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.
As a young professional from Kyrgyzstan with a security studies degree, specializing in issues such as terrorism, Middle Eastern affairs and energy security, my experience in Washington DC has been mostly based on policy analysis and research of relevant issues. After a few years of work experience, I had an itch to scratch to see a more direct and bigger impact of my hard work, which is not always easy to do when you are young and just starting a career.
As an avid fan of documentary films, particularly the socio-political kinds, the film that inspired me to try my luck with documentaries was a screening of the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side in December 2008, which detailed the torture policy of the Bush Administration. The film€™s impact on me was strong, as it was on my friend who began writing a book on one of the interrogators featured in the film.
Thinking about the film€™s depth and its potential policy impact, in my quest at the time for a creative, meaningful and influential outlet with a lot of learning potential, it only seemed to make sense for me to get into the documentary filmmaking. Without a film degree or any media experience, I was concerned that I would not be able to make it in the film world. Some online research on schools and educational programs led me to Docs In Progress. Courses offered by Docs In Progress fit me perfectly as they were affordable and worked with my schedule, but more importantly, required no prior film experience.
Both the €œDocumentary Filmmaking from A to Z and €œDocumentary Production courses provided me with good tools to make a film. The hands-on approach to these courses by seasoned film professionals at Docs In Progress made the learning experience fulfilling. But what I also loved was what I learned from fellow students in class discussions, particularly from students who had some prior film experience. Curious about the progress, challenges, and breakthroughs of their ongoing film projects, I thought how motivating and inspiring it would be to maintain contacts with the alumni and staff of Docs In Progress, get some helpful tips, and maybe build partnerships down the road to work together, as films are not done by one person. It may make the filmmaking process more enriching.
Hopefully other alumni share my views and feel as I do that it is important to be actively involved. I thought Happy Hours would be a good start -- a view shared by one of my former classmates Silvina -- since they are informal, fun and simple. But maybe this is just a start. The concept of the alumni network and attendant events will only grow with more suggestions and ideas from the alumni of Docs In Progress.