Dear Friends and Supporters of Docs In Progress,
This year together we have faced multiple crises of such enormous scale from the COVID pandemic to racial injustice; crises that have seized our lives and livelihoods.
When COVID hit, like so many organizations, Docs In Progress was forced to close its physical office. When I lowered the thermostat and locked the doors on March 17, I was not sure when our talented filmmakers and enthusiastic audiences ― the heart and soul of Docs ― would return to our Silver Spring dream space.
We have had tremendous support via the CARES Act and from friends like you this year. There have been many glimmers of joy that we are pleased to share here, and we have great hope for 2021.
This is the first time in 2020 we are reaching out to you with a donation request. Docs learned and experienced much this year; and we are excited to build upon our existing programs in new ways and create innovative content as we reach a growing community and diverse audiences.
Teen Filmmaking Workshops
A point of pride this year has been our teen filmmaking workshop. Early this summer when many local rec departments were forced to cancel their youth activities, we committed to making this program work, even remotely. But how do you teach filmmaking remotely to teens? And with what equipment? Docs sought and secured funding to purchase iPads and other equipment to create “loaner gear bags” valued at $500. We were able to offer scholarships to ensure that a diverse group of young people had an opportunity to participate.
In July, two teen workshops with the theme of My Life Under COVID were launched. The final result was nine distinctive, funny and poignant films. Docs was proud to showcase these talented youth films at our recent Community Stories Film Festival.
One of the most gratifying moments was when we received an email in Spanish from the mother of a 14-year-old Workshop participant, who shared: “I never thought I would be able to give my daughter this opportunity.” As I marshalled on, this comment became my guiding force, especially during some of the most challenging days during the pandemic.
Providing the tools for teens to tell their story ― letting them know they have a voice ― is a core of Docs In Progress. It is who we are!
Community Stories Film Festival
This year the Festival went virtual ― becoming our biggest effort and a great success. Community Stories showcases local films by local filmmakers from the DMV. Our small and mighty team designed crisp digital graphics highlighting our filmmakers and panelists, created a flipbook program, and produced a flawless and amazing online experience for our expanded audience.
25 films, Seven live Q&A panels, Over three days!
Based on some sage advice from stars in the doc world, our Fellows Program was already in redesign mode with a continued emphasis on peer support and engagement. When the 2020 Fellows Cohort started in March, we anticipated that the fellows would be able to meet in-person in June…and then in September. But the pandemic surged and so the fellows spent their entire ‘ship’ online. We are thrilled that several fellows are planning to submit their projects to our Work-in-Progress screenings in 2021.
Jan Krawitz, documentarian and Stanford Instructor, was poised to come to Silver Spring this summer as our Filmmaker-in-Residence. Because of rising infection rates in Maryland and then in California, Jan and Docs realized a Plan B was needed. For 2020, this program became our “Filmmaker-In-Situ”. Even with these unique circumstances, Jan was terrific–sharing her experiences, whether speaking before the Fellows or launching our Silver Screen Series with her film, Perfect Strangers.
Learning from skilled and experienced artists as well as providing artists a chance to focus on their work helps elevate the documentary form for all.
What We Can Do Together
During this pandemic, our mantra was to invest in people, even in small ways. Most programming and all of our screenings were free in 2020. Modest honorariums, which were designed to cover someone's parking and dinner, became a “thank you, this honorarium will pay my cell phone bill for the month.”
My tenure as Interim Executive Director is coming to a close and a permanent ED will be announced soon. The Board and I initially thought that “interim” was only for 3-4 months but even in that, the pandemic dictated. And as challenging as it has been, I am so pleased to have been able to navigate Docs through the pandemic’s difficult and early days. Our future is bright, and I look forward to returning to the Board.
Docs’ mission has always been to provide opportunities so people can tell their own stories–via our Community Stories Festival, our Filmmaker-in-Residence, our Fellows, or even a 14-year-old girl who made her very first film as a part of a remote workshop.
You can help give voice to all artists whether 40 or 14. You can help share their highly personal stories, stories that reflect social and cultural issues whether on the local, national or global stage. Today, more than ever, we need to hear from these diverse voices. You can make that difference. Any amount is appreciated.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and our family of filmmakers, Docs In Progress wishes you the best for 2021. We look forward to reopening our physical doors and greeting you in person soon. Thank you.
Be well and stay safe!
Interim Executive Director