August 4, 2017

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 31

Paula Kerger of PBS. Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.

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 Indiewire, Paula Kerger of PBS warns people not to get complacent about the future of public broadcasting.

Kerger warned that, because public broadcasting has narrowly survived threats to budget cuts in the past, that people might not take this one seriously. But she's not resting on her laurels. "I have to assume that anything can happen," she said. "This has been an extraordinary year. We need to be quite vigilant that as Congress debates our funding that we don't assume that people remember the impact we have in the community."

At Firelight Media, Ani Mercedes argues that documentaries don't change the world -- people do.

So who are these people? The cliché answer to "Who needs to see this?" is "Everyone!" Perhaps a few people watching on demand from their couch or eating buckets of popcorn in theaters will act. But traditional audience outreach differs from impact. As impact producer Erin Sorenson, wisely pointed out to our Firelight Media Impact Producer Fellowship cohort: outreach is getting as many people as possible to watch and impact is getting the right people to watch. So, at our retreat in Miami, during Good Pitch, I wondered 'Who are the right people?'

At Film Journal International, Simi Horwitz profiles a series of Middle Eastern directors working in dangerous circumstances.

Throughout the war-torn Middle East - violently factionalized from within and in many countries simultaneously assaulted from outside forces - filmmakers from the region are attempting to let the world know what's happening. They face major challenges along the way, not least just trying to survive. For many of those I interviewed, being caught with camera in hand could literally mean death.

At The Verge, Adi Robertson goes inside the crowdfunding platform Patreon, which uses a patronage model to fund creators.

As its name suggests, Patreon is loosely modeled on the arts patronage system of the Renaissance, which produced masterworks like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. It's the latest turn in the never-ending cycle of ways people have funded "free" art, from federal grants to corporate sponsorships to, most recently, impression-based advertising. While Kickstarter revolutionized how people raise money for games, gadgets, and other products, Patreon is aiming for something far more ambitious: "We want to fund the creative class," CEO and co-founder Jack Conte tells me. "Ten years from now, we want kids growing up and graduating college and high school to know that being a professional creator is possible. We're shooting for this cultural sea change."

At the Los Angeles Times, David Ng reports that Netflix is $20 billion in debt, posing challenges for its breakneck growth.

Some industry experts are warning of a Netflix bubble that may burst if the company fails to produce enough hit series to keep attracting new subscribers. "Nobody is ever the dominant player forever," said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a media and digital video consultancy. "I think they're going to need some luck in not drowning in debt in the ultimate slowdown of growth."

From the archives, November 2015, "How Ted Sarandos Transformed Netflix Into a Global Doc Streamer"

"I'm sure we're listening to 40 to 50 pitches a week for new and original programming. And by the way, that doesn't include while I'm standing in line at Starbucks or if I'm sitting on an airplane. But luckily - I'm being honest with you - I really love what I'm doing. I love being a part of this machine that can make this happen for so many people, both in the creative community, but more importantly, the fans. We have about 70 million people around the world who are watching this programming, and it's really an incredibly gratifying thing to connect the storyteller and an audience."

In the News:

TIFF Announces 2017 Docs Lineup
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Discovery Communications to Acquire Scripps Networks Interactive
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BBC Hires ABC Exec for 'Storyville'
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Cinema Eye Honors Announces 2018 Broadcast Nonfiction Shortlist
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IDA, NEA Spotlight Challenges in Doc Industry
read more