Some of you may remember that for a number of years, prior to the move here at DOC NYC or the recent Pure Nonfiction branding consolidation of film series and podcast, the Monday Memo was a weekly staple to be found over at Stranger Than Fiction, the online home of Raphaela Neihausen and Thom Powers' long running documentary film screening series. Since I took over the reporting duties from Rahul Chadha back in 2015, a lot of doc news has funneled through my keyboard and plenty has changed (venue, format, etc). I personally feel the memo is better than ever and this week marks my 200th edition. Most appropriately, there is a copious amount of nonfiction cinema happenings to indulge in to help celebrate the occasion - though it starts with a bit of a downer in the revelation that cléo journal is folding, Fledgling is targeting projects on climate change for funding, National Geographic Documentary Films is expanding its short doc program, the New York Film Festival announced its Spotlight on Documentary slate, AMERICAN FACTORY, JAWLINE and a bunch of other great docs are now available, and much too much more to list here. Venture forth! I'll see you next week after a brief trip to Nashville (hoping to check out the Belcourt Theatre) and before my annual excursion to TIFF!
-Jordan M. Smith
CRAFT ED. SEMINARS
Monday September 4, 2019, 10:00 AM
Dive into the intricacies of using B-roll and archival footage, adding animation and VFX, and what you should expect out of a post house and how to score your film, with insights from Jamillah Varias (Vox Media), Prudence Arndt (I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO) and others.
Discount code for Craft Ed. Seminars (for 20% general admission pricing) is: CRAFTED_DOCS
cléo journal - Vol. 7, Issue 2: Sick - The Final Issue With the latest issue of the wonderful cléo journal, which contains multiple doc related articles, comes a bit of heartbreaking news - it will also be the journal’s last: “In this spirit of transparency, we have some news to share. In May of this year, we were informed that, due to province-wide budget cuts, our OAC grant programme had been suspended indefinitely. The OAC grant represented a significant portion of our annual budget, and was in large part the reason we’ve been able to grow as much as we have. Efforts to replace that amount of funding would be no small task, and even at our most financially solvent, running cléo was exceptionally hard work. The last thing we wanted was to go back to a point where we could no longer pay writers, or lose our drive and passion and have cléo become a shadow of its former self. So, after much discussion about our various options, we came to a decision: this issue will be our last. Ending is a disappointing outcome, we know, but given the circumstances, we feel it’s the best possible choice. We are so proud of the readership we grew and that grew with us.”
Another Gaze is Looking for an Editor Oddly timed in the wake of cléo journal's death knell, Another Gaze announced a need for an additional editor: "As Another Gaze‘s tiny team struggles to keep up with editorial demands, we’re looking for another editor to assist us. You should: have a strong interest in feminist film culture, keep up to date with the latest films by women, as well as the latest big art shows featuring moving image work by women, be a thorough, collaborative editor who wants to work with their writers, not against them (we usually do at least five rounds of edits on each piece), be anyone but a cis man. The role is a few hours a week and will be paid per article.* You should be available for a Skype editorial meeting every couple of weeks. You can be based anywhere in the world. Deadline: 4 September, midnight GMT. Please send an email to editorial (at) anothergaze (dot) com with: what you think you could bring to the team, two or three pieces of critical writing you’ve enjoyed recently (with at least one on something film-related), a few editing or writing samples. *Current editors are unpaid and Another Gaze is entirely unfunded. Fee is negotiable and will be increased subject to changes in our financial status.”
Fledgling Announces Call for Projects on the Human Impact of Climate Change Announced via the Fledgling website: “Are you working on a media project that can deepen understanding of the effects of climate change on individuals, families and communities? Will this project be complete and ready to launch in the next 6 months? Are you looking for outreach and engagement funding to maximize the impact of your work?” If so, Fledgling Fund wants to hear from you. Fledgling “will award 3-5 outreach and engagement grants that range from $15K to $25K and will give priority to projects that are well positioned to make an impact quickly. We welcome both short-form and long-form documentary films and are open to others forms of non-fiction storytelling. In all cases, we will look for a solid plan to reach key audiences and engage them around climate change through the lens of public health and economic justice. All applications must be submitted by October 1st at 5pm EST. Grant decisions will be made in late November.”
National Geographic Doc Films Pushes Into Shorts With Two New Films IndieWire’s Kate Erbland broke the story: “After playing home to such Oscar-winning documentary features as recent winner FREE SOLO and other awards season favorites like JANE and LA 92, National Geographic Documentary Films is turning its attention to another vibrant side of the doc world: short films. The debut slate will include the documentary shorts LOST AND FOUND, from Academy Award-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel, and THE NIGHTCRAWLERS from Academy Award-winning producer Joanna Natasegara and first-time director Alexander A. Mora...In addition to the two films this fall, National Geographic Documentary Films has more than a dozen short and feature films in development or production.”
Telling Our Stories Film Contest for Female Doc Filmmakers: Finalists Emily Vogel reported on the WrapWomen and Starz competition for The Wrap: “Six documentary shorts by female filmmakers — depicting everything from a San Francisco firefighter to female graffiti artists to a frank discussion of women’s breasts — were named as finalists in the inaugural Telling Our Stories Film Contest on Thursday. The contest, presented by WrapWomen and Starz, focuses on female-made nonfiction films that highlight themes relevant to womanhood. The six finalists, chosen through juror selection, will receive distribution on Starz and the chance to compete for the winning prize of $10,000. The winner will be announced at WrapWomen’s Power Women Summit on October 25 at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica.”
THE SUBLIMITY OF DOCUMENT: CINEMA AS DIORAMA
By Scott MacDonald
"The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama is a collection of in-depth, substantive interviews with moving-image artists working 'avant-doc, that is, making films that explore the territory between documentary and experimental cinema'...includes interviews with Ron Fricke, Gustav Deutsch, Laura Poitras, Fred Wiseman, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Bill Morrison, Brett Story, Abbas Kiarostami, Lois Patiño, Dominic Gagnon, Erin Espelie, Yance Ford, Janet Biggs, Carlos Adriano, Craig Johnson, Ben Russell, Betzy Bromberg, James Benning, Maxim Pozdorovkin, along with several veterans of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab--each interview is introduced with MacDonald's overview of the interviewee's life and work."
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
DOC NYC's Only In New York Submissions Extended Deadline Approaching Only in New York, which was introduced in 2016, is a program of DOC NYC PRO, the festival's industry programming component, and aims to connect filmmakers with works-in-progress (features or series) with industry representatives. NOTE: Only in New York is NOT for films that are nearly finished but finalizing post-production. Works selected to participate in Only in New York do NOT screen publicly. Filmmakers selected for Only in New York participate in four days of intimate roundtable meetings with industry figures from the fields of distribution, financing, festival programming, and more. Only In New York Submissions Extended Deadline: August 30, 2019.
NYFF57 Spotlight on Documentary Lineup Announced The New York Film Festival’s 2019 doc slate was revealed via press release: “Film at Lincoln Center announces the complete lineup for the Spotlight on Documentary section of the 57th New York Film Festival (September 27–October 13). This year’s series of dispatches from the front lines of nonfiction cinema features incisive portraits of iconic figures, intimate reports from inside the American prison system, New York stories both personal and political, and much more.”
Edinburgh ’19: Unpacking the Golden Age of “Mega Docs” Frederick Blichert of Realscreen reports from the 2019 Edinburgh TV Festival: “The ever-growing documentary film boom has been well underway for some time now, with last summer seeing projects such as THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? and RBG dominating the box office (and headlines) and more recent titles including FREE SOLO, KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE, APOLLO 11 and Netflix and Hulu’s competing Fyre Festival docs generating their own buzz. The 2019 Edinburgh TV Festival kicked off Tuesday (Aug. 21), and one of the day’s first panels, “The Making of a Mega Doc,” tackled the wave of heavy-hitting documentary films that mark an on-going “golden age” of the genre. The event brought together some of the talent behind recent doc mega-hits — films registering in the mainstream and generating revenue and sometimes international discussions.”
My personal favorite doc of the year thus far, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar's culturally complex AMERICAN FACTORY, has finally became available via Netflix, while Liza Mandelup's Sundance Special Jury Award winner JAWLINE hit Hulu - both of which are currently showing in limited theatrical release at IFC Center in New York and at select theaters in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Stanley Nelson's rich bio-doc MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL is showing at Film Forum (Nelson was the recipient of DOC NYC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016), Max Lewkowicz's Broadway history FIDDLER: A MIRACLE OF MIRACLES is playing at Quad Cinema, and Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill's six part series on our end of life options in ALTERNATE ENDINGS will air on HBO on Tuesday evening.
Inside the VHS-Only Doc About The Most Mysterious Musical Collective Ever Sean Cannon investigates this bizarre musical mystery for The Outline: “If you’ve been a fan of indie rock in the last 30 years, either you know about the Elephant 6 Recording Co. — a loose-knit, idiosyncratic psych-pop collective that began with four friends in the early ’90s and sprawled to encompass dozens of artists — or you’ve heard its influence in festival headliners across the world. Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples In Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, of Montreal, and many other bands that eventually wore the E6 badge helped define a generation of underground music and continue to remain relevant. The music is compelling, but so is the story of how this labyrinthine collection of misfits carved out their own scene. A voracious fanbase has been whispering about it, and collecting tales for years. That’s why filmmaker Chad Stockfleth spent nearly a decade on his rich, impressionistic documentary, A FUTURE HISTORY OF: THE ELEPHANT 6 RECORDING CO, which tells the story of the collective through its members and fans. At this point, you might be thinking, ‘That seems like an interesting way to spend a Tuesday night. I like rock docs, and I like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Time to fire up the Roku.’ Not so fast. While the documentary has been out for two months, you can’t find it on any streaming service. You can’t even find it in the artsiest of arthouse theaters. There’s only one way to see it: Locate a cryptic flyer for the Elephant 6 Video ‘Rental’ Club in a random coffee shop or record store, call the number on it, follow the instructions, then wait patiently for your VHS tape to come in the mail (complete with a ‘library card’ to sign when you mail back the tape).”
These Two Documentaries Are Two of 2019's Best Movies Writing for The Ringer, Adam Nayman dubbed COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD and WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD'S ON FIRE? two of the best films of the year: “He said it, I didn’t. Back in June, Sean Fennessey wondered on The Ringer’s Big Picture podcast whether 2019 was the Worst Movie Summer Ever, a question worth asking, considering the increasing omnipresence of franchise-branded movies and their impact on the visibility and viability of anything without an Avenger in it. The long-term effects of the Mouse monopoly on Western pop culture’s most valuable intellectual properties (with Marvel and STAR WARS as the equivalent of putting hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk) won’t be fully known for a while, but the possibilities are fully dystopian: Imagine a reboot stamping on a human face, forever. “In the meantime, the best way to cope with the declining quality of big films is to seek out smaller ones—to look for quality on the margins. As disappointing a year as 2019 has been for mainstream entertainments, it’s yielded more than its share of solid and even extraordinary nonfiction features, two of which have just been released in theaters and could end up as contenders for year-end 10-best lists.”
Where to Begin with Humphrey Jennings David Parkinson composed a great little intro to the work of the great British documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings at BFI: “The notion of Humphrey Jennings as British cinema’s war poet is so set in stone that it’s tricky to find a new angle. It’s usually considered that he did his best work between THE FIRST DAYS (1939) and A DIARY FOR TIMOTHY (1945), as he found his métier in reminding his compatriots of the need for unity and in showing friend and foe alike how the British responded to the daily business of keeping calm and carrying on. But such a war-centric approach does a disservice to the films of his 1930s apprenticeship with the GPO Film Unit and the postwar period of relative independence that came to such a tragic end when the 43-year-old Jennings fell to his death while scouting locations on the Greek island of Poros in 1950. This accident meant that Jennings would always be considered a documentarist, as audiences never got the chance to see how he might have fared with his proposed adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and H.E. Bates’ The Purple Plain.”
Director Penny Lane on HAIL SATAN? David Morrison spoke with Penny Lane about her latest film, now on Hulu, for BFI: “Art of the reason I picked the topic was that it would be a different process. I’ve always felt very insecure in shooting environments. But with this film, I had a producer working with me who’s had experience on shoots, and I had a whole crew. Now I feel I can do anything, because previously I was doing these wacky films that were taking advantage of the things I felt comfortable doing – I loved doing archival research and editing and post-production. This was more like, ‘OK, will I succeed in doing a film that’s going to rely a lot on filming?’ The answer is yes. So now I know I can do anything.”
World Surf League Studios Launches With Kelly Slater Doc Film Debbie Emery reported on the announcement for The Wrap: “The newly-formed World Surf League (WSL) Studios unveiled its debut slate of programming on Monday, which includes a documentary film about 11-time World Surf Champion Kelly Slater and the series TRANSFORMED, highlighting how surfing has impacted cultures around the world. Designed to appeal to surf fans and new audiences ahead of the sport’s Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, the slate of documentaries, docuseries and daily short-form content will be distributed across multiple platforms. ‘Kelly is the greatest surfer of all time and has not only every major record in our sport by a wide margin but also so more world titles than any other athlete with 11,’ WSL president of Content, Media and WSL Studios, Erik Logan, told The Wrap of THE KELLY SLATER DOCUMENTARY, which follows the surf legend’s 2019 competitive campaign, personal life, and Olympics quest.”
Drugs, Death and Doc Ethics: Director Ben Berman on his Meta-Movie Ashlie D. Stevens spoke with director Ben Berman about his doc feature THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY for Salon: “Six months into filming Johnathan, he told me that he was allowing another documentary crew to come into his life to film another documentary on him. We were about to, you know, set sail on a comeback tour that I was going to be filming. So when I heard about the other crew, I was hurt and confused, and I needed to make a choice: Was I going to give up and not try to compete with this crew I was told were Academy Award winners, or compete with someone who is, in a way, bigger and better? A documentary is a medium that either is trying to find the truth or present the truth, and it would be bizarre to avoid that part of the truth that there was another crew. So I decided to open up the aperture, the scope of the film, to allow the narrative of the other crew competing with me. And at that point, to fully tell that story, I knew I had to be seen on camera a bit. But I certainly didn't plan on it going where it actually did.”
Why Amazon Alexa is Infiltrating Hulu Documentaries Taking note of an oddball recent trend, Christopher Campbell writes at Nonfics: “‘A documentary film is a nonfictional motion picture intended to document reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record. ‘Documentary’ has been described as a ‘filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception’ that is continually evolving and is without boundaries.’ – Amazon Alexa’s answer to the question, ‘What is a documentary film?’ There are two documentaries released in 2019, both of them Sundance premieres picked up and now distributed by Hulu, that begin with someone asking Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, who the film’s subject is.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
Michelle Esrick’s CRACKED UP 2018 DOC NYC Behind the Scenes
Will be released theatrically on September 13th via Abramorama.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
ALEXANDER GIRARD: ARCHITECT OF MODERN LIVING
Directed by James Casey
Alexander Girard was the head of Herman Miller’s textile division for two decades, but that only scratches the surface of his technicolor vision. Director James Casey and the team at Dress Code were given access to the man’s archives to celebrate the depth and breadth of his extensive design work.
FUND THIS PROJECT
Crowdfunding has become an integral means of raising capital for documentary filmmakers around the globe. Each week we feature a promising new project that needs your help to cross that critical crowdfunding finish line.