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IFP Week 2019 Day 2 – Weekday Strands: Real Talk at the Media Center

IFP Week has packed a lot into just two days. After a successful and well-attended opening day at BRIC, the annual event shifted to IFP's home turf at the Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO for the day's panels. Monday also included Series Day at nearby Firelight Studio, as well as meetings at 26Bridge, and screenings at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fort Greene Park.

The 41st Annual IFP Week shifted from BRIC to the Media Center seamlessly.

IFP Week has packed a lot into just two days. After a successful and well-attended opening day at BRIC, the annual event shifted to IFP’s home turf at the Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO for the day’s panels. Monday also included Series Day at nearby Firelight Studio, as well as meetings at 26Bridge, and screenings at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fort Greene Park.

Kicking the talks off was “Killer Ideas” in the Media Center theatre, which included Erin Lee Carr (I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter), Skye Borgman (Abducted in Plain Sight), Rod Blackhurst (Amanda Knox), Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), and moderator Nancy Abraham of HBO. The true crime discussion featured plenty of debate, and back-and-forth about filmmaking technique and process, and even a bit of friendly conflict and disagreement. It was a fitting way to open a day dedicated to expressing varying ideas about documentary film. Topics that was continually visited was the social justice aspect of the subgenre and the humanization of the characters, no matter how evil they may be perceived. “People sometimes forget that the stories that we are telling involve real people,” said Skye Borgman.

The next panel, “Hearing is Believing,” focused on how valuable, and often underappreciated, sound and scores are to documentary films. Doreen Ringer-Ross moderated a group that included Michael Beach Nichols (No Weather), T. Griffin (Shiny Little), and Barry Cole (Sweet Spot Music). Nichols said, “I want to be careful not to manipulate the audience with music.” He also added, “documentary form is becoming more cinematic and that has allowed people to experiment and bring in more narrative tools,” which was a recurring thought throughout the course of the day. T. Griffin succinctly said, “No matter how crazy or wild your idea is, it has to be tied to a response that we are all creating together.”

What followed was a brilliant conversation between two master documentarians entitled “Tête-à-Tête.” Todd Douglas Miller (Apollo 11 and Dinosaur 13) and E. Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo and Meru) delivered the most intimate discussion of the day, talking about one another’s work, filmmaking instincts, and their respective contributions to non-fiction storytelling.

Capping off the panels for the day was “Out of Bounds,” which saw Alissa Wilkinson of Vox moderate Danielle Varga (IFP Doc alum The Hottest August), editor Hannah Buck, Elan Bogarin (Gotham Award-nominaed 306 Hollywood), and Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson). Toward the end, Kirsten Johnson resisted the typical panel format and ventured up the aisle to speak amongst the crowd. She used an audience member’s handwriting as an example of something she couldn’t see from her seat in the front, but could not appreciate from a different vantage point, making the comparison to behaving similarly while making a documentary (and summing up the “Out of Bounds” title of the panel in the process).

After a short break, the New Voices! SAGindie Reading Series capped off the Media Center’s Day 2 events. Each year, four IFP Week Project Forum projects are highlighted and the creative teams behind these projects choose an excerpt of their script and a cast of actors brings them to life in front of the IFP Week audience. This year’s series included Clare (working title) (directed and written by Lauren Minnerath), Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul (directed, written, and produced by Adamma Ebo), Love Runs Wild (directed and written by Christopher Radcliff, produced by Eric Schultz), and Sannyasa (directed by Shawn Snyder, written and produced by Shawn Snyder and Jason Begue).

IFP Week continues on Tuesday at the Media Center with panels that will have an international focus for the Weekday Strand “Going Places.” (inter)National Geographic and a case study of Frankie will be two of the highlights of the day and limited tickets are still available on the IFP Week website.

Photos in gallery by John Dallas Phelps, social media photos by Chase Harrison