Filmmaker Conference

Over four days, the American Film Institute will present a variety of development and networking events for filmmakers and industry professionals at the 2016 AFI DOCS Filmmaker Forum. Each day, the Forum will explore a unique topic through keynote presentations, conversations, panel discussions and micro-meetings.

Open to Priority and Industry passholders as well as festival filmmakers, each day of the Forum will include breakfast and lunch. Purchase your AFI DOCS pass now.

AFI DOCS Filmmaker Forum
Thursday, June 23 through Sunday, June 26
June 23 8:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
June 24 8:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
June 25 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
June 26 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

AFI DOCS Festival Hub
421 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004

Thursday, June 23


The 2016 AFI DOCS Filmmaker Forum will cast a spotlight on issues of diversity, representation and inclusion within the documentary community. Independent producers and cultural critics will examine the key role public media has played in fostering diverse storytelling, and how it can continue to be relevant in the current media landscape. Topics covered will range from making sure diverse talent is not only brought on board but made to feel valued, and included; the meaning of “representation” in an age of widespread DIY distribution options; and the impact of class and sexism on the careers of all filmmakers.

8:00–8:30 a.m. Morning Refreshments
8:30–8:40 a.m. Welcome and Introductions
Michael Lumpkin, AFI DOCS Festival Director
Jennifer MacArthur, CPB Filmmaker Forum Producer
8:40–9:55 a.m.

Beyond the Black/White Divide

The controversy around comedian Chris Rock's monologue at the 2016 Academy Awards made public a discourse often held privately among people of color. It prompted journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas to ask: "When the media does talk about race, they usually frame it as a White vs. Black question. Occasionally, it's White vs. Latino, or White vs. Asian, and so on. Always White vs. something. But what about the conversations that people of color have across and within their communities?"

Join a panel of award-winning filmmakers, scholars, and curators as they discuss this subtle twist on the #OscarsSoWhite debate, and examine the ways documentary and other media are grappling with the browning of America.

Angie Chuang, Associate Professor, School of Communication, American University

Danielle Jackson (Bronx Documentary Center)
Carlos Sandoval (THE STATE OF ARIZONA)

10:00–11:00 a.m.


What if the road to inclusion were really an intersection? W. Sean Kelly, Global Lab Leader at Deloitte

11:05–12:05 p.m.

What's Gender (Race, Ethnicity, Class) Got to Do with It?

The visibility of women filmmakers in recent years has reached unprecedented levels. A steady stream of articles in the New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, IndieWire and others have detailed the struggles women face behind the camera. Multiple research centers across the country confirm that women continue to face barriers in employment and funding opportunities. This fight to raise awareness around gender discrimination in the industry has culminated in the federal government launching investigations into Hollywood's hiring practices.

But is the revolution reaching every woman in equal measure? Is filmmaking possible for the working class or working mother? Are the experiences of women of color meaningfully included in this debate? Is producing a "woman's film" a barrier to financing and distribution? Emerging and established filmmakers share their perspectives on what it takes to sustain a career on this panel moderated by Women Make Movies founder, Debra Zimmerman.

Debra Zimmerman (Executive Director, Women Make Movies)

Steph Ching (AFTER SPRING)
Ellen Martinez (AFTER SPRING)
Farihah Zaman (Field of Vision, Brown Girls Doc Mafia)

12:05 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Networking Lunch
1:00 p.m.–2:15 p.m.

Breakout Sessions

Case Study: Next Generation Leadership
A new professional development program that is designed to help public media expand its pipeline of programming executives by identifying, training and helping retain a diverse group of senior and executive producers and other content leaders in television, film, radio, and digital platforms. Join Carlos Sandoval to discuss this innovative public media program and workshop ideas for applications in the documentary field.

Break out session leader: Carlos Sandoval

Case Study: Brown Girls Doc Mafia
Brown Girls Doc Mafia is a group of self-identified women of color (cis-gendered and trans) working in documentary. Launched in the fall of 2015, the peer network creates community online and in person for brown women working in documentary, and all are welcome -- from funders to filmmakers; from broadcast docs to VR. The Mafiosas support and celebrate each other's work, share resources and ideas, and discuss issues central to their work and role in documentary. How can we work towards diversifying our industry, and enrich the stories being told? Founding member and Executive Squad leader Farihah Zaman leads this workshop on strategies for engaging diverse audiences on the film festival circuit.

Breakout Session Leader: Farihah Zaman

2:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

Breakout Session Leaders will have an opportunity to report back to the group. AFI Film Forum Producer closes out with a recap of learnings from the day.

Sponsored by 

Friday, June 24


The Forum will turn its focus on the industry and institutions that play roles, for better and for worse, in either driving the diversification of documentary filmmaking forward or holding it back. The relevance of the issues behind the #OscarsSoWhite campaign to the documentary world, will be examined, as will the role played by industry gatekeepers. Efforts within public media to identify, train and retain a diverse group of senior and executive producers and other content leaders will also be highlighted.

8:30–9:00 a.m. Morning Refreshments
9:00–9:10 a.m.

Welcome and Introductions
Jennifer MacArthur, CPB Filmmaker Forum Producer

9:10–9:55 a.m.

What #Oscarssowhite can tell us about the film festival circuit
Caty Borum Chattoo, Center for Media & Social Impact

Caty Borum Chattoo, Co-Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, discusses race and gender in documentary film based on new research, along with recent trade articles about the inclusion of women and directors of color.
Anecdotally, the major film festivals offer more opportunities to documentary directors of color and women than in fiction film. But do we risk oversimplifying the underlying reality of documentary filmmaking as a business by asserting that diversity and inclusion in the festival circuit fully translates into broader opportunities for women and directors of color? This provocative talk provides data-driven insights and raises questions.

10:00–11:10 a.m.

The Hot Seat

The funding landscape for documentary film has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Small scale funders are finding it harder to demand distribution rights when filmmakers can now crowdfund comparable amounts on Kickstarter or Seed & Spark. The MacArthur and Ford Foundations have restructured, shifting funding strategies and filmmaker careers alike. And Netflix's announcement of a $6BIL investment in original content (including documentary) could have ramifications for markets and pitch forums across the festival circuit. What are the opportunities and challenges for women and filmmakers of color in this new reality?

AFI DOCS Film Forum Producer Jennifer MacArthur explores this and more during one on one Q&As with industry leaders from Catapult Film Fund, IDA, NEH, and POV.

Bonni Cohen (Co-Founder, Catapult Film Fund)
Amy Halpin (Director of Filmmaker Services, International Documentary Association)
Jeff Hardwick (Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities)
Eliza Licht (Vice President of Content Strategy & Engagement, POV)

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

In Conversation
A Fireside Chat with CPB and PBS

CPB and PBS have long emphasized their commitment to increasing diversity among content and services. Diversity is central to the core mission of CPB which supports content creation through both direct investment and funding For professional development opportunities. These programs, designed to develop the next generation of editorial leaders, have introduced diverse talent and ideas to programs such as NOVA, Frontline and NPR.

At PBS, Stanley Nelson's film THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION garnered its highest ever Nielsen rating for INDEPENDENT LENS and became the most tweeted program on PBS since Nielsen Social began tracking Twitter TV activity. Its success is credited in part to the marketing and distribution strategy put into place in response to conversations with the independent film community.

In this talk, Sylvia Bugg, CPB's Vice President of Diversity and Television Content, and Marie Nelson, PBS' Vice President of News & Public Affairs, will discuss how the conversation has evolved around diversity and is helping to attract new audiences to public media.

Sylvia Bugg (Vice President, Diversity and TV Content, CPB)
Marie Nelson (Vice President, News & Public Affairs, PBS)

12:15 p.m.–12:30 p.m.

AFI Film Forum Producer closes out with a recap of learnings from the two days. What’s a next step for the field?

12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. Networking Lunch
1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

Filmmaker Micro-Meetings
Filmmakers are invited to 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 decision-makers. 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 Micro Meetings will be available at the Filmmaker Forum beginning at 8:30am on Thursday, June 23rd. Space is limited and available on a first-come basis.

Participating organizations include: HBO Documentary Films, International Documentary Association, POV, National Endowment for the Humanities, and others TBA

Sponsored by 

Saturday, June 25

9:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Morning Refreshments
9:30 a.m.–10:45 a.m. Panel

BIG IDEAS – SMALL PACKAGES: Short Format Documentary
Sponsored by 

Free from the constraints of the feature-length format, more documentary filmmakers are turning to shorter formats to tell their stories, reach larger audiences, change the world and, yes, even make a living. Suitable for short attention spans and low-to-no-budget filmmaking — and easily shareable — short documentaries can make a big impact despite their small size. Join a group of award-winning filmmakers to explore the advantages and opportunities that come with keeping it short.

Jonathan Gann (CINE, ReelPlan, DC Shorts)

Kahane Cooperman (JOE'S VIOLIN, The New Yorker Presents)
Kathleen Lingo (The New York Times Op-Docs)

11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

In Conversation: Documenting Mexico
Earlier this year, The New York Times Op-Docs debuted a yearlong series of films by Mexican directors about Mexico, providing a platform for the flourishing Mexican documentary film community to tell their own stories about the country. This year's AFI DOCS Film Festival is also shining a light on Mexico with a number of films by Mexican directors about Mexico.

Join The New York Times' Kathleen Lingo for a conversation with directors Tatiana Huezo (TEMPESTAD), Maya Goded (PLAZA DE LA SOLEDAD) and Trisha Ziff (THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH) exploring the state of documentary filmmaking in Mexico.

Kathleen Lingo (The New York Times Op-Docs)

Tatiana Huezo (TEMPESTAD)

12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

Networking Lunch Sponsored by 
Join VIZIO for a networking lunch at the AFI DOCS Festival Hub and check out the all new VIZIO SmartCast™ P-Series™ Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display.

Experience life-like picture quality and High Dynamic Range with support for Dolby Vision™ and Ultra Color Spectrum™ that delivers a dramatically different visual experience, with astonishing brightness, radiant contrast, and captivating color - exactly how the filmmaker intended.

Participants attending the Filmmaker Lunch & Technology Demo can enter to win a brand new VIZIO SmartCast™ P-Series 65” Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display.

Sunday, June 26

9:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Morning Refreshments
9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

VR Viewing
Put on a headset and experience some of the best and latest immersive nonfiction works.

11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Virtual Reality: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Now? Where Are We Headed?

If 2016 is, as many have said, "Year One" in the Virtual Reality revolution, then AFI DOCS offers a unique opportunity to pause at this critical midpoint juncture and examine the incredible forward leaps made in this burgeoning creative space, as well as its limitations and prospects for future growth. Join a panel of VR makers, journalists, academics and industry insiders for a thought-provoking and insightful conversation about the past, present and future of VR and documentary.

Patricia Aufderheide (University Professor, School of Communication, American University)

Brad Lichtenstein (duPont-winning filmmaker, co-founder Custom Reality Services, ACROSS THE LINE)
Mitch Gelman (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, senior fellow at the Newseum in media and technology and co-author of the Knight Foundation report, "Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism")
Emma Mankey Hidem, Founder & CEO at SunnysideVR
Amy Nichols, Co-Founder & CEO bThere Inc.
Gina Scarpulla, Supervising Producer at Discovery Communications

Before and after the panel, experience some of the best and latest nonfiction VR projects.

Across the Line

  • Created by Brad Lichtenstein, Nonny de la Peña, Jeff Fitzsimmons
  • This immersive virtual reality experience puts the audience on scene as anti-abortion extremists try to intimidate patients who seek sexual and reproductive health care. Using documentary footage and a montage of real audio, viewers gain an intimate knowledge of the harassment outside and compassion inside health centers across the country.


  • Created by The Guardian
  • What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.

The Ark

  • Created by Kel O'Neill and Eline Jongsma (Jongsma + O'Neill)
  • The northern white rhinoceros is the most endangered animal on the planet. Only three remain, and they are protected at all times by armed bodyguards. The Ark is a virtual reality documentary that puts viewers face-to-face with the last northern white rhinos, and tells the story of the global coalition scientists who are fighting to rescue the species from extinction.

The Museum of Stolen Art

  • Created by Ziv Schneider
  • The Museum of Stolen Art is a virtual reality space exhibiting pieces that have been reported missing or stolen. It allows the viewer to experience works virtually that cannot be seen otherwise, and suggests an alternative approach for law enforcement to narrate their database to the public using new technologies.

Share Love VR

  • Created by Emma Mankey Hidem & Mikhail Gordon
  • In media all over the world, hatred, anger, and negativity get far more attention than love, kindness, and good. #‎ShareLoveVR is a short­form series, social experiment, and cultural exchange in which the viewer, through the power of VR, connects with strangers around the world who are sharing love or joy.

A Little Silver

  • Created by Quincy Perkins
  • A modern day take on the Old Man and the Sea. A little silver is a VR project that explores the superstitions, zen, tao and every other belief that goes into fly-fishing. Set against The Florida Keys, this VR film puts the viewer in the middle of a universe that decides whether you catch a fish or not.

Fight to Save Threatened Species / Protecting Ocean Anchor Species

  • Created by Discovery VR
  • For the December 2015 global premiere of Discovery's Racing Extinction, the company's in-house creative agency produced eight virtual reality experiences, including Fight to Save Threatened Species and Protecting Ocean Anchor Species. Harnessing the medium's capacity for empathy, the offering provided a deep and impactful connection to some of the world's most endangered animals.
12:00 p.m.–1:30 p.m. Filmmaker Forum brunch Sponsored by 
12:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

VR Viewing
Put on a headset and experience some of the best and latest immersive nonfiction works.

The Filmmaker Forum is supported in part by

Presented in association with

Real Screen West