The Road to the Roadtrip

Our Executive Director Erica Ginsberg is in the middle of a roadtrip en route to the NAMAC Conference in Minneapolis. She is driving and stopping in different cities along the way to get insights into different film communities. This is the first of her blogs along the way.


When I was a kid, I always wanted to go on a cross-country trip. I used to plan out the route on a map with my dad. We would go the northerly route on the way there and the southerly route on the way back. We would stop in every state in the continental U.S. and I estimated it would take us three months.

While that trip never materialized in reality, I've been doing pieces of the roadtrip in my adult life - through Appalachia, the Southwest, and the northeast corridor. This week, I am embarking on what is probably the longest roadtrip I have ever planned - going from my home in Greenbelt, Maryland to Minneapolis, Minnesota and back. All in all at least 40 hours of driving time.

While part of the justification of the trip was living out that roadtrip fantasy, a bigger part of it had to do with another dream I had when I was a kid - to be a filmmaker.

While at the time, I wanted to be the next Steven Spielberg, I ended up going a different route - working in another career for nearly 20 years and studying filmmaking along the way, eventually choosing to become a documentary filmmaker. That also evolved as I transitioned from working on my own films into helping others with theirs and eventually co-founding what is now Docs In Progress.

Docs In Progress in many ways grew out of the need of the DC-area documentary community - to provide each other feedback and support on their works-in-progress, to share successes and challenges face to face, and to connect.

But this is hardly something unique to the DC area. While I have some familiarity with film and filmmaker organizations in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco which bring together film communities, I was very curious about communities outside of those big coastal film centers. With the reduced costs of equipment and editing software, there was no reason independent filmmakers - particularly documentary filmmakers - had to be based in one of those bigger film centers.

Yet even backpack filmmakers can't exist completely in a vacuum - it is important to share experiences with each other. So how is this done in different places? And what can Docs In Progress learn from these experiences, particularly from longer-established organizations serving these communities? And so my journey begins. First stop Pittsburgh...

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