Monday, December 01, 2008

Let's Talk Docs and other stuff

December 1, 2008

Well, I made it through another Thanksgiving holiday relatively unscathed.

Let’s talk about documentaries here for a moment…

Documentaries are so hip right now, you should find a non-profit sponsor if you want to make one. A 501(c)3 in IRS terms. I don't think you can do a dramatic feature this way, but I'm not a lawyer. Go ask one. You can also form your own non-profit corporation, but it's a lot of hassle and paperwork, and to do it right you really do need an attorney. I would only suggest forming your own nonprofit if you plan on doing a lot of documentaries or educational films. For a one-shot deal, it's too expensive and too much work.

So what does a non-profit provide for you in return? Free money. Pure and simple. Okay, it's not really free, you’re still going to have to work to get it.

You can apply to foundations, which by law can only give to non-profits. You can also solicit donations from individuals and, after discussing it with their tax professional, they can probably write the donation off on their tax return. It works wonderfully for everyone involved.

What's the downside? A non-profit will usually charge you anywhere from 5 - 8% of any funds you raise, to administer the funds and do all the bookkeeping. Some non-profits won't allow you to go after the same foundations that they're pursing, and they certainly won't help by giving you their contacts. Those are about the only downsides I've encountered.

You’re going to work just as hard at raising money as you would for any other project. It's just that you aren't dealing with investors in this case, and no one expects your movie to make any money.

On one of my docs, I needed to do a shoot in Bowling Green, Ohio, and I had no money. I needed to do this shoot to keep my credibility intact with my subject. So two weeks before I was to leave, I made phone calls to about 25 people I knew, and in two nights I raised just over $1200. It was enough money for me to do the shoot and keep my credibility intact.

The big selling points for me were: It was a donation from my friends that they could write off at tax time and they were helping me. The personal thing will get you further than anything else. If your friends and family won't help you, why should anyone else?

I’ll talk more about docs next week.

Other stuff…

There are some new things happening, my work books now exist as PDFs and they will be posted on my site soon so that they can be downloaded. I am still working out the prices, but they will be less expensive then if you buy the printed versions. Keep watching this space.

I seem to be popping up on YouTube and ViodaTV. You can go to, or to catch an interview I did with Roger Bindi while I was in Madison, WI doing workshops for the Wisconsin Film School. Check out blip TV, it’s an interesting site and go to Roger has a lot of things up there that might be of interest.

Also check out Dream Catcher Productions sponsored one of my work shops in Iowa (yes, the famous night I did the wrong workshop for 3 hours) and put up a short segment from the work shop. Check it out! You can also check out their web site,

Don’t forget to check out my tour sponsors, Film Baby (, Pollard Design (, Zoom Studio (, The Indy Film Co-op ( and Cheezy Flicks ( All great people, all great companies.

If you haven’t checked out their site and their services, you better.

The first two Workshop DVDs are selling well. You can find them at,, and at Film Baby.

Talk later.


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