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5 items from 2017

10 Unproduced Documentary Projects That Deserve to Get Made — Hot Docs

10 May 2017 9:07 AM, PDT | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

“Where is the hope?”

That was the question was posed last week at one of the world’s most prominent launch pads for nonfiction films in development — Hot Docs Pitch Forum — and it reflected the general mood in the room.

As 20 filmmaking teams pitched their projects to dozens of top decision-makers, funders, and broadcasters sitting around the long wooden table in the Gothic-designed Hart House at the University of Toronto, there was a particular excitement for new documentaries that were “fresh,” “optimistic” and “fun”—to use some of the words spoken publically over the two-day pitch-a-thon.

See MoreHow Hot Docs, North America’s Smartest Festival, Could Anoint an Oscar Winner

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could see those same powerbrokers struggling over what to do with still essential, but tough issue-driven films having to do with post-revolutionary countries in the Middle East or the global refugee crisis. »

- Anthony Kaufman

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Sheffield Doc/Fest unveils 2017 line-up

4 May 2017 3:00 AM, PDT | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Laura PoitrasJulian Assange film, a Jo Cox documentary, and a Walter Murch talk all feature.

UK documentary Sheffield Doc/Fest has unveiled its full 2017 programme.

This year’s closing night event will be the world premiere of Jo Cox: Death Of An MP, a BBC2 documentary that focuses on the investigation of the politician’s murder, including contributions from eye witnesses, Cox’s family, and people who knew her attacker.

As previously announced, the festival will open with a screening of Daisy Asquith’s documentary Queerama, featuring a live Performance From John Grant.

This year’s Doc/Fest grand jury will include American Honey director Andrea Arnold, as well as Indian documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and ex-Channel 4 news broadcaster Paul Mason.

UK premieres in the programme this year include Laura PoitrasJulian Assange portrait Risk, Whitney Houston doc Whitney: Can I Be Me, Ramona Diaz’s Motherland, Joseph Beuys doc [link »

- (Tom Grater)

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Michael Moore, Kim Longinotto, Dionne Walker projects set for Doc/Fest market

28 April 2017 3:10 AM, PDT | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Documentary festival’s MeetMarket will host 65 projects at 2017 edition.

A Michael Moore exec-produced Orson Welles doc and Dan Gordon’s Cuban sports film are among projects to be pitched at Sheffield Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket.

The festival’s flagship pitch event, which takes place on 12-13 June, will host 65 projects selected from more than 500 submissions.

The Mark Cousins-directed Orson Welles: A Portrait Of The Artist will be seeking sales and distribution deals at the market, alongside Kim Longinotto’s Shooting The Mafia, a film about a female photographer’s war against the Mafia.

Hillsborough director Dan Gordon will return to pitch Running For The Revolution with co-producer Julie Goldman, and Bafta-nominated The Hard Stop producer Dionne Walker is to present psychological doc Invisible Woman 2.0, about a couple working the streets of Paris.

Elsewhere, the Laura Poitras exec-produced The Rashomon Effect, directed by Lyric R. Cabral, will look at the differing perspectives of eyewitnesses recalling the shooting »

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Tribeca 2017 Women Directors: Meet Elvira Lind — “Bobbi Jene”

22 April 2017 9:01 AM, PDT | Women and Hollywood | See recent Women and Hollywood news »

Bobbi Jene

Elvira Lind has shot and directed documentaries of various lengths for TV, cinema, and the web on four different continents. Her first feature documentary, “Songs for Alexis” competed at Idfa in 2014 and screened at a many international festivals. Lind’s new documentary TV series, “Twiz and Tuck,” will be launched on Viceland this year.

Bobbi Jene” premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on April 21.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

El: “Bobbi Jene” is about a woman’s fight for creative independence [at a time when] love suddenly throws a wrench into her life. It is a film about making it on your own in the very competitive world of dance, breaking boundaries on stage, finding your own voice as an artist, and staying on track while juggling a relationship with a man who is 10 years younger.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

El: When I begin working on a new project I don’t look for a particular story but rather an outline of a theme that I am prepared to change if the film takes a new turn. I always search for a person I’d want to follow around for long periods of time with my camera and I have to hope that a story will shape itself as we go along.

When I met Bobbi five years ago I instantly knew that here was a film I’d like to pursue. I wanted to make a film about a woman around my own age who was facing the consequences of her choices as an artist — the loneliness, the struggle, and the doubt that comes with the lifestyle, but also the satisfaction you experience when you follow your instincts and find your path.

Bobbi was strong and inspiring. She was unchained by taboos. She was honest and she was about to change her life dramatically. When we met it was like we had known each other for years. It was an easy choice to pick up my camera and begin shooting.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

El: I hope this film can help challenge the criteria of success. We are so focused today — obsessed, really — on making it big and loud rather than being brave and making it honest. The size of the stage we are on should not define how successful we are.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

El: It is always challenging to fund a film, but funding a film where you have no clue how the story will unfold and your lead character is by no means a high profile figure can feel almost impossible. However, my longtime producer Julie Leerskov always believed in the story about Bobbi — even when I couldn’t tell her exactly what that story was.

We were located in an office in Copenhagen above a motorcycle shop with no heating and no internet. We scraped together everything we had to send me off on various trips to Tel Aviv and eventually we got a little bit of funding together from the Danish Film Institute as well as help from producer Sara Stockmann, founder of Sonntag Pictures, which then set things in motion.

Sara, Julie, and I continued to fight for years to get a budget together for the film. I ended up filming on three continents for almost three years before we had our full funding together. Both the Danish and Swedish Film Institute got involved and we eventually landed an important pitching session in Sweden that helped us get money from a long list of TV stations.

W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at Tribeca?

El: It is a dream come true to have a documentary in competition at Tribeca, a festival I have long wanted to be a part of.

I am Danish but have lived in New York the past four years and this is where Bobbi and I begun filming in 2012, so it feels like the right place for this film to start its journey.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

El: The worst piece of advice given to me was to get some kind of proper education since this film stuff would probably fail and it is important to have something proper, like being a dental assistant, to fall back on. Maybe it was also the best piece of advice since it did fuel extreme determination to never give up on my projects.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

El: Stay true to your work and your voice as a filmmaker. Stay focused on the stories you feel most compelled to tell and don’t let anyone tell you that you need a backup plan as a dental assistant in case you fail.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

El: One of my favorite films of all times is Kim Longinotto’s “Sisters in Law.” It’s a documentary about two women — a judge and a prosecutor — fighting women’s cases in the extremely patriarchal, rural Cameroon. It is a film with incredible intimacy, humor, and disturbing truths about a society where women are completely unaccustomed to fight for their justice.

It is an extremely moving film that somehow manages to balance humor in the most outrageous moments. The story doesn’t present us with an endless line of female victims: instead, we meet strong-willed, feisty women ready to take on what seems to be an impossible mission. It should be obligatory in schools to watch this one.

Longinotto shot the footage herself on 16mm film. Her work and her methods have been huge inspirations to me for the past 10 years.

W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have.

El: I am very hopeful that this will begin to change more and more. I also strongly believe that for this to happen women have to thoroughly support each other in the industry by helping each other kick in doors and encouraging big thoughts, big ambitions, and big challenges.

I see a huge female force in Scandinavian documentary films and it may be because we have a lot of strong female producers.

Tribeca 2017 Women Directors: Meet Elvira Lind — “Bobbi Jene” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »

- Laura Berger

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Sundance 2017 Women Directors: Meet Neasa Ní Chianáin — “In Loco Parentis”

18 January 2017 10:32 AM, PST | Women and Hollywood | See recent Women and Hollywood news »

In Loco Parentis

Neasa Ní Chianáin started directing in 2001 with television documentaries. Her previous credits include the award-winning “Frank Ned & Busy Lizzie,” which won the Best Feature award at The Celtic Film Festival 2004; “Fairytale of Kathmandu,” which world premiered at Idfa 2007 in the Silver Wolf Competition and subsequently won three international awards; and “The Stranger”, which premiered in Locarno Film Festival in 2014.

In Loco Parentis” will premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on January 20. The film is co-directed by David Rane.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

Nnc: It’s a story of human warmth and the magical capacity of two delightfully unconventional teachers who help their young students overcome a variety of different challenges.

Set in a rambling 18th century country house tucked away in a wooded estate in Ireland’s ancient East, “In Loco Parentis” charts a year in the life of Headfort, a primary-age boarding school, through the story of two passionate teachers who met at the school when they were young and have been living on the school grounds for 48 years.

The film takes the audience on a journey from an initial position of wondering how parents could leave children so young in such a foreboding place to the closing scenes of heartbreaking, tearful goodbyes, leaving the viewer thinking how lucky these children were to have spent time there.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

Nnc: My partner and co-director David and I both went to boarding school. I was a day pupil in a primary boarding school and then elected to go to a boarding high school and had a great experience. David was sent from Africa back to boarding school in England at the age of seven and had a traumatic time.

As parents and as documentary filmmakers, we were keen to know what a 21st century boarding school looked like, and to document the experience for children boarding today .

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

Nnc: I’d like them to leave the theater feeling a lot more positive about life than when they went in. I’d like them to leave thinking about the importance of investing in children’s childhood and thinking about creating situations where children are free to discover for themselves who they really are. Happy children thrive, learn, and overcome all sorts of challenges once they’re having fun.

I’d also like the audience to fall in love with our main characters, and to be lost in admiration at how passionate they are about their work. They are delightfully unconventional and eccentric — Amanda with her eyebrow piercing, John with his wild hair and casual dress — but they are 100 percent committed to their teaching and to the children in their charge.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Nnc: Observational filming is never easy. Crafting an engaging narrative with no voiceover, no interviews, and no signposts takes time. We spent two school years filming and one year editing. Finding the funding for such a project was the biggest challenge; the rest was pure pleasure.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

Nnc: First, we went the traditional route and wrote a detailed proposal of what we thought the film would be. But I think commissioning editors have possibly become cynical about written proposals and perhaps don’t believe what the filmmaker is promising.

Then we shot some research footage, introducing some of our characters and giving a general flavor of the world we wanted to portray. This piqued curiosity from the Irish Film Board and Rte, Ireland’s national broadcaster, and both gave us some development money.

We were also successful in getting some Creative Europe development funding and this saw us through our first year of filming. From this material we were able to put together some assemblies of different sections of the school, which encouraged Ifb and Rte to commit beyond development.

Meanwhile, we also sought co-production partners in France and Spain. We managed to interest Tve in Spain when we pitched it at Miradasdocs Market. We then went to the Berlinale and pitched the project to various sales agents and gathered a few letters of interest.

This gave the Ifb more confidence in the project as they like to fund projects with theatrical potential. With both the Ifb and Rte on board we applied to the Broadcast Authority Ireland (Bai) for funding and we were successful on the second attempt.

We now had Rte, Ifb, Bai, Creative Europe, and Tve. Their combined funding made us eligible for the Irish Tax incentive scheme, and completed our budget.

W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at Sundance?

Nnc: It’s incredibly exciting. It helps raise our profile as filmmakers on a world stage, but most importantly it’s a fantastic platform to launch the film and get it noticed.

We’re really hoping to attract a cinema distributor, which we know is a challenge for a lot of documentaries, but we believe our film reads as well as any good fiction film with a strong narrative, and the only difference is that our characters are not acting.

It’s as authentic a piece of storytelling as you can get. I think this is what audiences want — they want to be entertained, but they also want to experience something unique that they can relate to, and a film that makes them feel positive about the world in these unpredictable times. Sundance selection also makes our backers very happy.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

Nnc: The worst advice we received was to try and attach a sales agent to our film before we’d even shot it. In the current climate, where the market is saturated with great material, sales agents generally wait until rough cut before acquiring films.

The best advice was to cast our characters very carefully. If you find great characters the rest will follow.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

Nnc: Believe in yourselves — you’re probably much more talented than your male counterparts, but you may lack the confidence to know it because the industry is so male-dominated.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

Nnc: Kim Longinotto’s “Divorce Iranian Style.” Kim’s an observational filmmaker and shoots her films herself, routinely capturing moments of incredible intimacy. As an audience member you feel like you’re there with her in the world she captures.

I love the way that the protagonists feel so comfortable with Kim’s camera that they whisper to it as a confidante. Kim is also incredibly generous and encouraging to other filmmakers.

W&H: Have you seen opportunities for women filmmakers increase over the last year due to the increased attention paid to the issue? If someone asked you what you thought needed to be done to get women more opportunities to direct, what would be your answer?

Nnc: Positive discrimination. Yes, I think there’s a lot more talk and focus being given to the disparity in funding received by women for their projects and their male counterparts — but if one really wants to tip the balance, I think there should be positive discrimination towards female filmmakers for a few years so that more women feel confident enough to come forward.

I believe Sweden tried this and it worked with fantastic results. Women’s films tend to perform as well as if not better than men’s, yet this is not reflected in the allocation of funding.

Sundance 2017 Women Directors: Meet Neasa Ní Chianáin — “In Loco Parentis” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »

- Joseph Allen

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