Silverdocs Impressions

This year, in addition to the dispatches from Matt Radcliff and tweets from Erica Ginsberg, Docs In Progress reached out to many of our program alumni to get a sampling of the word on the street about what they got out of the festival and conference.  Here’s what they had to say…




I guess I thought SilverDocs was smaller this year, but not in a bad way. There were still too many films for any one person to see, but there was also a homier feel than I recall from past years. I got to spend real quality time in discussion with several filmmakers who I admire, and I think I will remember that more than anything this year. Oh, and I think The Interrupters is a film for the ages.

- Jason Osder

Silverdocs gets the industry leaders but offers them in a more accessible, intimate setting than many other events. This year the conference was in one building, which made for a less sweaty event. But also because there were so many seminars and presentations crammed into the schedule, it meant you could hop from one session to the next very easily. My only complaint was that at the end of each day, my head was hurting from all that I had heard and learned. I think every filmmaker should invest in the industry pass –it’s the best value for the education received. Few other places will give you the opportunity to learn about your craft, the film business, and audience outreach all at the same time.

- Carolyn McCulley

Even though I had an all-access pass as a screener this year, I only managed to make it to one film and the tail end of a conference event. Which stinks, but you can’t be two places at once. The film was Hot Coffee, which was stunning in many ways. Both subject matter and as a first-time film. As usual with Silverdocs, having the filmmaker there to answer questions and talk more about her work was invaluable. She also brought two of the film’s subjects, which was a bonus. I attended the last bit of the Transmedia Lab, while they were discussing The Bully Project. Made me wish I’d been able to see more, as I got the sense that I’d missed some worthwhile conversation. The discussion I heard was largely about the role of social media and new media for expanding a film’s reach and it was fascinating to watch the knowledgeable panel offer both practical advice and blue-sky into some very interesting areas.

- Dave Nuttycombe

Unfortunately I didn’t catch any films at this year’s Silverdocs Festival, but was thrilled to be able to attend the Master Class on Directing with Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing — an amazing insider’s view of real documentary filmmaking from two of the most inspiring artists of our time. One thing they said that really pushed me to think about how to shoot a scene, which is much harder than anyone who’s never shot or edited can possibly imagine, is to try “to communicate something more to the viewer so the scene is BETTER in your film than it was live.” It sounds crazy, but when you see their work, you get it.

- Joe Wilson

This year I had a new Silverdocs experience — I attended with my 13 year old son. Together we went to a series of shorts called Labor Pains (fortunately short films about work, and not childbirth). Four films by four very different film makers gave me an array of approaches to ponder. Harvesting bird poop in Peru, collecting water in Tibet and building humanoid robots in Scotland gave us an array of issues to discuss for hours!

-Kathy Kleiman

I’m a photographer who’s diving into documentary filmmaking. SilverDocs was my boot-camp. All these filmmakers sharing their experience during the conference sessions was just what I needed to hear. The broad variety of documentary styles was equally stimulating–Donor UnknownThe Night Watchman, and Hot Coffee stand out as contrasts. What really made the week great though, was having been to the Peer Pitch put on by Docs In Progress. Having spent a day in discussion with this group of filmmakers, and so forming some connection, provided for familiar faces amidst the sea of conference attendees.

-Francis Smith


As a first time volunteer at the conference with a surprisingly full schedule, I found I had little time to do much else at the festival. But I did get to attend some worthwhile panels and network with some unusual suspects, both volunteers and panelists. Having gone to many conferences in my day, as well as organizing a few, I was struck by the absence of plenary sessions, and to an extent, the lack of a center of gravity to the conference. Technical, industry, artist/filmmaker/aesthetic, and educational experts seemed a bit atomized in the way the panels were organized. One panel I attended addressed strategies of interface between filmmakers and industry experts, confirming the interdependence of both as well as the cultural differences of both. I think what I was missing was more visioning statements about film that plenaries or keynotes often provide.

-Thomas Walker

A chance to be inspired by watching top-quality, innovative films under ideal viewing conditions and meeting the filmmakers.

A way to plug into the minds of the people who make up the documentary world — producers, directors, funders, broadcasters, distributors — in informative and sometimes inspirational settings.

A nonstop reaffirmation of why I do this work.

- Rob Rooy

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