Welcome to the new and improved Monday Memo, a quick weekly rundown of all the latest documentary news from the festival circuit, awards season commentators, industry development circles, new theatrical and notable streaming releases, and more! For the past few years the memo has served as a key aggregator of nonfiction cinema news at its home at Stranger Than Fiction, but as 2018 came to a close it become clear to us that the memo could serve its readers better as part of DOC NYC. So, here we are. Being that you may not have originally signed up for this weekly memo, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this email if you so choose.
Our inaugural DOC NYC edition of the Monday Memo looks at the Documentary Producers Alliance formal set of crediting guidelines issued this past week, SXSW and Berlin's newly announced lineups, the story behind Hulu and Netflix's dueling Fyre Festival docs and more!
Documentary Producers Alliance Sets Crediting Guidelines
Last Tuesday, Deadline reported that the Documentary Producers Alliance published a document titled 'A Guide to Best Practices in Documentary Crediting', which lays out a formal set of guidelines "meant to distinguish financial backers on a film from those who do the bulk of producing day-to-day, a line that has become smudged with the explosive growth of documentaries. The guidelines have been endorsed by 24 organizations with an important stake in documentary film including the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent and Kartemquin Films."
The Metrograph Gets Into The Distribution Business
In exciting distribution news, IndieWire broke the story that "New York City’s fledgling independent cinema The Metrograph — which opened in March of 2016, the first indie arthouse to open in the city in over a decade — is getting into the distribution business....Its first planned title is Claire Simon’s THE COMPETITION (LE CONCOURSncours), billed as 'a sensational documentary portrait of the admission process at French film school La Fémis,' which previously screened at the Venice, Vienna, BFI-London film festivals. In keeping with the new distributor’s mission, the theatrical release will mark the U.S. theatrical debut of veteran filmmaker Simon. The film will open at the Metrograph, and then expand nationally in the following weeks."
R.I.P. Mark Urman
There were sadly two doc industry deaths this past week. Mark Urman, who The New York Times described as a distributor who championed independent films and documentaries, helping movies that might have faded into obscurity reach audiences and win major awards, died on Saturday in Newark" at the age of 66 at the hands of bone cancer. At IndieWire, Anne Thompson noted, "As distribution president at New York indie distributor ThinkFilm, Urman delivered seven Academy Award nominations in six years. Alex Gibney’s TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE and BORN INTO BROTHELS won Best Documentary Feature; other documentary nominations included SPELLBOUND, THE STORY OF WEEPING CAMEL, MURDERBALL and WAR/DANCE."
R.I.P. Pepita Ferrari
The other passing was Pepita Ferrari, veteran National Film Board of Canada documentary filmmaker and leader of the Documentary Organization of Canada, who died December 30th at her home in Lac Brome, Quebec at the age of 66, reported Etan Vlessing in The Hollywood Reporter. "Ferrari's films for the NFB, Canada's publicly funded filmmaker, included the landmark 2007 doc CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF THE DOCUMENTARY, which interviewed 38 cinema-vérité pioneers, including Albert Maysles, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Nick Broomfield."
2019 Sundance Doc Marketplace
Sundance 2019 is primed to warm up the Park City slopes later this week and folks like Anthony Kaufman are predicting that documentaries could be a big sell this year. Writing at IndieWire he forecasts the market, "While documentaries have experienced greater theatrical market share and overall ticket sales in past years, 2018 will be remembered as the first time four independently-released nonfiction films earned more than $10 million, three of which (WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, RBG and THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS) premiered at Sundance (the fourth, FREE SOLO, premiered in Telluride)...It’s this renewed appetite for entertaining nonfiction, along with more streaming companies outside of Netflix hitting a film festival that’s continually premiering the year’s top documentaries, that could propel Sundance 2019 into the record books." Meanwhile, the rest of the IndieWire staff listed docs like AMERICAN FACTORY, APOLLO 11 and KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE among their list of 21 Must-See Films of Sundance this year.
2019 SXSW & Berlinale Lineups Announced
While Sundance is currently on everyone's mind, the SXSW programming team revealed its own 2019 lineup, including its doc competition and spotlight programs, just as the Berlin Film Festival unveiled its Competition and Berlinale Special slates, which include the European premiere of AMAZING GRACE, as well as the latest project by Agnès Varda, VARDA BY AGNÈS.
2019 Garrett Scott Doc Development Grant Now Accepting Applications
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is now accepting applications for its 2019 Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant. The grant "funds first-time documentary directors for travel and accommodations to attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 4-7, 2019. For four days, grant recipients will be given access to films, discussions, and mentorship by experienced filmmakers. Recipients will also present short excerpts from their works-in-progress at the festival. Two filmmakers will be chosen for the grant in its thirteenth year."
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Announces 'Why Look at Animals' Series
Lastly, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival announced, "The countdown for the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (March 1-10, 2019) begins with the tribute 'Why Look at Animals', dedicated to the special relationship between humans and animals. The tribute is inspired by the same titled essay by the iconic British art critic, author and painter John Berger (1926-2017) and presents a selection of poignant documentaries that explore the various aspects of the interaction between man and animal."
Oddly, three of the most hotly debated releases this week were not theatrically released. There were two competing docs on the failed Fyre Festival, FYRE: THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED and FYRE FRAUD, released by Netflix and Hulu respectively, attracting much debate around why they dropped within days of each other, which is worth your while, etc. Meanwhile, the Lifetime produced doc series SURVIVING R. KELLY, stirred the pot of public opinion, leading to his longtime record company RCA dropping him from their roster after public pressure. Meanwhile, Astra Taylor's WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? and Roberta Grossman's WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY tackled historically troubled water to mixed critical results.
FYRE: THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED & FYRE FRAUD
Crowdfunding has become an integral means of raising capital for documentary filmmakers around the globe. Each week we will feature an interesting new project that needs your help to cross that critical crowdfunding finish line.