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Essential Doc Reads: Week of Dec. 7

By KJ Relth

A scene from 'Perspective 2: The Misdemeanor.' Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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! 


Wired previews the virtual reality projects at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival:

It’s a long way away from the New Frontier program that launched a decade ago, back when the programming was a mix of experimental standard films and pieces that were more like art installations. Chris Milk, who has since become one of the wunderkinds of VR to launch out of Sundance, remembers those days well. Back in 2011, he brought an installation for his Wilderness Downtown project with Arcade Fire to the festival; the altitude in Park City didn’t agree with his hard drives and his Wilderness Machine wouldn’t spit out the postcards it was supposed to. "The whole thing basically became a big, pretty paperweight," Milk says. Milk is actually glad for VR now, and not just because it means he only has to bring a few pairs of VR goggles or Google Cardboards to Utah. "I’ve been searching for what comes after cinema as the next gold standard of storytelling," he says. "New Frontier has been  an incubator of what that next medium might be. You’re seeing VR playing such a major role because the technology for that next great platform has finally come to fruition."


RealScreen looks into the larger implications for VR for producers and broadcasters:

With the introduction of VR into filmmaking, a host of new challenges have also been ushered into the process, which could force conventional storytelling and cinematic language to be entirely rewritten. Some of the larger production hurdles come in the form of traditional filming and editing techniques. From cutaways and blocking the shot to utilizing multiple camera rigs and lighting a scene, all elements are left wide open for exposure, says Pietro Gagliano, partner and executive creative director at Secret Location. "When you’re creating a frameless story, you really have to think about how you’re architecting that experience," he explains. "We’re so rooted in the film industry and all of the conventions that are tried, tested and true that we basically have to create a new visual language for this industry."


EDN reports on Moving Docs, a new model for film distribution in Europe:

Moving Docs is a screening partnership founded for the joint distribution of documentaries across Europe. The idea came from the Athens based documentary festival CineDoc, which organises regular screenings of award-winning European and international documentaries across the country. Moving Docs takes this idea to a pan-European level, working with international partners to organise joint screenings all over Europe reaching a diverse European audience. The pan-European vision and impact the project has for a strong selection of documentary titles led EDN – the European Documentary Network to join the project as the coordinating partner. The project has since attracted influential screening partners from across Europe.


Indiewire takes a look at stressful two months now known as "The Sundance Crunch":

According to Producer Michele Turnure-Salleo, who is the director of the San Francisco Film Society's Filmmaker360 program — a non-profit that advises and hands out large financial grants to films like FruitvaleBeasts of the Southern Wild and Short Term 12 — there's a cycle in indie films that isn't necessarily healthy. "There is something that happens in the fall, really from a lot of people coming out of shooting in the summer and then suddenly there are these five or six festivals they are applying to, which begins with Sundance," explained Turnure-Salleo. "Too many films are rushing through things like sound design, which is vital part of the artistic process."


From the archives, Winter 2009 -- It’s the Economy, Dude: Lauren Greenfield Looks at Kidsumerism:

It's rare to hear money so openly discussed. For adults, talking about material desires is often considered gauche or taboo. We may joke about selling our souls for the latest iPhone or pair of Jimmy Choos, but rarely do we publicly admit to how having these items can deeply affect our self-esteem and position among our peers. Greenfield has done an admirable job of getting her subject to open up about these topics. "I think the kids in the film are truth-tellers for their communities and often the values of the adult world," she observes. "They are so honest and direct. It's almost like in William Wegman's photographs of dogs-we can laugh at some of the traditions of humans because we see them in a dog's life. Sometimes seeing mainstream values in kids makes us see or think about our own values."


In the news:

Sundance Film Festival announces out-of-competition doc premieres
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"Happy Birthday" Settlement Arrives in Lawsuit Aiming to Free Song From Copyright
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Man Charged With Vincent Chin's Death Seeks Lien Removed, Still Owes Millions
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