March 31, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of March 23

Photo: Edwin Hooper/Unsplash

In the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, we at IDA continue to monitor new resources and initiatives, as well as discussions on moving the community forward and reflections on the larger implications of this crisis.

Although not technically a doc-specific read, this essay by Amy Semple Ward, CEO of NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network) speaks to the value of community and team-building as essential precursors to technological needs.

Only then, after you've focused on your people and your processes, should you add in new technologies. If you do this first, you won’t have the appropriate goals or ideas in view. And if you do add in new technologies, look for opportunities to give staff the power to identify what they need and decentralize a traditional hierarchy of decision making. You aren't in one office anymore—if you even ever were—and there's truly no way to know what each of your staff may be feeling or experiencing or needing as they work from home in very different settings, with very different supports and comforts around them.

Scott Berinato of the Harvard Business Review interviews David Kessler, co-author with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross of On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss, on finding meaning in grief, once you’ve reached the acceptance stage.

I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They're appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.

Brian Newman, in his Sub-Genre Media Newsletter, presents his ideas for responding to the coronavirus crisis.

We need to invent new systems. I am pretty sure it doesn’t involve waiting on festivals to re-arrange their schedules, or for sales agents to call you back. It definitely involves building your audience directly. It might still involve traditional distributors, but even then, it will require you to be a lot more participatory with them and your audiences. And it means moving fast, and not waiting to figure things out later when things settle down

Writing for IndieWire, filmmaker Hillary Bachelor, whose first film, Represent, was to have premiered at the now-canceled Cleveland International Film Festival, reflects on the uncomfortable reveals of the COVID-19 crisis—namely the inequities of sustainability on the documentary community.

Voices within the documentary field have been talking about career sustainability for some time now. I've personally felt many of the pain points that come up time and time again in these conversations: Making my first feature-length documentary has required three years of unpaid or underpaid labor, tens of thousands of hours of travel, and the constant prioritization of its needs above my own and those closest to me. And yet I’ve often said that I’m lucky to be able to do this—not because I'm "living the dream," but because I possess so many unspoken privileges, without which this endeavor would have simply ceased to be.

Kishori Rahan of Filmmaker Magazine polls the independent film community about sheltering in place.

But when the coronavirus crisis is over and we hobble out from our apartments to survey the damage this frozen time has wrought, won't we be ready to find value in the communal ritual of theatrical moviegoing, and in ways that are not just economic but spiritual as well? 

IndieWire's Eric Cohn reaches out to reps at nonprofit film organizations about how they're moving forward.

"Everyone is scrambling to figure out what the new norm is," said Caroline Von Kuhn, director of Sundance's Catalyst program. "The goal was to figure out what we should define as our priority right now—both for each organization and in the strategic conversations about what our filmmaker community needs."

RealScreen's Jillian Morgan talks to broadcasters about how the pandemic has shifted their programming strategies.

"Obviously, as a public broadcaster, we have a real responsibility to fulfill our mission to provide timely and important information to the public. So we’re doing a lot on that front," said Perry Simon, chief programming executive and general manager of audience programming at PBS. "From a content standpoint, there's also our desire to balance all of this with programming that informs, inspires and entertains."

 

Elsewhere in the documentary world, there are non-COVID-19 reads that are nonetheless essential.

World Records Journal has produced an impressive collection of articles, curated by Jason Fox and Mia Mask under the banner "Documenting Blackness at the National African American Museum of History and Culture." Artists whose work is analyzed include Stanley Nelson, St.Claire Bourne, Kevin Jerome Everson and Terrence Nance.

As teachers of documentary and writers who reflect on it, we sensed that the museum invites a timely way of thinking about nonfiction media, and provides a space filled with case studies and questions through which to do it. In this issue, we have run with only a few of its provocations to energize conversations we wish to have about documentary practice and scholarship.

The legendary composer/dramatist Stephen Sondheim turned 90 last week, and The New Yorker's Richard Brody offers his appreciation for Lonny Price's 2016 documentary, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, about  Sondheim's problematic 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along.

What comes through, above all, is Price's love for theatre—for performance, for the artists in question, for the process, for the closed world of the stage and its radiance into life at large—and he displays it uninhibitedly, delving deep into his own past and unfolding the personal story of his theatrical vocation, which led to his part in the show, and the way that his path in the art was shaped and shaken by the show's glory and adversity.

From the Archives, August 2019, "Mental Health: A Crisis in Our Community" 

If there's anything I've learned in both my work has a documentary producer and my work as a psychotherapist is the incredible resilience people possess when they work in a caring profession—and documentary is definitely a caring profession. The stories we feel indebted to tell are about giving other, more vulnerable people a voice where they wouldn’t otherwise have one. The process of doing this, however, often comes at great personal risk and one that goes largely ignored. 

In the News

Gordon Quinn Is out of ICU

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Film Festivals and Indie Movies Figure Out Online Access

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SXSW Announces Winners

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Songs of Repression Wins Top Prize at CPH:DOX Online Awards

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Miami Film Festival Announces Jury and Audience Awards

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Hot Docs Movies Industry Market to virtual Landscape

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Germany Rolls Out 50 Billion Euro Package for Small Business, Including Artists and Galleries

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UK Government Unveils Plan to Support Self-Employed

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BFI, Film & TV Charity Create Netflix-Backed Covid-19 Film & TV Emergency Relief Fund

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Entertainment Industry Foundation Launches Coronavirus Response Fund

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NATO Creates Fund for Cinema Workers

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Financial Aid for Film and TV Workers

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Banff Cancelled 

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Peabody Awards Postponed

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VidCon 2020 Cancelled 

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Sports Emmy Nominations Announced

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TV Academy Shifts Emmy Schedule

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Kenneth Turan Steps Down As LA Times Film Critic

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Sofia Laroussi Named Executive Director of RIDM

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First Amendment Lawsuit Against President Trump Will Proceed

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Jeremy Marre, Documentarian of World Music, Dies at 76

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