3rd DocYard summer season has wrapped and another collection of amazing
films and artists has come and gone. Nearing the end of this summer’s
programming, several people approached me asking about how we select the
films. I’ve been programming screening and discussion events with
filmmakers for my entire professional life,
and these inquiries made me realize that what seems so rote to me is
actually a total mystery to others. Now that the summer season is closed
and we’ve turned our eyes to the next round of films in our scope, I
thought it was a good time to share a bit about the process and thinking
behind our programming.
I met Mina T. Son and Sara Newens at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival earlier this year. The California-based filmmakers are hard at work hard on their first feature documentary, Top Spin, which follows teenage US table tennis players all the way to the London 2012 Olympics. They recently finished a Kickstarter campaign (check it out here) that raised an impressive $75,000. I came across the Top Spin Kickstarter via Facebook, and Mina and Sara's telethon-style live webcast during the last days of their campaign caught my attention. It was absorbing to see them under pressure and working against the clock, getting donations in real time, trying to keep up momentum and make it to their goal. I think it was similar to the way a lot of people feel while watching sports, actually (I don't, but I get the idea), so it was a nice match between the subject of the film and the fundraising approach.
With crowdfunding now such a standard option for filmmakers (LEF Program Director Sara blogged about it here), it's important to consider what might work best for each individual project to make it work; this is just one example of a winning strategy. I interviewed Mina about their experience:
LEF is very proud to have supported Leviathan, a documentary about the fishing industry in New Bedford, MA, by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel. The film received Production and Post-Production Moving Image Fund awards, and it's been exciting to see the film progress to its confident conclusion in the hands of some of the best documentary filmmakers working in New England. Leviathan has been making a Swiss splash at the Locarno International Film Festival, where it just had its world premiere. Eric Kohn at Indiewire enthuses:
"Leviathan" resembles nothing like the existing format for nature documentaries, but it does point to a different approach to it. Generally speaking, the genre is predicated on distance between the viewer and subject. "Leviathan," on the other hand, delves into the thick of it, the camera merging with subjects living and dead, fashioning the natural world into the ultimate expressionistic accomplishment.
I have to say that I am often finding myself saying “Thank God for Ingrid Kopp.” Ingrid is the Director of Digital Initiatives at the Tribeca Film Institute and one of the brightest minds out there thinking about what’s next for digital storytelling. Professional accomplishments aside, just her Facebook page is an encyclopedia of the interesting, provocative, and newest in new developments in next generation media. As a part of the Tribeca Film Festival this spring (2012), Ingrid, through her work on the TFI New Media Fund
, collaborated with XO Labs to created a one-day event bringing together some of the best minds in the field for conversation and learning – and they called it TFI Interactive
. For those who couldn’t make it live, Ingrid has written a great synopsis of the day, including video clips of some of the sessions like the keynote by Baratunde Thurston (author of How To Be Black), a conversation with Campfire’s Steve Coulson about their interactive marketing campaign for Game of Thrones, and Local Projects’ Jack Barton speaking about the innovative work they’ve done with the 9/11 Memorial Museum. You can see all of this and more here thanks to Ingrid’s write up
Plenty has been written online about French filmmaker Chris Marker, who died this past Sunday.
Here's Richard Brody in The New Yorker, and Colin Marshall at Open Culture, where you can watch full some of Marker's films online (Chris Marker documents the Tokyo Olympics - London 2012 take note: Le mystère Koumiko (1965)). Zachary Wigon at Filmmaker Magazine laments the extent to which Marker, a filmmaker obsessed with memory, has been forgotten about: “you’ll see plenty of notice given the man in the wake of his death, but Marker hasn’t held the attention of the film world in the way that his contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard and Resnais do since, well – never."
He was certainly no showboater; the filmmaker who Ty Burr describes as "a ghostly fellow traveler" alongside the French New Wave seldom gave interviews and refused to be photographed. He expressed a desire, as Richard Brody quotes from a rare interview, "to give the floor to people who haven’t got it, and, when possible, to help them to find their means of expression." But his presence is infused everywhere.
There's the influence of Marker's unclassifiable films; this is the person who "pioneered the flexible hybrid form known as the essay film" according to Dennis Lim's NYT obituary; who made Sans Soleil; and who once saved me personally (as I'm sure he's saved others in the past), from the consequences of several rolls of ruined film during a class project. NB. you can get away with pretending you were planning to do the thing “La Jetee style,” and get away with it, exactly one time.
Then there's his presence in other people's movies. Personal, like his appearance in his friend Agnes Varda's The Beaches of Anges in the guise of an animated cat; or harder to trace, like his role as the kind of fairy godfather behind Patricio Guzman's The Battle of Chile. Guzman recalls how Marker, who was to him just a well-known Left-wing French filmmaker, showed up at his doorstep one day to buy Guzman's film The First Year. When the Chilean political situation began to escalate and Guzman sensed that huge events would need to be captured on film, he reached out to his acquaintance:
The Battle of Chile turned out to be a great film and an important part of a country's memory; the reverberations of Chris Marker's response are still felt. Who knows how a generous action or a willingness to take a creative risk will play out in the future? We can all take lesson's from Marker's far-raging work.