April 19, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 15

From "Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce." Courtesy of Netflix

Essential Doc Reads is a weekly feature in which the IDA staff recommends recent pieces about the documentary form and its processes. Here we feature think pieces and important news items from around the Internet, and articles from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!

Discussing Homecoming, the new Beyoncé documentary now streaming on Netflix, IndieWire’s Tambay Odenson argues that the film goes beyond celebrating her transcendent 2018 Coachella performance, to bring black excellence front and center.

For Beyoncé and Homecoming, black history is American history, and the black experience is the American experience. Her documentary underscores an apparent conviction that her role as an “icon living” is to use black history and culture as a sledgehammer in an ongoing struggle for the absolute recognition of black humanity.

Variety’s Todd Spangler talks to Airbnb’s James Goode about how the online accommodations giant ventured into the documentary space, developing, funding and producing Gay Chorus Deep South, which will premiere at Tribeca later this month.

Why did the Silicon Valley commerce company decide to dive into film production? James Goode, Airbnb’s head of creative, explained that the film aligns with its corporate values that all people should not only be treated with dignity and respect but should be welcomed and celebrated.

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger was featured on the podcast Record Decode, where she discussed the Trump Administration’s recent proposal to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Recode’s Eric Johnson recaps the conversation.

“I don’t understand why we’re a political pawn. And it’s frustrating, because I will tell you, the amount of time and energy that goes into this every year to have to make this case is time that gets pulled away from other things.”

Sub-Genre Media Founder Brian Newman has some novel ideas about the next frontier for public media.

It seems to me that one of the biggest problems we have is a lack of imagination about what it means to build a space for public media – and the public good – in an online world. The beginnings of public broadcasting weren’t only tied to spectrum scarcity. Sure, in a broadcast, linear world it took government (starting in the UK) to force a set-aside for public media. But public media was equally tied to a more important underlying realization: that it was in the public’s interest to support media that wasn’t inherently commercial, or it wouldn’t get supported at all, and such a situation would be bad for democracy.

RealScreen’s Daniele Alcini checks in with key producers about their global strategies in the SVOD space.

It’s a fast-changing environment, however, as the likes of Netflix, Facebook and now Amazon have taken steps to build out their foreign unscripted departments, recruiting international veterans of the genre to develop a more sophisticated commissioning strategy with a focus on localized commissions and distinctive regional acquisitions.

Digiday’s Max Willins talks to online publishers about their preference for AR over VR.

The reality is that VR remains a niche technology that no longer interests marketers and is getting less push from platforms such as Google and Facebook. Due to these issues, the exuberance that drove so much of the enthusiasm for VR has been replaced by pragmatism today, leaving publishers much more clear-eyed about how much attention VR should get. And much of what publishers learned — and a lot of the talent they amassed — with VR has been carried over into their augmented reality efforts.

Writing for her site Docs on Screens, Carol Nahra talks to filmmaker James Jones and Oliver Sarbil about how they gained access to the Caloocan, Philippines, police force during President Duterte’s war on drugs, to make On the President's Orders.

They didn’t fully wrap their heads around what a documentary is, and I think were probably surprised we kept coming back and back and back. They thought we were more of a news crew but we kept coming back and we’d want to film stuff that to them felt quite inconsequential, which is often the way with documentaries.

From the Archive, October 2006 Issue, “Changing the Lives of Viewers Like You: A Conversation with PBS’ Paula Kerger”

Broadcast will be strong for a very long time, but while the other markets are still small, we may want to use this time to experiment with various platforms. It's always a question of how you strike that balance between making sure that your work is seen and making sure that you're taking advantage of whatever opportunities there are for remuneration.


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