Filmmaker Conference

Filmmakers and industry professionals gathered in our nation's capital for AFI DOCS convene over two days for a series of conversations and presentations on the documentary field. The conference will include such topics as how to secure funding for your project, the best strategies for audience engagement and the challenges of working as both a journalist and a documentary filmmaker. The conference's discussions, panels and filmmaker-to-filmmaker sessions provide a unique opportunity for professional development, as well as shaping the future of the documentary field. They will also give filmmakers the tools they need to transition audiences from passive viewing to active involvement.


Thursday, June 18

8:30–9:00 a.m. Morning Refreshments
9:00–9:15 a.m. Welcome
9:15–9:45 a.m.

KEYNOTE: Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer, FRONTLINE
Raney Aronson-Rath runs FRONTLINE, PBS' flagship investigative journalism series, and is a leading voice on the future of journalism. She has been internationally recognized for her work to expand FRONTLINE's reporting capacity and reimagine the documentary form across multiple platforms. From the emergence of ISIS in Syria to the hidden history of the NFL and concussions to the secret reality of rape on the job for immigrant women, Aronson-Rath oversees FRONTLINE's acclaimed reporting and directs the series' evolution and editorial vision. She has developed and managed nearly 30 in-depth, cross-platform journalism partnerships with outlets including ProPublica, The New York Times and Univision. Under her leadership, FRONTLINE has won every major award in broadcast journalism and dramatically expanded its digital footprint. Prior to FRONTLINE, Aronson-Rath worked at ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, and MSNBC. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin and her master's from Columbia Journalism School.

9:45–10:00 a.m. Break

The Filmmaker as Journalist – Managing Risk in Investigative Documentary Work
Sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)

What are the challenges for public media filmmakers embarking on journalistic work? Can a filmmaker produce a work of art while also claiming journalistic protection? A panel discussion of leaders from across the industry explore legal, ethical and personal risks taken on by filmmakers producing content for public media.

Come out with key takeaways for reducing risk, learn about available resources, and share thoughts on next steps for developing support systems for documentary journalists. The panel discussion will be followed by a working lunch of breakout groups going in depth on major issues with the guidance of panelists and invited experts.

Carrie Lozano, Director/Producer, Moderator
Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer, FRONTLINE
Bernardo Ruiz, Director/Producer
Jay Ward Brown, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP.

10:00–11:30 a.m. Panel Discussion
11:30–11:45 a.m. Break
11:45–1:45 p.m. Lunch and Breakout Working Groups

1:45–2:00 p.m. Break
2:00–3:30 p.m. Going Native: Producing Documentary for the Web and the Innovative Work of NPR Visuals

With increasing frequency, the documentary form, as it continues to evolve in new and dynamic ways, is finding a welcoming environment on the web. Rather than simply being a place to watch documentaries, the web is shaping the very ways that documentary content is created and viewed. Among those at the forefront of this new wave is NPR Visuals, the design team that works side-by-side with NPR producers and reporters to create content native to the web.

Part One: NPR's Senior Interaction Designer Wes Lindamood leads you through his award-winning digital project Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt made in collaboration with NPR's Planet Money.

Part Two: a wide ranging and probing conversation moderated by NPR Producer-Editor Claire O'Neill between Wes and a documentary filmmaker exploring points of overlap, intersection and departure between "traditional" documentary and the collaborative, web-based projects that are pushing the documentary form against the outer edge of the envelope.

Wes Lindamood, Senior Interaction Designer, NPR
Claire O'Neill, Producer-Editor, NPR
Michael Beach Nichols, Director/Producer/Writer, WELCOME TO LEITH
Christopher K. Walker, Director/Producer/Writer, WELCOME TO LEITH

3:30–3:45 p.m. Break
3:45–5:00 p.m. IMPACT 2.0
The Power of Documentary
Presented in association with Picture Motion

Bringing core components of the AFI DOCS Impact Lab to the Filmmaker Conference, this session will focus on the power of film to create social change.

From Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro teaming with the filmmakers of FED UP to implore her colleagues to strengthen nutrition standards in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill; to the creation of the Military Justice Improvement Act by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand after seeing THE INVISIBLE WAR; to Comcast NBCUniversal's Media That Matters initiatives that create awareness of critical social issues and inspire individuals to take action; there's no doubt that documentary film has become a highly effective tool of both the public and private sectors for reaching new audiences and catalyzing change.

Drawing on core components of the AFI DOCS IMPACT LAB, this session will bring together legislators, strategists, and corporate leaders for a frank discussion about the power of film to mobilize action and address some of the nation's most critical issues of our time.

Heidi Nel, Picture Motion, Moderator
Ted Lieu, Member, U.S. House of Representatives
Beth Colleton, SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability, NBCUniversal
Daniel O'Meara, Campaign Director, RADiUS

Friday, June 19

1:00–2:30 p.m.

Meet the Funders Micro Meetings

Connect with industry insiders in these one-on-one 15-minute micro-meetings with representatives from some of the industry's most sought after documentary funders. AFI DOCS provides a rare opportunity to sharpen your pitch, talk funding strategy, or get a focused critique of your work-in-progress trailer (5 minutes or less). Sign-up sheets for the Funder Micro Meetings will be available at the Filmmaker Conference beginning at 8:30am on Thursday, June 18th. Space is limited and available on a first-come basis.

Funders scheduled to participate include Cal Humanities, Catapult Film Fund, Creative Capital, The Harnisch Foundation, The International Documentary Association, ITVS, LEF Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities and Sundance Documentary Fund.

2:30–2:45 p.m. Break
3:00–4:00 p.m.

Expanding the Reach and Visibility of Indie Film on PBS

PBS recently announced that not only would POV and Independent Lens stay in primetime for the foreseeable future, but that a renewed commitment would be made to expanding the reach and visibility of independent documentaries on PBS. In light of these developments, key players in this process explain how these decisions will be implemented, what changes they will likely bring to the independent documentary landscape on PBS, and discuss how filmmakers can best position themselves to take advantage of future opportunities on public television.

Dawn Porter, Director/Producer, Moderator
Marie Nelson, Vice President, News & Public Affairs, PBS
Tamara Gould, SVP of National Production and Strategic Partnerships, ITVS
Bernardo Ruiz, Director/Producer