2016 Documentary Inspiration Awards Wrap-Up

On Tuesday, September 29, 2016, Docs In Progress honored director Marshall Curry and editor Matthew Hamachek at our first ever Documentary Inspiration Awards.  Enthusiastic audience members braved the pounding rain to join us for the evening of conversation with the filmmakers and a screening of their Academy Award-nominated collaboration IF A TREE FALLS.  Relive the event with a wrap-up from board member Sam Meddis and tweets from volunteer Cheree Dillon and board member Chithra Jeyaram.

The Docs In Progress “Documentary Inspiration Awards” featured two acclaimed filmmakers’ reflections on the state and direction of the burgeoning field of documentary filmmaking.

Filmmaking is like music. You give the audience some conventional techniques but also give them something with new twists. - Marshall Curry

“It’s a great, great time for independent film,” filmmaker Marshall Curry told the audience after a screening of his film If A Tree Falls at Washington DC’s GALA Hispanic Theatre. Matthew Hamachek, who edited the film, added that the craft is “constantly evolving,” particularly in developing intricate characters instead of merely presenting “subjects.”

The filmmakers acknowledged the challenges facing independent filmmakers. Even as technology has made filmmaking equipment and editing software far more affordable and accessible, the prospects of earning a living as a filmmaker are “terrible,” Curry said.

The way people use documentary storytelling is evolving. I feel fortunate to watch these films & to work on them too! - Matthew Hamachek

Curry and Hamachek, who received the first-ever Documentary Inspiration Awards to be given by Docs In Progress, were chosen because of what the organization said was their “longtime collaboration as director and editor on some of the most powerful documentaries of the past decade.”

Docs In Progress Board Chair Kiley Kraskouskas introduced the two-time Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers by saying that they represent the independent-filmmaking values fostered by the Silver Spring, MD–based nonprofit organization. She said Docs In Progress plays an essential role in helping independent filmmakers face day-to-day challenges by providing a forum to “share our struggles.”

Docs In Progress board member Sarah Katz, an independent filmmaker who organized the event, said it was fitting to honor Curry and Hamachek because of their honest and “extraordinarily touching” films.

Pictured: Docs In Progress board member and event organizer and moderator Sarah Katz, honorees Marshall Curry and Matthew Hamachek, and Docs In Progress Executive Director Erica Ginsberg

Read the full text of Kraskouskas' and Katz' welcoming remarks.

During Q&As with Katz and the audience, the two honorees offered some insights into their filmmaking techniques and practices. Curry said he looks for stories with a dramatic arc and tries to anticipate narrative events. Hamachek, describing film editing as a “massive task,” said he strives to discern the key element of a scene, “what each event truly means.”

Docs In Progress marked its 10th anniversary in 2014, providing training and support services to area filmmakers – more than a thousand so far – and promoting community education and engagement.

“We’ve come a long way,” Kraskouskas told the more than 60 members of the audience, whom she said were there to honor the award winners as well as to “celebrate each other and our craft.”

Kraskouskas said Docs In Progress wants to make the “Documentary Inspiration Awards” an annual event.

To see more Twitter-size nuggets of wisdom from the evening, check out #docinspiration on Twitter.