but had to do some clever financing to keep going.

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