The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced today that Getting Real ‘22, its biennial convening for documentary practitioners, will be held both in-person in Los Angeles and with a virtual audience from all around the world next month from September 27-29.
The Getting Real ’22 conference will approach documentary’s foundational quandaries from a new thematic perspective: Flipping the Frame. Traditional power dynamics — between funder and filmmaker, documentarian and subject, distributor and exhibitor — will be subverted as the field seeks visionary solutions to age-old problems of documentary creation and circulation.
The first two days of the conference, September 27 and 28, will be held virtually with options for attendees to gather at Community Hubs in Los Angeles and other cities. The final day, September 29, will be held in person at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, with all events live-streamed and available for virtual attendance. The conference program offers panels, keynote speeches, presentations, workshops, and receptions. Networking and breakout sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.
Conference keynote speakers are Erika Dilday, Anand Patwardhan, and Nanfu Wang. National Geographic’s Carolyn Bernstein, the executive VP of scripted and feature documentaries, will also join the conference for an intimate fireside conversation. Prominent speakers also include representatives from Neon, Cinetic, Impact Partners, Doc Society, film festivals, publications, and filmmakers who will be discussing their documentary features and series for A24, Netflix, and public media. Major topics of discussion include new power dynamics between filmmakers and funders, recent changes in film distribution, the rise of documentary series, and ongoing ethical questions of the legal rights of people who appear in documentary films.
“We are so excited to share the first batch of Getting Real ‘22 programming, and the ways that these conversations situate urgent issues in our field within concrete situations and structural frameworks. Across each programmatic strand and within individual events, we are impressed with the creativity and resilience of organizations, collectives, filmmakers, and artists in documentary worlds that are both close at hand and far away. We’re bringing back a prior specialty of the conference, the filmmaker-exclusive events like ‘Here’s What Really Happened’ conversation series. These events, where we ask the audience to pledge confidentiality and are not open to any members of industry or press, are a cornerstone of Getting Real’s mission to provide filmmakers with deep, intimate conversations that they can’t get anywhere else,” says Abby Sun, the Getting Real ‘22 Conference Director and IDA’s Director of Artist Programs.
Getting Real ‘22 is programmed by Abby Sun, Chris Boeckmann, and Jonathan Ali. Gabriella Ortega Ricketts is the programming manager, and Zeynep Güzel is the programming consultant.
More information about the Getting Real ‘22 conference, which IndieWire has called the documentary film industry’s “premiere field-building gathering,” including the program, schedule, and how to register, is available at documentary.org/gettingreal22
GETTING REAL ‘22 PROGRAM
Conference keynote speakers are Erika Dilday, Nanfu Wang, and Anand Patwardhan. The schedule of keynote events and more information will be announced soon at documentary.org
Carolyn Bernstein, National Geographic’s executive VP of scripted and feature documentaries, will join the conference for an intimate talk tracing her nontraditional path to documentary and her eagle-eyed take on the future of prestige documentary.
PANEL SERIES: “A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT”
As the pandemic made painfully visible, we are surrounded by broken systems. As we enter a new era, it’s time to reconsider how we treat one another and implement concepts that will bring us closer to an equitable world. In this strand, we’ll center compelling and urgent declarations from visionaries in our field.
The “Subject” Has Rights!
Panelists: Eric Sloss (Head of Sales, Cinetic), Jennifer Tiexera (Co-director, Subject), Margie Ratliff (Co-producer, participant, Subject), and more to be announced
Moderator: Amelia Evans (Filmmaker and Executive Director, Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity)
More than a century into the “documentary endeavor,” the filmmaking community is turning inwards to scrutinize the impact it’s had on the lives it’s portrayed. Tough but vital questions are being asked: What are a documentarian’s long-term responsibilities to their on-screen participants? Should they be paying them money? Offering them therapy? Giving them the right to withdraw a film from circulation? In this conversation, we’ll consider these questions from a legal perspective as we spotlight filmmakers and participants who have developed new frameworks for documentary filmmaking. We’ll discuss what a fair documentary contract could look like, and we’ll hear how distributors and other industry stakeholders are responding to this growing movement for accountability.
The Editor Is a Writer!
Panelists: Steven Golliday (Editor, The First Step), Flavia de Souza (Editor, Aftershock), Leslie Simmer (Editor, America to Me), Kristina Motwani (Editor, Homeroom)
Moderator: Stephanie Andreou (Editor, Golden)
There has been a push in recent times for documentary editors in the US to receive writer credits. This raises a host of questions, such as: What distinguishes a documentary editor from a writer? Are there benefits to getting a writer credit? Can a writer credit promote the recognition of the unique role of a documentary editor? Or is writing not synonymous with editing at all? Our panel of US documentary editors will grapple with these questions and consider whether trends in the international documentary arena have an influence on their positions. Co-programmed with the Alliance of Documentary Editors.
Filmmakers Must Eat!
Panelists: Jad Abi Khalil (Director, Beirut DC), and more to be announced
Moderator: Jess Search (Chief Executive, Doc Society)
In our current funding system, independent documentary filmmakers rely on the commodification of their individual projects to stitch together a living — not knowing if, when, and how much money will be available at the end. This is a hard path for those without private wealth and has driven many talented directors from the craft while keeping other artists from entering. The political slogan “bread for all, and roses too” is over a hundred years old. It was a reminder that the revolution should enable people to eat, but they need art too. We need a revolution in independent documentary economics. One which ensures that those who are creating flowers in film can also pay their bills. We need “Roses for all, and bread too.” There are global experiments in Universal Basic Income for artists – at both institutional and national levels. How could Filmmaker Basic Income work in the US and globally? How do we get it now?
PANEL SERIES: “WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH DISTRIBUTION”
The pandemic irrevocably altered the documentary distribution landscape. Although film festivals are still the primary exhibition platform for plenty of independent projects, many of these institutions hemorrhaged staff and audiences. Arthouse theaters fared even worse, with some spaces shuttering altogether, calling into question the viability of a theatrical release. Meanwhile, streaming services significantly expanded their subscription bases, a boom that now threatens to go bust. How should documentaries navigate this still evolving situation? What new possibilities could arise from the rubble? In this strand, we’ll put our heads together to figure out the future of film circulation.
The Audience of Your Dreams
Panelists: Dan O’Meara (EVP, Nonfiction, NEON), Maya Rudolph (Producer, Shirkers and Andy Warhol Diaries), Jenny Raskin (Executive Director, Impact Partners)
When imagining their release strategy, many filmmakers cling to antiquated ideas of success: a major distribution deal, followed by a full-fledged theatrical release that brings their work to a mass audience. But reality rarely aligns with this dream. It’s up to producers to precisely and realistically define their films’ exhibition goals, and the earlier they can begin this process, the less heartbreak their teams will face as they encounter the harsh realities of the marketplace. In this conversation, we’ll ask a smart and uncynical panel of producers and distributors who have worked on a wide range of projects (from handmade experimental films to big-budget nonfiction epics) to help us understand how they approach the daunting task of identifying the best release strategy. Where do you find the audiences who will be most receptive to what you’ve made? What factors inform these decisions? How do you come to a clear-headed understanding of what your film is prior to its premiere?
No Place Like Home
Panelists: Rosine Mbakam (Founder, Caravane Cinéma), Michel Zongo (Founder, Koudougou Doc), and more to be announced
Moderator: Farah Clémentine Dramani-Issifou (Centre Yennenga)
In the process of forging a career, many artists leave their hometowns for metropolitan cities or university towns. In this conversation, we’re convening documentary filmmakers who have returned to share their knowledge and passion with the communities they hold dear. Their initiatives have created invigorating, accessible spaces for people to watch films and participate in filmmaking workshops. What does it take to create and run a community-oriented cinema center? We’ll hear behind-the-scenes stories about the pleasures and challenges of this work, while also learning how these experiences have changed the filmmaking practices of the directors.
PANEL SERIES: “ISSUES IN”
Issues In: Archival Documentary
Panelists: Veronika Kusumaryati (Co-Director, Expedition Content), Ernst Karel (Co-Director, Expedition Content), Agustina Comedi (Director, “Playback”), and more to be announced
Moderator: Stephanie Owens (Director, DocX)
In the past decade, there has been a marked “archival turn” within documentary film, from art world experiments to critical and commercial hits like Summer of Love. One important development involves a rising movement of filmmakers who make the fashioning of the more-than-archive urgent and necessary. Some follow the scholar Saidiya Hartman’s notion of “critical fabulation,” which combines archival research with fictional narrative to counter the archive’s propensity to center the stories of those in power, and others use the production process to create new archives. Amidst the bonanza, this panel will address questions that remain unresolved: who is profiting from the increased interest in archives, especially official ones? What is the value of and responsibility filmmakers owe to the people whose recordings they are using?
Issues In: Personal Documentary
Panelists: Reid Davenport (Director, I Didn’t See You There), Rebeca Huntt (Director, Beba), Miko Revereza (Director, No data plan), Victoria Linares Villegas (Director, It Runs In the Family)
Moderator: Jeanelle Augustin (Manager, Film Fellowships and Artist Development at NBC Universal
The creative, political, and psychological struggles of personal documentary filmmaking are immense. In this discussion, we bring together several artists who brilliantly navigated this minefield. We’ll learn how they developed their on-screen personas, where they drew lines around vulnerability, and how they approached conflicts with loved ones inevitably caught in their frame. We’ll also step back to ask bigger questions about their work: how does the personal documentary avoid being trauma porn, and what power does the personal position of a filmmaker bring to the representations of communities in their films?
Issues In: Prison Documentary
Panelists: Rodrigo Reyes (Director, Sansón and Me), Zaynê Akyol (Director, Rojek), Molly Dineen (Director, Being Blacker), Mehrdad Oskouei (Director, Sunless Shadows)
Moderator: Chrystel Oloukoï (Researcher and Artist)
With the rise of prison abolition movements and the incorporation of their values into filmmaking about prisons, should filmmakers continue to strive to make films within prisons? These filmmakers have found ways to negotiate access with carceral institutions or to work without abiding by their rules. In this conversation, we will navigate through issues of consent, incentivization, privacy, and how long filmmakers should maintain access and relationships with their subjects after a film is finished.
PANEL SERIES: “EPISODIC ANARCHY”
The episodic documentary industry is booming. Increasingly, talented filmmakers find themselves drawn to this lucrative space. Is it possible to say radical things or generate new filmmaking languages in this field? Or are episodic filmmakers doomed to produce vanity projects and bloated true crime features? In the Episodic Anarchy strand, we gather nonfiction television pioneers from around the globe and learn behind-the-scenes details about their subversive creations.
Panelists: Marco Lamensch (Co-Founder, Strip-Tease)
Moderator: Benoît Mariage (Director, “À fond la caisse”) and more to be announced
In 1980s Belgium, Marco Lamensch and Jean Libon assembled a crackerjack team of observational filmmakers and sent them out into the world with a simple agenda: locate and film self-evidently compelling things. Their show, Strip-Tease (“the show that undresses you”), hooked viewers by locating eccentric characters but won their hearts through bone-deep, empathetic portraiture. The show was a nationwide phenomenon. Airing immediately after the evening news, Strip-Tease became a frequent topic of conversation around the water cooler and was the inspiration for the infamous mockumentary Man Bites Dog. What is the line between eccentricity and exhibitionism, voyeurism and compassion? Co-founder Marco Lamensch joins us to walk through the show’s origin story, discuss behind-the-scenes debates, and reflect on the show’s legacy.
Tranquility: Warwick Thornton’s The Beach
Panelists: Warwick Thornton (Director, The Beach)
Moderator: Adam Piron (Co-Founder, COUSIN, and Director, Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program)
Exhausted from years of working and partying, renowned filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country, Samson and Delilah) needed a reset, so he decamped to an isolated beach shack on Australia’s Dampier Peninsula. A new classic of personal documentary, The Beach (distributed by A24 and broadcast by NITV) observes Thornton as he confides in chickens, cooks mouth-watering meals, and traverses stunning landscapes — all impeccably photographed by his son Dylan River. Thornton transforms the material into a sublime, meditative experience that transcends the linear narrative trappings of most episodic projects. This conversation will dive into the show’s production: how can directing and healing coexist? We’ll also learn more about Thornton’s long relationship with documentary filmmaking.
PANEL SERIES: “THE UNSPOKEN”
In this strand, we create a space for brave, brilliant voices from our industry to talk candidly about uncomfortable but important subjects. We’re grateful to all participants for sharing their experiences, and we’re placing trust in you to honor their vulnerability by respecting all requests for confidentiality.
Collateral Damage in Institutional Repair
Panelists: Sarah-Tai Black (Programmer and Writer), Jemma Desai (Creator, “This Work Isn’t For Us”), Cintia Gil (Programmer), Lalita Krishna (Producer/Director), Rachel Pronger (Curator and Producer)
Moderator: Ranell Shubert (Producer, What’s Up With Docs Podcast)
When institutions repair their reputations and resume activities after a period of internal turmoil, both staff and filmmakers are often thrown to the wayside with very little accountability from these institutions. In exploring this cycle, we will be hearing from folks who have been directly affected by this process to see what reverberations remain. In particular, this panel will examine how warped collective memory and erasure of these incidents over the years perpetuate harm. When filmmakers remain ignorant of this process, how does this affect what types of films are championed and platformed?
The Moment of Truth
Panelists: Diane Quon (Producer, Bad Axe), Elke Lehrenkrauss (Director/Producer, Lovemobil), Leah Natasha Thomas (Producer, jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy)
Moderator: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (Producer, To the End)
Documentary filmmaking is an ethicist’s playground. When is it acceptable to alter the chronology of your material? How about introducing nondiegetic sounds to a scene? Can you turn a blind eye to your protagonist’s flaws? This is all murky territory that gets decided on a case-by-case basis, and when an important stakeholder feels a line has been crossed, the consequences can be drastic: angry broadcasters, betrayed public, upset participants. In this interactive event, we’ll ask producers to talk through some of the knottiest creative situations they’ve had to navigate during their careers. As they lay out the details and explain their decision-making process, we’ll give you a chance to ask questions before casting a vote on possible ethical choices. Co-programmed with the Ethics Task Force of the Documentary Producers Alliance
AND MORE PANELS!
Reality Check: Forming a New Documentary Canon
Panelists: Girish Shambu (Author, The New Cinephilia), Emerson Goo (Film writer), Nick Bradshaw (Film writer and editor), and more to be announced
Moderators: Devika Girish and Clinton Krute (Co-Deputy Editors, Film Comment)
What are the greatest documentaries ever made, and who gets to decide? Sight and Sound’s latest “Greatest Films of All Time” poll will be released later this fall. For this once-in-a-decade effort, the magazine doubled the number of critics, programmers, curators, and filmmakers asked to vote in a serious effort to include a greater variety of perspectives. Ten years ago, the magazine did the same, only to discover that the poll results trended towards the even more conservative. In this session, these film critics and editors speculate on what documentaries might find their way onto the 2022 list and more provocatively, whether such polls, run by legacy institutions, have outlived their usefulness in an age of decolonizing and democratizing cinema. What is the relationship between list-making and canonization, and how exactly do individuals go about collectively refashioning a more diverse, liberatory canon? Co-presented with Film Comment. This conversation will be available after Getting Real ’22 on the Film Comment Podcast. Subscribe here.
Legislating Public Media
Panelists: Wendy Levy (Executive Director, The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture), and more to be announced
Moderator: Morgan Quaintance (Director, “Surviving You, Always”)
Public service television has historically played a vital role in fostering diversity in the media. Programs such as Black Journal and entities like ITVS in the United States and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom were founded with a similar mandate: to provide a platform for filmmakers from traditionally underrepresented communities to make and have their (often radical) work shown. Several decades on from their inception, and in a time of renewed focus on diversity, how are public media organizations fulfilling their mission? This panel will look back at the ground-breaking history of these organizations, consider the current reality of public media in the UK, the US and elsewhere, and, finally, speculate as to what the future might hold.
The Aesthetics of Accessibility
Panelists: Jordan Lord (Director, Shared Resources), Sean Welsh (Director, Matchbox Cine), and more to be announced
Moderator: Alison O’Daniel (Director, The Tuba Thieves)
Captions and audio description are essential features of a documentary, and directors should be involved in their creation. However, it requires thought and care to succinctly, evocatively convey the complexities of sounds and images. It’s no surprise that many of the leading thinkers about how to approach this work are disabled artists. In this conversation, we’ll spotlight moving image artists who incorporate captions and audio descriptions into their bracing audiovisual languages. We’ll learn more about the origins and evolutions of their practices. We’ll also consider how their captioning and audio description strategies might be misinterpreted as they attract further attention and are inevitably adopted by more non-disabled artists. And we’ll also be joined by a professional subtitler who works on a wide range of projects, including experimental work.
Here’s What Really Happened
Exclusive to filmmakers, these candid conversations with directors and producers feature their personal insights into the business and craft of making a documentary. It’s the sort of conversation you may overhear filmmakers speaking quietly about between themselves. Learn what honestly happened behind the scenes of a particular case study, including deals made, finance plans, and results post-release. It’s personal, it’s intimate; let’s get into it.
The three “Here’s What Really Happened” sessions will feature Fire of Love, Faya Dayi, and A Night of Knowing Nothing.
Casting with Jennifer Venditti
Moderator: Bill Ross (Co-Director, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets)
Filmmaker and casting director Jennifer Venditti has an uncanny ability to connect humans to stories. Revered for her casting work on films such as American Honey and Uncut Gems, as well as on television shows Euphoria and The Rehearsal, Venditti’s scouting practice regularly brings her out of the office and into the real world, where she draws on a wide range of skills to build relationships with first-time performers. Venditti is also the filmmaker of the beloved 2007 documentary Billy the Kid, a project that grew out of her casting work. In her new book Can I Ask You a Question?, she candidly reflects on her journey, offering illuminating anecdotes and hard-learned lessons alongside a thrilling collection of photographs. What can other documentary filmmakers learn from her life’s work? In this Getting Real session, we’ll ask Venditti questions about her way of seeing: what she’s learned from her encounters, how she collaborates with those around her, and how she’s refined her ethics over the years.
Panelists: Andrew Catauro, Cecilia Mejia
Moderator: Toni Bell (Impact Producer and Creator/Host, What’s Up With Docs podcast)
The core mission of impact producing in documentary film links nonfiction storytelling to the work of grassroots activists and organizations to change the lives of those affected by the issues that films address. As our understandings of the often extractive nature of documentary film crews that helicopter into communities to tell their stories develop, so must our conceptions of the relationships that filmmakers, distributors, and impact producers form with grassroots organizations, educators, and the communities that view our films. This panel spotlights ongoing work that approach the impact of documentary filmmaking from a communal and community-building framework, and how this impacts film productions to fulfill more equitable and just potentials.
Breakfast Presentation: Festival Distribution Report
Presentor: Amy Hobby (Producer)
Against all odds, a scrappy, determined filmmaking team creates a brilliant documentary. Their under-the-radar gem is plucked from the submissions pool and invited to a major film festival, where it receives rave reviews and a significant distribution deal. This is the narrative that motivates so many film teams and festival programmers as they work their grossly underpaid professions. How much truth is there in this story? Or is it all a myth? Over the past year, Distribution Advocates conducted an unprecedented survey, polling all producers who premiered documentaries at North America’s major marketplace festivals in early 2022 (Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca). In this presentation, filmmakers and industry veterans will respond to the preliminary findings. Everyone registering for this presentation will receive the preliminary report before this session begins. Co-programmed by Distribution Advocates.
About International Documentary Association
Mission: To support the vital work of documentary storytellers and champion a thriving and inclusive documentary culture.
Vision: IDA is dedicated to the vision of a world where documentary creators flourish. Through our work, we connect audiences with the best of the form, provide resources, create community, and defend the rights and freedoms of documentary artists, activists and journalists around the globe. We do this work because we believe that documentaries enrich and deepen our culture, fostering a more informed and connected world.
Support for Getting Real ‘22 comes from our sponsors, Just Films | Ford Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic Documentary Films, along with additional support from the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs, Donaldson Calif & Perez LLP, ITVS, and Participant. Variety is the official media sponsor. Sponsors providing products and services include Dolce Vida Tequila, Ola! Hard Seltzer and Smoke Lab Vodka.