Monday, March 14, 2011

The Big Show (Discussion on submitting your projects to television)

Lets call this a hypothetical exercise.
Ok where do I start?  I don’t know. Why don’t we start here and go forward.  I’ve been kicking around a documentary for a few years and finally decided to suit up and do it.  I plan to submit this piece of work to the DOC for distribution and so there is only one question we have to answer in this article today; and that question is HOW?(Note: there are no deals until they accept the project, so don’t send in your master until the deal is done, send them a DVD. And have an attorney read over the agreement and break it down for you, if you go this far on a project, you have to believe that someone will pick it up.)
            Based on this small segment of requirements from DOC we will tackle the answers one at a time.
. If the Doc Channel acquires your film, you should be ready with preferably a clean digibeta master of your film (with certified QC report), music cue sheets, photos and other publicity, and E&O insurance.
                Why don’t we just stop right here and break this down into defining bullets?
·        A CLEAN DIGIBETA MASTER?  Ok a clean Digibeta (Digital beta cam) Master is a master copy that is the standard format for television.  And the QC (quality control) report lets the distributor know that you have already had your project checked out and they know your work is up to the industry standards.  (Sound is paramount.)  You should know that they are going to dissect your project like an eleventh grade science frog and may ask you to fix problems they find, that’s why you must do the QC first, you don’t want them sending it back; just repeating the process is too expensive. Once again we stare at the question HOW?  I’m thinking of going with a post-production company that is local here in CO, there are many to choose from, the important thing to ask: can they QC the master, and do they have the quality I need for my real project?  It’s a shady proposition at this point so before I get to post production, after I’ve edited it out and finished the raw prep, I think I’ll go over to the news station and ask around, those guys work in the field and may be able to offer up some advice.
·        Music cue sheets:  No surprise here you can’t just go around snatching music for your project.  How?  Here is what I think I am going to try to do.  Companies like these seem to be upfront with their prices and usually have a catalog that I can choose from and I think when you talk to them about what you are doing they can whip a package together that is usable.  Nothing is cheap. 
            Here is a sample of a music cue sheet: 
Series/Film Name:

Series/Film AKA:

Episode Name:

Episode AKA:

Prod. #:

Episode #:

Show Duration:

Original Airdate:

Total Music Length:

Production Co./Contact Name:

BI: Background Instrumental
VI: Visual Instrumental
EE: Logo
BV: Background Vocal
VV: Visual Vocal
TO: Theme Open
TC: Theme Close

Cue #






·         This lets the distributor know the mapping of your project.  They can follow your project and see that the elements you used are in fact licensed for use by you and usually want distribution rights to the music as well as the project.  So make sure you get hard copies of your usage agreements and make sure that you understand the level of agreement the distributor accepts and get it (again) hard copies of releases (you should be able to find a package that is acceptable before you agree to a billing arrangement-make sure).  Make copies of the copies and keep them forever until you die in a safe or file cabinet, but if you don’t want your project to be jacked, DO NOT lose them. (In fact keep copies of everything you do on a project.)
·         Still photos- Think Cover Art, Posters, that’s why they ask for photos so send in tons of production stills with your feeler DVD. (Again, don’t send in your master copy until the deal is done.)
·         E&O insurance:  It is what it is.

            You’re going to need this no matter where you distribute, but a worthy thought that just popped into my brain is that: If you are going to submit a project to Sundance, don’t show it anywhere else.  If you decide to submit something to Sundance, get all this ready, submit, and wait and see if they are willing to release it.  If they do your gold, but if you show anything at any show anywhere, Sundance will spit you out.  Sundance is a world premier venue, they don’t accept seconds.(I have never had the courage to try to send anything in to Sundance but it is something I have always wanted to do, that’s the place you meet big league distributors.)  Now master requirements may differ so feel out the specific requirements for the venue you are looking to submit to and you have to meet them. I didn’t make this up, this is the business.  If you are like me broke as a Joke you have to get creative with it. 
            I really researched this out, and I think if you go out of production with these steps covered, I think you will at the very least be in the hunt.  You may be thinking; I bet this is easier to do than it reads.  It does read hard I admit, but I think it’s more of an issue of money.  If I could win a big scratch off or hit the lotto, I’d have something in the dealing of distribution in less than a year, but my lenses cost, my rig costs, my travel costs, these requirements cost extreme.  Unless someone pulls in, it could be a long time before my project gets to the eyes on part.  Then it’s no guarantee.  If you achieve “Finished” then you can submit your feeler DVD to more than one production venue, this is called shopping it around.  You mayt feel the DOC isn’t the distribution you need especially if PBS or NATGEO is in the hunt as well.  But a letter explaining your direction of travel at that point is acceptable as long as you haven’t signed the agreement.  I hope this article is found well with your eyes, until next time. Peace.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I shot this one today, Its a Docu-mini.  I'm still in practice mode and will work forward to a full 90 min. Documentary that I plan to hit up this summer and submit this fall to DOC.