The Art of the Interview

Word Wizards has provided transcription for over 10,000 interviews since we pioneered a method of adding time code to transcripts back in 1995! However, typing interviews is not the same as conducting them. We are now producing a documentary of our own, and we have turned to our friends at Docs in Progress (DIP) to get advice on how it is done. We recently attended a workshop hosted by DIP, led by local documentary coach Adele Schmidt.

Art of the Interview - Behind The Camera

Adele has been a consultant to filmmakers for the last 15 years. She has mentored them at all stages of the production cycle. Films and projects that have been coached by Adele have been broadcast on television, educational outlets, appeared in film festivals, won awards, and secured distribution deals. She is the co-founder of Docs in Progress along with her colleagues Erica Ginsberg and Sam Hampton. Word Wizards has supported Docs in Progress for many years as a corporate sponsor, and we jumped at the chance to participate in this training as we prepare to shoot interviews for our forthcoming documentary film project.

For more about Adele see http://www.documentary-coach.com

Creating Your Narrative

She began the workshop by stating that the answers to a well conducted interview can and should provide a film maker with an excellent narrative, without the need to rely on a voice over to tell their story.  However, the interviewer must prepare in order to get useful soundbites that will further this narrative.  Once the footage reaches the edit phase, it is too late to get the most out of the interview.  You can’t go back to ask questions that you forgot to ask because you weren’t prepared.  People won’t stand for it.  They expect you to be professional and not waste time.

Do Your Homework

Research preparation is paramount.  Since our Doc is about historic events in Eastern Europe spanning from before World War Two to the present, we hired a historian/researcher who specializes in the region.  In addition to knowing your subject, Adele suggests that you must also research the individual interviewee.  With knowledge idea of their personal story, an interviewer can encourage their subject to support the narrative by asking well  relevant and thought provoking questions.  By approaching your subject from a place of understanding, you will gain their trust and get the best content possible.

The Trust Factor

Building trust right from the beginning is critical to conducting a good interview. Always communicate beforehand to clarify the focus of the story you want to tell.  Call your subject to let them know you will require a personal release form to ensure they know it’s coming. Present the release form after the interview. If they ask for the questions in advance it’s OK to send them, some people will want to prepare for the interview and this will give them more time to become comfortable discussing the subject. If it matters, explain what to wear (examples:  solid colors, no white, and no jewelry that clatters or clinks.)

Many people are terrified to be on camera and it affects their performance.  If you sense this is the case, take a break, offer some water, and have a casual conversation.  Reestablish trust often during production, and really listen to your subject.  A professional interviewer must know the subject matter as well as the witness does!

Maintain Objectivity

If you have succeeded in establishing trust, signing the release after the interview is usually not a problem.  People usually will only sue you when you use a soundbite in a context that they didn’t intend.  Even if you are advancing a partisan point of view, don’t let your personal bias impact the interview.  Try to be objective even when interviewing “the Bad Guy”.  They have their point of view too.  Try to be objective, and be a professional at all times.

Be a Good House Guest

Set up in advance and restore the set to the way you found it.  Answers can be repeated for clarity or emphasis.  It’s OK to say “only the best answers will be used.” Coach them to answer in complete sentences. Remind them not to look into the camera. The subject should look at the interviewer, who should be positioned right next to the lens.  A makeup kit with transparent make up is good.  People want to look their best on camera. The person must be relaxed to give effective answers.  Never put the interviewee in an uncomfortable position or with barriers between them and the camera.

Define Your Angle

The best questions are ones that trigger whole stories.  Example: “Tell me the story about when you…”  That is why it is critical to research the subject matter and the individual’s interaction with it.  You must know your angle in advance If you want to depend on soundbites to tell your story it’s too late to figure it out in the edit suite. Don’t cut off the interviewee, but keep them on the subject that supports your narrative angle.  If you solicit unrelated soundbites it only waists time and ends up on the cutting room floor.

Art of the Interview - On Camera

That’s A Wrap

After the interview thank them for participating. Let them know that you really appreciate them sharing their experiences and their time. Restore the location to the condition that it was when you began.  Show them the release and be sure they sign it in your presence and return it to you immediately.  The interview cannot be used for practical purposes without these releases.

In Practice

During the workshop, Adele gave out sample releases and we practiced her interviewing techniques.  By being prepared, doing your homework, acting professional, and staying on narrative, your interviews should provide exactly what you need to tell a compelling story. Check out Docs in Progress online for documentary film classes, workshops, and peer review sessions.




DC Premiere of CinemAbility

Expanding Minds:

CinemAbility Title Screen

At Word Wizards we are all about accessibility.  Our 508 compliant transcripts meet federal standards for multimedia on Federal websites that are accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as to the blind and low vision individuals.  That is why we want to shout out about the screening of the video CinemAbility which asks if the media has a hand in transforming the social inclusion of the disabled and the powerful impact that it can have on society. Some of the heavy weights in the documentary include Jamie Foxx, Garry Marshall, Ben Affleck, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Gary Sinise and many others. The film will be premiering in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 19th at 7 pm at Regal Cinemas Gallery Place 14, get tickets here.

A Triple Threat:

Profile picture of Jenni Gold

Just as impressive as impressive as the roster of talent appearing in the film is the directing force behind it. Jenni Gold is well known and respected editor, screenwriter and producer who has 17 production credits to her name and is behind the development/production entity Gold Pictures, Inc. Additionally she is a Director member of the Directors Guild of America which is more impressive when you discover she has Muscular Dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since the age of seven. Besides directing Jenni is co-writing and currently developing a romantic comedy titled “Mr. December”, a family film called “Lucky” and suspense thriller “Adrenaline.” She initially explored her passion for filmmaking at University of Central Florida where she graduated with two BA degrees, one in Motion Picture Production and the other in Radio and Television Broadcasting.

The Power of Film:

Director Jenni Gold on the set for CinemAbility with her staff.

CinemAbility, which had been playing in select cities, has gotten glowing reviews from places such as the Los Angeles Times and Cinema Sentries. Narrated by screen legend Jane Seymour, the documentary takes a thorough look at just how the disabled have been depicted on television and movie screens. Its primary goal is to help dispel age old and often incorrect notions that many able bodied people still have about the disabled and user in a new level of respect. The film’s in depth investigation goes behind the lens of Hollywood to talk to studio executives, well known celebrities, film historians and filmmakers. Some of the important questions asked include Do disability portrayals in the media impact society?  Or do the media simply reflect the public’s ever changing attitudes. Jenni Gold’s powerful film looks at the answers to these questions and highlights how having an enlightened understanding of disability can have a powerful impact on all.




2013 Peer Awards – $500 Prize for Best Documentary Film

Docs In Progress logo   TIVA DC Peer Awards logo

The annual DC Peer Awards is always a special event, celebrating the best artists in the DC production community and bringing them together to reward their hard work. Word Wizards Inc. has been a proud sponsor for many years because we believe they honor the absolute best in the field and encourage aspiring professionals to continue their quest for excellence. This year however, the ceremony has a new award thanks to Word Wizards, with the inclusion of a unique Docs In Progress category that focuses on documentary works that have been produced with the assistance of Docs In Progress. The category, proudly sponsored by Word Wizards Inc., gives the winner a $500 cash reward. This new prize is meant to help promote organizations that help filmmakers who want to make their vision a reality but don’t know where to start. For almost a decade, Docs In Progress and it’s founder Erica Ginsberg have been a huge part of the DC film community has and helped dozens of filmmakers, both experienced veterans and fresh novices, tell meaningful stories and reach audiences.

Humble Beginnings

Photograph of founders Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

The time was way back in 2004 and two DC area filmmakers, Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt, were sharing a dinner and talking about their craft. They talked about their desire to create a space where artists and filmmakers could come together to give each other valuable feedback on their works in progress and thus the seeds of Docs In Progress were planted.  The first DIP screening took place at the Warehouse Theater on 7th Street in May of that year. The first films to be screened were Swing Legends and Up to the Mountain, Down to the Village. It wasn’t long before these screenings started attracting artists from all over the DC film community who came to critique each other’s work. Over the next nine years, the organization has grown to not only include screenings of under construction films but also production workshops to educate others, peer pitch programs which allows artists in the early stages of their films to receive peer feedback, a youth summer camp and even the first Silver Spring Stories Film Festival.

Modern Day

Docs In Progress screening
A typically packed Docs In Progress screening
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

Even though Docs In Progress has grown by leaps and bounds in it’s almost decade long history, the organization still strives every day to remain true to its founding mission and values. This mission includes programs that help nurture a vibrant documentary community as well as discussion groups and screenings to help grow public appreciation for the documentary art form. The DIP values are also important and are composed of cultivating community partnerships, building a supportive artistic environment and connecting the public with documentary filmmakers. It’s these values that made Word Wizards Inc, want to honor Docs In Progress with this special category at the Peer Awards. DIP helps people tell compelling real life stories and works tirelessly to bring these important stories to the forefront of people’s minds. Ever more impressive is their desire to help any filmmaker who is driven enough whether they are brand new to the biz or seasoned film veterans.

A Bright Future

With 2014 almost upon us, Docs In Progress is set to reach a milestone as the organization celebrates 10 years. As Erica puts it “In 2014, we celebrate 10 years of Docs in Progress in the DC-area film community.  In that time hundreds of aspiring, emerging, and established documentary filmmakers from Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and beyond have found purpose, professional development, and community through our offerings. We look forward to continuing to support films and filmmakers who have opened our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the world around us.” Erica is an accomplished documentary filmmaker herself who’s work includes Taking Threats about international student reaction to 9/11 as well as the in progress  American’s Park which looks at changes in American society and urban development specifically DC’s Meridian Hill Park and the surrounding neighborhood.

 




How News Archives Are Reaching Out

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Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how the National Archives is a treasure trove of stock footage for films and documentaries. Just the other day, I was reading a documentary magazine and happened to come across an article that serves as a perfect companion piece. The article, titled “The Past Is Never Dead: News Archives Keep History Alive” and written by Ron Deutsch, explores how different news archives are helping to ensure that the past never really dies and is always preserved for future generations. While we at Word Wizards love seeing this old footage preserved for use in documentaries, we also realize just how much of a tool it can be to explore the past in all sorts of ways.

Network Archives

In the past, filmmakers and videographers often had difficulty obtaining historical news footage from television news divisions because these companies were unwilling to license said footage, or in some cases didn’t even have an archive that was properly maintained. Come 2013, things have changed dramatically as this same footage is easily accessible via a couple of clicks or a phone call. A prime example would be the HBO Archives, which houses over 40 years of programming in addition to four decades worth of footage from The March of Time documentary newsreels. As Max Segal points out “Because I used to be a feature producer on the sports side, I understand the struggle of not having the right footage or right images. We see ourselves as partners with documentary producers or any producer.”

Making It Easier For Producers

Another well known archive of footage is the ABC News collection, which dates back as far as the 1960’s. This archive, which falls under ABC News VideoSource, is accompanied by the British Movietone library, a collection beginning in 1896 and going through to the end of the 1960’s. It also houses The AP News Archive, a sports collection that has footage from programs such as Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football. The current goal amongst these large archives is to build relationships with filmmakers and to make their footage easily accessible. Independent Archival Researcher Rosemary Rotondi says this is key and that it is great when the archives actually gets excited about a filmmakers project, as this leads to better collaboration. She also points out how important it is to remember that these archival researchers work quite hard in an often thankless job.

Accessing The Goods

Physically, both the ABC News and HBO Archives are based in New York City and actively encourage film and documentary producers to come into their offices to screen requested footage that isn’t on their websites. One more well known archive collection is T3 Media, which manages licensing for many international news archives including BBC News, National News Archives of Australia and the Japanese Broadcasting Company. Rounding out their offerings is a collection of sports and nature programming footage from NCAA Sports and National Geographic. While T3 Media does not have in-house viewing, they are more than happy to have documentary makers come and sort through their 10 million hours of offline content in addition to the one million clips they do have available online.

Discovering Incredible Images

Florentine McMahon, who is researching a new documentary on ground breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson, tells of an incredibly moving discovery he made recently. He had just ordered a slew of stories from the CBS News Archive and one of them was footage of outtakes from the 1963 March on Washington. He then remembered that Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, had told him about the entire Robinson family going to participate in the march. So McMahon went back to sort through the footage and sure enough, about three-quarters of the way through, there was Jackie Robinson with his arm around his son. It’s stories like this that make these archives so important and such a valuable tool to filmmakers the world over. To read more about these archives and the rest of the much larger article, check out the site here.

 




AFI Docs – Behind The Scenes

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A New Layout

The “SilverDocs” film festival has become AFI Docs, and shook things up this year with a completely new format. With a luxurious new sponsor, Audi, and a substantial reworking of the festival organization, AFI Docs made a big impact in its first year. Instead of being concentrated in Silver Spring, this year the majority of events and screenings took place in downtown D.C. The big premiers took place at the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Archives and The National Museum of American History. Secondary screenings and filmmaker interviews were later held at the AFI Silver Theater, the original location of SilverDocs. Many critics of the new format were concerned that having the festival so spread out would be too chaotic, and would lead to a drop in attendance. However, the festival was well attended and the critics were proven wrong. Furthermore, it added a bit more buzz to the festival since these films, which contain so many important issues, were playing right next to the highest halls of political power.

Behind The Scenes

My role in the festival was acting as a media manager, which was not the most glamorous job, but still important. The AFI Docs tech crew had cameras and producers going around and getting different types of footage. This included man on the street interviews, footage from Q&A’s that preceded documentary screenings, and some personal interviews with directors. I was responsible for taking this footage from P2 cards, putting it on hard drives, organizing the footage so the editors could get to it quickly, and then dropping these drives off at AFI Theater where all the editing took place. Again, not the most exciting work but I did love working with the AFI Docs crew. Additionally, I got the chance to help edit a few of the festival trailers, one for the “best of” trailer and one for the movie Mistaken For Strangers.

The Spirit Of The Festival

Word Wizard Inc. has always been a huge fan of the festival because it focuses exclusively on documentaries. The diversity of people and topics represented by the festival is truly impressive. One film I had the pleasure of viewing was, Dragon Girls at the Newseum. The movie follows three women enrolled in the largest Kung Fu academy in China, and explores how they deal with their adolescence and the grueling training. I was really impressed by this film, because it shed light on a culture that I normally wouldn’t think about. There were many other documentaries that seemed especially interesting. One of which was Running From Crazy, a story about the family history of Ernest Hemingway and his granddaughter, actress Mariel Hemingway. I also hear lots of buzz about Gideon’s Army, which examines the importance of public defenders.




Unacceptable Levels

The Power of Documentary Film

Hazardous Chemicals

We here at Word Wizards inc, love documentary film because it makes up so much of the work we do. However, we also love it because it has the power to really change people’s perspectives on important issues. It brings these important issues, that many people would know nothing about otherwise, to larger audiences and makes them tough to ignore. These filmmakers—or documentarians—shine light on topics that are often overlooked or kept under wraps because some people want them hidden from the public. I recently ran across a documentary, Unacceptable Levels, that does just that and shines a light on an important topic. The film’s main focus is examining how the thousands of chemicals that are used in the creation of everyday objects like food, furniture and cookware, are affecting our bodies and our health.

It All Began With Some Bad Water

Aspiring filmmaker Ed Brown was working as a waiter in Pennsylvania when he had a glass of water one day and noticed how it smelled and tasted like a swimming pool. He then did some online digging and saw to his surprise that there some acceptable levels of chlorine and other containments in water. He didn’t think that much about it until pregnancy issues with his wife brought his mind back to the subject. He started thinking about how that same chlorine he had read about might be affecting people like his wife and what affects so many other everyday chemicals are having on us. This in turn inspired him to start working on the documentary as a way to learn more about this issue.

 A Cinematic Journey

In the film Brown has the viewer go on the journey with him to the extant that they learn some startling facts at the same time he does on camera. Brown interviews a lengthy list of respected experts who are well versed in environmental and chemical studies. Some of these people include activist Ralph Nader and President of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook. Along the way a few shocking stories are unearthed, with one of the biggest having to do with sewer sludge. In the 1970s thousands of elements that were removed in sewage treatment and deemed too toxic for the ocean or landfills were simply renamed “biosolids” by the Environmental Protection Agency and given away to farmers who spread them on their farmlands all over America.

 What Viewers Get From The Film

Brown hopes that people see the film and get a sense of empowerment from it and start asking some important questions of their own. Personally, he’s gained a lifetime of knowledge from gathering all that documentary footage and feels it’s benefited his family greatly. While the vast amount of information may seem overwhelming, he hopes that other families will begin to make some life changes and be more careful about what they have around them. Unacceptable Levels will actually be playing in the DC area on June 20th at E Street Cinema. Again, movies like this are important because they make you think about major issues and make you question the world around you to hopefully become more informed.

 




Keeping Your Budget Under Control

Getting That Green

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As we all know, budgeting your work, especially documentary film work, is not easy.  You must first secure the money, not an easy feat mind you, and then be extremely careful to utilize it to its fullest extent. The still-shaky economy makes it even more difficult for production professionals to secure budgets, since people are still hesitant to give money to anyone even if they have a fantastic, sure-hit proposal. Once you do get that hard-earned or begged-for cash, what is the best way to go about using it? One way to find out is at an upcoming panel called Demystifying Media Budgets, which is being presented by Women in Film and Video or WIFV on June 5th at Interface Media Group. Some of the experts on the panel include D.C.-based writer/producer/director Claudia Meyers, owner and president of Double R Productions, Rosemary Reed, Freelancer Sharon Sobel, and president of Film Odyssey Inc., Karen Thomas. While this event promises to provide some great tips on managing money for your documentary and video production work, I had a few tips of my own that I wanted to share.

Budget

A Technical Hand

While it makes plenty of sense to go the reliable route of Excel spread sheets, paper receipts and data storage, those methods don’t work for everyone. Some great software alternatives include inDinero, Xpenser and FreshbooksinDinero is a great money tracking and finance site for small business, and ideal for freelancers who want an efficient way to have all their accounts in one place. Xpenser is a nice little tool specifically built to manage expense reports with versions available for all the major smartphones, like Android, Apple, and Windows. FreshBooks is a great program for invoices, with apps for all the major mobile systems, and is a great tool for a media freelancer, since it also helps track un-billed time and tracks different rates for different projects.

Ask Around

This is probably one of the most tried-and-true ways to make sure you’re not over-paying for services. While it might seem unwise to be so transparent about money, it still can pay off to chat with other freelancers and media professionals to see how much they’re budgeting for different aspects of their work. It can be a great way to make sure you’re not getting ripped of by overpaying for something when others are getting it for much a cheaper rate. One of the nice things about the D.C. production and media community is that it’s small enough that everyone is fairly open to helping each other out. Another avenue to use is Quora, a type of online search engine that can be really good for generic questions such as, “How much is too much to pay for ____?” While some of the answers may not be incredibly specific, they can at least point you in the right direction and give you a helpful range to work with.




Returning Marines Find New Careers In Media

Marine Shooter

With Memorial Day soon upon us, our thoughts go to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to defend our country. I’ve also been thinking about those other brave individuals who fight in combat and are wounded but are able to make it home back to the U.S. What are they supposed to do when they get back after seeing all the chaos of war and how are they supposed to get used to a regular life again? Fortunately, there are some truly great organizations that are more than happy to help train these individuals in new lines of work so they can start to rebuild their lives. One of these groups is the Wounded Careers Marine Foundation whose media boot camp trains returning and wounded marines for new careers in video and media production.

Learning To Shoot Video

Documentary filmmaker Kev Lombard first had the idea to start the program when he was asked to film the stories of wounded veterans at military hospitals in 2006. He wanted to teach them how to tell their stories and decided to partner with his wife Judith Paixao to create the program. The couple uses a mix of corporate and private donations to fund the media course which is composed of two weekly sessions that both last ten weeks. The Wounded Careers Marine Foundation Media Program is headquartered in a camouflage-painted building on a San Diego production lot. While the expectation isn’t to turn out the next great film visionary like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg, the aim is to give these heroic veterans the proper skills to become a camera or boom operator and earn a well-paying job.

Expert Advice

Students learn all about the production and video business from 30 film professionals who are happy to pass on their knowledge. Some of the teachers include Amy Lemisch of the California Film Commission, Barry Green, an Emmy award-winning producer and Levie Issaaks, a Vietnam war veteran who is now an Emmy award-winning director of photography with work that includes Malcom in the Middle. These instructors have the veterans use equipment such as Panasonic HD Camcorders and MacBook Pros to learn skills such as editing, cinematography, lighting and sound design. The students learn nuts-and-bolts coursework that leaves them with solid skills not found in many college film schools, almost like an apprenticeship. Word Wizards Inc. thinks these kinds of programs are great since they really give back to those who have sacrificed a lot to fight for our country.

 




3 Big Standouts from NAB 2013

NAB 2013 Digital Media Industry Event

While the National Association of Broadcasters early event in Las Vegas may not have quite the same buzz as the Consumer Electronics Show, its still a big deal in the production industry and a regular trek for many members of the local community. While Word Wizards, Inc  primarily focuses on transcription work, light post-production, web and print design, we still love to learn all about the latest and greatest film tech. We love to see what enterprising filmmakers and production professionals can create with the latest and greatest gear. Although nothing at the NAB event was mind blowing, there were 3 products that seemed to garner a lot of attention.

Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic impressed many people with the unveiling of its Pocket Cinema Camera that retails for $995 and has plenty to offer. Some of the features on it include SD card storage, CinemaDNG RAW recording, Micro HDMI monitoring and a Super-16 cinema 1080 HD recorder. At under a thousand dollars, that’s a whole lot of powerful tech for the price, especially when considering the model’s built-in LCD that can be used to watch some of that great talking heads footage. While calling it a “pocket camera” might be a bit of stretch, the size is still relativity compact compared to other models in this range. The camera should be available towards the end of July.

The Lynx A 3D point and shoot Camera/Tablet

Another very impressive and unique product was a point-and-shoot camera capable of 3D modeling and motion capture. This is a unique device, which was funded via kickstarter, and  is being developed by a group of students from the University of Texas. The Lynx A 3D point-and-shoot camera employs sensor hardware to obtain depth mapping and imaging info from your surroundings and then turns that same data into a 3D scene and object models or motion capture that it displays on its screen. This means that a savvy filmmaker will be able to record those important interviews in perfect detail and sound for easy transcription later. The price tag on this bad boy should be about $1,799 and should start shipping soon.

Sony’s Anycast Touch Studio in a Box

Finally Sony showed off its brand new Anycast Touch studio in a box, which is simply too impressive looking not to mention. The basic premise of the Anycast Touch is the ability to have a mobile production studio in a box that delivers network quality broadcasting anywhere. Some of the bells and whistles include sliding dual touch displays, the ability to split audio and video editing between the panels as well as a video switcher, audio mixer, an encoder and even a special effects generator. Even though pricing hasn’t been discussed yet, the Anycast Touch is apparently going to be shipping in September.

For more in depth coverage

While those are three of the impressive standout from NAB 2013, there were plenty of other noteworthy displays from Sony, Intel and Red Epic. For a much more comprehensive round up, check out engadget’s coverage.

 

 




Social Justice and Web Series at Filmfest DC

film fest

If your looking for a fun little excursion and have a hankering for a different kind of cinema, check out the Filmfest DC. They’re collection, which plays till Sunday the 21st, is pretty impressive with over 80 features, documentaries and shorts from all corners of the earth. Word Wizards, Inc. of course loves docs, since their so jam packed with talking heads footage which means transcription, but encourages visitors to see all the festival has to offer. The festival which takes place at various commercial theaters throughout Washington, D.C. have a program that can be downloaded from the website at http://www.filmfestdc.org/filmlist.cfm  

Social Justice

One of the unique highlights of the festival includes a Justice Matters Focus group of documentaries which uses the powerful medium of film to take a look at important social justice issues. Some of the subjects include affordable aids treatment, life in refugee camps, global change through entrepreneurship and protecting indigenous people. Word Wizards. Inc, loves these documentaries for a few reasons since they not only bring important topics to the masses that might be over looked, but also use lots of interview footage which requires transcription to great effect. For more information, check out their link here: http://www.filmfestdc.org/filmListSel.cfm?selSeries=Justice%20Matters 

Another unique panel looks at the outstanding quality of the different web series’s produced in the DC area entitled Best of the D.C. Web Series. Over the past decade a number of made for the internet shows, called webisodes, have sprung up in the area. They tend be the length of an average television show and are becoming increasingly popular since they’re cheap to make and can be distributed so easily. While they are intended for the internet, they are still make via the conventional production means. This entails shooting it with a camera which is followed  by plenty of transcription, logging and editing. For more info: http://www.filmfestdc.org/highlights.cfm  

Film festival’s like Filmfest DC are important since they give a voice to many films that otherwise would not be able to find an audience. Yes, some things like the internet and video sharing sites have made self distribution easier than before but its still tough to get them in front of people. Film festivals take only the best which means audiences have a certain quality to look forward to and that filmmakers have better chances to be recognized. To find out about all the screenings and films, check out the Filmfest DC website at  http://www.filmfestdc.org/.

 

 

 




Need a Little Help With that Documentary?

All Rights Reserved

While to many outsiders i.e. people not in the media or video production biz, making a documentary or any kind of media production may seem like fun, we video professionals know just how much hard grueling work is involved in even the most basic media. Not only are there a seemingly impossible number of steps you have to go through but obviously you want to make sure you’re doing it well. Working in a documentary rich community like the one here in the D.C. Metro area is enormously helpful because of the sheer number of professionals who strive to help each other out. Through each step of the process from conception and story boarding to filming, principle photography and finally editing, transcription and logging there is someone wanting to collaborate with you and make your work that much better. One of these people Adele Schmidt is definitely worth getting to know.

Adele Schimdt brings a decade and a half of valuable experience with her in that time has produced, edited and directed more than 6 long form award winning documentaries. Not only have these documentaries all been shown on National Public Television, they have also participated in over 50 national and international film festivals. So the fact Adele has become a well known documentary coach should surprise no one. She loves helping guide people through the process of making their film and is incredibly passionate about making sure new projects succeed.

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As a coaching consultant, Adele guides filmmakers in all stages of the documentary process. She works with them on research, helping them decide which talking heads and research to utilize. During the production and shooting process she loves to give them pointers and tips on how to create the best possible looking film. Finally during the editing phase, Adele helps filmmakers polish their work so that it absolutely shines. She is a firm believer in transcripts with time code and has referred Docs makers to Word Wizards, Inc. in the past. In addition to personal coaching, she also teaches a number of workshops and seminars during the year around the DC area.

In fact, she has an upcoming seminar on April 20th entitled “Finished My Documentary, What’s Next?” During the seminar Adele will present the first case study using her film Romantic Warriors – A Progressive Music Saga I and II. She will explain how the film has successfully self-financed itself via DVD by targeting social media campaigns and self distribution. Filmmakers will be able to learn the right techniques and methods in reaching the widest possible audience for their projects. To learn more about the seminar, check it out here: http://bit.ly/102sl76

To learn more about Adele and her consulting work, check out out some of these links:

 

 

 




Annapolis Film Festival Wrap Up

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This past weekend the Annapolis Film Festival kicked off to some pretty critical acclaim. The festival, which ran from the 21 – 24, seeks to establish the city of Annapolis as a prime breeding ground for different filmmakers to come and show different perspectives through their work to hungry audiences. A previous incarnation actually existed from 2003 to 2006 and was produced by Ken Arnold, Maria Triandos and Demetrea Triantafillides. The founders of the present version hope that in the long term it will bring both cultural and economic growth to Annapolis and the surrounding area. The festival showcased all types of films from gripping fictional tales to thought provoking documentaries. Word Wizards especially loves documentaries because transcription, captioning and logging are among our core business capabilities.  During the weekend, more than 90 films which covered various topics were shown in addition to educational panels and various film showcases.

After the festival, the winners as voted by audience members were:

Best Feature Narrative: Exquisite Corpse Project

The Exquisite Corpse Project, directed by Ben Popik and directed by Joanna Popik, is the result of a challenge given to five members of a former comedy troupe, all good friends. Their task is to each write fifteen pages of a movie script having only read the previous writer’s last five pages. This one-of-a-kind narrative-doc crossover is hilarious and touching.

Best Feature Documentary: Charles Bradley: Soul of America

Charles Bradley: Soul of America, directed by Poull Brien, chronicles the story of 62 year old aspiring soul singer and James Brown impersonator who becomes a star. After a life of abandonment, homelessness and tragedy, his debut album rockets on to Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of 2011. Mr. Bradley will giving a concert at Ram’s Head OnStage, West Street, Annapolis on April 12th.

Best Narrative Short: The Silk

The Silk, directed by Nathalie Boltt and Clare Burgess, is from New Zealand. Fifty years before, Herb had brought home from the war a length of beautiful silk. As he approaches death, his wife, Amy, takes out the scissors and undertakes a project which transforms their sorrow.

Best Documentary Short: Good Karma $1

Good Karma $1, directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett, tells how Ad guru, Alex Bogusky collects signs from homeless people asking for money, wondering if he can help them get their message across better. It turns into a lesson in generosity and humility.

Some of the highlights of the festival included an environmental showcase where a panel of leaders and filmmakers discussed various environmental issues. The festival also celebrated the young filmmakers of tomorrow with their Student Showcase which shows short films from young filmmakers from all around the world. It’s these young people that will be the face of the video production and media industry and bring us films, documentaries, powerful stories and put the spotlight on important issues. Other noteworthy topics at the festival included a panel on the African-American Experience and Segregation in the American School System as well as a shorts program thematically looking at women’s issues.

With the festival having attracted over 2,000 people, that’s great news for independent cinema as a whole. It shows that there’s a desire for it in Annapolis and a generally strong one in the region itself. More importantly it’s yet another exampe of how our production community comes together to celebrate our hard work and support each other. With such a rich pool of talent in the DC/MD/VA area and the sheer number of productions and documentaries that we produce, it’s vital that festivals such as Annapolis thrive. They are not just a showcase for great work but are serve as an important venue for those not from te area to see the type of outstanding video work our professional  community does.

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For more info on the festival, check out the link here: http://www.annapolisfilmfestival.net/

 




Guggenheim Productions, Giants in Docs City

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While some big hollywood films and productions have come to Washginton, D.C. to shoot big blockbuster fare, the real work has to do with all the docs that come out of here. The capital city should really be called doc’s city because of the sheer number of documentaries that our amazing film community produces. Lots of hard work goes into each of these often films, from pre-production and shooting to editing, transcription and post production.  One of the biggest companies in the field, Guggenhiem Productions has been in the biz for more than 50 years and produced over 500 titles.

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Their founder Charles Guggenhiem wanted to be known as a storyteller and sought to create a video production company that had the goal of telling powerful stories with a profound effect on the viewer.  He’s received are several academy awards for his films including Nine from Little Rock, about integration in Arkansas. He’s also notable for being one of the first to employ documentary style video production on American Political Campaigns. Starting with Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, he revealed the character of the candidates in an affirmative way and let the issues speak for themselves.

Guggenhiem passed away after a battle with cancer 2002 but not before spending the last 6 months of his life finishing the film Berga: Soldiers of Another War.

The film tells the story of his fellow American infantryman who were captured and sent to a Nazi slave labor camp during World War 2. Even when his health was fading, he completed the film overseeing all final aspects including  logging, editing, transcription and completed post production. Today his daughter Grace serves as an executive producer for many of  the historical documentaries to come out of the company.

One of the amazing things the Guggenheim Productions prides itself on is it’s dedication to history and using the narrative form of documentary to keep it alive for future generations. To that end, they work with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences/Academy Film Archive to preserve critical titles from the holdings. They have also partnered with National Archives to create the Charles Guggenhiem Center for Documentary Film at the National Archives. Not only does the center celebrate the work of Guggenhiem but also honors other documentarians who have made important differences with their work.

Please check out Guggenheim Productions at http://www.gpifilms.com/index.html

 




Docs In Progress – Documentary Experts Check Out CloudScript

Last night I had the pleasure of joining Docs In Progress for their Alumni Open House. It was an intimate gathering of some graduates of Docs In Progress courses. Docs In Progress teaches aspiring documentary producers and enthusiasts how to make documentaries the right way, offering a wide variety of courses related to documentary and general film production throughout the year.

Word Wizards CEO with the DOcs In Progress Team

Docs Are King

Docs In Progress is located in downtown Silver Spring, right around the corner from Word Wizards HQ. Word Wizards first connected with DIP through our efforts supporting TIVA-DC, and we have since become a proud sponsor of DIP as well. Docs In Progress invited us last night to meet some of their brightest graduates and to present our new service CloudScript to an audience of accomplished and aspiring producers.

Now Presenting: CloudScript – Time Code Media Player

The presentation was very well received, and I was happy to get some great feedback about our new service. CloudScript is really a powerful tool for documentary production. Not only does it provide a simple and functional asset management system, but it is priced in a way that everyone can afford it, which is critical in these days of super tight budgets and economic uncertainty.

Ben Presenting CloudScript at Docs In Progress

Watch the presentation video below to see CloudScript in action at Docs in Progress! * Note change the player settings to HD for a better viewing experience.




.Silverdocs Spotlight – Surviving The Plague

Word Wizards is proud to support documentary production in the Metropolitan Washington DC area.  DC, is the documentary capitol of America, as well as the Nation’s Capitol.  Between Discovery Communications, (in our own home town of Silver Spring Maryland,) National Geographic and Smithsonian – ShowTime a lot of documentary production gets done around here.  “Docs are King” in DC.  And we all know that to make a great Doc you need a lot of interviews, which means lots of time coded video tape transcription for Word Wizards!

Silverdocs in Silver Spring

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Nothing showcases this fusion of talented production capabilities and talking heads like the fabulous Silverdocs Film Festival which is going on here this week in Silver Spring.  Since documentaries are created by interviewing people, we are here to meet their production deadlines with our own professional, all American workforce, available to them – 24/7.

Sometimes however, between overnight and weekend rush jobs, we actually indulge our creative cravings by attending a few good documentaries at Silver Docs ourselves. One such provocative and award winning film featured this year was How to Survive a Plague by film maker David France.  http://www.howtosurviveaplague.com/

The Silent Struggle

How to Survive a Plague

It is the  riveting story of two coalitions, Act Up (AIDS Advocacy) and TAG (Treatment Action Group) who refused to go off and die quietly without putting the Government in general; and the Food and Drug Administration and National Institute of Health in particular “feet to the fire” to come up with a cure; or at least a livable containment policy.  (By the way these agencies are also in suburban Maryland, so we were inspired by seeing local demonstration footage.)

The struggle against HIV / AIDS took a terribly long time; which was exasperated by society at large who in the early 1980’s started off by blaming people for alternative life styles, which seemed to contribute to the spread of the disease.  However, as the death count climber higher year after year, the scapegoat-ing stopped a bit, as we finally realized that a killer pathogen  was among us that threatened civilization as we know it.  It wasn’t the first time that an unpopular minority was blamed for “the Plague.”

Fight HIV!

These courageous people; the victims of AIDS, their families, friends and supporters; formed the nucleolus of  a movement that continued to demonstrate at the FDA and NIH until the bureaucrats came up with an accelerated drug testing and approval process.  As a result, finally the best medical minds “got lucky,” as one advocated put it in the film. Therefore, as a result of continued civil disobedience coupled with working within the system, a viable containment policy was developed in 1996.

Some of the activists who were around at the beginning of the film’s creation were not around at the end.  Some were, seemingly miraculously cured of their most visible symptoms.  This was as a story of protest and the decency of the human spirit winning out over bigotry and deliberate neglect.  We hear it will be coming soon to an independent theater near you. Please don’t miss it.  And you thought “Talking Heads” were boring!