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Docs In Progress Alumni Unite!

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly five years since Docs In Progress screened its first two documentary works in progress.  Swing dancing and China's Cultural Revolution were the topics we started with and we have continued to work with a diversity of films and filmmakers through screenings, consultations, classes, and other professional development activities to help them be the best they can be.  While we have not focused formally on helping our alumni stay connected with each other, a few of them have decided to take things into their own hands.  And we couldn't be happier.  Saltanat Berdikeeva, who has participated in a few of our classes and is organizing the first Docs In Progress Alumni Happy Hour, wanted to convey to her fellow alumni why she feels an alumni network is so important.  So we have given her the floor of our blog to reach out.

 

 

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Fundraising in a Slow Economy

With the economic downturn upon us, it would seem that the outlook for documentary funding in the United States looks bleak. Individual donors are tightening their belts. State and local government funds are being cut across the country, with arts funds often the first to suffer. Corporations facing smaller profits or losses translate into less money being put into their foundations. And media-friendly community foundations have not been immune from the souring economy since many are vested in the stock market (with one - the JEHT foundation which has funded a number of video and audio documentaries on topics related to the legal and human rights implications of the war on terror - has actually ceased to exist as a result of putting too many eggs in the Bernie Madoff basket).

In spite of these depressing facts, funds are still out there. It's just that the competition for them has increased and only the strong and scrappy will survive. That's one of the reasons we are going to draw on our in-house fundraising talent, Sam Hampton, to teach both aspiring and experienced documentary filmmakers everything they need to know about coming up with fundraising proposals. And it's also why we decided to continue our fascination with the power of the Internet as a tool for fundraising by looking at two very different approaches.

 

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In Memory of Brent Hurd

In a season where there is so much good news to report about Docs In Progress and our alumni, we also wanted to share some sad news. Some of you may already know about the untimely death of Brent Hurd, a 38-year-old documentary filmmaker who called Washington DC home for a time, but was really a citizen of the world. Brent was killed the evening of November 22 in Bangalore, India when his bicycle was hit by a city bus. He was in India working as a media trainer.

 

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The Art of the Elevator Pitch


Just when you least expect it, you may be in a situation where you have an opportunity to pitch to a potential funder, broadcaster, distributor, or someone else who can have a positive influence on the life and trajectory of your film. You might only have a few minutes though. Are you ready? Filmmakers Doug Block and Aviva Kempner have years of experience with the proverbial "elevator pitch" and share their tips.

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DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AS PROJECT MANAGER

Sam_Hampton.jpgDocs In Progress’ newest partner Sam Hampton has many years of experience as a consultant to organizations looking to manage their projects better. He sees definite parallels between the work of these organizations and that of independent documentary filmmakers, especially when it comes to managing the documentary project. 

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When Should I Have a Website for My Film?

Since Docs in Progress is starting a new online presence with Docs Interactive, it seems appropriate that our first question is about websites. The question is no longer "should" you have a website, but rather when is the best time to start your website and what should be on it.

Though we may all want to believe that our brilliant documentaries will play every important festival, break all box office records, have a high profile screening on television, and be the talk of the town, there are few films which make it without advance buzz. Rather than waiting to find the world's best publicist for Sundance, filmmakers need to realize the world's best publicist is pretty close at hand: You!

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