Screenwriting

Documentary Magazine - Feature Articles

Published by the International Documentary Association in print and online.

Seeing Sound: IDA and Wondery's Podcast Day

The podcast space, even with hundreds of thousands of titles proliferating the market, is still emerging and evolving. Like documentary filmmaking, the podcast promises compelling stories and examines important issues. The overlap is organic. But the two also underlap, if you will, as podcasting’s audio-only limitations invite inventive, cinematic use of sound, engulfing the ear to incite the imagination. Ultimately, the audience is coaxed into seeing sound. For the podcast-curious, leading pod

'One Child Nation': The Aftermath of China's Population Control Policy

'One Child Nation': The Aftermath of China's Population Control Policy Co-directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation examines China’s One-Child Policy, coaxing confessions and revelations of drastic, profound depth from its subjects. Taken together, these wide-ranging first-hand accounts tell the era’s story, conveying its dark, emotional legacy in an astonishing film that is sure to contribute to the historical and cinematic record. Enacted in 1979 and replaced with the “Two-C

Five Essential Steps to Better Pitching

Five Essential Steps to Better Pitching During every phase of production, documentary filmmakers are required to articulate their expansive artistic vision and months or years of work in a few compelling sentences. In pre-production and production, succinct summaries are pitched to funders and collaborators, and in pitch forums. To reach the distribution finish line, post-production may require pitching to festivals, distributors, commissioning editors, broadcasters and other gatekeepers. And f

Does Length Matter? The Liberating Limitations of Short Films

Does Length Matter? The Liberating Limitations of Short Films It's tempting to give the short film short shrift. Is less less? Is less more? Or is less the same? Various mechanisms allow the short to transcend its length—shaping the piece according to its internal logic, drilling the story down to its essence, and using only the most potent material, according to the filmmaker's vision. We spoke with seven noted feature filmmakers, who also work in the short form: • Jessica Yu won an Academy A

Championing Documentary as an Empathy Machine: Tabitha Jackson Joins the Sundance Institute

Championing Documentary as an Empathy Machine: Tabitha Jackson Joins the Sundance Institute The Sundance Institute recently named Tabitha Jackson as the new director of its Documentary Film Program (DFP); she succeeds Cara Mertes, who stepped down this past summer to take on the director position at the Ford Foundation's JustFilms program. Jackson will plan and implement strategic partnerships, oversee the DFP's funding programs and host five annual Labs for documentary filmmakers. As she moves

Which Truth is More Important? The Documentarian's Ethical Dilemma

Which Truth is More Important? The Documentarian's Ethical Dilemma Documentarians face quandaries at every phase of the process. Is it ethical to film this subject? What footage do I include? Do I have a "right" to tell this story? What is most important—a literal truth, a higher truth or both? What's more, filmmakers juggle competing arenas of responsibility—to their subjects, audience, funders and themselves—while working in relative isolation. To discuss how these moments are navigated, Do

In Digital-Era Distribution, Story Still Comes First

In Digital-Era Distribution, Story Still Comes First Few things are more intellectually pleasurable than a good paradox. Take, for example, documentary film distribution in the digital era. As content providers proliferate, jargon abounds and a new language surfaces based on acronyms for "Video on Demand" service types: "TVOD" (Transactional/pay-as-you-go viewing like iTunes), "SVOD" (Subscription-based like Netflix), "AVOD" (Advertising/free but shows commercials) and "OTT" (Over-the-Top/acro

Preparation, Protection, Patience: Documentary Filmmaking in Hostile Environments

Talal Derki is making a film in an area so dangerous, he and his wife must treat each departure as if it might be his last. After all, he explains, "I don 't know if I will be back." Such solemn regard is hard-earned. Derki 's current project follows a father and son who are both active Al Qaeda members. His 2014 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Return to Homs was also set in a war zone, shot entirely on the front lines of the Syrian Civil War. High-risk projects have forced Derki to become an

Getting Real '18 Day Two: Frederick Wiseman, #MeToo and You

Getting Real '18 Day Two: Frederick Wiseman, #MeToo and You As the conference is named Getting Real and this dispatch is of a more personal nature, my job here is to, yes, keep it real. That’s why I must confess: when I'm really enthused about something, I use rhyming expressions. My response to my Wednesday Getting Real experience? It rocks my socks. In fact, it's the bee's knees. All day, I felt the enormity and depth of the wisdom, talent, experience, passion, creativity and intelligence s
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