February 9, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of February 5

Figure skater Nathan Chen. Issei Kato / Reuters / Thanh Do / The Atlantic.

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!

At The New York Times, augmented reality offers a new way to look at four of the world's best Olympians.

In person, the Olympics are all about speed, height and consequence, especially in winter. They are about flinging a body out of control in the hope and expectation that it can be contained and transformed into something beautiful — a quadruple jump on the ice, a hard lean in the short-track rink or a burst of flight off an icy ramp. For all their foibles, all their crassness and commercialism, the Olympics can still amaze in these moments, strung together into something fluid.

At Making A New Reality, Cara Mertes reflects on social justice philanthropy at a turning point for emerging media.

Why is now the right time for social justice philanthropy to engage with emerging media? The field is young, access for creators is extremely limited, adoption rates for audiences are projected to soar, and emerging media will be a site of convergence for all of Ford’s Creativity and Free Expression (CFE) fields: creative documentary forms (JustFilms), journalism, and the arts.

At IndieWire, Chris O'Felt talks to Alma Har'el, whose Free The Bid is flipping the script for women to direct commercials.

"I started to look at a lot of the filmmakers, the ones making independent films that I appreciate over a decade or more, and I saw they either were from rich families, or supporting themselves by directing commercials," said Har'el. "That ability to sustain yourself while making something you really love, or doing rewrites on a script until it finds its way, or developing a TV show, those things take time. It doesn't happen overnight and you need to pay rent. The financial element more than anything is why women filmmakers have to make compromises in their career paths as a directors."

At The Guardian, Olivia Solon details a Russian smear campaign attempting to discredit Feras Fayyad's Oscar-nominated Last Men in Aleppo.

Since the Oscar nominations were announced, Fayyad, a Syrian national, has become the subject of several articles by Russia state news agency Sputnik News and "alternative news" sites to discredit his work, describing it as a "propaganda piece funded by western governments" and an "Al-Qaida promotional film." Others have trawled through his social media accounts and published pictures of his family and friends. Syrian state media has followed suit. On Twitter and Facebook, dozens of accounts have accused Fayyad of being a liar and terrorist sympathiser.

At IndieWire, Anne Thompson suggests that Brett Morgen's hit doc Jane may have been too successful to land an Oscar nomination.

Jane, Brett Morgen's popular documentary about primatologist Jane Goodall, was so lauded and applauded that most Oscar experts predicted that it would land an Oscar nomination, if not win. Instead, it never made the cut. This happens with the Academy documentary branch. While its voter ranks have expanded by more than 50 percent in the last three years, from 204 to 320 members, it’s still a relatively insular group with strong ideas about what makes a great documentary. They tend to be slow to recognize innovation. 

At Cineuropa, European Documentary Network director Paul Pauwels discusses the organization's new Media & Society initiative.

"We need transparency and solid industry data. Through fact-finding and information gathering, followed by an analysis and discussion phase that will result in formulating conclusions, recommendations and strategy proposals in a Policy Document (a White Book) that will be presented to the decision and policy makers on a European level, we aim to contribute to the development of a European media policy that also works at the national level and that acknowledges the important role that the independent documentary sector plays in informing, sensitising, entertaining and (yes, why not) educating the audience; to support the development of a policy that contributes to a healthy and open development, financing, producing, broadcasting and distribution system that will have a positive impact on the society it serves; and to be a key factor in enhancing the European independent production sector, enabling its development into a sustainable industry in which economic and cultural success go hand in hand with societal importance."

From the archives, December 2004, "From Docs to Dollars: When Nonfiction Filmmakers Moonlight in Music Videos and Commercials"

Shoestring budgets, borrowed equipment, deferred pay, intermittent and interminable production schedules—these have become the required ingredients in a formula all too familiar to documentary filmmakers. Despite their comparatively small budgets, documentaries are still notoriously difficult to finance. So it's particularly ironic that in recent years many documentarians have ventured into the world of commercials and music videos, lending their talents to projects that, in terms of dollars per second of finished product, are lavish by comparison. This temporary migration has become an innovative and creative way for nonfiction filmmakers to finance their docs—or subsidize expenses between grant checks.

In the News:

Gilda Radner Documentary to Open Tribeca Film Festival
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Field of Vision Launches Fellowship Program
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Hot Docs Unveils Ted Rogers Fund Recipients
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Beth Hoppe Leaving PBS for ABC News Post
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DGA Awards 2018 Winners List
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Rogovy Foundation Announces Winter 2018 Awards
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