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The Director’s Chair Issue #142 – May 7, 2013 (Transitioning From Narrative to Documentary)

Free Monthly Ezine for Independent Filmmakers

May 7, 2013                Scene 14 – Take 5

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
Email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com
Website: http://actioncutprint.com
Blog: http://filmdirectingtips.com


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1. Introduction
2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. From the Producer of “Pretty Woman”
4. Mark Travis will turn 70 years old on May 12th!
5. FEATURE ARTICLE: Transitioning From Narrative to Documentary
6. Film Directing Coach Services
7. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
8. Filmmaking Links of Interest
9. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
10. Subscribe and Unsubscribe Information
11. Copyright Information

1. Introduction

Welcome to Issue #142 of The Director’s Chair, May 7, 2013

1. Feature Article – The feature article this month is called:
Transitioning From Narrative to Documentary by Jake Oelman.
“Every director is different. Tone, aesthetic, process, subject
matter are particular to each unique talent. This combined with a
director’s personality and a thousand other little nuances
creates that director’s signature.” (Read full article below.)

2. Please send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice
to: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com

2. Two Bonuses For Subscribing To The Director’s Chair

Thank you very much for subscribing to this ezine.

BONUS #1 – Here is the link to download Day One (41 pages) of
“The Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar.”

BONUS #2 – Here is the link to download the first 30 pages of
the “Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course.”

IMPORTANT: Once the pdf file has opened on your browser, go to
File, “Save Page As” and save the file to your desktop. All links
will now work in the pdf file.

3. From the Producer of “Pretty Woman”

On April 25, I emailed you a special request from Gary Goldstein
(producer of “Pretty Woman”) about his new book called,
“Navigating Hollywood: The Writer’s GPS for Career Success.”

This book does not focus on how to write a screenplay. Instead,
Gary gives you a blueprint that reveals how to build a successful
writing career by having a detailed game plan, knowing the exact
action steps to take to get your projects and career moving
forward in Hollywood.

In other words, this book is a practical roadmap of every insider
strategy that Gary has learned on how to make it in Hollywood as
a successful screenwriter.

But here’s the deal…Gary wants to self-publish this book and he
needs to raise $12,000.00 on Kickstarter to accomplish that goal!

I asked Gary to explain what he needs in the following personal
message to you 🙂 http://filmdirectingtips.com/archives/7921

4. Mark Travis will turn 70 years old on May 12th!

My friend Mark Travis (“the director’s director”) will turn 70 on
May 12 and I would like to help him celebrate his birthday.

If you don’t know who Mark is, he is winner of 30 directorial
awards with over 60 productions under his belt and author of the
LA Times bestseller “The Director‚Äôs Journey.” He has also served
as directorial and creative consultant to Mark Rydell, George
Tillman, Cyrus Nowrasteh, and dozens of Independent filmmakers in
Hollywood and internationally. http://www.markwtravis.com

On May 15th, Mark will begin a 9-city world tour with his famous
film workshops and it will literally take him around the world:

So if you live in any of these cities on his seminar schedule
(listed below) and you have the time to take one of his
workshops, I highly recommend you do. 🙂

And if you do take one of his workshops, make sure you tell him
Happy Birthday!

Mark’s 2013 Seminar Schedule

1) May 18-20, 2013 – Moscow, Russia
Contact: Gennadiy Ivanov – kinoidea@mail.ru

2) May 27-31, 2013 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Workshop: DIRECTING ACTORS, The Travis Technique
Contact: Annemarie van der Meulen – annemarie@binger.nl

3) June 3, 2013 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact: Annemarie van der Meulen – annemarie@binger.nl

4) June 4-7, 2013 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Workshop: DIRECTING ACTORS, The Travis Technique
Contact: Annemarie van der Meulen – annemarie@binger.nl

5) June 29 & 30, 2013 – Munich, Germany
Workshop: DIRECTING THE ACTORS, The Travis Technique
Contact: Martin Blankemeyer – info@muenchner-filmwerkstatt.de

6) July 5-7, 2013 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Contact: Anil Astrio – anil@astriomp.com

This Master Class will also be presented in the following locations on these dates:
7) July 12-14, 2013 – Singapore, Malaysia
8) July 19-21, 2013 – Jakarta, Indonesia
9) July 26-28, 2013 – Manila, Philippines
10) August 2-4, 2013 – Sydney, Australia
CONTACT FOR ALL VENUES: Anil Astrio – enquiry@myfilmworkshop.com

11) August 15-18, 2013 – Hau’ula, Hawaii
Workshop: The Hawaii WRITE YOUR LIFE / ON YOUR FEET Workshop
Contact: Alice Anne Parker – aliceanne@aliceanneparker.com

5. Feature Article: Transitioning From Narrative to Documentary

Transitioning From Narrative to Documentary by Jake Oelman

Every director is different. Tone, aesthetic, process, subject
matter are particular to each unique talent. This combined with a
director’s personality and a thousand other little nuances
creates that director’s signature.

What director’s don’t have control over is the landscape and the
business environment that we all have to navigate. Some
director’s thrive while others stumble and I don’t assume to
possess a how-to-map for a lucrative filmmaking career but I feel
as if I do have a solid grasp on what it takes to do it at a
professional level.

For me I have to be able to adapt on the outside and be inspired
on the inside so as not to be gobbled up by the pitfalls and road
blocks of the “industry.”

I recently wrapped post production on my first narrative feature,
“Dear Sidewalk,” a quirky romantic comedy starring Joe Mazzello
and Michelle Forbes. As my freshman effort it was an exhausting
and exhilarating combo burrito wrapped inside of a bank overdraft
statement. For a majority of the time it was an all out dog fight
that left me licking my wounds but still begging for more.

When it ended I was barraged by emotions. Relief, pride, regret,
motivation, depression, excitement, and discouragement all come
off the top of my head. I spent two years on the film so when it
ended I was shell shocked. Some people would opt for a vacation
to try and re-calibrate but all I wanted to do was dive into
another film. Momentum is key to any career and I find this
especially true with directing.

Transitioning between big projects can be tough and that is why I
heavily rely on the film’s subject matter to guide me. I’m not a
director who looks at the business side of a project first. If
you allow yourself to be inspired by the material all of your
later decisions will be influenced by your desire to do what’s
best for the film.

If you develop a kinship with the material first you can then
figure out ways to potentially make a more profitable film. For
years I’ve had a slate of ideas that I’ve wanted to make into
films and depending on where I’m at professionally and mentally
at any given time determines which one I choose to dive into.

Right before we mastered “Dear Sidewalk” I was already making
travel plans for my next project, a documentary film I’d been
chewing over for the last eight years.

“Learning to See” is a documentary film about my father who is an
Ex Patriot living in Colombia, South America. He abandoned his
aspirations to be a psychologist in the States to pursue, of all
things, macro insect photography in the rain forests of Colombia,
Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. The film will highlight the rarity of
the creatures he is discovering as well as his metamorphosis.

It’s quite an abrupt change for me to go from a comedic
narrative into a personal doc film but despite what some may
think the transition was rather seamless and welcome. Every film
exercises a different set of skills and perspective so jumping
from narrative to doc requires an alternate approach to story,
technicals, and financing.

With a narrative film I use the script as my guide and work with
the actors to bring the characters in that story to life. With
documentary work however I use the film’s mission statement to
guide my shooting and story telling.

It helps me focus my eye on what’s important to cover and
provides a base for me to draft interview questions. These are
simple concepts that differ in process but still harness the
essence and themes of story telling I’m trying to execute.

Technically the differences between narratives and documentaries
are huge. Narratives often rely on a crew of people to pull off a
shooting day where as with the doc a lot of my shooting is One
Man Band style. This means that all of those tasks that I would
lean on other professionals to do for me I now have to do myself.

The good part about this is that there’s no buffer between
yourself and the material so you literally take it all in. The
flip side to this coin is burn-out factor so you have to be very
organized with what you need and pace yourself in order to get it.

I think whether it’s a narrative or a doc film financing is
never going to be easy. Through experience you’ll get better at
it but it’s still tough.

With narratives the model is to either pre sell territories,
usually foreign, or go to independent financiers to invest in
your film. This model is somewhat relevant to documentaries but
the reality is that with docs you’re not selling star power so
much as you are selling social issues so it’s a much harder sell.
That coupled with the fact there’s not a lot of money in doc
sales, filmmakers are forced to get creative.

Grants are one way to do it but so is crowd funding. Since its
inception a few years ago crowd funding, with sites like
Kickstarter and Indie Go-Go have become increasingly more

Now it doesn’t matter that it’s a narrative versus a doc because
you’re still having to ask for money but the difference here is
that with narratives you’re typically asking for that money as an
investment behind closed doors where as with my doc I’m asking
for money out in the open for everyone to see in exchange for

If your campaign is successful your friends, family, and
colleagues can rejoice in your achievement. If however the
campaign falls short of reaching it’s goal everyone knows you
couldn’t raise the money which I think is a scary outcome for any

Now the great thing about filmmaking is that there’s no clear
proven path to getting a film made you just have to look at all
the paths laid out in front of you and pick the one that works
best for you and your project.

Personally I have my sights set on my next narrative feature but
features can take a long time to put together and I don’t like
being stuck in development hell. I would much rather be out
exercising my directing muscle. “Learning to See” filled that
role for me perfectly both in subject and in timing.

Because I’d spent so much time gathering material throughout the
years the time was right to finally put the project into motion.
At the same time my Dad has reached a point in his career where
he has amassed a great body of work and his art is aligned with
the film’s mission statement.

Because I’m doing a story on my Dad’s personal connection with
the material makes my prep work that much easier. I can jump from
one project into the next without dealing with a lot of
development. Now of course I still have to do my homework but in
reality I’ve been prepping for this my whole life.

Obviously coming off a comedic narrative into a documentary is
very different but I’m able to harness and use some of the
techniques from comedy in how I go about assembling the doc. For
example my Dad and I tease each other a lot so although the doc
is a biography that focuses on entomology and photography doesn’t
mean it can’t be funny.

Audiences respond to genuine emotions so despite what the genre
of your film might be the more you can lace a variety of emotions
into your work without disturbing the tone of your piece your
audience will ultimately thank you for it.

It doesn’t matter what type of director you are as long as you
keep practicing and learning your craft and let the spirit of
your subjects guide you you’re more likely than not to have a
fruitful career.

To learn more about my documentary film “Learning to See” you can
check out our Kickstarter campaign here or to learn about my
narrative feature “Dear Sidewalk” you can check out our facebook
page for more info.

Jake Oelman is a director, producer, writer, editor, and camera
operator who has lived in Los Angeles for the last 13 years. He
owns a small boutique production company Barcode Films and
recently wrapped post on his first narrative feature “Dear

Jake is originally from Boston, MA and studied film at the
University of Colorado, Boulder. http://www.barcodefilm.com

6. Film Directing Coach – Peter D. Marshall

Actors, Singers and Athletes Have Private Coaches. So Why
Not Film and TV Directors?

Hilary Swank used an acting coach to prepare for her role in
Boys Don’t Cry. She won her first Academy Award.

Singer Renee Fleming has always used a vocal coach. She has
won several Grammy Awards.

Rafael Nadal’s coach urged him on from the sidelines during
his Wimbledon tennis tournament win in 2010.

Arnold Palmer improved his game with the help of a coach. Even
Tiger Woods has had several coaches.

As a matter of fact, winners in nearly every profession
(athletes, actors, singers, business executives) know that
without the right coach, they won’t perform at their peak.

They know that without the support of an experienced and
qualified coach, they would constantly struggle to achieve

So if these top professionals in their respective fields use
coaches, why not film directors?

So why hire me as your film directing coach?

Along with my international teaching experiences and my 39
years of professional filmmaking experience (as a TV Director
and Feature 1st AD), I feel I have the necessary
qualifications to help you achieve your dreams of being a
creative and successful independent film director.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my Film
Directing Coaching services via Skype:

7. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion (Free Advertising)

The Director’s Chair gives you an incredible opportunity to
get Free Advertising for your services and your films.

Each month, I give two subscribers an opportunity to promote
themselves, their company or their productions in this

So if you want over 6000 filmmakers around the world to know
about you and your films, please send me your “shameless
self-promotion” to: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com.

Please limit your promotion to 300 words. I reserve the right
to edit the promotion for length, spelling and formatting.


1) Short Films For You (http://sf4u.com) is a new kind of
distributor and publisher of short films and short series (max.
15 mins. per film.) The idea is simple: make a short film or
series; DO NOT upload it to the internet/social network (where
the film would be watched for free and leave the crew unpaid!);
get in touch with sf4u; the short film is then streamed to paying
customers via their mobile wireless devices on every cellphone
network; then the producer(s) then receive a healthy percentage
of the price paid by customers to watch the film. http://sf4u.com

Producers who are interested in getting their shorts to make
money, should contact the sf4u team at: paul.thomas@sf4u.com.

Roberto Gomez Martin
+44 (0)7824 565454

2) My name’s Kevin Kangas, and I’ve written and directed five
feature films. They’ve had distribution from various companies
like MTI Home Video, Lionsgate Films, and Lightning

We’ve recently launched an innovative new Kickstarter campaign
for our newest film, “Garden of Hedon”–not to raise money to
shoot it–because it’s already done, but instead to put the film
online for FREE to everybody.

I’m hopeful that if it’s successful, it will be a viable way for
filmmakers to get their movie out there and still see some
revenue. You can see the video, including the trailer, at


8. Filmmaking Links of Interest

1. Indie Director Shoots Feature Film Entirely on iPad 2

2. The Camera Language of Paul Thomas Anderson

3. Five Key Tips for Guerilla Filmmakers

4. Don’t Blame Veronica Mars

5. The Digital Revolution

6. 3 Filmmaking Tips for Small Productions Teams

7. 15 Great Directors Under The Age Of 45

8. Director Profile: Steven Spielberg

9. 10 Lessons on Filmmaking from Director Ken Loach

10. 6 Filmmaking Tips From Sam Raimi

9. Product Promotion And Film Workshops

From time to time, I will contact you to inform you of film
workshops, filmmaking products or Online courses that I feel
are beneficial to filmmakers like yourself. Of course, you are
under no obligation to purchase anything – I only offer this
information as a service to subscribers of this free ezine.

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11. Copyright Information

Copyright (c) 2000-2013
Peter D. Marshall
All Rights Reserved