November 2, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of October 28

From Caveh Zahedi's 2012 film 'The Sheik and I.'

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!

The New York Times Magazine's Christine Smallwood profiles maverick docmaker Caveh Zahedi and his "abject, self-defeating ethically questionable, maddeningly original approach to documentary."

"Caveh’s work opened me up: as a creator, as a viewer, as a recovering moralist," wrote Lena Dunham in the notes accompanying Zahedi’s DVD box set, Digging My Own Grave. The title of her essay was, "Holy Shit, You’re Allowed to Do That?" — and it’s true that Zahedi's audacity is so overwhelming as to be blinding. It takes some time to notice that underneath the humor and raw willingness to humiliate himself is a rigorous, brutally efficient editor, shaping every moment for impact.

Christopher Campbell of talks to filmmaker Alex Winter (The Panama Papers) about his favorite documentaries and what he loves about the form.

"I like how documentaries can get at the unspoken. I love interviews. I've been kind of dismayed by this recent disparagement of what everyone calls 'talking heads,' because I don't intend to ever stop shooting people talking. I love what that does. And there's just so much to watching someone's face, not just having their voice over archival where you lose their eyes but watching their face where they may be saying one thing and meaning something completely different. They may be lying to you straight up. And you get so much from seeing them."

Todd Spangler and Michael Schneider, writing for Variety, delve into the murky HBO Max, set to launch next spring, and speculate how the WarnerMedia streamer will distinguish its brand from its competitors--and from its brandmates at HBO.

It's not TV, it's… well, it’s a bit confusing. WarnerMedia has finally unveiled details behind HBO Max, the company’s long-awaited direct-to-consumer offering that will compete in an increasingly crowded field starting next May. But for existing HBO subscribers, it's still not quite clear what they’ll be getting — or when they’ll be getting it.

Rapid TV News’ Joseph O’Halloran digs into the latest report from MIDiA research on how a recession could significantly impact consumer behavior vis a vis SVOD usage.

The report is the first of a long-term series of research reports from MIDiA that will explore the potential impacts of an economic recession on the digital media landscape and looks at how consumers expect to change their media spending in a recession. In its first Recession Impact report, MIDiA Research explores how an economic slump could reshape the digital economy, following its prodigious growth in an era of easy access to capital and low interest rates.

The Los Angeles Times' Ryan Faughnder investigates the collapse of online aggregator Distribber.

But behind the scenes, Distribber and its parent company GoDigital Inc. were struggling due to what multiple insiders and court filings describe as a flawed business model and mismanagement. The company's practice of taking an upfront fee from filmmakers, rather than collecting a cut of royalties, forced it to continually chase new clients in order to stay afloat, said several people close to the company.

As we enter the newer, more daunting world of OTT, technology consultant Shelly Palmer assessing the costs of a la carte consumption.

If playing "Where's Waldo" with your programming isn't annoying enough, wait until you add up your combined broadband, basic cable, and DTC bills. In honor of the biggest shift in television distribution since the advent of cable, get out your calculator and let's see what your à la carte content is going to cost you.

Deadline's Mike Fleming spoke with Ted Mundorff just after he stepped down as president of Landmark Theatres.

"Independent film is so fragile, and people are really feeling it this year," he said. "The business is very difficult to make money in, and so it's important how you run your business. As well as you might run the business, if you have bad films, you are scrambling. We built a really great team and I do think what happens with Landmark, is what happens with independent film. That's a bold statement, but I don't think you can disagree with it."

Writing for the WITNESS blog, Abebayo Okeowo surveils the "Right to Record" policies in Africa and how journalists and documentary filmmakers have been subject to harassment despite that internationally recognized right.

It is clear that in Africa, and across the world, the right to record has never been more in need of urgent protection as it is now. As people continue to risk their lives to expose the truth, there must be a guarantee that they will not become victims themselves. 

From the Archive, June 2003 Issue: "Resisting Arrest: Reporting Professionals on the Street Have a Right To Be There"

It is important to be aware of the fact that the reactions of police or other law enforcement personnel do not always coincide with the law. In other words, just because you have a legal right to film, doesn't mean you won't be arrested, or your film won't be confiscated. Be prepared for this, and if you decide to stand up against it, be prepared to fight it later in court.


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