July 21, 2017

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 17

Facebook homepage from Jennifer Brea's "Unrest."

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!

From the Sundance Institute blog, Jess Fuselier asks, Why is data important for independent filmmakers?

In today’s independent film industry, data analysis is the unknown for many and a superpower for the elite few. For giants like Netflix and Amazon, data analysis permeates their overall strategy and acts as a key driver of success. However, the information flow stops there; there’s an iron wall between indie filmmakers and the proprietors of this data.

From Cineuropa, Isabella Weber looks at independent distribution in the post-Brexit UK.

It seems now certain that by March 2019 the UK will no longer be part of the European Union. In this scenario, unimaginable a year ago, where do independent distributors see themselves? The first and most common concern is financial. Both Abell and Fletcher worry over a basic currency issue: "We work in an international industry and pay our films in US dollars or in Euros, so if the British Pound goes down we’ll be financially disadvantaged". For Richard Mowe the impact might be more drastic: "Brexit may mean establishing a company base in Ireland to be able to continue to access European funding. At the moment the company buys all rights for the UK and Ireland."

From ProPublica, Jeremy Merrill offers advice on tools and techniques to user to authenticate emails from unknown sources.

It has become a common scenario: A reporter gets a newsworthy email forwarded out of the blue. But is the email legit? It turns out there are a few technical tools you can use to check on an email, in tandem with the traditional ones like calling for confirmation. 

From The New York Review of Books, Sue Halpern offers a trenchant analysis of Laura Poitras’ Risk.

Near the end of Risk, after Poitras has shown Assange a rough cut of the film, he tells her that he views it as "a severe threat to my freedom and I must act accordingly." He doesn’t say what he will do, but when the film was released this spring, Poitras was loudly criticized by Assange’s supporters for changing it from the hero’s journey she debuted last year at Cannes to something more critical, complicated, and at best ambivalent about the man. Yet ambivalence is the most honest thing about the film. It is the emotion Assange often stirs up in those who support the WikiLeaks mission but are disturbed by its chief missionary.

From the Los Angeles Times, David Kipen writes about a trip Ernest Hemingway made a rare trip to LA to raise money for a documentary that he and the legendary Joris Ivins were making about the Spanish Civil War.

Why, then, did Hemingway make an exception in July 1937? It all had to do with a film that he and Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens had made about the Spanish Civil War called "Tierra de España," or "The Spanish Earth." He and a group calling itself "Contemporary Historians, Inc.," including playwright Lillian Hellman; author of the U.S.A. trilogy (with its Hollywood-themed finale, "The Big Money") John Dos Passos; poet Archibald MacLeish; and Dorothy Parker (who satisfied all three job descriptions and more), funded the picture out of their own pockets. The idea was to make a movie to raise money for the Loyalist cause. Every $1,000, they promised, would buy a new ambulance.

From the Archive, Summer 2015:  "Show Me the Numbers! The Transparency Project Aims to Do Just That"

"Numbers don’t lie" is the adage of business. This also applies to the film industry, with box office figures—posted on websites such as BoxOfficeMojo, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB—often used as a gauge of a film’s success or failure. But the landscape of film distribution has changed dramatically in the past five years, and as audiences increasingly watch films on other platforms from the comfort of their own homes, box office figures no longer reflect an accurate, let alone complete, picture. Yet, surprisingly, in this age of information and readily available statistics, there’s a paucity of data on other such revenue streams.




BritDoc Changes Name to Doc Society


Sundance Film Festival Announces New TV-Centric Section


IndieWire Critics Select the 25 Best Docs of the 21st Century