Interview with DOC NYC Festival Directors

Q: Why a new festival?

Thom Powers (artistic director): Documentary film festivals have spread rapidly – Maryland has Silverdocs; North Carolina has Full Frame; Missouri has True/False – but it felt like New York City was missing out. When we started to imagine how to create something in New York, we quickly decided to expand the field to other documentary storytellers – writers, photographers, radio reporters. New York is a natural place to bring all these people together. That eclecticism is a way to cultivate new audiences. If you like doc films, chances are you’ll be interested in a spoken word series like The Moth or the kind of writers represented in “The New, New Journalism.” Those are the kind of connections that DOC NYC aims to make.

Q: How will DOC NYC be different from Stranger Than Fiction?

Raphaela Neihausen (executive director): Stranger Than Fiction will continue to run every Tuesday at the IFC Center in the seasons of fall, winter and spring. DOC NYC will take place in a more concentrated amount of time from November 3 to 7. That allows us to leverage a different kind of energy: to attract out of town visitors; try different kinds of programming; and focus the public’s attention.

Q: What kind of programming can we expect from DOC NYC?

Powers: The festival will be book-ended with Opening and Closing night gala events at New York University’s 860-seat Skirball Auditorium off Washington Square Park. Over the course of five days, the centerpiece will be a competition of eight films shown at the IFC Center. We’ll show two each night from Thursday to Sunday, scheduled in a way to encourage audiences to see all eight. Of course, you don’t have to watch them all, but I think it will enhance the energy if a large group sees the whole spectrum. The competition will be supplemented with other sidebars from family matinees to midnight movies. Beyond films, we’ll have other presentations showcasing writers, photographers and other storytellers.

Neihausen: We feel very lucky to have two locations in such close proximity: the IFC Center and NYU. We want to enliven the whole Greenwich Village neighborhood around Washington Square to be a social space for doc lovers. In the coming years, we have plans for DOC NYC to gradually expand. That approach worked well for Stranger Than Fiction which started with a season of eight films and has now grown to almost 50 a year. Once people get a taste of this material, they can’t get enough.