Monday Memo: PGA Releases COVID Safety Protocols, 41 International Festivals Call For Relief, Kartemquin Leadership Transition & more

September 07, 2020

Happy Labor Day folks! With any luck you have the day off and have time to catch up on some reading, as there is plenty below that deserves your attention. Following the documentary guidelines from Doc Society, Field of Vision and Sundance Institute released earlier this year, the Producers Guild of America have released their own COVID Safety Protocols for independent productions. Meanwhile, Kartemquin’s executive director Jolene Pinder is moving on from the organization, NBC News is reviving its MSNBC Films arm to move back into doc filmmaking, True/False has shifted its 2021 festival dates, and 41 international festivals have banded together in a call for immediate relief measures from national and local authorities. And of course, there’s much more. Wishing you well until next week…

– Jordan M. Smith

#TIFF20 starts on Sept 10 with a robust line-up of nonfiction features, shorts and Industry conversations represented on this Bingo Card released by Pure Nonfiction.


Producers Guild of America Rlease COVID Safety Protocols

Announced via press release: “Producers of independent scripted and unscripted content may use these materials as planning companions in conjunction with the June 2020 ‘The Safe Way Forward’ guideline generated by the Director’s Guild of America (‘DGA’), the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (‘SAG-AFTRA’), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (“IATSE”), Teamsters and the ‘Basic Crafts and the Industry White Paper’, which was developed by the Industry Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force. These materials will be updated periodically as the guidelines described above, scientific data and additional industry guidelines develop.”

Kartemquin Announces a Leadership Transition

Announced via press release: “With gratitude for her leadership and vision during a challenging period, Kartemquin Films announces today that Executive Director Jolene Pinder is leaving the organization, effective October 1. A transition team of Kartemquin Board and staff members is currently engaged in a search for an interim. You can read and share the job description.”

Can NYC’s Independent Movie Theaters Survive a Pandemic?

Jordan Hoffman attempts to answer this very serious question at Thrillist: “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the independent theaters that have long been a part of NYC’s cultural legacy (the city once considered “the gateway to the film art market” in the ‘50s), have been shuttered. We who suffer high rents, cramped housing, and seasonal scents of questionable origin can at least boast a robust indie filmgoing culture, providing a cinematic escape from the city’s realities and an outlet beyond typical Hollywood fare at megaplexes. Head out on any random weeknight and you might get to view a rarely screened 35mm print at the Upper West Side’s Film at Lincoln Center, Harlem’s Maysles Documentary Center, Midtown’s Museum of Modern Art, the Lower East Side’s Anthology Film Archives, or Greenwich Village’s Quad Cinemas. We’re leaving a lot of places out (and we haven’t even gotten to Brooklyn yet) but these oases boldly feature first-run foreign language films, American independents, and archival films programmed by theme, even as mainstream viewers mass-dose on streaming. People, or at least New Yorkers, still want to go to the movies.”

NBC News Revives MSNBC Films to Bolster Documentary Ambitions

Brian Steinberg broke the story at Variety: “MSNBC dishes up dozens of short news segments to its viewers over the course of a single day. Now the network may have a chance to go long. The cable-news outlet will air “The Way I See It,” a documentary about former White House photographer Pete Souza, on Friday, October 9 at 10 p.m. eastern, after Rachel Maddow’s broadcast that night. The film, from corporate sibling Focus Features, will first be released in theaters on September 18, and will be co-presented by MSNBC Films – a revived moniker that spotlights some of NBCUniversal’s growing ambitions in the long-form space.”


Why Film Festivals Matter?

In an open letter to national and regional authorities, 41 international film festivals call for immediate relief measures: “The film industry has been severely hit by Covid-19 with film shooting interrupted, film distribution frozen and cinemas closed. International Film Festivals across the globe have been also strongly impacted by the current crisis. Since March, spring festivals have been obliged to cancel or postpone their 2020 editions, while the festivals due to be held later in the year have to play it by ear. Uncertainties, delays and extra costs caused by Covid-19 have created severe challenges for the festivals ecosystem’s sustainability. For those that will be able to take place physically, the likely reduced attendance resulting both from the sanitary measures to be set up and the difficulty in travelling will have a cost. International film festivals are not only important contributors to the cultural, economic and social development of the territories where they are established, but they are also an essential link in the film industry chain, as they offer international outreach for films, distribution deals opportunities, reviews in the press and audience attention. This significant economic weight of international film festivals needs to be preserved with dedicated measures and a firm commitment from local, national and regional decision-makers in accompanying festivals’ Covid-related transition – whether they can or cannot operate in 2020 – and their future operations from 2021 onwards. Signatories are international film festivals as well as trade organisations and unions representing the film industry, including FIAPF representing film producers worldwide and acting as the regulator for international film festivals that gathers 45 festivals from 29 countries over the five continents.”

True/False Film Fest Announces New Dates for 2021

Announced via press release: “The Ragtag Film Society is rolling out updates for the coming True/False Film Fest, starting with new dates set for the 2021 event: May 5 – 9, 2021. This adjustment is a one-year postponement from the typical early March dates, in response to the global pandemic. Film submissions for the 2021 festival are now open, with a few notable edits to programming guidelines. This year, the Fest will not require filmmaker attendance, and will instead hold Q&As remotely. However, in the spirit of promoting the sustainability of independent filmmaking, the Fest will continue the Pay the Artists! Fund, which traditionally awards an honorarium to each visiting filmmaking team. The slate of films for True/False 2021 will also shift, from around 40 features and 25 shorts to a tighter 10-20 features and 15-25 shorts. Film screenings will be primarily outdoors, with select offerings at Ragtag Cinema. Filmmaker support programs, such as PRISM, the Mentorship program, and the True Vision Award, will all continue — after a successful virtual Rough Cut Retreat this past July, the Fest is developing ways to re-work these as richly immersive virtual programs. More specifics for the 18th edition of the Fest will be forthcoming.”

10 Reasons to Attend Getting Real ’20

Sally Márquez listed reasons to attend at IDA’s blog: “While we are missing being with each other in person, we’re looking forward to nurturing our relationships with members of the documentary community online. Getting Real ‘20, our FREE digital mini-conference, is a perfect way to connect with like minded folks to reimagine the documentary ecosystem! Here are 10 reasons why you won’t want to miss this year’s edition of #DocsGetReal. 1. New possibilities

This year, we’re focusing on themes of access, power, and possibility. Be a part of the hard and beautiful work to reconfigure old systems and create a new and brighter documentary future…”

2020 Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund Grantees Announced

Announced via press release: “Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and Gucci today announced the final round of grant recipients for the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund. Since 2008, the program, funded by Gucci, has provided production and finishing finances to feature-length documentary films that highlight and humanize critical domestic and international social issues, particularly via women-led stories. Eleven projects have been selected this year to receive a total of $140,000 in funding support. The 2020 grantees were selected by a jury comprised of accomplished filmmakers, industry leaders and activists: De’Ara Balenger (Strategist & co-Founder of Maestra), Opal H. Bennett (POV Shorts Producer & Film Festival Programmer), Mustafa Khalili (Digital Documentaries Editor, BBC), KiKi Layne (Actress; The Old Guard, If Beale Street Could Talk), and Brett Story (Filmmaker, The Hottest August, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes).”

SFFILM Announces 2020 Documentary Film Fund Winners

Announced via press release: “SFFILM today announced the four winners of 2020 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund grants totaling $80,000, which support feature-length documentaries in post-production. Created to support non-fiction films that are distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an innovative visual approach, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund is SFFILM’s largest support program for doc makers. Giovanni Buccomino’s After a Revolution (working title), Clarke Lyons and Gabe Dinsmoor’s Squeegee, Farah Kassem’s We Are Inside, and Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing with Fire were each awarded funding that will help push each project towards completion.”

Venice 2020: Old Fears and New Beginnings

At MUBI’s Notebook, Leonardo Goi looked at Andrea Segre’s latest doc: “Fittingly, my first few screenings echoed similar feelings. As Italy headed into lockdown in early March, Padua-born, Rome-based documentarian Andrea Segre found himself stranded in Venice, and out of quarantine came his Venetian Molecules, slotted in the festival’s out of competition sidebar. It’s a portrait of Venice as seen and experienced by the few native residents left, which Segre celebrates as some uber-resilient species on the brink of extinction. We meet an old fisherman who claims to know the lagoon like the back of his hand, a thirty-something woman who makes a living teaching foreigners how to row along the city’s canals, a young couple living on a ground-floor apartment periodically flooded by the rising tides (‘it’s fifty days like that a year,’ they tell Segre, ‘you just learn to adapt’). And there’s a Venetian who hovers above the picture as an omnipresent and invisible chaperon, the only one to return to the screen time and again: the director’s late father, Ulderico Segre, born in Venice in the mid-1940s and who moved to Padua to become a chemist.”


Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change  By Caty Borum Chattoo “In Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change, producer and scholar Caty Borum Chattoo explores how documentaries disrupt dominant cultural narratives through complex, creative, often investigative storytelling. Featuring original interviews with award-winning documentary filmmakers and field leaders, the book reveals the influence and motivations behind the vibrant, eye-opening stories of the contemporary documentary age.” Now Available via Oxford University Press


Lisa Nishimura Talks Pandemic Impact on Netflix’s Indie and Doc Businesses

Mia Galuppo spoke with Nishimura for The Hollywood Reporter: “Charlie Kaufman’s existential drama I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the Barack and Michelle Obama-produced documentary Crip Camp and a holiday romantic comedy aptly titled Holidate all have one thing in common: Lisa Nishimura. As Netflix’s vp independent film and documentary features, Nishimura oversees a dizzying breadth of content that includes mid-budgeted genre films like thrillers, family features and rom-coms (Kissing Booth 2), as well as nonfiction features and miniseries (Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich) and acquisitions from festivals (Sundance’s 40 Year Old Version) and financiers (The Trial of the Chicago 7). Nishimura, 48, expanded her purview in March 2019 after seven years heading Netflix’s comedy and nonfiction business, during which time she helped the streaming giant win its first Oscar, for the doc short The White Helmets. Nearly a year to the day into her new job, the pandemic shutdown threw the awards season into question, halted physical production and forced the fall film festival circuit mainly online. Despite it all, the 12-year Netflix veteran is emphatic that ‘we are trying to keep it as business as usual.’ Shortly before departing on a socially distant vacation via camper van with her 10-year-old son, Nishimura talked to THR about the bygone ‘intimacy’ of Netflix’s early days and her hopes for an equitable future.”

IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund Development Grant Application Now Open

Announced via press release: “Application is open August 31 – October 26,2020. See the below checklist to prepare your application and submit your application via the Submittable link below. For more general information about the fund, please visit our FAQ here. Contact with any questions pertaining to your project’s eligibility or the application process in general.”

Why TCM Is Airing a 14-Hour Documentary About Women Directors

Audrey Cleo Yap covered the film’s release at Variety: “Starting on Sept. 1, Turner Classic Movies will air 14-part documentary “Women Make Film,” an exhaustive look at female filmmakers worldwide and their work throughout cinematic history. The series dissects elements of filmmaking — from tracking shots to crafting narrative arcs — through the work of everyone from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow to Tunisian helmer Moufida Tlatli, the first Arab woman to direct a full-length feature. ‘It’s not only about filmmakers in North America,’ said TCM general manager Pola Changnon. ‘It’s about countries where filmmaking reputations aren’t that well-known, especially here. That’s why I love the title of this — ‘Women Make Film.’ It’s a statement of fact, and even though they’re not always well-represented in the film canon, women have been doing this for decades.’ Written and directed by Mark Cousins, the docuseries features an impressive list of narrators: Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton and Debra Winger. According to Cousins, the documentary was five years in the making, and its lengthy, 14-hour run time, is on purpose.”

Framing Media #1: JD Schnepf on Drone Humanitiariansm

Critic and podcast host Peter Labuza has launched a new podcast: “Episodes will focus on how media images—whether film, television, radio, new media, or beyond—are framed: the design and craft of what audiences see, the hidden stories of the labor and talent obscured outside it, and the histories of how frames are made, distributed, and exhibited. Coming every other week, host Peter Labuza sits down with a scholar to discuss their recent scholarly publication, introducing their work to a broader audience beyond those with access to paywall publications. Framing Media hopes to highlight new research that demonstrates the value of what media scholars bring to today’s questions. Today’s episode features JD Scnepf, a scholar of American Studies in Political Culture and Theory at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. We discuss her article, “Flood from Above: Disaster Mediation and Drone Humanitarianism,” published in Media+Environment. Schnepf looks at the culture of the drone in humanitarian disasters like hurricanes and floods, studying how the private digital media infrastructure reveals the privatization of American life. Moreover, she explores how seeing and studying how drones work in these environmental situations demonstrates how we are taught to see drones as ‘life giving’ objects, and how that provides a new critique of their military uses.”


Feels Good Man

Available via VOD Services

The Mole Agent

Available via VOD Services

Robin’s Wish

Available on VOD Services

Chuck Berry

Available via Virtual Cinemas


Alexander John Glustrom’s Mossville: When Great Trees Fall 2019 DOC NYC Green Screens Will be released on DVD via Passion River on September 8th. 

Barbara Kopple’s Desert One 2019 DOC NYC Masters Will be released on DVD via Kino Lorber on September 8th.

Patricio Guzmán’s The Cordillera of Dreams 2019 DOC NYC Masters Will be released on Blu-ray/DVD via Icarus Films on September 8th.

Adam Bolt’s Human Nature 2019 DOC NYC Investigations Will be broadcast as part of PBS’s Nova series on September 9th.

Eva Mulvad’s Love Child 2019 DOC NYC Viewfinders Will be broadcast as part of PBS’s POV series on September 14th.

P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes’s House of Cardin 2019 DOC NYC Art + Design Will be released on VOD services on September 15th. 

Pailin Wedel’s Hope Frozen 2019 DOC NYC Winner’s Circle Will be released via Netflix on September 15th.

Scott Crawford’s Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine 2019 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema Will be released on DVD via Greenwich Entertainment on September 15th.


Dislocation Blues

Directed by Sky Hopinka

“Youth from Native American communities in and around the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota organized a massive protest against the planned DAP oil pipeline in 2016 and 2017 – a major event in the history of Indigenous, anti-capitalist and environmental activism. Sky Hopinka, a vital voice in American experimental filmmaking and tribal member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, documented the protests in this “ethno-poetic” short, weaving together his on-the-ground footage and protestors’ reflections. It has been acquired by MoMA for their permanent collection.”


Crowdfunding has become an integral means of raising capital for documentary filmmakers around the globe. Each week we feature a promising new project that needs your help to cross that critical crowdfunding finish line. This week’s project:


Directed by Darcy McKinnon

Goal: $20,000