Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Felix Endara Looks Back on Doc Lab Lessons

The Lab wrapped last Friday, after an immersive week of documentary filmmaking advice. By the end of the program, not only was I invested in finishing my own project, DAMELO TODO, I was also deeply committed to the success of my fellow Lab filmmakers.

Thursday saw us learning about sales and distribution with Steve Savage of New Video and producer Julie Goldman, and music rights and film composing from BMI’s Doreen Ringer-Ross and composer T. Griffin. The latter’s lecture was a revealing look at scoring your film. Of course, because our documentary has extensive use of music to tell its story, this subject was of much interest to me. Griffin stated that, in a successful collaboration, the filmmaker and the composer are able to create a private language to speak to each other. Not a language of technical lingo (of “instrumentation”), but one based on how to express emotion through music. Among his recommendations were:

- Do not to fall for “temp love” (the music you use to lay down your visuals, with the intention to either clear rights or replace with original score) as you may become attached to it, and if not able to use it, will potentially become creatively blocked.

- Trust your composer and give her a chance to come up with an interpretation to the material that is truthful -- instead of asking her to “replicate” the temp music you’re in love with. What the composer creates for you might be the magical element that brings the entire piece together!

- The composer should have an instinctive connection to the material -- it shouldn’t be just a paycheck.

- Budget for music!

Another great workshop had Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly taking us through their distribution strategy for THE WAY WE GET BY , their moving documentary about senior citizens in Maine who volunteer as troop greeters to soldiers leaving for and returning from Iraq. Their truly DIY approach still continues to amaze and inspire me.

On Friday, we got down and dirty with the Law. Arts Engine’s Katy Chevigny and archival researcher Becca Binder spoke about Fair Use and clearing/licensing rights. Katy, a self-described Fair Use “outlaw,” gave us a detailed overview of fair use as it pertains to documentary filmmakers.

Entertainment lawyer Roz Lichter answered our questions as they pertained to our specific situations, most of which related to release forms and agreements between collaborators. In both instances, she suggested to get all these papers in order, even if your subject is your best buddy who has agreed to be the main character in your documentary. No matter what the circumstance, get that release form signed!

At the end of the day, after a quick wrap-up session with IFP’s amazing staff (Milton Tabbot and Rose Vincelli) and Lab Leaders (Lori Cheatle and Lesli Klainberg), we headed for much-needed cocktails at a nearby bar. I had a great conversation with Lori about producing. As a new producer, I was eager to hear her advice. To me, our interaction was indicative of what the entire week had been like -- supportive and nurturing, but also with a lot of practical learning. I managed to have a few last-day chats with my fellow Lab filmmakers, and I trust we’ll stay in touch and root for each other’s success. I can’t wait to attend the debuts of 25 TO LIFE, DEAR MANDELA, OUR SCHOOLS, PUPPET, SALMON DREAMS, PATRONS SAINTS, FAMBUK TOL, GIVE UP TOMORROW, and A RUBBERBAND IS AN UNLIKELY INSTRUMENT. And I trust that my peers are also invested in DAMELO TODO’s own trajectory.

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