West Virginia Documentaries

Today I would like to write about some local documentaries that embody West Virginia in my opinion.


First up is “Reconstructing Bill” this is a biography of West Virginia’s 24th Governor William C. Marland. Marland’s had an interesting life and it makes for a unique viewing of an intelligent man who turned to alcoholism and eventually reformed, but dies shortly after. I found this while looking for references for my West Virginia Goverment class and actual found it useful as well as oddly interesting.


Next up the unique interactive documentary “Hollow” the project director Elaine McMillion  is a graduate of WVU so I already have a soft spot for it. It takes a different approach to the documentary format and describes a very West Virginian history of the rise and fall of McDowell County.

Finally we have “Behind the Lights” this is really just a shameless shout out to my buddy Tyler Channell, but the film is a deep look  at the folk who work in to the coal mines of West Virginia.

Generally West Virginia is known for coal mines, and each of these three documentaries touch on this but each look at a different angle of them.


Film Festivals October 2013

If you like documentaries its likly that your are a film buff. So I thought it would be cool to have a way to quickly find some film festivals  around the world this month.

So there are a ton of festivals all over the world, and it is awesome.This site has list of film festivals with descriptions in order by month.

Here I have a map with this months festivals with there web address.

You can click on each one and the image will lead to it’s individual web page.


Crowd Source Documetaries

In straight journalism there is a trend toward crowd-sourcing journalism, such a CNN’s use of twitter on set for opinions, as well as multiple news organizations use of video footage from Youtube.

One documentary has caught on to the trend and had it’s subjects film themselves.Kevin MacDonald’s Life in a Day.This film allowed different individuals to upload videos to Youtube from all walks of life around the world on July 24 2010, and then edited the videos resulting in a montage of different individuals life stories.

life in a day

This film found a unique way to reduce cost by instead of trying to travel all over the world with camera crews and equipment ,”Life in a Day” archived an almost impossible task with a little bit of ingenuity.


The crowd-sourcing method also has the secondary affect of allowing the subject to be more comfortable and relaxed with the camera. I believe this is  is why we have scene like this and this that allow a very personal view into a subjects life.







Documentaries and Social Change

Media has the ability  change society like “Jungle” by Upton Sinclair led to change in the food market, documentaries have the ability to change the public perspective on public policy and marketing.


For example Morgan Spurlock’s  “Super Size Me” had an affect on McDonald’s polices as well as forcing them to try a new advertising strategy.


Another example of a documentary influencing social change is academy award winning “The Cove” This film showed the public a secret tragedy in Japaneses waters, and brought about protest of the practices in Taiji Japan.


There are many filmmakers who have or will discover a issue worth making bringing to the public eye, and influencing public opinion. This can be a double edged sword if the film is inaccurate so my advice is to always fact check, especially the so called “experts”.

CopyRight Issues

To use a copyrighted product one must either use the fair use clause of copy right or receive approval from the copy right holder, this can be a long process. Copy right can be pretty obvious for something like a movie clip or song, but what about a painting?  Obviously if it is the focus of a scene it should be cited and permission should be received to use it, but it gets a little tricky if it is in the background such as in the case of Ringgold v. Black Entertainment Television.

In this case Faith Ringgold sued BET, and HBO for there use of a poster of her work as a set decoration in the show ROC.


In the show a poster of Ringgold’s work Church Picnic is seen in a church but is never mentioned by any cast member or made the focus of the feature.

This case ended in BET,and HBO’s favor as it was decided that the use of the poster fell under fair use.

This case illustrates  to me the need to be as careful as possible what goes on to your film, just because BET,and HBO won their court case doesn’t mean they didn’t have to pay the legal fees to defend themselves. While legal fees for a major television network are probably just a drop in the bucket, for a independent filmmaker they could drain your budget and kill your film.


Overview of the Past Week

Over the past week I learned a lot about the production of Documentaries and films in general, as well as some of the ethical issues filmmakers face.

My goal was to provide information on how films are made, but also provide tips and tricks as well as an inside view of the filmmakers world. I feel the hardest part of this was in making the post relevant , some I felt were more informative than others but so it goes.

I did learn through this experience some useful skills in finding information about film making.

First I learned Google and Wikipedia are a good first step but should be used more to find sites that provide the real meat of information.

Don’t site from Wikipedia, but do take advantage of the sources at the botttom of the article.

Second I found  this site was a wealth of knowledge about film making in general. as well as this blog, and this one provided a good source of information to build on.

Third I found that writing ideas , and pasting links for post under a draft was a good way to compile information for a later post.

Over all this past week has been an learning experience that will definitely help me improve my blog as time goes on.

Fair use and Public Domain

So we talked about using music in your film, but how do you get music for your film?  Well there are a couple of ways of going about it; you could use music in the public domain, or you could use  parts of copyrighted material as fair use to obtain music.

Sometimes you will not have the budget to pay for a famous song, but some sites offer songs that are in the public domain.

Things in the public domain are usually works of art that have not been copyrighted legally, or the artist has died and his or her work’s copyright has expired. For example.

Surprisingly the Beatles were one of the first bands to copyright their songs.

Using public domain works are generally the easiest legally option, but more often than not these works will be outdated or not of the best artistic quality.

Another method to obtain music, or other forms of art is with fair use.

Bbasically fair use is when a documentary filmmaker uses a brief excerpt of a copy
Righted work to make a point.There are different situations that this can be applied to, but this method allows filmmakers to use what would be copyrighted material to make the point of their argument with out having to 1)go through all the red tape of using copyrighted material,and 2) Paying the full price to use 10 seconds of a movie clip or a verse from a song.