Monday Memo: TIFF & Venice Lineups Unveiled, Universal & AMC Shorten Theatrical Window, 2020 Primetime Emmy Nominations Announced August 3, 2020

The idea that we are already days into August is kind of melting my brain, but here we are. DOC NYC PRO announced its 2020 slate, with 10 programs taking place online August 5-October 21. Fall festival titans TIFF and Venice both revealed their individual 2020 lineups, both radically reduced from their normal outsized forms due to the restrictions of putting on events in the midst of the COVID19 global pandemic. Additionally, last week Universal and AMC made a seemingly unfathomable agreement to shorten the theatrical release window that proceeds an online release to just 17 days, which will undoubtedly have a major impact on releases going forward. In a year of unprecedented turmoil, Guy Lodge tried to sum it all up in an extensive doc viewing list, while Errol Morris looked back and shared his entire First Person series on YouTube for free. And that doesn’t include the 7 (!!!) new nonfiction releases or the 2020 Primetime Emmy Award nominations or a long list of other goodies. Read on, watch up and be safe!

– Jordan M. Smith

 


HEADLINES

Announcing the DOC NYC PRO 2020 Lineup

DOC NYC is excited to announce the lineup for the 2020 edition of its DOC NYC PRO conference, taking place August 5-October 21. For the first time, the conference will move online, making its full slate of programs available to audiences around the globe. The 2020 PRO lineup will feature more than 70 participants representing a wide spectrum of voices and perspectives, from emerging directors to noted producers and established cinematographers, from artist collectives and filmmaker peer support organizations, to broadcasters, research institutions, news platforms, leading distributors and more. Tickets for individual events and a PRO All Access Pass, offering admission to all 10 classes and the archives of DOC NYC’s earlier 2020 online courses, are now on sale.

2020 Toronto International Film Festival Announces Feature-Film Lineup

Announced via press release: “TIFF Co-Heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente today announced the lineup of titles selected for the 45th Toronto International Film Festival. This year’s features represent a diverse selection of the highest-quality films from around the globe. Films on offer will reflect first-rate international cinema, documentaries, and Canadian creativity. The strong representation of women, Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour among TIFF’s selection reflects the organization’s continuing commitment to normalizing gender parity and racial equality for future generations.”

Venice Film Festival 2020 Lineup Announced

Nancy Tartaglione reported on the reveal for Deadline: “As expected, the Venice Film Festival’s 2020 competition lineup is light on studio titles with only Searchligh’s Nomadland and Sony’s The World To Come figuring, though the latter is an international acquisition. Both of those are directed by women (Chloé Zhao and Mona Fastvold, respectively) in what is a much stronger year for female filmmakers than in the past. Last year, Venice faced criticism for having just two women in competition while this year, there are women behind eight of the 18 features. Venice chief Alberto Barbera noted they were ‘selected exclusively on the basis of their quality and not as a result of gender protocols.’…As noted last week, Daniele Luchetti’s Lacci will open the proceedings, a first for an Italian film in over a decade. Venetian director Andrea Segre’s documentary Molecole, made in Venice when it was in lockdown, will be screened as the pre-opening night film on September 1.”

A 17-Day Window: The Biggest Change in Film Distribution History Since the Release of ‘Jaws’

Tom Brueggemann reported on the announcement for IndieWire: “In the late 1920s, sound replaced silent film. In 1949, the consent decree broke up studio ownership of theaters. In 1975, “Jaws” established the template of wide same-day national releases. And now, Universal and theater chain AMC Entertainment have made a historic agreement: It takes just 17 days before a major theatrical release is available online. By comparison, it once took years for movies to show up on TV. With the advent of the VCR, the lag time went from a year to six months. DVDs, and until recently VODs, decreased that to the 90-day window. Going forward, AMC Theaters will play Universal and Focus Features films and the studio has the right to provide the titles on Premium VOD as early as after three weekends of theatrical play. (Per the agreement, the 90-day window for basic VOD, streaming, and DVD/Blu-Ray release remains intact.) Moving from 90 days to 17 may sound like switching out a picture window for a porthole, but the majority of a film’s gross usually comes in the first three weekends, and the PVOD alternative isn’t DVD rentals or streaming or standard VOD; it’s a purchase equal to two tickets at a theater, and with a delay. The question now is if that’s enough for theaters to survive. In their statement, the companies proclaimed this deal as standing up for theaters. That remains to be seen, but at least it’s not day-and-date; 17 days is a small win for theatrical primacy.”

PBS To Launch Doc-Focused Prime Video Channel Next Month

Jane Levere shared the story at Forbes: “The distribution arm of PBS will launch a new documentary-focused, prime video channel, PBS Documentaries, on August 4. For 50 years, PBS has been America’s trusted home for documentaries. The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel will be another way for  viewers to access PBS content outside the PBS video app. The new channel will include a robust library of critically acclaimed, thought-provoking programs including the entire Ken Burns collection as well as films from “Nova,” “Frontline,” “American Masters,” “Nature,” “American Experience,” “Independent Lens,” “POV,” and many independent producers. Subscribers will be able to explore various topics or take an in-depth look at the people, traditions and events that mold our world—all carefully curated for “viewers like you” by PBS. At launch, the channel will feature nearly 1,000 hours of award-winning programming for subscribers to enjoy, including Burns’ landmark series The Civil War and Country Music, Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Academy Award-nominated films like For Sama, from “Frontline,” and Last Days in Vietnam, from “American Experience.”

20 Must-See Documentaries to Explain the World in 2020

The Guardian’s Guy Lodge gives an extensive rundown: “From climate change and Black Lives Matter to Tiger King and Taylor Swift, these are the factual films that best capture and explain what’s going on around us.”

Errol Morris First Person Doc Series Now Available on YouTube

Margaret Lyons shared the news of the newly available series at The New York Times: “The director Errol Morris recently posted his 2000-2001 documentary series, “First Person,” on his YouTube channel, and the episodes are fascinating — often but not uniformly morbid, and also spirited and alive in ways interviews rarely are. The show, which aired on Bravo, is mostly monologues; Morris’s subjects include a retired C.I.A. agent, a woman who dated multiple serial killers, a man connected to a particularly notorious mass shooting, a researcher obsessed with giant squid. The aesthetic here is definitely of its era, but Morris’s ability to capture the human poles of passion and casualness is as exciting as ever.”

Bound Unbound: Four by Mehrdad Oskouei

The Museum of the Moving Image is hosting an online retrospective of the Iranian filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei from August 5–30: “The films of Mehrdad Oskouei are without comparison in contemporary cinema. Both for his dedication to giving voice to people who have been habitually and systematically silenced—the incarcerated youth of Iran, whose traumas preceded their criminality and remain raw and worth understanding—and in terms of his easygoing, engaging style of observation and conversation, which allows for scenes of both heartbreaking intimacy and transcendent joy. Museum of the Moving Image will present four of the celebrated Iranian documentarian’s films, including his latest, Sunless Shadows, for which Oskouei was awarded Best Director at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2019. Punctuated by deeply confessional monologues, the film offers a window into the lives of women and girls imprisoned for the murder of a male family member. Alongside Sunless Shadows, the series includes Starless Dreams (2016, which MoMI presented in an exclusive New York theatrical run in 2017), The Last Days of Winter (2011), and It’s Always Late for Freedom (2007)—films that offer ‘a tapestry of longing and self-negation,’ according to Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice in 2018. The films all feature intimate and riveting testimonies from teenage girls and boys removed from society for crimes that range from theft to murder and who suffer from addiction and abuse. The desperation of their situation is balanced by the community they build with fellow inmates, playing, eating, gossiping, caring for infants, and other everyday activities. From August 5 through 30, all films screen via Virtual Cinema courtesy of Cinema Guild, with half of proceeds going to the Museum.”

Netflix Adds New Playback Speed Controls

Julia Alexander noted the changes at The Verge: “Netflix is letting people choose the speed at which they want to watch something on their phone or tablet with new playback controls. Netflix will allow anyone on an Android mobile device to stream at either 0.5x or 0.75x speeds for slowed-down viewing and 1.25x or 1.5x speeds for faster watching. Those are slightly fewer options than YouTube, which allows people to slow all the way down to 0.25x speeds, and speed up by twice the normal playback speed. Playback speed options are also available on downloaded titles that people have saved for offline viewing. Subscribers must opt in to use the playback speeds with every single title they want to watch; it won’t just remain active when you pick something else to watch. This prevents people from accidentally watching everything at 1.5x speed if they don’t want to. The feature is rolling out tomorrow and will be available to everyone globally in the coming weeks.”

‘Independent Lens’ bolsters fall line-up with “Feels Good Man”, “Power Trip”

Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii highlighted the lineup additions: “American pubcaster PBS’s long-running documentary strand ‘Independent Lens’ has unveiled its programming line-up for this autumn, with Feels Good Man and Jonathan Scott’s Power Trip highlighting its Fall 2020 season. The latest season of ‘Independent Lens’ will kick off Oct. 19 with the television premiere of Arthur Jones’ feature-length film Feels Good Man, which documents the story of Matt Furie’s battle to reclaim his comic character, Pepe the Frog, after his creation was co-opted by far-right forces that turned it into a symbol of hate. Feels Good Man had its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker.”

Netflix Adds New Playback Speed Controls

Julia Alexander noted the changes at The Verge: “Netflix is letting people choose the speed at which they want to watch something on their phone or tablet with new playback controls. Netflix will allow anyone on an Android mobile device to stream at either 0.5x or 0.75x speeds for slowed-down viewing and 1.25x or 1.5x speeds for faster watching. Those are slightly fewer options than YouTube, which allows people to slow all the way down to 0.25x speeds, and speed up by twice the normal playback speed. Playback speed options are also available on downloaded titles that people have saved for offline viewing. Subscribers must opt in to use the playback speeds with every single title they want to watch; it won’t just remain active when you pick something else to watch. This prevents people from accidentally watching everything at 1.5x speed if they don’t want to. The feature is rolling out tomorrow and will be available to everyone globally in the coming weeks.”

IFP Announces Project Forum Slate for 42nd IFP Week

Announced via Filmmaker Magazine: “Today, IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project), Filmmaker’s parent organization, announced its Project Forum slate, highlighting 144 feature-length and series projects, including, for the first time, a slate of 36 audio projects, in development and production set to participate in the upcoming 42nd annual edition of IFP Week, taking place entirely online September 20-25, 2020. Along with the Project Forum’s consistent and ongoing support for independent artists working in visual storytelling, this year will offer support to creators working in audio through the introduction of the IFP Week Audio Hub. Expanding upon IFP’s core mission of championing and elevating independent storytellers, the Audio Hub will host 36 audio projects, wide-ranging in format and genres from both emerging and established talent, and aid in bridging the gap between independent audio makers and the ever-growing audio industry.”

His Film Is a Punk Classic, but the Credits Now Roll Without Him

In The New York Times, Cara Buckley tells the story of filmmaker Amos Poe and Ivan Kral’s classic No Wave film The Blank Generation: “Made by Amos Poe, and his good friend Ivan Kral, a guitarist for Smith, the film compiled footage of Richard Hell, Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads and the Ramones into a feature called The Blank Generation, named after one of Hell’s caterwauling songs. It premiered in 1976 at CBGB, where much of it was filmed, to a built-in appreciative crowd, and later secured midnight screenings in cities like Cincinnati, San Francisco and Toronto. Though it never rose to cult status, the movie is nonetheless a classic in the punk pantheon, a signature No Wave film that captured a fleeting time when an eye-popping number of future rock stars were lean and hungry unknowns. So it made sense last fall, when The Blank Generation screened at the Roxy Cinema, a jewel box of a theater just off Canal Street in New York, that the cinema’s curator, Illyse Singer, invited Poe, whom she calls ‘the godfather of indie cinema in New York,’ to the event. But as the film rolled, Poe realized that something was wrong. New segments had been added. Others scrapped. The ending — of Lenny Kaye, Smith’s longtime bandmate, grinning into the camera as the door to CBGB swings shut behind him — had been swapped for a mini-documentary about his partner, Kral, followed by the words, ‘directed by Cindy Hudson’ — Kral’s widow. The opening placard displaying Poe and Kral’s names were gone. In fact, Poe’s name wasn’t anywhere on the film. In that moment, Amos Poe realized he had completely lost control of a film that, beyond its role as a chronicle of music history, was very much the pivot point for his entire life.”


ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT

TIFF 2020: Fewer Oscar Movies and Gala Premieres Means Docs and Discoveries Could Stand Out

Anne Thompson and Eric Kohn outlined the festival’s 2020 offerings at IndieWire: “At just 50 films, the 2020 pandemic version of the Toronto International Film Festival is dramatically smaller than previous editions, but its very existence is something of a victory. In a year that found major festivals such as SXSW, Cannes and Telluride unable to go on, TIFF has charted a path forward despite a funding deficit and missing studio entries that are either unfinished or not ready for primetime. By the standards of a 44-year-old festival that has long prided itself on the intimidating scope of its selection, the lineup may look like a mishmash of international films that happened to be available and willing to subject themselves to an unpredictable market. Most audiences who aren’t already in Toronto will experience the selection online. But all of that is a microcosm of industry’s shifts in 2020. Yet TIFF co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente were adamant about the caliber of the final selection given the limitations at their disposal. The program is comprised of 46 percent women directors, up from 36 percent last year, and more films looking for distribution.”

Exquisite Shorts, a New Model for Online Shorts Programming

Shared by the folks at Filmmaker Magazine: “Canadian filmmaker Sophy Romvari (who’s previously written for Filmmaker) has announced the launch of a new online short festival. Exquisite Shorts is designed to create a new model for shorts filmmakers, paying them for their work while enabling the public to watch for free. The newly launched crowdfunding campaign explains how online screenings will work: ‘Filmmaker 1 → Picks a short film from a pool of submissions that they love, that inspired them, or that they feel could use a platform. The filmmaker making the selection will record a video introduction that will play prior to their selected film, which will detail the reasons behind their choice. Filmmaker 2 → They are the filmmaker that was selected by filmmaker 1! They repeat the same as above, and select the next film in the program. And so on…’ The festival will cap submission fees at five Canadian dollars, ignore premiere status and otherwise seek to rethink short film festival programming practices. Launched yesterday, the crowdfunding campaign to cover the initial launch, with the goal of allowing ‘this program to pay all participating filmmakers a fair screening fee as well as a curation fee,’ can be found here.”

Sundance Institute Announces 2020 Creative Producing Labs Fellows

Announced via press release: “Sundance Institute today announced Fellows and Advisors for the five-day 2020 Creative Producing Labs, redesigned digitally to take place for the first time ever on Sundance Co//ab. The Labs begin July 27, and is a flagship convening for the Institute’s Creative Producing Program, which champions and develops current and rising generations of independent producers across fiction and nonfiction film. Under the leadership of Creative Producing and Artist Support Director Shira Rockowitz and Documentary Film Program Interim Director Kristin Feeley, the program features year-round industry mentorship, granting, and opportunities to connect with potential financiers in addition to the annual Labs, to develop emerging producers’ holistic creative and strategic skillset for an evolving industry.”


Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

AWARDS

2020 Emmy Nominations: The Complete List

The complete list of nominees for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards was released. Daniele Alcinii of Realscreen summed up the nonfiction nominations: “VH1′s RuPaul’s Drag Race, NBC’s The Voice  and Netflix’s American Factory are among the unscripted and non-fiction nominees for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards. Non-fiction and unscripted programs with the most nominations include RuPaul’s Drag Race with 10, The Voice with six, Bravo’s Top Chef with four, and Netflix’s Nailed It! and Love is Blind, and Fox’s The Masked Singer with two nods each. Across categories, the platform/network with the most nominations for this year is Netflix with 160, setting a record previously held by HBO with 137 nominations in 2019. HBO follows next with 107 nominations, then it’s NBC with 47, ABC with 36, FX Networks with 33, CBS with 23, Pop TV with 16 and Fox with 15. Cable nets predominantly airing non-fiction racking up multiple nominations include CNN with 17, BBC America with nine and A&E with five…The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Sept. 20 via ABC starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT.”


NEW RELEASES

The Fight

Rebuilding Paradise

Weight of Gold

The Go-Go’s

A Most Beautiful Thing

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind

The Last Narc


DOC NYC ALUMNI

Gabe Polsky’s Red Penguins
2019 DOC NYC International Perspectives
Will be released on VOD services on August 4th.

Justin Pemberton’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century
2019 DOC NYC New World Order
Will receive a Blu-ray/DVD release via Kino Lorber on August 4th.

Scott Crawford’s Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine
2019 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema
Will be released in virtual cinemas on August 7th.

Marlon Johnson & Anne Flatté’s River City Drumbeat
2019 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema
Will be released in virtual cinemas on August 7th.

Maya Newell’s In My Blood It Runs
2019 DOC NYC International Perspectives
Will have free virtual watch & talk via IFP on August 9th.

Archana Atul Phadke’s About Love
2019 DOC NYC Modern Family
Will have its primetime premiere via POV on August 10th.

Daniel Claridge & Andrew Coffman’s The Queen’s Man
2019 DOC NYC Investigations
Will receive a Blu-ray/DVD release via Gravitas Ventures on August 11th.

Reiner Holzemer’s Martin Margiela: In His Own Words
2019 DOC NYC Art + Design
Will be released in virtual cinemas on August 14th.

Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker’s Town Bloody Hall
2019 DOC NYC Masters
Will receive a Blu-ray/DVD release via The Criterion Collection on August 18th.

Barbara Kopple’s Desert One
2019 DOC NYC Masters
Will be released in virtual cinemas on August 21st.


DOC SHORT

Elevator Pitch
Directed by Martyna Starosta

Shedding light on the subway’s dire accessibility issues, “Elevator Pitch” reveals an unjust system that shuts many out of cities in motion.


FUND THIS PROJECT

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:

Exquisite Shorts

By Sophy Romvari

Funding Goal: $7,456