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.




Film Spotlight- The “Victorious” D.C. Divas

Victorious: Women of The Gridiron

Thanks to our friends at WIFV-DC, we recently attended the Reel Affirmations Film Festival’s screening of Victorious: Women of the Gridiron. The film is about the D.C. Divas, an all-woman football team that was undefeated in the 2015 Woman’s Football Alliance season. Some of the best players in woman’s football were present at the screening, along with the filmmaker Robert Mac, to talk about the sport and the challenges of competing in a league that is widely unknown. This is real football played by the best athletes of their gender, but few people outside of their friends, families and supporters attend the games. The filmmaker explores why this is the case.

Shining the Spotlight on Women’s Sports

Women's Football Alliance

The screening of a 15 minute preview of the film showed a fascinating insight into the world of women who play league football. It got us thinking, women’s basketball has a huge following, why not women’s football? What role do the TV networks play at keeping this unrecognized talent pool in the shadows? How can these athletes break away from the stigma associated with women in a contact sport? The filmmaker is focused on these issues to draw some well-deserved attention to some of the toughest and most skilled female football players in the country.

(See a five minute trailer of Victorious here – https://vimeo.com/144878763 ).

Filmmaker Captures D.C. Divas Winning Season

Word Wizards CEO meets filmmaker Robert Mac
Word Wizards CEO (left) meets Robert Mac (filmmaker)

Robert Mac is an award-winning filmmaker and the Executive Producer/Co-creator of the hugely popular film – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, (available online for free) about the “juicing” health science craze as a way to good health. “Fat” has had over 13 million viewers, and is one of the most successful health documentaries ever made.

Mac embedded himself with this team during the Divas victorious 2015 season, and collected some amazing football b-roll. Any NFL men’s team would be proud to review such successful game winning plays at the end of an undefeated championship season. The interviews were compelling glances into each woman’s unique life story of how she got there, and the life lessons the game has taught her along the way. Yet nobody knows about them.

Support The D.C. Divas on Indiegogo

D.C. Divas Team Photo 2015

It is a story that must be told. The average male NLF player makes $1.9 million dollars per season. The average woman WFA player makes exactly $0. Hopefully, with Mac’s engaging story telling, this may not be the case for long. Support their Indiegogo campaign to help bring this team of champions and this league of talented athletes out of the shadows and into the spotlight of professional sports. Don’t forget to Check out their accomplishments and schedule on The D.C. DIVA’s web site.

  1. For more about the Reel Affirmations Festival see http://www.reelaffirmations.org/
  2. For more about the WFA see http://wfafootball.net/
  3. For more about the filmmaker see http://www.frontridermedia.com/about/



Crowd Marketing – TUGG and GATHR

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Thanks so much to Docs In Progress for organizing the Crowdsourcing Theatrical Distribution talk.  They do amazing work helping people from all walks of life to fulfill their desire of creating documentary productions.  Since video transcription is often an essential part of making a documentary, it is only natural that WW is a proud corporate sponsor of DIP.  We were delighted to have the opportunity to cover their lecture in our Blog.

Introducing, Crowd Marketing

The crowd marketing discussion featured Jan Selby, founder of Quiet Island Films. After twenty five years as a successful marketing and advertising executive, she decided to follow her dream of becoming a documentary producer.  She has produced several docs including Beyond the Divide a film  about a Vietnam Veteran and a peace advocate healing wounds while in search
of common ground.  She applied the same organized business principles to film making, and decided to do marketing through crowd sourcing.

While Kickstarter or Indiegogo can help filmmakers get the money to film and produce their movie, Tugg and Gathr focus more on connecting the resulting films to the fans. A filmmaker works with Tugg or Gathr to make their movie available to screen, at which point fans will work to promote a local screening on a particular date, essentially marketing the film themselves. Gathr and Tugg set a specific threshold for each screening, meaning a minimum number of tickets which must be reserved in order to cover costs such as the filmmaker’s fee. If that threshold is reached before the screening request expires, the event will proceed, and filmmakers will receive a percentage of all profits above the threshold.

Tugg logo

Tugg helps market films by funneling traffic to independent websites. Tugg also offers detailed information about earnings and percentages on their website. Although Gathr may require direct contact to find out percentages, they do offer filmmakers a chance to receive funding by purchasing the theatrical rights only.

GATHR logo

Worldwide Appeal

The global possibilities of this type of crowd marketing is staggering.  Jan reported that one documentary, “Awake – The Life of Yogananda” has gone viral through crowd marketing on Gathr.  It’s about the life of Paramhansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, who was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.  To date 35,000 tickets have been reserved in 68 screenings in the US for the “Awake” doc.  Many more have been purchased worldwide.  The popularity of yoga and the Gathr platform rewarded the two filmmakers by allowing yoga enthusiasts worldwide to do the marketing for them. So if you have a topic for a documentary with wide popular appeal, this might be the way forward to distribute your film to the world.




#Stuck – New Film Spotlight

Starting this weekend #Stuck will be screening in select theaters across the country. The production team is coming along for the ride, hosting Q + A sessions after the show, and kicking off their tour in NYC at the Village East Cinema this Friday night. Through a unique combination of independent capitalization, and social media crowd-funding, this film is a shining example of the new paradigm in film production. #Stuck is the most recent release from rising film maker Stuart Acher, and represents the future of independently financed film production and distribution.

A fresh story:

The plot feels like a blend of classic Hollywood motifs, with a distinctly original plot and presentation. #Stuck’s two main characters wake up next to each other, after what appears to be a pretty wild night. After realizing she has no way of getting home, Guy, the male lead, offers to give his new lady friend, Holly, a ride home. She reluctantly accepts the ride and the stage is set for a great movie. How did they end up together, and what happens when they hit an impassable LA traffic jam? Watch the trailer below if you want more!

 

Coming Soon – Pre Order The Film Now!

For one week only, stuck will be appearing in theaters across the country. Check their website for a full list of screenings and Q+A sessions. In addition to this limited release, #Stuck is available now for pre-order on iTunes, and will soon be available on Netfilx and other digital platforms. It takes a truly original idea to penetrate the entertainment industry and secure a place in professional film media. In addition it takes a team of dedicated and hardworking film makers to bring an original idea to life without external financing. We hope you check it out and leave us a comment if you like.

#Stuck




Future Media Concepts Presents: Editing Tech 101

Heavily involved in many aspects of post-production, Word Wizards realizes that editing is where the magic begins. And choosing the right editing software for your project—Adobe Premiere, Avid or Final Cut—is essential. A huge thank you goes out to TIVA who recently sponsored an incredibly informative panel discussion at Future Media Concepts, Comparing Editing Platforms, which addressed the issue. Panelist included three talented editors, Virginia Quesada, Sylus Green and Matthew Nagy. Attendees spent half an hour with each editor to learn about their preferred editing software.

Avid Media Composer:

Avid editing platform.

 

Virginia Quesada a well-known trainer and editor at Future Media Concepts demonstrated Avid Media Composer. She explained that the software easily handles transcoding and consolidation. And how the software efficiently cleans movie files and copies them for editing. According to Quesada, Avid Media Composer imports and accommodates footage from the 4K camera without difficulty while the point tracker effects allows you to simply and seamlessly change the frame of an object within an image. The corrective effects like color correction are smooth are easy to use by editors of all levels.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe-Premier

Editor Matt Nagy explained why he is such a big fan of Adobe Premier. The importation of files by the software does not require transcode and works with most formats. Premiere also plays seamlessly with the rest of the Adobe family of products including Photoshop or After Effects. For example, an audio clip you are adjusting in Premiere can be dropped into Adobe Audition for tweaking then returned to Premiere.  And the warp stabilizer that smoothes out your footage gives more of a steady cam look. Important to note: Adobe offers comprehensive support for camera formats and plugins immediately after release.

Final Cut Pro

Final-Cut-Pro

Editor Sylus Green explained that Final Cut Pro Version X is very different from Version 7 and this has frustrated many users since it was missing some features they had become used to. Because of the criticism, Apple returned some of the functionality that editors demanded into the program through updates. This included reinstating features such as multicam editing, XML support, Red camera support with native REDCODE Raw Editing and editing individual audio channels right into the timeline.  And the cost of FCP X at $299 is less expensive when compared to other editing software. Green praised the keyword and smart collection tool in FCP X that aids searches, and is a favorite among documentary makers. The retiming tools of X allow you to manually affect the speed of a clip by simply dragging a bar over it. In FCP X the multi-cam editor easily and quickly syncs your work, a big change from the clunky FCP 7.

The Perfect Fit for You

While each of the different software had their own strengths, there were a few downsides. Instead of simply purchasing the software, with Adobe you must subscribe on a monthly basis to use all the features. However, Adobe, Avid and Apple all allow you try their software for a trial period. Different editors like different features, so try before you buy!

 




Napa Valley Film Festival – The Highlights

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo Projection
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Film Tasting

Napa Valley known as wine country once again magically transformed into movie country with a touch of “Hollywood.” The third annual Napa Valley Film Festival—November 13-17th 2013—showcased 125 independent films to enthusiastic audiences. A gathering of 300 varied filmmakers attracted high-profile celebs like Colin Farrell, original Batman Adam West, Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio, Alan Cumming, filmmaker John Lee Hancock and Glee’s Dianna Agron. Check out the sizzle reel in the middle of the article to see them as well as other great festival moments. Producers and supportive filmmakers alike believe the success of the festival enhances the economic diversity and cultural landscape the Napa Valley Region and could influence the quality of film nationally, even internationally.

The Festival

Inside a building at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

The festival took place in four nearby towns in the Napa Valley Region: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Along with the hundred plus films, other events included a veteran’s day program with veteran-themed films, a studio sneak peek at big studio films before distribution, as well as a gala, awards ceremony and wrap party.

Grapes (flavor image)                                                                                          Grapes (flavor image)

Festival attendees not only experienced great cinema but also sampled scrumptious cuisine prepared by the region’s leading chefs and showcased at the Dacor culinary stage. The Zesty Contest encouraged patrons to identify movie-inspired dishes and tag them on social media while wine flowed in area pavilions located in each town.VIP filmmakers and celebrities were treated to delightful winemaker dinners with participating vineyards  including: Beaulieu Vineyards, Cardinale Winery, Hall Wines and Jessup Cellars.

Attendees on the front porch at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

For relaxation, the festival sponsored luxury lounges, while other spaces called gathering porches encouraged attendees to mingle with filmmakers. This year the festival opened yet another social venue that mixed food, tech and media. At the Sony Digital Lounge located in the Napa Lifestyle Pavilion patrons experienced the Sony 4K TV.

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo

Check out some of the amazing festival moments captured on film in the sizzle reel. http://vimeo.com/81543047

And the Winner Is…

Giving out awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Winners included:

–Best Feature Documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth directed by Pratibha Pramer follows the story of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist.

–Best Narrative Feature Hank and Asha directed by James E. Duff offers a new approach to love-letter correspondence.

–Best Animated Short Sleight of Hand directed by Michael Cusack uses stop-motion to reveal illusions.

— Best Short Documentary Sky Burial  directed by Tad Fettig uncovers a Mongolian tribe’s view of death.

For a complete list of jury winners and audience awards, check out the festival’s results page. You may also purchase tickets and passes for next year’s festival which is proving to be even bigger.

Education and Outreach

Speaking about filmmaking at a school basketball court
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

A Goal: Inspiring the next generation is a leading goal of the Napa Valley Film Festival. During the week of the festival, 1,500 middle and high school student attended documentary screenings and immersed themselves in the world of cinema. They also participated in exciting discussions with the stars and filmmakers. Through the education and outreach programs, the festival offered socially-conscious films to local schools and encouraged the next generation to create a critical audience for independent cinema.

Demonstrations of filmmaking before an audience of students
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Past Achievements: The Napa Valley Film Festival has sponsored educational programs including: film screenings to more the 2,400 students in 11 different schools; a contest for student to create and produce their own short films and showcase them in the Student Works Program that premiered at the festival; an internship program to give students hands-on experience dealing with festival production and the programming staff, and to help turn these interns into working students throughout the year.

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Photograph of festival founders Marc & Brenda Lhormer
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

About the Founders: Festival founders Marc Lhormer a veteran event planner and his wife expert marketer Brenda Lhormer, run a small production company Zin Haze Productions that brings independent films to life. One of their best known films, Bottle Shock, looks at the early days of California wine making. Other past accomplishments include Brenda handling public relations for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, as well as seminar marketing programs at Oracle and Microsoft while Marc wrote the business plan for Bain Capitol’s original start up venture. Along with his dedication to the film festival, Marc’s passion for helping students and schools succeed led him to sponsor the City Year Program (a nonprofit organization to engage students in a full-year of service) in Seattle.

 

 

 




Social Media and Sangria Panel

social-media-tool-box

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a very enjoyable panel, presented by Women in Film and Video and hosted by Interface Media Group, that was all about taking the plunge into social media and how to fully utilize it. Here at Word Wizards Inc., we know that getting the word out about your film can be just as daunting as making it, hence the need for great events like this one. The 3 presenters were Regina MeeksRana Koll-Mandel and Karen Whitehead who all brought very different perspectives. Regina is a communications and social media professional with several years experience who has also worked in website editing with control management systems. Rana is the founder of We R 1 Communications, which specializes in PR and public affairs for film festivals filmmakers and authors. Karen is a filmmaker and producer who has been busy making the independent documentary her aim is true, a film about Jill Dellaccio, a largely unknown but important photographer of the 1960’s music scene.

What’s the big deal about social media?

One of the first questions answered was why people should care about social media in the first place, and why it matters so much as a communications and marketing medium. Just looking at some quick numbers shows how many people are on it and why you’re missing out by not. On Facebook alone there are 1.15 billion registered users, roughly 1/10 of the planet. Twitter has 500 million registered users, LinkedIn has 238 million and Goggle+ is high on the list with 343 million users. Furthermore social media should be thought of as an important marketing toolbox. As Rana pointed out, there should always be a line in your budget made specifically for social media and marketing.

As for those who are intimidated by the seemingly complex nature of working in the medium, Regina has a great little story for that. There once were two different groups who were asked to make clay pots. One group took lots of time draw up possible designs, create illustrations and even make measurements while the other simply started making the pots. At the end of the exercise, the first group had one or two perfect looking pots while the other group had a variety pots with some better than others. The morale of this little tale is the second group overall had better and more varied results because they dived right in and put forth the effort right away, which is the approach you should take with social media.

How Social Media can be a filmmakers best friend.

Karen Whitehead had some great advice for filmmakers and is a great example of someone using social media effectively. She went from working in the BBC, where she never dealt with social media, to becoming a social media powerhouse while making her film her aim is true. Her first piece of advice was about investing time into social media, saying the earlier you can get into it the better. Karen also recommended Pinterest, a site that’s great for filmmakers initially dealing with social media.  She has a process called the five stages that have helped her build up the social media for her film: Having a simple site, branding, bargaining, unique partnerships and finally make a plan.

1. Making a simple site is where you build the online home for your film or project. The personal publishing site that Karen used is Cargo Collective.

2. Branding and making sure that all your social media accounts are using the same title and are in sync with each other content wise.

3. Bargaining, one of the most important stages and is all about realizing that it takes time to build a following and that you really need more than likes to reach people, you want to try and initiate a conversation. You may even have to beg or grumble to get people to notice your work, but it can make a big difference. A prime example would be getting a popular blogger to write about your work and then sending it out to their many followers.

4. The fourth step is all about building those strategic partnerships that can really pay off. Karen created a partnership with a famous camera company called Hasselblad who wanted to work with her since the film is about an unknown music photographer and helped her get 10,000 hits.

5. The final step, making a plan is all about taking all the resources you have gathered, all the partnerships you have created and laying them out in the best possible way to generate visibility for your project.

Tools of the Trade and Getting Started

So now that you’ve learned why you should be on social media and just how helpful it can be to a filmmaker, you’re all ready to jump in. But how do you get started? Start off with one site and use that for a while until you get comfortable with using it. At the same time, check out what your competitors are doing on their social media sites so you can try to stay ahead of the competition. Also, never be afraid to switch to another social media channel if the one you’re using doesn’t seem to suit your personality. One of the big things that was stressed in the panel was using the type of social media that best suits you. You also want to look at the type of audiences you’re trying to reach. Instagram is good for the teen audience, business folk are more heavily found on LinkedIn and TwitterFacebook is good for a general audience and a large female audience can be found on Pinterest although it is good for directing traffic to blogs as well. The timing of your postings is another aspect to keep in mind since afternoon hours and the weekend are best times to tweet and Facebook postings are most shared during the weekend.

If you’re a filmmaker these channels take on a slightly different meaning, as they are used to help your project or films grow. WordPress is a good site that can be used as the base for your main website, while Facebook should be looked at as your fan base. A good YouTube channel extends how you engage with them and gives you a place share your work. Using Twitter to live tweet during screenings and press events is a great way to get coverage out, while Pinterest is a good tool for filmmakers since it’s such a visually oriented site and the perfect place to share images. Tumblr is a great way to reach across to different networks and is a favorite site of bloggers. A great asset for anyone on social media is Tweriod, a site that analyzes your Twitter account and its followers, then will tell you the best time to tweet for the most impact. The panelists also agreed that you should take a little bit of time each day to read up on social media and stay current since it changes so rapidly. Some sites that are good to follow are Hubspot, Social Media Examiner, and finally Mashable which is a personal favorite of mine.




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.

 




The Little Camera That Could

go pro

Built for Adventure

While cameras are great at capturing a story for film and showcasing someone’s vision, they are not usually known for their durability and tend to be pretty fragile machines. It’s tough to take them under water, on a bike or car, or just any place where you’d be moving a lot and need something light and compact to get extreme footage. That was until the founding of GoPro and the introduction of their line of small, compact and reasonably-priced cameras that allow movie makers to go places they have never gone before. Over the last decade the GoPro has become the number one selling camera in the world, adored by both athletes as well documentary filmmakers for its versatility.

 GoPro Origins

The company’s founder, Nick Woodman, first got the idea when he was enjoying his passion for surfing 10 years ago. He wanted to capture video of himself and his friends on the waves but couldn’t with any current camera. So he built a limited-use wrist-mount camera and the tech became a hit with the surfing crowd. It wasn’t until he was enjoying his other hobby, racing cars, that he strapped on a GoPro to the roll bar of his car and realized the vast consumer appeal. Since then, the company has been turning out models year after year with the latest being the GoPro HD Hero3: Black Edition,  1080P video and still camera that can be controlled via a wi-fi remote.

helmet gopro

The Value of Fan Feedback

Not surprisingly the product has a loyal following, with users often posting videos and multi-media of their latest exploits on the company’s website and Facebook page. They want to show off what they capture with their cameras, and it is that word-of-mouth that makes these exciting and unique video clips popular. The company pays close attention to see how the average customer is using its  product and uses that as a way to anticipate what people would want. While the GoPros may not have the high resolution that many professional cameras do, they more than make up for it in other ways, such as cost.

MFLocust2

Famous For Their Versatility

GoPros are relatively cheap, with the most expensive model costing a very moderate $400. This helps open up the camera to film hobbyists and weekend movie makers who want to dabble in the video realm but can’t really fully invest themselves in it. This is most definitely a good thing, because fresh ideas, and video that may not have been possible before, are popping up. We can, however, say from personal experience that many people in the professional video production community have made GoPros part of their arsenal. Companies have strapped them to the outside of cars, attached them to balloons and flying drones and put them on surf boards. For more information on GoPros, check out this recent article on Mashable http://mashable.com/2013/03/05/gopro-camera/.

 

 




Marketing Documentaries to Academia: The Perfect Recipe

logo-Docs_in_Progress_477x165

One of the obvious reasons why Word Wizards, Inc. loves Docs in Progress (DIP) http://docsinprogress.org/ is that they coach for projects with tons of interview footage.  We at “The Wiz” thrive on transcribing dozens of hours of talking head interviews per week. Transcription is very important to any documentary film maker, whether they use Word Wizards, some other company or (in most cases for people on a tight budget,) do it themselves.  Therefore Word Wizards is proud to sponsor DIP and we attend many of their meetings. Last weeks meeting on marketing to academia was a special treat.

Judith Dancoff

The guest speaker was film marketing Coach Judith Dancoff of New Film Marketing http://www.newfilmmarketing.com/about.php  She spoke about distribution of educational Docs using a strategy called “Distribute It Yourself” (or DIY).  Her strategy is applied specifically to marketing educational documentaries, but can be used to market and sell any Doc.  DIY takes a little bit of extra work but you get to keep all the money as a payoff.  Dancoff wants you to think of the documentary producer as a business person marketing and selling a valuable product to people who need it.

She says to plan two marketing campaigns a year, one early in the fall semester and another in early winter but never Xmas or Spring breaks. The easiest way to break down her strategy is into an easy to follow 3 step recipe:

Step 1: Buy lists of potential academic buyers such as librarians and school content providers from private list providers like R.J. Dill.  rjdill@gmail.com or to reach out to the American Library Association: Contact Personal and Organizational Members using http://bit.ly/Z01rBy 

Step 2: Put together a simple website to market to these people via email blast followed up by personal phone calls.  Academics hate flash so keep your site simple. You can build a very simple Doc site yourself for free using http://www.wix.com.  Or, Word Wizards can design the shell and you fill in the text. For those that want customization, Word Wizards can design a template using a content management system such as WordPress. Your budget will drive the bells and whistles of your website. Check out our portfolio page at https://www.wordwizardsinc.com/design/our-work/.

Step 3: State right at the beginning, both in the subject line of your email blasts; and at the top of your web site what is different, educational and compelling about your film.  Why is your film especially relevant to the academic types that you are trying to sell to?   Review issues of Public Use Doctrine at http://www.movlic.com/k12/faq.html.  Set your price by seeing what other people charge, www.bullfrogfilms.com/

 

 Tom Dziedzic

The fascinating thing about Docs in Progress is that professional film makers like Tom Dziedzic use DIP for coaching (see his award winning Redemption Stone at http://www.redemptionstone.net/ ) as well as want-to-be Doc makers from every walk of life.  With the upcoming tenth anniversary of DIP coming up next year expect to see a lot more about them in our upcoming blog articles.




Silver Spring on Screen

silver_spring_twilight

The local DC production and video community is responsible for some truly terrific programs that come out of this area. The big question that comes across many people’s minds is how will the next generation of professionals learn vital film making skills? Luckily there are quite a few organizations such as Docs in Progress that are trying to educate y0uth about the production and film business. Docs in Progress, a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, seeks to cultivate this talent by offering a variety of classes, screenings, workshops and discussion groups to help celebrate talent in the realm of documentary film. The organization, directed by Erica Ginsberg, aims to provide resources for all filmmakers in all areas whether that be in conception, pre-production, filming, and vital post production topics such as editing, logging and transcribing.

logo-Docs_in_Progress_477x165

One of the more interesting community engagement projects they have going on is called Silver Spring Stories. The suburb known as Silver Spring, HQ of Docs In Progress, has undergone impressive redevelopment in the past few decades and has become home to a unique assortment of institutions, organizations, artists, merchants and residents. Docs in progress is trying to capture these stories by having emerging documentary filmmakers of all ages capture them in short 3 – 5 minute videos. Some of the subjects taped include the Maryland Youth Ballet, Tastee Diner, the Gandhi Brigade and the brand new civic center.

Gandhi Brigade

 

Filmmakers are given a choice of different places and people to profile and are then given free reign to document them utilizing the skills they have learned from various workshops and training. They embark in this film making journey and go through all the main stages from writing the pitches, interviewing subjects to cutting it in post production. This work provides incredibly valuable hands on training and Docs in Progress thinks it’s important because of its two fold nature. Not only is it a great way to educate new film makers but also allows them to document a storied and historic community like Silver Spring.

For more info and if interested, check out their site at: http://docsinprogress.org/silver-spring-stories/

Also check out some samples of thier work here: http://www.youtube.com/docsinprogress

 

 

 

 




Getting Started in your Media Career

 

Ready set go

Last night at American Universities School of Communications,  several media professionals gathered with TIVA to give out

some very valuable information about how to get your foot in the media industry whether your a college student or a seasoned professional

looking to switch careers. The panelists included:

 

Jason Villemez, Production Assistant at PBS Newshour

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jason-villemez/10/a27/594

Kristen Edgell, Marketing Assistant at National Geographic

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kristen-edgell/31/13b/b88

Laura Mateus, Campus Recruiter at Discovery Communications

http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=1770693696&targetid=profile

Julia Beyer, Career Advisor for SOC Students

http://www.american.edu/profiles/staff/juliab.cfm

 

A variety of issues were discussed which included networking, resumes,

social media and linkedin, age and experience, reaching out and internships.

 

 

  • Networking, As Kristen pointed out networking is very much the name of the game. She very smartly made time to talk to every person she worked with, grabbing a cup of coffee and picking their brains. After these meetings she would inquire about other contacts that person might have that would be a good fit for her to talk to and then sought out those individuals. Another point that all the panelists agreed on was the value of a mentor and really getting to know an individual who will work with you and even advocate on your behalf.  Also, its key to stay in touch with those connections you make and to stay on their radar. They might be looking to fill a spot in an afternoon and if you stay fresh on their radar, you may just be getting that call.

 

  • Internships, the panel unanimously agreed that having at least one internship college is a great way to get some real world work skills outside of the classroom. Make sure that you really assert yourself in the role trying to learn as much as possible about the work your doing and present yourself well. Employers and companies respond well to someone who is eager to learn and want additional responsibilities instead of that person who’s just waiting to go. Many internships are now paying but even those that aren’t are still a valuable way for people to focus on their interests by getting to practice them in an adult setting.

 

  • Social Media, Obviously this is a huge facet of the media and business worlds and will only continue to grow. The best social media to present in terms of professionalism is Linkedin. The panelists all agreed that not only is it the preferred way to present yourself to new business contacts, its a great way to scout out potential employers and new relationships as well. A surprising note came from Laura who pointed that just because someone’s young and of the “plugged in” generation, that’s not a guarantee that they themselves are tech savvy or fluent in the art of social media. Twitter and facebook are also good venues to reach out to contacts, just be weary of  what they may see when they look at your profile. It’s smart to put your website and social media links under the header of your resume to show just how connected and tech able you are.

 

  • Resumes, one of the most important topics discussed was resumes and presentation. As Julia reminded everyone,  the basic look for a resume should be a header with your name, address, contact info and any links to your website or social media. This should be followed by education and most recent or appropriate work depending on the job your applying for. After this should come other work experiences and then your skills.  Unless you have more than ten years experience in the field, resume length should be one page. Grammar, punctation and spelling are also key since many people overlook these and will send resumes carelessly riddled with such mistakes. Also don’t put things that aren’t true, if your not familiar with software or a technical skill don’t put it on your resume. You may be questioned about it during your interview and not knowing anything will immediately make you look unprofessional.

 

  • Age and Media as a second career, Jason pointed out that in his position as a production assistant, one of his duties is to review candidates for internships and job openings. While there are the typical college students and recent graduates in that mix, Jason is also seeing lots of people in their late 20’s, 30’s and some who are doctors or lawyers looking to switch careers and that’s not a bad thing. Jason, who himself started in his job at the age of 27, says age is not an issue and what really matters is the desire to work your way up from the bottom. As long as the drive, willingness to learn, punctuality and professionalism are present, than people will notice your hard work and take you very seriously.

 

 

A huge thank you to the School of Communications for hosting this event and to TIVA for holding it.
SOC
TIVA
Further highlights of the event will soon be up on TIVA’s website at http://www.tivadc.org/



.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

SilverDocs Logo

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!

 




CloudScript: The Future of Transcription Workflow

Word Wizards is proud to present our newest service, CloudScript!

Over 30 years of working in the media transcription industry has provided our team with rare and valuable insight into how and why people need our transcription services. We have noticed an important trend in the past few years, the name of the game these days is speed, convenience, and price. Production teams must to be able to work faster, more efficiently, and at lower operating costs than ever before to survive. Well, we have designed CloudScript to answer the call for a new solution.

Stated simply, CloudScript lets you click on any time code in your transcript and jump to that point in the audio or video file. Using a simple online form you can instantly convert any transcript with time code into a “media-synced” transcript. CloudScript is intended to make your workflow easier while writing, editing, producing or otherwise working with transcripts.

Watch our short video below for a quick demonstration!

Visit the CloudScript Home Page and Sign Up for your free trial Today!

 




Mining For Gold – The 2012 WIFV Job Fair.

Each year Word Wizards is privileged to recruit talent at a media related Job Fair sponsored by Women In Film and Video of DC (WIFV.)  On March 24th, at the Luke C. More Academy, in SE DC, prospective employers from across the spectrum of film and video production came to collect resumes from energetic job seekers.

Logo for Women in Film and Video

Recruiters for media production professionals in education and public sector broadcasting were represented by American University, WHTU Howard television, Media Concepts, PBS, C-Span and AFI Silver Docs. Major production houses such as Henninger Media, Interface Media Group, and Maslow Media Group were looking to hire employees related to production and post-production. Boutique production houses such as EFX Media, Sapling Pictures, Team People, Will Interactive, and “Yoh” were snapping up resumes from video editors, producers, camera people and production assistants. One of the finest audio post houses in the DC area, Ott House Audio, was looking for a few good sound techs. Hundreds of recruits braved the rainy weather to present their skills and talents before the recruiters.

The main floor of the WIFV Job Fair

Word Wizards sought employees and contractors for our own special niche in the media production world.  We are always looking for fast, accurate typists for our core service, audio and video transcription.  Many production professionals start their careers as interns transcribing sound bites; thus they are a natural fit to work for us.  Some candidates were extremely proficient, exceeding 100 words per minute for their tested typing speed.

The Word Wizards Inc table at the WIFV job fair seen from the front

Many others have produced logs, closed captions, and subtitles during their time within the media production industry. Several of these individuals found that they can earn some cash from us typing and logging, while awaiting the production job of there dreams.  Along with four fast typists, we’re considering hiring a Spanish and Arabic translator to add to our translation capabilities.

In addition, Word Wizards also does a lot of graphic design work for print and digital media. Some very impressive resumes were collected form people, who work with InDesign, After-Effects, Quark, and PageMaker.  These highly trained graphic design specialists are vital. When a client requests something special, we have many different outlets to find the right designer for the project.

Word Wizards Inc talking to a potential new employee at the WIFV job fair

Word Wizards would like to thank Women In Film and Video for gathering such an impressive group of talented people for the recruiters to review.  Qualified producers, video editors, camera people, audio and graphics professionals also owe their gratitude to WIFV for making the event happen. It is our fondest hope that the Job Fair will remain a feature of the media production landscape far into the future.




TIVA-DC at the Government Video Expo

There were some impressive booths this year at the world famous Government Video Expo, held in Washington, D.C. Big industry names like Panasonic, JVC, and Roland put together incredible demonstrations of their latest and greatest products. Innovation was abounding, and at the heart of it all, TIVA-DC, long time supporter and organizer of the GV Expo, hosted a record breaking promotional membership drive and prize giveaway.

A topside view of the Government Video Expo
A look from above at the GV Expo

TIVA-DC and Discovery’s Military Channel, with the help of Word Wizards, Inc. was responsible for organizing two wildly successful panel sessions this year. This years keynote was “Lights, Camera, Military Action.” When you need to get footage of the real U.S. Military in action, you call one of the Hollywood Military Liaison Officers.

Lights Camera Military Action Guest Speaker Panel
Lights Camera Military Action Guest Speaker Panel

Ken Hawes, (Army Wives, Men of Steel), U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Colonel Jason Johnston (Battle Los Angeles, Avatar) U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Fransisco “Paco” Hamm (Transformers, Iron Man 2) and U.S. coast guard Commander Sean Carroll (The Adjustment Bureau, Deadliest Catch) offered a discussion and Q & A session talking about their diverse work coordinating the private video industry with The U.S. Armed Forces. TIVA-DC solutes all of our honored men and women who serve this great nation proudly, and we thank these distinguished guest for their contribution to this year’s GV Expo.

The TIVA booth signing up new members
New recruts for TIVA

The TIVA booth was hot like spicy sauce this year, as conference goers leaped at the chance to join our ever growing organization. Volunteers worked constantly to inform potential new members and sign up for TIVA – DC. TIVA sponsors donated several different items (usb flash drives, TIVA hats, and a gift certificate for dinner at The Woodmont Grill, donated by Word Wizards) to be raffled off at the end of the day.

TIVA's GV Expo prize giveaway
Jerry Griffith, Current TIVA-DC President (left) Tun Flaherty, Previous TIVA President (Center) Scott Gordon, Word Wizards CEO and TIVA Sponsor (Right)

Another successful GV Expo! Word Wizards would like to thank all of our TIVA-DC volunteers, guest speakers, and new TIVA-DC members who made this year a smash hit!