“When spring comes, even the false spring, there are no problems, except where to be happiest.” ~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY


SCROLL ON DOWN: For info, festival news, insider tips on documentary filmmaking, recommendations, great photos & thoughts for the day!


MOVIEBYTES.COM lists Moondance as one of the top 10 film festival competitions worth the entry fee!


The 2013 Moondance


is open for submissions!

Get your entry in EARLY for this great opportunity to showcase your talents and for a good chance to win the Moondance!






We look forward to previewing your submissions!

“Our film…involves complex subject matter, told in unconventional narrative structure…. Moondance is one of the few festivals on the circuit that consistently rewards films and filmmakers that take risks and are willing to depart from the status quo.” ~ John Chi




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Cranes, which mate for life, are the symbol of wisdom, fidelity, purity, vigilance and discipline. They are frequently seen as messengers of the gods. In many myths and folktales the crane is portrayed as the animal guide who leads the hero on the right path. Cranes help bring light into the darkness and are associated with the ability to take people to higher levels of spiritual consciousness.

Mission: The International Crane Foundation (ICF) works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds and flyways on which they depend. ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems.




Timeless Writing Tips from the Master of Drama

by J. M. Evenson

All the world’s a stage, and this is the book you need in your library, whether you’re a screenwriter, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, or just want to understand how Shakespeare managed to write such wonderful stories and create those fabulous characters! I love “Shakespeare for Screenwriters”!

This is now my favorite, absolutely must-have book on screenwriting! The table of contents alone is articulate, cleverly-written and gives you imaginative ideas before you even open the first chapter! Using the master’s own writing elements, it eloquently speaks to the essence of writing a great story, in any genre, creating memorable characters, putting together relatable dialog and action that all work together in an easy-to-follow manner. The book will inspire, encourage and guide beginning, intermediate and professional screenwriters toward perfecting their script writing style.





Photo from:

“The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; that lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to lack of respect for humans, too.” ~ CHIEF STANDING BEAR


“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  ~Native American Proverb ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”  ~MOHANDAS K. GANDHI ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It wasn’t the Exxon Valdez captain’s driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill.  It was yours.”  ~Greenpeace ad, New York Times, 25 February 1990 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



By Elizabeth English

Here’s an example of a winning short documentary film screened at the first Moondance in 2000: the “Beyond Words” short doc, directed by Linda Phelan McCoy and Andre Alosine, a cinematic and visual expression, without words, of the truth, sorrow, hope, emotions and thoughts of breast cancer patients. As I remember it, from 13 years ago: it shows a dozen women & kids arriving at a barn on a lovely Rhode Island farm. They go in, take off their shirts & bras (if wearing one), and help each other put wet white plaster over the front tops of their bodies.

No introductions, no explanations, no captions, no dialog or talking heads, other than vague soft chattering in the background. Some women have already had a mastectomy, one needs second one, all will be having one. Some women who will lose a breast cut a hole in the cast where it will be removed. They let the plaster dry, then peel it off, everyone helping each other, kids included. By now, the film audience is starting to understand. Next, they all paint or draw something on the dry body casts. They paint rainbows, birds, red hearts, write poems, & etc. on the casts, then…this is the kicker, everyone carries the painted body casts outside and hangs them on the clothesline to dry, and stand back, smiling.

The camera now sees only the red barn, blue sky, green grass, the music rises, and we see these beautiful, sad, hopeful body casts waving in the breeze. Beyond words. Touching, heartfelt, passionate and real. The film evokes much emotion. See why it won?! The director got a standing ovation for 5 minutes, and half the audience had tears streaming down their faces. People in the audience started giving her money to continue her work with this important program in Rhode Island.

painting by William Erwin

Finding Your Subject: First, select an interesting subject for your documentary film! Choose a subject that is of interest to a wide-ranging audience, and to you, and which will be the kind of project many different types of film festivals will select for screening. A unique story, well-told is what gets selected and wins.

Telling the Story: Write or have a screenwriter write a script for your film! Yes, documentary films need a script, a plot-line, a blueprint, a plan, a storyboard, an outline to follow during all phases of the production, from location scouting, interviews (if any), the shoot, the edit and adding the music background. Tell the story visually. Let your viewers see the story; don’t just tell them.

Avoid “talking heads”! Film is a visual medium, and a documentary film must always be cinematic. Use voice-overs, instead. Dialog or interviews work best with perhaps a 10- to 30-second shot of the speaker, then segue to a visual to show what the speaker is saying or describing. As they say in Hollywood, “Show; don’t tell”.

Cinematography: Use the best camera, lenses and cinematographer you can afford or find, and…

  • Frame virtually all images and shots as if they were paintings or professional photographs for an art gallery or book.
  • Linger on shots long enough to give the viewer time to see and comprehend the subject of each shot or action, but don’t drag it out.
  • Don’t look up or down at your subject; try to stay at eyelevel when pointing the camera.
  • Try to keep the lighting the same or similar when moving from shot to shot.
  • Use close-ups to further define long or wide-angle shots.
  • If using still photos, slowly pan in or out on them; don’t keep the camera static, but keep them to a minimum, or intersperse them throughout the film.
  • If you are, or someone else is, the narrator, let the viewer see you or him/her, so the viewer can relate to the speaker.

Sound: The tone and quality of sound in your doc film is vital to its success. Sound should remain clear and even, throughout. Natural, ambient sound is also very important, and adds depth and a more realistic, recognizable element to the film. Ambient audio levels will usually be lower than other types of audio.

(This text on ambient sound is excerpted from Ambient sound (AKA ambient audio, ambience, atmosphere, or background noise) means the background sounds which are present in a scene or location. Common ambient sounds include wind, water, birds, crowds, office noises, traffic, etc. Ambient sound is very important in video and film work. It performs a number of functions including:

  • Providing audio continuity between shots.
  • Preventing an unnatural silence when no other sound is present.
  • Establishing or reinforcing the mood.
There are several types of ambient sound used in film production:
  • Matching ambient sound: Any ambient sound recorded to match the ambient sound of a scene.
  • Wild sound: Background noise with distinct sounds, i.e. more than ambient sound, which is not synchronised with the main vision. Example: Children playing in a playground.
  • Buzz track: A general term for ambient sound.
  • Room tone: The sound of an empty room, or a room in which all the actors are standing silently.

Music/Film Score: Definition: A film score (also sometimes called background music or incidental music) is original music written specifically to accompany a film, and can make the difference between a forgettable film or a successful one. The score forms part of the film’s soundtrack, which is timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question.

A film score can be artfully used:

to arouse to manipulate or inspire to frighten to soothe & calm to aid in transitions from scene to scene to punctuate to comment to move the plot along to focus attention to add sense of continuity to add information to heighten tempo to add dramatic tension to change mood to add character to define to add dimension …and to give the film or scene a new or different meaning

Editing: (This text on film editing excepted & edited from Film editing is an art, the only art that is unique to cinema, separating filmmaking from other art forms that preceded it, although there are close parallels to the editing process in other art forms like poetry or novel writing. Film editing is often referred to as the “invisible art”, because when it is done well, the viewer can become so engaged that he or she is not even aware of the editor’s work. On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling shots into a coherent sequence.

A film editor must creatively work with the layers of images, story, dialogue, music, pacing, to effectively “re-imagine” and even rewrite the film to craft a cohesive whole. Editors play a very dynamic role in the making of a successful film.

Film editing is an art that can be used in diverse ways. It can create provocative montages; become a laboratory for experimental cinema; bring out the emotional truth in a story or subject matter; create a point of view of events; guide the telling and pace of a story; create an illusion; give emphasis to things that would not have otherwise been noted; and even create a vital subconscious emotional connection to the viewer, among many other possibilities.

Budgeting: (This text on film budgeting excepted & edited from Film budgeting refers to the process by which a line producer, unit production manager (UPM) or the filmmaker prepares a budget for a film production. This document is used to secure financing for the film and leads to pre-production, production and post-production of the film, as well as for budgeting in costs of marketing and advertising, insurance, and theatrical distribution, and/or for entry fees and other expenses to submit the film to film festival competitions, which is an effective type of marketing.

A budget is typically divided into four sections: above the line (creative talent), below the line (crew & direct production costs), post-production (editing, visual effects, music, etc.), and other (insurance, completion bond, marketing, & etc.). Film financing can be acquired from private investors, family & friends, colleagues, sponsors, product placement, social media crowdfunding such as or, a film studio or production company, out-of-pocket funds, and all or any combination of the above.

Some other good examples of Moondance’s winning documentaries:

PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME: feature documentary, Directed by: Jenny Stein (US). Combining the gripping testimony of farmers breaking a long-held code of silence, and with rare footage demonstrating the rich emotional lives of farm animals, this new documentary from the award-winning filmmakers of THE WITNESS invites viewers on an epic journey of awakening conscience. The farmers’ touching personal experiences with individual animals challenge what they’ve been taught since childhood, forcing them to acknowledge that these beings have greater mental and emotional depth than they were ever led to believe. A Moondance 2009 premiere & festival winner!

FAMILY VALUES: THE MOB AND THE MOVIES, feature documentary, directed by Joseph Consentino & Sandra Consentino (US). This film asks the question: who influenced who? Did the mob influence the movies, or did the movies influence the mob? They break arms, shoot off kneecaps. They leave the gun and take the cannoli. Sometimes they whack people. Stars from “The Sopranos” and other Mafia TV shows and films describe the broader issues of Italian-American identity and Hollywood’s fascination with the Mafia way of life.

BLUE VELVET IN THE SINAI, feature documentary, 52 minutes, directed by Gulrukh Kahn (UK).This lovely film is set in the exotic Sinai desert, Egypt. It focuses on the remarkable relationship between a wild female dolphin in the Red Sea, named Olin, and a hearing- and speech-impaired Bedouin fisherman. Olin gives birth to a male calf, who develops a remarkable bond with a Bedouin child, and the family of dolphins bring healing and prosperity to the village. Each part of this story relates to larger issues such as captivity, oceanic pollution and over-fishing. Ric O’Barry (Oscar-winner for THE COVE) relates stories and evidence relating to captivity and solutions for it, as well as dolphin healing with sonar and giving birth amongst dolphins.

ONE DEGREE MATTERS, feature documentary, directed by Eskil Hardt (Denmark). Now, even one degree matters! Travel to the Arctic to witness climate change at first hand, in this visually stunning travelog. An insider’s view on immediate and realistic solutions for tackling climate change. “It could be called An Inconvenient Truth, Part 2” – The New York Times film review

MISSION OF MERMAIDS, short documentary, directed by Susan Cohn Rockefeller, 15 minutes, (USA). Mission of Mermaids is about the current state of the ocean. Ms. Rockefeller takes a radically personal approach in the film, based on her deep love and concern for the seas. She invokes a mythical and spiritual connection, using the metaphor of the mermaid, as well as describing dire facts: ocean acidification, over-fishing, and pollution. This personal approach offers a powerful way to open a dialogue about changing the human relationship to the sea, knitting our past reverence for the natural world with our understanding of the urgent need to change course.

UNDER OUR SKIN, feature documentary film, directed by: Andy Abrahams Wilson (USA). It’s bigger than AIDS, West Nile Virus, and Avian Flu, combined, yet most physicians don’t recognize it or are afraid to report it. Insurance companies pay experts to say it’s all in your head. And the mainstream medical establishment won’t want you to see this film. Each year tens of thousands go undiagnosed or mis-diagnosed with such conditions as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and even autism, MS and Alzheimer’s. The shocking story of Lyme disease, what may be the fastest-growing infectious disease in the nation, and a hidden epidemic destroying untold numbers of lives.


  • The Documentary Film Makers Handbook: A Guerilla Guide, by Genevieve Joliffe & Andrew Zinnes (

  • Documentary Storytelling: Making Stronger and More Dramatic Nonfiction Films, by Sheila Curran Bernard (

  • Filmmaking for Change: Make Films That Transform The World, by Jon Fitzgerald (

  • When The Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story, by Ralph Rosenblum & Robert Karen (

  • Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign, by John T. Trigonis (


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23 Ways to Get Your Screenplay Rejected MOONDANCE: On Directing Actors in Film & call-for-entries!
23 Ways to Get Your Screenplay Rejected
MOONDANCE: On Directing Actors in Film & call-for-entries!
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