April 12, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 6

From Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moraga's 'Songs of Repression,' which won two awards at the online version of CPH:DOX

As the coronavirus pandemic continues its devastating course, we at IDA continue to monitor new resources and initiatives, as well as discussions on moving the community forward and reflections on the larger implications of this crisis. And we will bring other non-COVID-19, but nonetheless Essential, Doc Reads.

With a plethora of film festivals now pivoting to an online iteration during the pandemic, Variety's Kaleen Aftab checks in with filmmakers about their take on a digital premiere.

The traditional model of exhibiting at film festivals has established mechanisms for film rights and financing. What happens to value when a film streams on a festival website is less clear. "As an artist, you're releasing more and more power, the more people see the film without you being paid," says Alex Winter. "My concern is that artists will lose more moral rights and the ability to fight and protect and monetize their work."

POV Magazine recently published a summary of an industry-wide forum hosted by the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) to discuss the effects of COVID-19. 

Canada has an amazing documentary community, a wealth of documentary talent and a rich documentary culture that has been built up over the past 80 years. As you all know, it is work with tremendous social value but it’s far from lucrative. Documentarians are an economically vulnerable group at the best of times. And now this. Everyone in the entire world is obviously being impacted greatly by COVID-19: within the screen sector, documentarians are one of the hardest-hit groups.

With the necessary shift to online teaching, the question of copyrighted material has come to the fore. The Center for Media & Social Impact blog explains how fair use can apply in this context.

Teachers, librarians and students, both in K-12 and higher education, have suddenly had a lot of new questions about copyright. That's because in a face-to-face, four-walls classroom situation, they both have expansive rights to use copyrighted material. And they’re used to that. But they lose a lot of those rights in an online environment, even on an electronic course platform like Canvas, Moodle or Blackboard, not to mention Zoom. And that’s where fair use comes to the rescue

Coachella, the Woodstock for the millennials, was to have opened last week, but in lieu of that, you can check out Chris Perkel's Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert on YouTube Original. And you can also sample Variety's James Patrick Herman's story about the making of the film.  

Perkel had his work cut out for him, sifting through over 1,000 terabytes of media collected from nearly 2,500 performances over the past two decades. "That’s a unit of measure I'd never heard before this project," he admits. "We're talking well over a dozen Pegasus drives at Goldenvoice as well as an offsite warehouse of footage containing line cuts, isolated camera angles, ENG shooters, drone teams, on-site interviews, backstage interviews and multi-track audio not to mention what our documentary team shot specifically for the project over a period of six years.

Film Comment's Eric Hynes examines three Sundance premieres that each deal with death in remarkably innovative ways—Kirsten Johnson's Dick Johnson Is Dead, Lance Oppenheim's Some Kind of Heaven and Maite Alberdi's The Mole Agent.

Dealing with subjects of an advanced age, some suffering from advanced illness, these are films that are haunted by potential finality. But they're also inversely oxygenated by a shared sense of appreciation for what's been recorded and afforded by the camera, by the potential of film to not just attend to matters of life and death but also create from it. There's really no way to reconcile ourselves to any of this, which means we should never run out of reasons for being mindful of all of it. The lines between young and old, real and imagined, hilarious and tragic, death and life, are ridiculously thin. In cinema we can see them properly, and meaningfully, collapsed.

Quibi, the long-anticipated mobile-only app for short content, launched last Monday, and IndieWire's Tyler Hersko assesses its potential in an ever-crowded OTT landscape.

While Quibi's short-form approach and unique technology helps differentiate it from other streamers, neither of those factors were ever going to guarantee success. Such an experimental platform would be a large gamble in the best of times, and the global instability caused by stay-at-home directives is unlikely to do Quibi any favors.

Writing for Realscreen, Donaldson + Callif's Dale Nelson tells you what you need to know about right of publicity.

In the words of Justice Egerton, "Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star—'a living legend'—or a person no one knows, she or he does not own history. Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people."

From the Archive, August 2015: "The Pros and Cons of Life Rights Agreements"

Life rights agreements can offer additional benefits; according to Callif, "In a standard life rights agreement, you would have a waiver of claim—'I agree not to sue you even if I don't like the way you depict me.'" Such an agreement also carries some assurance of exclusivity. "Someone can still make a movie without that person, but at least you know you're the only person with the access to that information and with that person's blessing," says Callif.


In the News


Realscreen's Industry COVID-19 Info Guide


BBC-TV Unveils Measures To Support UK Indies


Field of Vision and Topic Announce COVID-19 Relief Fund for Documentary Freelancers


Artist Relief Grants


Resources for Immigrants During Coronavirus Crisis



CBC Partners with Hot Docs To Launch Festival-at-Home Experience


Doc Edge Festival Shifts to Online


Sunny Side of the Doc Moving to Online Format


Realscreen West Postponed Until 2021


Cinema Eye Honors Announces New Rules for 2021


Berkeley Journalism Launches COVID-19 California Reporting Initiative with The New York Times


Other News:

Hot Docs 2020 Doc Accelerator Fellows


National Endowment for the Humanities Grants


Guggenheim Foundation Announces 2020 Fellows


Frontline and Firelight Media Announce 2020 Investigative Journalism Fellows


Jennifer Redfearn To Head Documentary Program at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism


Aspen Shortsfest Names Award Winners