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Roundtable Round-up: Federal Funding from NEA & NEH

NEANEH.jpgThe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are major federal sources of funding for documentary films. As a result, getting funded is quite competitive. Program officers from both agencies recently participated in the WIFV/Docs In Progress Documentary Roundtable to help demystify what kinds of documentary projects are appropriate for their funds and share more on the process of requesting funds.

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From time to time, we welcome Docs In Progress community members to share their thoughts on films out in the doc-o-sphere.  Beth Kelly recently checked out a Chinese environmental documentary which may less well known in the usual doc fest circuit, but has been making waves via social media around the world.

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Fellows Perspectives: Felicia Barr on Momentum

Throughout the year, we’ll be featuring each of our Fellows as guest bloggers where they will share their thoughts on their films, filmmaking, or anything they think would be of interest to the documentary community. This month we hear from Felicia Barr who reflects on how to maintain momentum on a long-term documentary project. 

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I Never Used to Call Myself an Artist

by Jason Osder

In January, I had the opportunity to attend my first Sundance Film Festival as a fellow of The Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program. Along with William Youmans, a colleague at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and co-director with me of a new documentary, we were invited to workshop and pitch our film in development. GW and Docs In Progress asked me to reflect on this experience. I’m glad that they asked, because I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that arts institutions and education institution play in the lives of artists.

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Testimony on public television and independent documentaries

During the holidays, WNET (PBS largest affiliate, based in New York City) announced it would take the independent film series POV and Independent Lens off the national PBS carriage schedule.  While they stepped back from this initial decision after a huge outcry from filmmakers and viewers, they will be reassessing this decision later this year and are engaged in a "listening tour" to hear more about why people feel so strongly about the series not being moved.

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Roundtable Round-Up: Navigating Public Television

by Matthew Radcliff, Co-Organizer, WIFV/Docs In Progress Documentary Roundtable

Every other month, the WIFV/Docs In Progress Documentary Roundtable welcomes filmmakers and industry experts to discuss topics of interest to the documentary filmmaking community. On February 9, 2015, we welcomed three speakers to talk about how documentary filmmakers can navigate the world of public television. The speakers were Kathryn Washington (CPB), Robyn DeShields (DeShields Associates), and Ramona Diaz (independent filmmaker). The following are notes I made from the presentation.


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What should have made the Oscar Shortlist?

Nominations for the 2015 Academy Awards will be announced on January 15. But the race for Best Feature Documentary has been on for a while since the Academy announced the 15 films which had been shortlisted from 134 which had been submitted. While many expect the final race to come down to a competition between Life Itself and Citizenfour, we asked some members of the Docs In Progress community what they wish had made the shortlist. Feel free to weigh in in the comments below.



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Narrating the Nation: Past and Present

by Guest Contributor Josh Glick, Yale University

The 10-part Showtime documentary series, The Untold History of the United States (2012), and the theatrically released documentary feature, Citizenfour (2014), are interesting for the ways they give shape to recent and more distant events and for how they push conventional boundaries of collaboration.


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Who's Idea Was This? Second Thoughts from a New Filmmaker

by John Filson

Are you a new filmmaker, or aspiring to be? Do you feel a tug on your heart to make positive change in the world, and want to use the power of film? This note is for you.

It can take a long time to call yourself a “filmmaker” in front of other people. I’m still in the denial stage, and quite comfortable there. My interest in making documentaries stems from the way well-made films have always gripped me like a vice and lit a fire in my belly that made me feel unstoppable. That collection of emotional imprints over the years is surely a big reason I aspired to make social change my profession. 

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Glick's Picks: Roger Ebert and LIFE ITSELF

By Guest Contributor Josh Glick, Assistant Professor of English and Film at Hendrix College, Mellon Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University in the Integrated Humanities

Watching Life Itself  (2014) in Washington D.C.’s E Street Cinema, I felt director Steve James’s recent portrait of the late Roger Ebert strike a personal chord. As a wide-eyed teenager attending a summer program at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in 2001, I was fortunate to be exposed to the writing of Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, and Manny Farber as part of a broader menu of cultural criticism. Reading film reviews helped me to cultivate an appetite for all kinds of movies. Now, as it’s my job to teach others a critical awareness of how moving images shape and are shaped by the world around us, I have come to appreciate how it is often the written word that coaxes even the most reluctant spectators to become eager viewers.

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