January 18, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of January 15

From Robinson Devor's 'Pow Wow.'

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 Moviemaker, Ryan Stewart lists the best big cities to live and work as a filmmaker.

Whether you're a contented Southerner who'd like to get out of dodge but continue living and working below the Mason-Dixon line, or you've got your hot new passport in hand and are weighing the pleasures of life in Vancouver vs. Montreal, you'll find reams of valuable, current intel within this feature article with which to assist you in making an informed, practical decision about your next locale. This intel includes candid commentary from local residents about the cities they love, and in some cases, would love to see improved. Months of research and survey feedback, interviews with film commissions and non-profits, dozens of phone calls with working indie and studio moviemakers have all contributed to our assessment and ranking of the best places in North America to live and make movies in 2018.

As part of the same Moviemaker feature, Ryan Stewart lists the best small cities and towns for working filmmakers.

Here are some basic ingredients that go into our secret scoring sauce: a city's film activity in the past 12 months (number of productions, shoot durations, economic activity generated), film infrastructure in place (number of film schools and VFX houses, film commissions and other non-profits, film festivals, screening venues, prominent locals), and broader criteria such as population size, ease of transportation, local and state tax credits (a big one, of course), and architectural and geographical distinctiveness—the latter of which came up more than you might think. 

At The New Yorker, Richard Brody reflects on one new movie - and two older ones - that expand documentary filmmaking.

It's only January, and already a new release has secured a place on my 2018 year-end list: Robinson Devor’s documentary Pow Wow, which opens on Friday at Anthology Film Archives. In the film, which Devor calls, in a title card, "Ethnographic Encounters with the People of the Coachella Valley (2010-2015)," Devor talks with a wide range of people who live in the Southern California region—including beefy country-club golfers in plaid slacks, Native Americans who are aware of their own isolation in the region and of its colonized history, two local historians who are devoted to Native American traditions, real-estate developers planning to build houses on forbidding terrain, and the local show-business eminence Shecky Greene. Yet throughout the film Devor reaches, self-consciously, at each moment, beyond the particulars of the discussion and even of the participants' experience to reveal fault lines of history just beneath the surface—the conflicts within the cultures found there, the conflicts between those cultures, and (with a ruefully prophetic tone) the virtual map of conflicts to come.

At The Independent, Ben Walsh notes an unfortunate hagiographic turn in recent music documentaries.

Quite often the films are approved and rubber-stamped by the artists themselves, which felt like the case with Julien Temple's 2016 documentary, The Origin of the Species, about Rolling Stone Keith Richards. The gushing film came across as an overly cosy and frankly dishonest portrait; hero worshipping Richards to an unhealthy degree and not sufficiently challenging his bolder claims. A stark contrast to Robert Frank's considerably more controversial and challenging Cocksucker Blues, about the Rolling Stones on tour in 1972, depicting debauchery and multiple drug use. The film has been largely suppressed by the band.

From the archives, November 2005, "New York Stories: Why Filmmakers Love the Big Apple"

"Being based in New York City can be exhilarating and soul-destroying. While energized by the city's vibrant diversity and the potency of its creative communities (plus, being in close proximity to funding sources--television, foundations and folks with deep pockets--certainly doesn't hurt), the constant grind and considerable expense create challenges that can be utterly exhausting. But as filmmakers, we're uncertainty junkies, so we view this friction as part of the thrill of living here."

In the News:

Ro*co Forms Buyers Coalition to Shop Sundance Docs
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Documentary Patrons Impact Partners Make Splashes at Sundance
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HBO Acquires Rights to 'The Price of Everything'
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Oscilloscope Buys Eugene Jarecki's 'The King'
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Independent Lens Maps Spring 2018 Lineup
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Barbara Kopple Named 2018 Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award Recipient
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Catapult Film Fund Announces New Grantees
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