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E is for Elementary

What do you think of when you hear the term “elementary?” Does it have a negative connotation, as though it means something too basic, simple, or easy? Does it take you back to the carefree days of elementary school? Does it make you channel your inner Sherlock Holmes: “Elementary, my dear Watson?”

One word can mean so many different things, just as one topic can be treated in so many different ways by different filmmakers. At Docs In Progress, we define “elementary” as a the aspects of a subject which are necessary to learn in order to progress to understanding more complex one. Building blocks, if you will.

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E is for Everyone

At one time, the door to documentary filmmaking was very heavy.  You had to go to film school and then apprentice under someone for a long time.  Cameras, editing systems, film, and film processing were out of the price range for most individuals.  Even if you made a film, you had to break through the few tightly-curated outlets for documentary in order to get it seen.


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E is for Early


And nope we don’t mean the midnight Black Friday Sales. Rather, we mean getting an early start on the giving season.

This year, why not give to Docs In Progress? We recently kicked off a new fundraising initiative -- a scholarship program which will allow those who cannot afford to take our documentary production classes and youth documentary filmmaking summer camps to do so.


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Is Film School the Way to Go?

Every summer, Docs In Progress gives an opportunity for our summer intern to write an article of interest to the Docs In Progress community.  This year, Fay Gartenberg examined the question of how one can best educate themselves in documentary filmmaking. 



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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…



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DSLR in Documentaries - Matt’s Report from Silverdocs

The Silverdocs Film Festival and Conference is in full swing.  We’ll be filing some reviews next week, but just wanted to share a few impressions as it happens.  Contributor Matthew Radcliff attended an intriguing conference session on Tuesday - a DSLR workshop led by documentary filmmaker Steven Bognar and DP/Editor Matt Gottshalk from Alexandria-based McGee Digital Media.  Gottshalk is a noted expert on using DSLR cameras for video work and is a co-author of From Still to Motion.


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Festival Tip: You Need to Budget…and That Includes Festivals

“I spent all my money making my film and have no money left for festivals. Will you please waive my submission fee?”

This is the start of many an e-mail film festival programmers seem to receive while their festival’s submission period is open. While it is likely a true statement in most cases, the question is why? Why are filmmakers not budgeting for outreach as a part of their planning? It is a bit like budgeting to get you through a pregnancy and not saving any money to help feed, clothe, or save for a child’s education.


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Inside the Docs In Progress Screening Selection Process

by Erica Ginsberg

Docs In Progress is gearing up for our seventh year of presenting work-in-progress screening programs. When Adele Schmidt and I started this (ad)venture back in May 2004, our only goal was to help fellow documentary filmmakers have a space to share their works in progress with peers in a public setting. At the time, we could not imagine how Docs In Progress would evolve. In the first year, we relied on word-of-mouth among the DC-area filmmaking community to garner submissions. To this day, I am still amazed at the filmmakers who put their trust in us to present and moderate feedback sessions on their works-in-progress....especially in those first few screenings where we faced technical challenges and an uncertainity if anyone would show up for the screenings.

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Festival Tip: Don't Underestimate the Power of an Image

Perhaps this topic is particularly on my mind because I have recently returned from a trip through Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi where I had a chance to see some of the places which formed some of the most powerful images of the civil rights movement - Little Rock Central High School, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and the Lyceum at Ole Miss. Until the moment I saw those places firsthand, I could only imagine them through written descriptions of what happened there and from the still and moving images of what happened at each of them more than half a century ago. Iconic images which tell a story so much more deeply than the written texts or even on-camera interviews which accompany them. They help connect me to a world before I was born, a world it is sometimes hard to believe existed if not for these images as everlasting evidence.


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Festival Tip: Know Thy Festival

OK, so we talked in Tip # 10 about not submitting at the final deadline.  Part of not waiting to submit late is about planning. Filmmakers are expected to spend a lot of time in planning their documentaries - from researching and planning what you want to film to how you are going to raise funds for it to your shooting schedule and shot list to logs and transcripts to your editing script or EDL to your added materials like music and archival. Often less time is planned for how the film is actually going to get out there. The plan often consists of "Get into Sundance. Get it into theaters. Sell it to a broadcaster. Move on to Next Film."  But even the minority of filmmakers who are lucky, talented, and savvy enough to actually follow through on this plan don't do so without a lot of research and planning.


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