February 2009

Doc Doctor's Story Strategies: No Conflict, No Film?

In her new column, "Story Strategies: Debunking the Myths of Storytelling," Doc Doctor Fernanda Rossi explores the myth: “If you don’t have a conflict you don’t have a film.”


A still from Scott Hamilton Kennedy's Oscar nominated documentary, "The Garden."

In a brand new column for the Independent, Documentary Doctor Fernanda Rossi, story consultant for the 2009 Oscar nominated documentary, The Garden, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy (view the trailer here), will expose the myths of documentary storytelling. This month, Rossi tears down a common misconception to which many filmmakers subscribe: No conflict? No film.

Introducing....Story Strategies: Debunking the Myths of Storytelling

First-Time Director Triumphs at Sundance

Filmmaker John Hindman discusses his film, "Arlen Faber," picked up for distribution at Sundance.


A still from John Hindman's "Arlen Faber," picked up for distribution at Sundance.

For a first-time writer/director, making it to Sundance is a dream come true, but for John Hindman it didn't stop there. His film, Arlen Faber, was one of 16 films selected for the Dramatic Competition category and following the screening, was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. The Independent's John McMahon talks to Hindman about bringing his screenplay to life, and meeting Robert Redford.

Writer and first-time director John Hindman’s romantic comedy Arlen Faber was one of the 118 films showcased at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia Pictures picked it up for an undisclosed amount. “If you’re fortunate to be one of those 16 films [in the Dramatic Competition category] it’s a given that people are going to come and see your movie.

Distributor FAQ: Vanessa Domico of Outcast Films

Q & A with Vanessa Domico, founder of Outcast Films, an LGBT distributor.


"Rock Bottom: Gay Men & Meth" is a recent release from Outcast, which they hope will revitalize activism on the issue.

Five years ago Vanessa Domico saw a gap in the distribution of LGBT titles and decided it was time to pull up her sleeves. Using her expertise as a director of distribution, she founded Outcast Films, now one of the foremost LGBT distributors in the country, with critically acclaimed releases like their most recent film She's a Boy I Knew (view the trailer here). Outcast is more than a distributor -- under Domico's leadership it also focuses on education and activism on behalf of the LGBT community.

Vanessa Domico was tired of seeing too few LGBT films, so she drew on her expertise as a film distributor and founded Outcast Films.

Thank You For the Music: A Music Licensing Guide for Filmmakers

A resource and guide on how to obtain music rights for your film.


"Dirty Dancing" is one of the many films whose soundtrack has become iconic.

Music can make or break a film, sometimes even making it iconic. Look at legendary soundtracks like Star Wars, The Graduate and Dirty Dancing. Would these films have been the same without John Williams' epic score, Simon & Garfunkel's strumming guitar or Patrick Swayze's billowing lyrics. The Independent's Emily Cataneo has put together a guide for filmmakers that answers questions like: What do I need a license for? What goes into the process of getting a license? And offers resources that will aid in that process.

The soundtrack of a film is an integral part of its interpretation. It not only helps to create a polished final product, but it can help an audience understand what the characters are feeling. Picture Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross running out of the church, laughing, her wedding dress trailing behind them.

Beg, Borrow, or Steal? Deciphering Fair Use for Filmmakers

Understanding Fair Use can save documentary filmmakers time and money.


A screen shot of the archival footage from Vance vs. Judas Priest used by filmmaker Van Taylor for his doc, "Dream Decievers."

So, you're assembling your documentary and you desperately need to include a certain song, image, or archival scene to tell your story, do you need to get permission? How do you know if it's copyrighted? Independent writer Jen Swanson talks to Patricia Aufderheide of the American University Center for Social Media and one of the authors of The Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices, as well as filmmakers David Van Taylor and Gordon Quinn, to help break down Fair Use and how it applies to documentary filmmakers.

David Van Taylor first engaged questions of Fair Use when he was working on his film Dream Deceivers in 1990, a documentary that explored the lawsuit filed against the heavy-metal band Judas Priest by the family of James Vance, a teenager who tried to commit suicide after smoking marijuana and listening to the group's lyrics. The film incorporated copyrighted music and clips.

After the Oscar: An Interview with Cynthia Wade

Cynthia Wade discusses the evolution of her career, post-Oscar win.


Director Cynthia Wade filming the freeholders, the subjects of her 2008 Oscar-winning documentary.

When the paparazzi cleared and the red carpet rolled away, filmmaker Cynthia Wade, winner of the 2008 Academy Award for "Best Documentary Short Subject", rolled up her sleeves and got back to work. The Oscar winner discusses with the Independent, what she's been working on since the statue, how she finds her compelling subjects and gives some advice for aspiring documentarians.

As a sophomore at Smith College, Cynthia Wade found herself witness to a small scandal: a friend discovered she was pregnant and decided leave college, marry her boyfriend and have her child, going against the feminist attitude many of her classmates held. So, in true documentarian form, Wade’s first instinct was to get it on film.