Summer 2019 Newsletter

Summer is popping at our new space. AFI DOCS focuses on localism. Community Stories Festival is looking for submissions. Plus news from alums, upcoming funding deadlines, hot reads, and more...


While summer is traditionally a time when many of us slow down, we know that is not always the case for those in the documentary community. The lives of the people we document don't pause. Those who make a living from film and video work rarely get a break. Those who make documentaries on the side often have more time to focus on their film work in the summer. And those who simply enjoy watching documentaries have many chances to see thoughtful documentaries as an alternative to formulaic blockbusters at film festivals, on television, and in theaters.

This has also been a busy time for Docs In Progress. The summer kicked off with us finally moving to our new space in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. We wanted as little disruption as possible to ongoing programs, so somehow we managed to move in on a Friday in late May and held our Fellows meeting and two workshops just a few days later. Already this summer, we have held  six workshops, Peer Pitch, a youth filmmaking camp, a Documentary Roundtable, our very first screening in our new Screening Room, and welcomed our Filmmaker-in-Residence Gene Graham.

As our space continues to come together, we have launched a summer "Pull up a Chair" fundraiser aimed at helping to outfit the space and support the programs that take place in it. If you would like to join trailblazer donors Michael Ehrenzweig, Sheri Ratick Stroud, Reemberto Rodriguez, and Catherine Wyler by making a donation and leaving a legacy with Docs In Progress, please make a donation online or by check.

All these behind-the-scenes happenings are an important step in the life of Docs In Progress as we celebrate our 15th year of programming. We will be hosting an official dedication of the space later in the year but, in the meantime, we are open for business. Whether you come to take a workshop, attend a screening, or simply want to check out the space, you are welcome!

In the meantime, check out our summer newsletter for news from our community and the wider world of documentary, and a preview of what's coming this fall.



Docs In Progress is now accepting submissions for our 10th annual Community Stories Festival which will take place in November. If you have a finished or work-in-progress documentary about people, places, or history of Maryland, Washington DC, or Northern Virginia, please submit via Film Freeway by August 31. While we have a submission fee to discourage random submissions of fiction films and films that don't meet our geographic requirement, the fee will be waived if you use the Waiver Code CS19.


This year's AFI DOCS Festival took place in June. Once again, Docs In Progress was proud to be a Community Partner, organizing our annual Peer Pitch as a lead-in sidebar event to the festival, ensuring that our Fellows got a chance to experience Washington DC's largest all-documentary film festival, and co-sponsoring a Forum session on budgeting with ITVS' Michael Ehrenzweig.

While there were plenty of amazing films at this year's festival and one of the strongest Filmmaker Forums in years, we were most excited to be a part of Localism Works. This full day convening, organized by the festival in collaboration with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was designed to support and strengthen local filmmaking communities.

Aside sister film communities from Iowa, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, we were proud to help bring together more than 30 filmmakers and film organization representatives from across the Washington DC/Baltimore Metro area. (The photo at left includes two of them -- Malkia Lydia and Amy Oden -- who were part of a follow-up public panel). The day focused on discussing unique strengths, challenges, and opportunities of our community, and plans are already in the works for follow up sessions.  


Filmmaker Rustin Thompson shooting on location"I’m always dealing with matters of exposure and composition and focus,
but also with how my subject is responding to my presence.
I’m deeply aware of them as a human being,
and truly grateful they’ve allowed me to be this close to them
so I can bring their story to a viewer, to make a connection."

If you want to get close to your documentary subjects, you need to dispense with all the bells and whistles of production. This is the focus of filmmaker/author Rustin Thompson's new book Get Close: Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking.

Rustin recently contributed a blog for us where he makes a compelling case for keeping your equipment and crew bare-bones not just to save money and energy on logistics, but to truly get the kind of intimacy with those you are filming for your documentary.



Docs In Progress Community Members Get 15% Discount on Passes
Join us to celebrate the fifth edition of Double Exposure this October 10-13 in Washington DC. Experience a cutting-edge film festival and a professional symposium that brings together investigative reporters and visual storytellers to explore industry trends and challenges, exchange resources and advance new projects through a thoughtfully curated series of screenings, panels, workshops, networking sessions, pitch opportunities, and more. 

More info and passes are now available at 

Get 15% off on your pass using code DIPDX19 when you register here




We want to give a special shout out to Celia Herdic and Mackenzie Myers who have worked with us this summer through our internship program, to Dana Rivera who volunteered several days with our youth summer camp, and to teaching artists Khiné Bonner, Malik Carter, and Olia Onyshko who have lead our youth and 55+ summer camps. We look forward to sharing the work which came out of these camps at our Community Stories Festival later this year.


Four new members have joined the Docs In Progress Board of Directors. 

Erin Essenmacher is the Chief Programming Officer of the National Association of Corporate Directors. This follows a career of more than 20 years as a writer, producer, and director on documentaries for PBS, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the History Channel Court TV, corporate clients, and independent projects. Her work with Docs In Progress is focused on policy and governance.

Dr. Mark Friedman has a background in organizational development, providing training and technical assistance to nonprofit and government agencies. He has spent his career helping people with disabilities gain a voice, and he also teaches disability studies and research design at CUNY and Rosalind-Franklin University of Medicine and Science. He is a member of Docs In Progress' Finance Committee.

Jeanne Ryan Wolfson is the owner of Intent Communication, a consulting practice that provides communication strategy, audience development and strategic solutions for businesses and nonprofits. She has over 40 years experience as a communication strategist and practitioner in the Washington DC region, most recently at Freddie Mac, one of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. Her work with Docs In Progress is focused on communications strategy.

Sam Hampton co-founded Docs In Progress as a nonprofit with Adele Schmidt and Erica Ginsberg and has continued to be involved with the organization as a teaching artist and technology advisor. His work with Hampton Consulting and Film includes consulting with nonprofits and producing documentaries for the educational markety. He has been elected as the organization's Secretary and serves on its Technology Committee.

Our 2019 Executive Board are Barbara Valentino (President), Bonnie Rich (Treasurer), and Sam Hampton (Secretary). At large board members are Erin Essenmacher, Mark Friedman, GT Keplinger, and Jeanne Wolfson. Jay Elvove and Laura Possessky have remained as ex officio members this year, as the organization has transitioned to its new space. We say farewell to former Vice President and Secretary Doug Yuan and At-Large members Dan Manatt and the late Susan Winchell.


We were shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of 2016 Fellow Yisrael "Izzy" Welcher in June. He had workshopped his film Kol Hanashim (Voices of Women) through the Fellowship cohort, and the project was also fiscally sponsored by Docs In Progress.  His friends are organizing two life celebrations. For those in New York, the event will take place at All Souls Church (1157 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan) on Sunday, August 4 from 3-5 pm. For those in Washington DC, the event will take place at Rock Creek Park Picnic Area 13 on Sunday, August 18 from 10 am - 1 pm. Memories may also be shared here

We are also sad to hear that Gabriel Miller passed away unexpectedly in July. Gabriel was an award-winning cinematographer, director and producer based in Seattle, Washington. Miller had dedicated the past nine years to filming and co-directing with Elisa Levine the observational documentary Sweetheart Deal, a Peer Pitch West alum.



Love Gilda (Peer Pitch West alum) has received two national Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special. Congratulations to director Lisa D'Apolito and her team.

Work-in-Progress alum Memphis and Peer Pitch alum Million Dollar Block have been selected for  the IFP Spotlight on Documentaries at Independent Film Week.

Queen of the Capital (Fiscal Sponsoree and Work-in-Progress Screening alum) was featured on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show and in the Washington Post ahead of its premiere at the Newseum. Listen to the story.

Benjamin Steger reports that Stage Four: A Love Story (Work-in-Progress Screening alum and former fiscal sponsoree) is now available for free on Vimeo. The award-winning documentary (Best International Feature Length Documentary, DOCfeed Film Festival and Best Feature Length Documentary, University Film and Video Association) is an intimate and rich portrait of a mother and her family as she faces terminal illness.

The Invalid Corps: A Forgotten History of Disabled Veterans from 2015 Fellow Day Al-Mohamed will be part of the lineup at Superfest, the longest running disability film festival in the world. For more than 30 years, the Bay-area film festival has celebrated cutting-edge cinema that portrays disability through a diverse, complex, unabashed and engaging lens. It will screen on Saturday Oct. 12, 2019 at 12:00 noon at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.

Stephanie Lucas (Fiscal Sponsoree and Work-in-Progress screening alum) has been awarded a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts to support animation and sound design for Unfinished Work.

Heather Taylor (2014 Fellow and Consultation alum) will be commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the first Women's National Air Derby with a screening of her film Breaking Through The Clouds in Hong Kong to employees of Cathay Airlines. 

After a limited theatrical run, Scary Stories (Peer Pitch Midwest alum) was released on all major VOD in May, DVD in July, and made the cover of Midwest Tapes’ July catalogue. Director Cody Meirick reports it was also reviewed by the Hollywood Reporter.

When It Breaks (Peer Pitch Midwest alum) recently premiered in Colorado. It heads next to the Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah, Kentucky. Learn more about the film and upcoming screenings at

John Wolfstone (Peer Pitch West alum) is crowdfunding for Love School about the revolutionary work of the Tamera Peace Research Village. The Kickstarter is running through August 12. 

Here's some news from alums on their latest projects:

Amy Oden (2014 Fellow) will speak at a Rutgers-organized conference in Cuba this fall, and teach Intermediate Documentary at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She is also presenting Guerrilla Documentary in the Digital Age workshop at the Creative Alliance on August 24. She continues to work on her independent feature, Calasag (Peer Pitch alum), and produce for Maryland Public Television.

Aviva Kempner (Work-in-Progress screening alum) has shared that her latest film The Spy Behind Home Plate is continuing its nationwide theatrical run. The feature documentary tells the real story of Morris “Moe” Berg, the enigmatic and brilliant Jewish baseball player turned spy. Learn about upcoming screenings.

Bonnie Rich (2015 Fellow) dished humor and Jewish tradition to her 20-something daughters in the documentary Life is Rich (Fiscal Sponsoree and Work-in-Progress Screening alum). Her once reluctant daughters are now asking for more, so they created a podcast, Life is Rich Dishing Tradition. Listen as Bonnie and her daughters talk about parenting, adulting, spirituality, and matchmaking.

Catherine Wyler (Workshop Alum) is Executive Producer of a new HBO film The Cold Blue has used footage that her father, the late director William Wyler, captured in 1943 over Germany. The new film mixes the footage with contemporary interviews with the few surviving veterans of the WWII air war and will air on HBO in June.

Conrad Weaver (Roundtable Alum) recently won an Impact Award at the New Jersey Recovery Film Festival for his latest film Heroin's Grip - stories from the front lines of the opioid crisis, has received the Impact Award at the 2019 New Jersey Recovery Film Festival. The film continues to be screened around the country and will be released nationally on Amazon Video in September. 

Dandan Liu (Workshop alum) recently had her documentary short Monburan Micki acquired by Seed&Spark  It's a portrait on Japan's most up-and-coming female boxer as she prepares for the title match in Tokyo and navigates the contradictions between her identity as a strong female boxer and the traditional Japanese definition of what a woman should be like.

Jeffrey Kramer (Work-in-Progress screening and Roundtable alum) just completed a a short documentary entitled: Ami's Dream. Narrated by actress Mayim Bialik, the film tells the story of the founder of one of the largest foundations in the world that treats children with heart defects. 

Piper Hendricks (class alum) and her organization p.h. balanced films recently headed to the African Women in Media conference in Nairobi, Kenya where they facilitated workshops and joined panel discussions on film, advocacy, and storytelling. 

Alums: Don't be left out! Send your news via our new online form. The Fall Newsletter will be published in October. Deadline to submit updates for consideration is September 15.


Note that some are limited by geographic or other requirements. Please read guidelines carefully.

August 1: Filmmakers Without Borders Filmmaking Grants

August 12: Mountainfilm Commitment Grant

August 14: National Endowment for the Humanities Development and Production Grants

August 14: Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund

August 21: CrossCurrents Doc Funds

September 1: Maryland Humanities Major Grant

September 2: IDA Enterprise Fund Development Grant

October 15: Logan Nonfiction Fellowship

October 31: Roy W. Dean Grant

November 15: The Miller / Packan Film Fund

Rolling Deadlines

Sundance Documentary Fund
The Bertha BRITDOC Documentary Journalism Fund
AMDOC Artist Emergency Fund

Want to see the full list of film funders?
We now have a permanent place on our website which you can bookmark to get links to more information on major film funders. You can access the page for free as long as you sign in to our website
Here's the link to bookmark:


Have you been too busy to keep up with what's been going on in the world of documentary? We've compiled links to some articles and blogs we think you may find of interest.

Changing Documentary Release Strategies, the Rise of Podcasts and Climbing U.S. Non-fiction Budgets: Tracking Industry Change at the 2019 Sheffield Doc/Fest (Filmmaker Magazine)

When Filming Abroad, Consider the Laws (Documentary Magazine)

Documentary Tips: Capturing the Who, What, When, Where, and Why (Premium Beat)

Developing a Great Discussion Guide: Notes for Documentary Filmmakers (Edublogs)

5 Tips for Editing Your Sample Reel (Shirley Thompson Editorial)

How Do Independent Filmmakers Make a Living? 20 BAMcinemaFest Directors on Day Jobs That Pay the Bills (IndieWire)

Want to see more? We now have a permanent place on our website which you can bookmark to keep up with the latest articles and blogs of interest. You can access the page for free as long as you sign in to our website.  Bookmark this page:


All programs are at our space in downtown Silver Spring unless otherwise noted.


Docs In Progress is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering, educating, and engaging emerging documentary filmmakers and the audiences they are trying to reach. We offer more than 50 different educational, professional development, screening, and artist services programs every year in the Washington DC Metropolitan area and beyond.