The Bay Area filmmaking team of Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega hasn’t exactly parachuted into the zone of conflict between government surveillance and civil rights. It’s a topic they’ve been addressing, in one form or another, for nearly 20 years. Add in the remarkable fact that they’re both children of civil rights lawyers — their fathers were actually colleagues — and you’ve got filmmakers who are deeply immersed in this thorny terrain. Their last feature film, Better This World, told the story of two radicalized Texas friends who became the target of a domestic terrorism sting at the 2008 Republican National Convention. For Eric & “Anna,” they collaborated with The Intercept contributor Trevor Aaronson on a longform article to complement their film. All three talked to Field Notes about the challenges and benefits of crafting a narrative largely (and in the case of the film, entirely) from surveillance material, and of reporting a story for which crucial factual details have only recently been made available — details that call into question the American government’s motives and methods.

Did you originally come together because of a shared interest in these issues — the intersection of surveillance and activism?

Kelly Duane de la Vega: Katie and I met at Berkeley High. We were family acquaintances. Then we both lived in New York on different occasions, both worked as documentary filmmakers, then both moved back to our hometowns and reconnected. Katie had read a New York Times clipping about a couple of activists that got arrested, and there was an entrapment allegation, and we were immediately interested. Within weeks of reconnecting it became our first project. That was in 2009. We’ve been making short to long form documentaries together ever since.

Katie Galloway:: Our fathers worked together as civil rights lawyers, but we didn’t find this out until we worked together. So there’s this history of growing up in the Bay Area in the ’70s and the Black Panthers and SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], which are our cultural roots. My first film on informants was in the mid-’90s, about the use of government informants in the drug war.

Duane de la Vega: I was in the process of working on a piece about John Walker Lindh and was very interested in activism and what is taking it too far, and what happens once you get caught up in the legal system. That film project didn’t end up going forward, but I had a really long-standing interest in that intersection between the government and activism. And then when we made Better This World, it got a lot deeper.

Were you hesitant at all to take on another project in this topic area?

Galloway: For this story, the defense team and the people involved came to us after Better This World because [the stories] were so similar. But we said we couldn’t make this film for a number of reasons, one being that someone else was working on it, but also because we were interested in moving on to other subjects. But it stuck with us. I knew Laura [Poitras] from a long time ago, and we had gone back and forth about the Eric and Anna story for years. So when Eric was released [from prison] I emailed her and said, “Are you interested in doing something on this now?”

Considering how long you’ve been making films in this area, how have you evolved as both journalists and filmmakers over that stretch of time? And would you say those have evolved in tandem, or does one tend to fuel the other?

Duane de la Vega: I think we’re both the kinds of people who are constantly reading newspapers and nonfiction and watching what’s happening. So much has changed [in filmmaking] and we both continued to educate ourselves along those lines and worked on our craft. So in some ways they evolved in tandem and as we’ve grown together as partners.

Galloway: I was raised really in the journalistic model, and did a lot of Frontline [episodes], and so for my subsequent films I’ve been reaching to break free — well not free, but away from a more standard model, towards finding my voice. And I would say Kelly is largely responsible for helping me get there. All of [these films] have been made with no narration, and different storytelling styles that make it much more difficult actually to tell the story. But Kelly and I feel pretty clear that the storytelling we like to do is close to the bone, character-driven narratives with a backdrop that’s huge, that’s at least national but where you can find a very personal way in.

You cover a considerable amount of ground in such a short span of time with this film. My sense of and feelings about both Anna and Eric clearly evolve, and I’m also given a strong larger picture of what it means in terms of justice and government overreach. And yet it’s all communicated through surveillance footage. Was it difficult to manage all of that in just 15 minutes?

Duane de la Vega: It was really difficult because there are layers and layers, and so many options, and the story’s really complicated. But we thought there was power in the surveillance footage in and of itself. That so much of the narrative could evolve from just providing a little window into what was going on. So we tried to pick themes that were representative of the overall picture, and that would allow people to spend time with the characters and get a rhythm of their speech and let them develop, and by doing so paint a portrait of what was going on.

Galloway: When making Better This World we knew that we wanted to make surveillance a character, but we didn’t know quite how it would move and effect people. And so it was quite a natural evolution [on this project] to go, “Why don’t we make it all surveillance?” Leave everything else behind and let the surveillance more or less speak for itself.

I would imagine the editing process for dealing exclusively with surveillance footage was quite different — you’re constructing a story based on what that footage did or didn’t show, on what is or isn’t visible or audible.

Duane de la Vega: Usually it’s a case of trying a lot of different options before you find the right one. That’s the hard part. But once you figure out how you’re going to proceed the stories start to work on their own, and that’s how you know you’re on to something. Beyond that there’s a lot of pre-post — there’s digging, there’s typing up the transcripts, thinking how each will visually play against each other. It was originally developed for Frontline as an hour [-long film], so we had a lot of great stuff pulled. It has to be said of Mike Nicholson, who’s our third producer and graphics editor — we would not be here without him. We would talk with him about ideas and then he would send us back something beautiful.

I like the combination of high and low fi to the film. Graphically, you’ve got typed text and handwritten script, meanwhile you’ve got high-tech surveillance that nevertheless captures pretty cruddy footage. There’s something metaphorically meaningful to that.

Galloway: There’s a quality to these young kids — I mean they’re not kids, she’s a teenager and he’s in his early 20s — there’s kind of a casual, slapdash quality to the whole thing. The scribbled notes, the ellipses and dashes and starting in the middle of things. Here are these young, kind of spacey, not very threatening young people that get presented post-9/11 as someone to fear, as domestic terrorists. And then there’s the style of the FBI’s investigation, where the Ts were not crossed and the Is were not dotted.

You mentioned that Eric & “Anna” was originally intended for Frontline at a longer length. Could you talk about how you adjusted to the shorter length, and what was lost and what might be gained from the adjustment?

Duane de la Vega: Katie and I have produced quite a bit of short format work over the years. We love long format, and we love short format. There’s something really accessible about a short format piece that people can watch at home and on their computer. Obviously with a long format piece there’s a lot of things that would’ve gone into it, probably contemporary interviews and more reenactments. But short form is an incredibly important medium for what we do — it allows us to tell more stories to a wider audience, and not have to crank out a film every three years.

Galloway: You aren’t expected to have all the answers in short form. It sort of unburdens you from this idea that everybody has to have a full picture of everything when they’re done — with the Frontline hour, for example. There are very different standards by which it’s judged. And it’s also lovely to be in conversations with other work.

And with this film you’ve been in direct conversation with Trevor Aaronson’s reporting, which is launching alongside the film for Field of Vision.

Galloway: We worked with Trevor back at the investigative reporting program at Berkeley, where Kelly and I were filmmakers in residence. He wrote a book on post-9/11 domestic security apparatus, taking a broader view.

Trevor Aaronson: I was in the group of fellows that came a year after Katie at UC Berkeley. Katie was still working with the program when she was finishing Better This World, and my focus at that time was on the FBI’s use of informants, specifically the use of informants in stings in Muslim communities post 9/11. Katie was orbiting around the same planet, so to speak, in the sense that she was focusing on the use of informants among left wing political activists. The tactics that the FBI uses are similar in the targeting of both Muslims and left-wing activists. The use of stings, the use of informants.

Galloway: So when we decided to do this story we called Trevor and brought him in to do some of the documents research while we were working on the film — to find out what happened with the government burying, losing or not having these documents. He wrote a first draft and sent it to us, and we were able to add details or flesh things out, and we’ve basically been passing the draft back and forth.

How did you conceive of this written piece as working alongside the film?

Aaronson: Our hope was to try to complement the two as best as possible. I tried to keep a lot of information in the story that would take readers kind of beyond what was in the film. But this was a project that had already been off the ground before I came in. The incredible work that Katie and her team were able to do, getting access to all this video and audio footage that hadn’t been made public before. It gave me the opportunity to work from these videos and tell that narrative. At the same time what I try to do in my story, which is something that can’t be as easily done in a visual work, was to leverage the documents as much as possible. Most of my work is really working with court documents and public records to put together a larger narrative, to give a context to the video, and also explain how it is that a man goes to prison for ten years and finds out that there were 2,500 pages of evidence not provided at his trial. So in some ways there is overlap and there’s no way that there couldn’t be overlap with a written story and a visual story on the same thing. Our hope was that for people who watch the film but also read the story that there won’t be a lot of redundancy, that the visuals and the conversations that Katie used would reveal new things to the person who had read my story and vice versa.

When I talked to Glenn Greenwald a couple weeks ago about the piece that he did with Heloisa Passos, he talked about how film can accomplish certain things more efficiently than writing can normally accomplish, and it challenged him to think of how to use the written piece differently in light of that.

Aaronson: In my story I make the case, I think, that Anna was flirtatious and she was leading Eric on. Now you can describe that in a written story, but when you look at Katie and Kelly’s film, there’s that scene, that visual, of her in the car reaching over and touching him on the leg. And that says so quickly what took me like 1,500 words to explain in the story. There was no way I could compete with that very visceral scene where she does that. So my goal was to say hey, let’s try to tell the whole story of how Anna got in that car. Like this idea that she was just a community college student, even though there’s still this perception that FBI informants are these highly trained people who go undercover. When in truth this was a 17-year-old community college student who the FBI recruited to be an informant.

You’re able to go a bit deeper into Eric and Anna’s stories than the short film can.

Aaronson: I think also it provides an opportunity for armchair psychology on Anna. The wanting to impress the community college professor, then later she has this strange relationship with Ricardo Torres, her FBI handler. A young woman’s desire to impress the older man in a position of authority. You can see how that creates a situation where Anna is potentially manipulated and manipulating the situation. I felt what I could contribute was this fuller picture, fleshing out the biography in a way. If you wanted a fuller picture of what happened, it really lends itself well to a longform written piece.

Both pieces, the film and the written feature, speak to the importance of having information. There’s a difference between piecing a story together in an investigative sense, and repopulating a story after years of its details being intentionally blocked.

Aaronson: Right. Unlike other stories that I’ve worked on where the entire story is new and you’re breaking all sorts of new information, this was a story that, since McDavid’s arrest in 2006, had been substantially reported. I think what we were able to do was take the new information, and take what was out there already, and put together a story that is as definitive as possible. There are also a lot of questions that still exist about why this evidence went missing. The government hasn’t come clean, and even the judge, as I mention in the story, has not taken the opportunity to force the government to explain its actions. Basically, the government got away with saying, “We can’t really explain how this happened.” Given that this is a man who spent 10 years of his life in prison, it’s kind of incredible that the government is now saying, “Oops, dog ate our homework,” you know? As I quote Ben Rosenfeld in saying, that’s kind of the opposite of accountability. Eric did stupid things — I don’t think anyone would deny that. But he wasn’t the domestic terrorist the government portrayed him to be.

That’s an incredibly damning line, that this is “the opposite of accountability.” There are still questions, but the nature of the questions have changed. So instead of “what happened?” — we now know what happened — we’re left with the more unsettling question of “why did this happen?” and “why wasn’t this citizen given a fair trial?”

Aaronson: Right — up until recently, it had always just been claims. You know, Eric McDavid claims that Anna led him on and that’s why he did what he did. And even in the prosecution’s closing arguments, they scoff at that and say there’s no proof, there’s only this one letter that we can find. Well, it turns out there were many letters and we now have those letters, and those letters show very clearly that Eric was being led on by Anna. And from the recordings that Katie and Kelly got, it’s clear that McDavid was not the leader of the plot the way the government claimed he was. These are no longer claims — these are things that are facts based on the records that we have. Now the question is, why was this evidence hidden, why couldn’t the government produce it, and why won’t the government explain what orders it gave Anna? Did the government take a 17, 18-year-old girl, and specifically order her to manipulate a 27-year-old through a promise of a sexual relationship in order to make a counterterrorism case? Because that’s the kind of stuff you’d expect on a sleazy Cinemax show. But in reality we hear, “We can’t provide an explanation for how this happened, all we know was this was in the FBI file the whole time.” And I think that’s incredible. The sad thing is I’m not confident we’ll ever get the answers to why that happened.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Field of Vision has partnered with Doc Society and Sundance Institute to launch Independent Documentary: Filming in the Time of Corona, a new Risk Assessment Guide for independent documentary filmmakers who are considering starting or resuming production during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Many filmmakers are asking themselves — and others in the documentary field — the big question: Should I be filming at all?

As our field discusses and debates this particular question — and its ethical and and public health implications — Field of Vision, Doc Society, Sundance Institute, and our co-signatories are offering a “living document” that provides guidelines, a checklist, and questions for independent documentary film teams to ask themselves, each other and their partners. It is our hope that this guide will help filmmakers make informed decisions and help keep everyone safe.

We’d like to acknowledge our gratitude to all of the the co-signatories of the Risk Assessment Guide, who helped consult on, and improve the guide: Asian American Documentary Network (ADoc), Asociación de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico (ADocPR), ACOS (A Culture Of Safety) Alliance, Ambulante, American Documentary/POV, Black Public Media, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Chicken & Egg, DOCUBOX, Impact Partners, Indian Documentary Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, National Association of Latino Producers (NALIP), Pacific Islanders in Communications, Perspective Fund, Scottish Documentary Institute, Topic, Vision Maker Media: Native Stories for Public Broadcasting, and others.

This is a rapidly changing situation as well as a long-term reality. Those of us in the documentary field will need to be mindful, flexible, and diligent as our risk assessment continues to evolve in order to keep not only our community safe but also the communities we collaborate with in the stories we tell. This new normal is unprecedented, but our documentary community is nothing if not committed to responding to this profoundly unique situation.

The guide will be updated as the situation develops and as we receive additional feedback from filmmakers and support organizations.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

This list has been compiled as a guide to help documentary filmmakers in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on the filmmaking community.

We’re going to keep adding to this document as we find any more support available to the community.

We’re also hoping to provide more initiatives and services ourselves, and you’ll be able to find all of those as we add them on this page.

This guide is separated into the following sections:

  • Field of Vision Resources
  • General Data and Preparation
  • Industry Work Information
  • Relief Funds for Filmmakers & Small Business
  • Current Project Funding
  • COVID-19 Financial Help: Resource Lists and Guides
  • Industry COVID-19 News
  • Festival Status & Updates
  • Other Resources

This is a living document and will be updated as more information becomes available.

We'd like to acknowledge and thank the organizations who have made their own compilations of resources available to the community, including: Creative Capital, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Washington Filmworks, Coronavirus Resource Kit, Collective Care By State, Dear Producer Blog, and Independent Cinema Office.

If you know of any other support available to filmmakers, please email saeedah@fieldofvision.org with information.

Field of Vision Resources

Mentorship & Consultation Service

Our virtual "office hours" service is available for filmmakers, and offers consultation on a variety of areas. We’re prioritising filmmakers who’ve been affected by festival postponements and production changes, but will also be available to offer a range of mentorship and consultation around a variety of areas.

We have booked up our first 200 allocated meetings, but are running a waitlist and hope to open up more slots asap. The waitlist is here

Documentary Freelancer Relief Fund

A $250,000 fund to provide grants for freelancers working in the Documentary field. The fund distributes unrestricted grants of up to $2000 to support personal financial needs during the COVID19 pandemic to freelancers who have experienced hardship from loss of income or opportunity as a result of the pandemic.

The fund is open to freelancers working. worldwide

The fund will open next on May 6th from 9am ET until May 8th at 6pm ET or until we reach 750 applications.

Information about the fund can be found here.

Field of Vision Project Funding

Field of Vision provides funding for both Short, Feature-length and Episodic projects at all stages of development, production and post-production. We have no deadlines and commission and fund on a rolling basis. We are looking for a strong artistic vision and approach and films that tell the stories of our world from new perspectives.

To see our criteria please visit our submissions guidelines here

Shorts

https://fieldofvision.org/submit-short

Features & Episodic

https://fieldofvision.org/submit-feature

General Data and Preparation

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it is important to stay up to date with information related to public health and civic engagement. Below are sources for general information and statistics about the outbreak:

COVID-19 Data Pack from Information is Beautiful

Symptoms and Statistics

Emergency Kit- Al Jazeera

Legal rights in a quarantine

Industry Work Information

The nature of our industry makes work stoppage and social distancing difficult. Below are resources for filmmakers who have to travel, work on location, or work from home for the first time:

The Economic Impact of Coronavirus Survey

Travel and On Set Information

How to travel during the international coronavirus outbreak

On Set Tips: From Washington’s Film Worker (bottom of page)

Film and TV Charity Covid-19 Advice

Working from Home

Work from home securely

These are the internet providers offering free Wi-Fi during coronavirus

Avid free 90-day licenses

FREE Temporary Licenses and More to Help You Work from Home

How to Disinfect Camera Equipment and Spaces

Series of webinars for the suddenly remote workforce

Other Industry Resources

What You Should Know About Online Tools During the COVID-19 Crisis

Pro Bono PR Services for Films with Festival Cancellations

Ways to Help Artists and Creatives During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Ideas for responding to COVID-19 in the Film Industry

Cash Flow for Filmmakers Webinar

Please note: Specific filming restrictions can vary from state to state, country to country, and so on. You should check with your local film office regarding filming on location at this time.

Relief Funds for Filmmakers and Small Business

Below are new funds set up specifically to relieve filmmakers during this time:

Artist Relief - This fund will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19. It was designed by Americans for the Arts to better identify and address the needs of artists.

BFI and the Film and TV Charity’s Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund - BFI and Film and TV Charity have partnered to create a new industry-backed Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund to help support the creative community in the UK.

Covid-19 Freelance Artist Resource - A list specifically designed to serve all types of freelance artists and those interested in supporting the independent artist community during this time

COVID-19 WOC Artists Relief Fund - This fund is specifically for women of color working artists or creatives that have been directly impacted financially in light of COVID-19.

Disability Arts New Commissions - Disability Arts Online is a UK-based small organisation, committed to supporting their community during this time they’ve allocated £8,000 to new commissions for artists with disabilities.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program - Facebook is providing assistance in cash grants and ad credits.

Freelancers Relief Fund - Freelancers Relief Fund will provide financial assistance of up to $1,000 to freelancers who are experiencing sudden hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether as a result of illness, lost work, or caregiving responsibilities.

Global Open Call for Art - Amplifier has created an open call for work that focuses on public health, flattening the curve, and mental health during this global crisis. The organization will award $1,000 apiece to 50 artists, with new winning works announced each week, starting the first week of April.

NYFA Emergency Grants - Resources for arts and cultural organizations based here in New York and elsewhere.

PEN Writers’ Emergency Fund - PEN America will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rauschenberg Emergency Grants Program - Expected to be rolled out in late May or early June the grant will provide visual artists, media artists, and choreographers up to $5,000 worth of assistance for medical emergencies.

Relief Fund for Hollywood Support Staff - The entertainment organizations #PayUpHollywood, Scriptnotes Podcast and YEA! have teamed up to create the Hollywood Support Staff COVID-19 Relief Fund, aimed to assist LA-based support staffers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

SAG-AFTRA Disaster Relief - Financial help to SAG-AFTRA members who have been impacted by this pandemic

Current Project Funding

Compiled Lists of Project Funding

American Documentary’s Filmmaker Resources - An extensive list of US and international funding sources

Doc Society Resource List - These links and documents are designed to connect you to the organisations you need to know to get your doc funded and make it all happen.

The EDN DOCalendar - The EDN DOCalendar provides an overview of what's happening in the international documentary industry.

International Documentary Association - Fiscal Sponsorship & Grants - A searchable database of available grants and fellowships

Upcoming Funding Deadlines

Here are a few upcoming deadlines for key funding opportunities. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but we’ll be adding to it over time

April

SFFILM Documentary Film Fund

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) supports engaging documentaries in post-production which exhibit compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach.

Deadline: April 30th, 2020

Stage: Late Production and Post-Production

Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund

Provides funds to feature-length documentaries which highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world.

Deadline: April 30th, 2020

Stage: Production or Post-Production

May

Rogovy/Miller Packan Doc Fund

Supports Docs that address social issues that inspire others.

Stage: Advanced Development, Production or Post-Production

William Greaves Fund

Firelight’s William Greaves Fund is a research and development grant that supports nonfiction filmmakers of color based in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Brazil.

Stage: Development

June

IDA/Pare Lorentz

2020 funding focus is on criminal justice.

Stage: Early Production

Sundance Doc Fund

The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund provides grants to filmmakers worldwide for feature-length projects that display artful and innovative film language and techniques, rigorous research, originality, project feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and the potential to reach and connect with its intended audience.

Stage: Development, Production & Post-Production

July

ITVS Open Call

The documentary can be on any subject, viewpoint or style as long as it is in active production already, as evidenced via a ten to fifteen-minute work in progress sample. *not a grant, co-production agreement.

Deadline: July and then re-opens again in Feb 2021.

Stage: Production

NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theater

NYC Women’s Fund provides grants to encourage and support the creation of digital, film, music, television, and live theatre content that reflects the voices and perspectives of all who identify as women.

Deadline:*Opens Summer 2020/check site for updates.

Stage: Post-Production/Finishing Funds

September

ITVS Diversity Development Fund

The Fund looks to support exceptional stories by filmmakers from diverse backgrounds: stories that take creative risks, inspire dialogue, and are rarely seen on public media.

Stage: Development

Puffin Foundation

The Puffin Foundation has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy.

Stage: Any

October

Tribeca Film Institute Doc Fund

The TFI fund sponsors documentaries that spotlight contemporary themes with unique, creative filmmaking.

Deadline: Opens in the fall.

Stage: Any stage of development or production

Fledgling Film Fund

Most recently interested in climate change, but social justice/impact is at the core of the fund.

Deadline: Re-opens in the Fall. *check site for updates

Stage: Typically Post

Rolling Deadlines

Perspective Fund

Perspective provides grant support to independently produced documentary films that highlight social justice and human rights issues, that align with our priority areas.

Stage: Any stage of development or production

Catapult Film Fund

Catapult is not tied to any specific social issue agenda. We support and encourage filmmakers to tell a full range of stories on film in whatever form fits the film and artist.

Stage: Development

Cinereach Feature Film Fund

Cinereach awards grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to support any stage of feature film production

Stage: Any stage of development or production.

COVID-19 Financial Help: Resource Lists and Guides

Creative Capital List - Creative capital aggregated list of resources for artists working in all disciplines, as well as arts philanthropists, and arts professionals.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance - The US Department of Labor’s Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides temporary benefits to people who, due to a major disaster, lost or had their employment or self-employment interrupted.

Emergency Funds for Freelancers - A list of mutual aid funds that distribute emergency grants to artists, creative professionals and freelancers facing financial hardships

Firelight SBA Loan Consultation - With the support of the Perspective Fund, Firelight Media is offering 30 minute one-on-one consultations for filmmakers of color who are applying for US Coronavirus Federal Relief.

IFP Resources for Filmmakers - Independent Filmmaker Project has curated a list of resource pages and opportunities we’ve found particularly useful and inspiring in these uncertain times.

ITVS: Applying for Federal Coronavirus Relief as a Filmmaker - Firelight Media, IDA, and ITVS are hosting a series of hour-long webinars to learn the basics of applying for the various SBA programs.

National Endowment for the Arts: COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations - A list of organizations that are currently providing frequently updated news and resources for artists and arts organizations.

New York State: Resources for New York State Arts and Cultural Organizations - The New York State Council on the Arts is compiling and daily updating resources to support New York State's artists and arts organizations, including emergency funds, small business support, learning opportunities, management support, and discipline-specific resources.

NYC Assistance & Guidance for Businesses Impacted Due to Novel Coronavirus - Applications for the NYC Business Continuity Loan Fund may be paused for now, but there are other resources here for businesses operating in the five boroughs.

Southern Documentary Fund: Resources for Southern Filmmakers - A list of the websites, emergency funds and resource listings for Covid-19 response to artists and freelancers from the twelve Southern states that SDF serves

Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources - The US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) page for coronavirus funding options, CDC guidance for businesses and employers, and more.

Women Arts Media Coalition - A glossary and links to many resources, brought to you by the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition with the assistance WomenArts

Women Make Movies: Regional Resources - Many organizations are providing resources and support on the local level. Check out WWM’s list of regional resources to see if your local arts organization can help.

Remote Work Sites, Opportunities, Resources

Remote Work Opportunities

Remote Film Jobs Bechance

Fiverr

Upwork

Creative Commissions

Industry COVID-19 News

Break COVID-19 Industry Cancellations

Privilege and Pandemic: How COVID-19 Reveals the Documentary Sustainability Crisis

Most SXSW Shorts Are Streaming Free Thanks to Oscilloscope and Mailchimp

A Way of Life in Peril

Select Film Festivals and Indie Movies Figure Out Online Access

Alamo Drafthouse relief fund for furloughed staff members

Festival Status & Updates

Below you’ll find links to the latest festival news. Many festivals are still scheduled for the fall; we've included submission dates for several below. We’ve also included links to updates from festivals that have been cancelled and postponed. Please feel free to send updates to help our community stay informed.

And please check out our Google calendar for upcoming festival deadlines: https://bit.ly/3bnJnaQ

Festivals: Upcoming Deadlines

Toronto International Film Festival

Regular Deadline - May 29

Final Deadline - June 12

AFI Festival

Late Deadline - June 5

Open City Documentary Film Festival

Regular Deadline - April 24

Late Deadline - May 8

Camden International Film Festival

Regular Deadline - April 27

Late Deadline - May 26

Extended Deadline - June 29

DOC NYC

Late Deadline - May 1

Extended Deadline - July 1

IDFA

Early Deadline - May 1

Late Deadline - August 1

New Orleans Film Festival

Late Deadline - May 8

Extended Deadline - June 19

Jihlava

Late Deadline - May 31, 2020

Extended Deadline - July 31, 2020

DOK Leipzig

Deadline - July 7

List of Festivals that have been affected by the pandemic:

Cancelled

Full Frame

Hot Docs

Ebertfest

Sun Valley Film Festival

TCM Classic Film Festival

International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

European media arts festival

The Miami Film Festival

San Diego Latino Film Festival

Ashland Independent Film Festival

Watsonville Film Festival

Indie Grits

Provincetown International Film Festival

International Uranium Film Festival (Almeria)

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

BAMcinemaFest

Cleveland International Film Festival

Ebertfest

SXSW

Garden State Film Festival

SIFF

Sydney Film Festival

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival

SFFILM

Riverrun International Film

Fargo Film Festival

Columbus Documentary Week

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival

Sun Valley Film Festival

Online Only

Thin Line

CPH:DOX

Garden State Film Festival

Films on Art Festival (FIFA) Montreal

Movies that Matter film festival

DC Environmental

Vilnius IFF

Visions du Reel

Environmental Film Festival (Washington, D.C.)

Cinema du Reel

NewportFILM

Greenwich International

AIFF

Postponed

Canadian Film Fest

New Directors New Films

Montclair Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Beverly Hills Film Festival

Prague International Film Festival

Bentonville Film Festival

Red Sea International Film Festival

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Blackbird Film Festival

Cinequest

Dox on the Fox

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MAY APPLICANTS: We have hit capacity for this round of funding. The application will re-open on June 10th at 9am ET. Please Note: You do not need to apply more than once. Anyone who doesn't receive funding from the previous round will be considered for the next.

Field of Vision and Topic Studios have created a $250,000 fund to provide grants for freelancers working in the Documentary field. The fund will distribute unrestricted grants of up to $2000 to support personal financial needs during the COVID19 pandemic to freelancers who have experienced hardship from loss of income or opportunity as a result of the pandemic

We will be disbursing funding in two different blocks. One in April, and one in May. We know that people’s situations are changing, and so wanted to ensure there were two different timings to accommodate evolving need.

Dates and Deadlines

April

The fund will be open for applications from Wed April 8th from 9am ET until Friday April 10th at 6pm ET or until we reach 1,000 applications. You can find the link to the application at the bottom of this page.

May

The fund will be open for applications from May 6th from 9am ET until May 8th at 6pm ET or until we reach 750 applications.

Notification of grant approval will be within 20 days of the fund closing, and payments will be processed within 30 days of notification of a grant. June The fund will be open for a final round of applications from June 10th from 9am ET until June 12th at 6pm ET or until we reach 500 applications

Criteria

Be able to demonstrate work as a freelancer within the documentary field in roles such as:

- Directors - Producers (This includes Associate Producers) - DPs - Editors - Sound Recordists/Designers - Researchers - Assistants - Critics & Writers who have covered documentaries - Publicists

Other freelance roles will be accepted if they meet the rest of the criteria

Provide a link (examples - IMDB page, Film Review, Direct link to project) that shows professional work in the field.

The fund is eligible for artists internationally, however you must be able to receive funding electronically (we are not able to issue checks), and priority will be given to countries and regions of which there isn’t government freelance assistance that you are eligible for. If you have not been eligible for government assistance, please state that in your application.

Students who are currently enrolled are not eligible.

People who are currently in employment are not eligible.

Please note: We have made every effort to reduce the amount of information, paperwork and requirements for funding and have tried to make the fund as open and accessible as possible. We are largely operating on a trust-based system and really urge you to work with us on being able to maintain this. It’s extremely important to us to be able to get funding to the freelancers that need it the most. Please answer all questions thoroughly and accurately so that we can ensure the funds are allocated to help as many people in need as possible.

Information Needed:

- Demonstrated professional work within the field - Usual income source - Description of situation - Maximum amount requested - Minimum amount requested - What the funding would be used for - Location

Please note: It’s important to include a maximum and minimum amount requested. Also, please note that grants may be taxable as income under the law that applies to you. We will issue Form 1099s for grants of more than $600.

The Process

As always, it is important to us that filmmakers lead how we operate and respond, and so the process will begin with a blind review of applications by a panel of filmmakers and producers, with a simultaneous review by the Field of Vision and Topic Studios teams. Those recommendations will then provide the recommended list for funding, which will then be reviewed once more before contacting the fund recipients.

We will only be contacting those who have been allocated funding.

On receipt of the grant acceptance please expect up to 30 days to receive payment. In order to issue the grants we will need a W-9 or W8-BEN tax form and an invoice which includes wire transfer details.

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UPDATE: As of March 23rd, our first 200 meeting slots have been booked. However, you can still sign up for the waitlist at the links below as we work to add additional appointment times. From Monday, March 16, the Field of Vision team will offer a virtual "office hours" service for the documentary community. As we’re in a moment of uncertainty, we want to make ourselves available to filmmakers in any way we can. We understand that the industry is experiencing a lot of upheaval, and that this is a particularly difficult time for freelancers and people working independently. 

We have allocated time every weekday until Friday, May 1st (we may extend depending on the situation) to have video meetings and calls. We’ll be prioritising filmmakers who’ve been affected by festival postponements and production changes, but will also be available to offer a range of mentorship and consultation around a variety of areas.

At Field of Vision we like filmmakers to lead and improve how we work. We were inspired by Jeanie Finlay, who has opened her time to mentoring after an upcoming film shoot had to be cancelled. Jeanie is working on a new film that we’re extremely honoured to be supporting. 

We are a small team and will try our best to make ourselves available to as many filmmakers and producers as possible. If any other members of our community would also like to donate their time, we are happy to facilitate this as well, so please feel free to reach out to us.

The areas which we would like to offer consultation on are below: 

  • General mentorship
  • Feedback on proposals and grant applications
  • Project Development
  • Online Distribution
  • Digital Engagement
  • Partnerships
  • Pitch Training
  • Editing
  • Technology & Digital Security
  • Distribution
  • Editorial Feedback
  • Festival Strategy
  • Career Guidance

This is not just open to filmmakers wanting to submit work for us to review, or filmmakers we have worked with before. If you feel you would benefit from time with our team on any project you’re working on please feel free to reach out. There are more details on how to take part below.

HOW TO SIGN UP

Meetings

If you would like to have a virtual meeting about any of the above, please follow this link to book a time: https://bit.ly/waitlist-fov-virtual-consult

(We will also be adapting to demand, and will create a waitlist, and/or increase availability if needed.)

Submissions & Pitches

While we are still managing and prioritizing our regular submissions system, we would also like to make time for project and pitch meetings.

To sign up for a pitch meeting with us, please make sure you have submitted through our system prior to the meeting, using the link below:  fieldofvision.org/submit

Once you have submitted through our submissions form, please sign up for a meeting slot here. NB: We won’t be able to take any meetings around potential projects until you’ve submitted through the system. If you’re not ready to discuss a specific project, or are looking for more general advice, please use the first form.

Please bear with us as we begin rolling out our virtual office hours service. This initiative came together very quickly, so there may be hiccups. We just wanted to offer something to start. 

As we navigate these uncertain times, what is certain is that we are a strong community of creatives and storytellers. We have shown time and again how resourceful we are, how dedicated we are to our craft, art form and field, and how supportive we can be of each other. 

Please stay safe everyone, The Field of Vision Team

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Update: Since this interview was first published, In the Absence was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, making it the first-ever South Korean nominee for the category.

Director Yi Seung-Jun and producer Gary Byung-Seok Kam are the dynamic filmmaking duo behind In the Absence, a World Press Photo award-winning short about the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea.

In the Absence begins on April 16, 2014, the day the MV Sewol, a passenger ferry carrying over 400 people—including school children—sank near Jeju Island. Over 300 people lost their lives that day. In the wake of this horrific incident, people across South Korea, including those whose loved ones had perished, sought transparency and accountability from national authorities. Years later, these families and their supporters are still fighting for answers for what happened on that fateful April morning.

In the Absence, which began production in 2017, combines intimate interviews with victims’ families, survivors, and rescue divers with breathtaking archival footage and audio recordings obtained from the South Korean authorities. The result is a compelling yet compassionate story of the people whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy.

In the Absence premiered at DOC NYC in 2018, where it won the grand jury prize in the festival’s shorts competition and later screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film also took home first prize at this year’s World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest for Long Form. Shortly after, The New Yorker published In the Absence on its website and YouTube channel, where it has garnered over 1 million views. You can also watch the film on our website here.

Yi and Kam recently spoke to Field of Vision about choosing to make this ambitious and galvanizing film, how the conversation around Sewol has changed in the last five years, and much more.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

How did you decide to make a film about the Sewol ferry disaster?

Yi Seung-Jun: It was a Wednesday morning in 2014 when I first heard through the media that a ferry was sinking. At first, it seemed quite serious. Most of the passengers were high school students on their school trip. I was wishing that no one died or got seriously hurt. Soon, a news report came out that all the passengers were rescued, which turned out to be not true.

In the afternoon of that day, I watched TV news, which said more than half of the passengers were still trapped in the ferry, which was already under the water.

Since then, we heard about the ferry sinking every day, and many of the students seemed to be dead. It was really shocking and sad. My colleague directors visited the harbor closest to the site. They thought there must be something [suspicious] regarding the government’s reaction, and that something was being hidden by the government as well as by the mainstream media.

I was suggested by one of the directors to join the team, but at that time I was busy editing my feature documentary. Moreover, I did not think that I could press the record button in front of the enormous sorrow and fury of the victims’ or missing students’ families. When I saw any teenagers wearing school uniforms in a bus, on the street, I burst into tears without realizing.

From October 2016 to March 2017, there were a series of Candle Protests in South Korea, calling for the resignation of then-president Park Geun-hye. Millions of people, including myself, took part in the protests.

It was at the end of 2016 when Field of Vision contacted me, asking if I was interested in making a short, cinematic documentary about any story related to the protests, or the then-current situation. I talked with my producer, Gary, and we suggested the story of the Sewol ferry disaster to Field of Vision, how the disaster was connected to the protest, and why people were so angry about the handling and attitude of the government about the disaster.

It’s been almost three years, but still the victims’ families and the civilian divers were living in pain, with the truth still not revealed. However, some people made those arguments: we should not talk about the disaster anymore, the victims’ families have got enough compensation, let’s forget about it, do not make use of the disaster politically, and so on.

I came to think that if there is still broadly rooted pain in there, then we need to go back to the time when the pain had begun. We need to look at it and find out what caused the pain, and where it had started. That is why I decided to make this film.

Gary Byung-Seok Kam: I had this weird experience about six months before the tragedy happened. I got an email from an American producer who was ready to make a documentary about a mysterious photographer called Ahae. He described himself as a sportsman, post-structuralist photographer, artist, and nature lover. I was really, really curious about him. So I started to do some research. Later it came out that he was the owner of the ferry company.

The next year, in April, actually, while I’m still doing research, I actually booked [the Sewol ferry] with my partner. It is the only ferry from Seoul to Jeju Island. But the last page [on the website] was all broken. The next day, one of my friends said, "Oh, why bother to go all the way by motorbike? You can just send the motorbike [via airplane]."

So I had second thoughts. I just booked an airplane. The next day, before I went out, I saw news that the ferry was sinking. For a moment, I had goosebumps all over my body. I realized that that was the ferry that I booked.

You're saying that you were almost on that boat? But by some chance happening, you weren't?

GK: Yes. Only two people among the victims’ families know this. Because I could never tell them that I was lucky and didn't get on. After that moment, I always felt that I needed to do something.

First of all, I didn't like the way the media treated the tragedy in general. Three months before Field of Vision approached [the film’s director Seung-Jun Yi], actually one of the victims’ family members contacted me, asking if I'd be interested in looking into all this.

So we had a talk. I just told them, “I'm sorry, I'm not capable of finding out the truth, not at this moment, but I will find out.” The government definitely deserves the criticism, but I just want to take one step back and see. It was just too emotional.

[The victim’s family member] liked the idea. We kept developing the idea, not in a hurry. Then Field of Vision contacted Seung-Jun, so Seung-Jun and I discussed. He knew that I had started thinking about a Sewol documentary. We had a long talk. The Candle Protest itself is a great subject, but it's too deep for a short documentary. So we both thought that the Sewol case could also be a strong subject as it was one of the main issues that brought people to join the Candle Protest.

The film is very, very meaningful for, and also to the victims’ family association. Even though it was a really tragic story, they are very happy that the story gets to be shared with a global audience, a bigger audience.

I actually wanted to touch a bit on that. So the film has been shown at several festivals. It's now online at the New Yorker and also on our site. So what has it been like to share this particular story with a larger international—and now digital—audience? What has that been like for you, for Seung-Jun, for the families?

GK: First of all, the victims’ family association—the families—they are very, very happy. I met them right after the New Yorker’s YouTube video hit more than a million [views]. So I told them that happened. They were very, very happy. And they were very surprised. It seemed that most of the comments were written in English. I was sitting with them in a café, and I read the comments. They were moved, and they were pleased to find that the comments were from all different countries, and are actually not so different from what they have gotten from Korean audiences. They were glad that the pain they are going through, the tragedy caused by the incompetence of parliament could be actually [communicated] well with a bigger audience. It's not that they want to be an object of pity. They want people to know what happened.

Any innocent, ordinary citizen of any society could fall victim to tragedy. That's what the [families] want to tell [the world]. That's why every citizen [should] want to show more interest in the safety and regulations for the society, any society. That's what they wanted. They wanted to convert the tragedy into a platform for every society.

Do you think that public discourse around the Sewol atrocity has changed in the last five years? If so, how?

YS: As far as I know, public discourse has not changed a lot. I mean, there were already people who disliked to talk about this issue. Most of them were supporters of the then-government, the then-president and the ruling conservative party. And politicians put a kind “scarlet letter” on anyone, any media, any group, any politician who supported the victims’ families, who criticized the government’s reactions. The yellow ribbon is the symbol of the slogan, “Do not forget the day: April 16th, 2014.” People used to put a yellow ribbon sticker on their cars. I also used to put a yellow ribbon sticker on the rear window of my car. Once, a man asked me what it was and he said it’s better to take it down. I asked why, and he just said, “Well… it is not good to put this ribbon on.” That was it. I was lucky because he did not keep asking. However, there have been people who insulted the victims’ families or were aggressive with people who support the victims’ families, the civilian divers, etc. Their attitude has not changed at all.

But the media has changed after the power shift, I mean, after the then-president, Park Geun-Hye resigned from her office, and the opposite party candidate became the new president of South Korea.The attitude of media has changed. Most of the mainstream media were with the then-government. They did not report the issue well. They wanted to hide as much as possible. But due to the power shift, mainstream media began dealing with many kinds of stories related to the ferry sinking disaster. This project was supported by the governmental fund, and I applied for the fund after the then-president resigned from her office. It would not have been possible to get funded if it were under the previous government.

GK: We cannot treat this as a car accident. We have to find out who's still [accountable]. At this moment, only one person [has been charged]: the captain of a patrol boat. So the families, and those who support these families, they demand justice. Not as revenge, but without setting a good example of punishment or taking responsibility, there won’t be a first step to be a better society in the future.

In the Absence features a lot of archival footage and audio from a variety of sources. There's stuff from broadcast TV, conversations between government officials, and the crew on the ship, cell phone videos from school children on the ship, and so on. Can you tell me about the process of finding those materials and then deciding which pieces of footage or audio to use? Because it seemed like there was such a large set of data that you were able to pull from.

YS: As I said, some of my director colleagues had been filming the situation after the ferry sinking, establishing the 416 Documenting Group. The aim of the group was not only to make their own film or TV program related to the disaster but also to support other directors making documentaries regarding the issue. I talked with them about this project, and they eagerly decided to support this project. They’ve already got tons of footage, some were filmed by them, some were obtained with the help of media, congressmen, et cetera. We were provided with all of that footage. And the cell phone videos provided by the association of the victims’ families, with their permission.

When I looked through all of the footage, I first decided to make a timeline of the incident itself, to make the audience feel what was going on on that day.

GK: The most important thing was to secure the footage from the actual Coast Guard choppers, the patrol boat footage, and also all the conversations among government agencies. Actually, that was only distributed to major broadcasters, just for some parts for the news report. As independent filmmakers, it was extremely difficult for us to secure the footage, but the family association really helped us in contacting one of the congressmen. He was a very well known human rights lawyer. He represented the family association for a long time, and later was elected as a congressman.

Through his office, we could secure the footage and the government recordings. We contacted the broadcasters, and they refused to share footage with us. So the only possible way was to have someone in parliament help us clear that copyright issue. The government will never raise any questions with copyright issues to Congress. So that's how we secured most of the footage.

I wanted to transition into asking you about the film having these really incredible moving interviews with the victims’ families as well as a few of the divers. What was it like to film with them? How did you gain their trust?

YS: The association of the victims’ families decided to support this project officially. We always discussed what to film and whom to interview with the association. One of the most important rules of mine on the shooting location is to try not to [impose]. I just let my characters be there, stay as they are, move as they want. Then I just keep observing them, capturing important moments or emotions as they are. Through this process, characters do not feel bothered, and I do believe that it helps me to gain the characters’ trust.

GK: At the time, many family members were about to go to an island very close to where the ferry sank. There are no hotels or anything, only several private residents of fishermen. It's only two kilometers away from the mainland. We were allowed to join, not knowing where to stay, what to eat… And we ended up staying on a floor, and spent two days on the island with many family members.

It was really depressing, first of all, to watch them because—especially the fathers—no one could sleep without drinking. Some were drinking two liters of Korean vodka [each night]. At the same time some were very hostile to journalists—any camera. They felt they had been betrayed by journalists for many years, for almost three years.

When the Sewol ferry was brought into the port [at Jindo], we once again stayed three days [with the family]. We did the same thing. We didn't ask anything.

The family members took turns watching [the port] because they didn't trust the government [to not remove evidence]. They set up a watchtower. At least three to five people, family members, were always on the island at once for three years.

What was it like for you and Seung-Jun to be around so much grief and pain throughout this whole process? How did it change your perspective on the incident and in general?

GK: I am sure that Seung-Jun had a more stressful time, but for me, I have this strong feeling of responsibility to do something for them, and making a film and making their story into a documentary was the only thing I could do for them. And also watching their grief, anger, and frustration, actually, as a filmmaker, it was a great lesson. That makes me think again about how we as filmmakers should treat the people in pain, when we hold the camera or when we want to make stories; to be respectful and hold that distance. Seung-Jun was the only independent filmmaker the family allowed to get in [to the port]. After a family member managed to get a personal look at the salvaged ferry and then came out of the gate, this TV cameraperson ran to her and put the camera right in her face. One of the fathers shouted and swore at camera, "Are you happy? Are you happy that you could shoot this woman crying and in pain? This is what you want?"

When the mothers came out of the gate, Seung-Jun just [fell] back. We moved aside just enough to get the whole scene.

What do you hope future audiences will learn, gain, or feel when watching this film?

YS: We, human beings, are vulnerable to “time.” As time goes on, we forget many things. Time makes us dull. It is like a black hole absorbing our [emotions]. Isn’t it scary to become dull? I want people to remember the day, remember what happened on that day and what was going on, what we told each other. And I hope people do not forget that if some system fails to operate correctly, it results in terrible pain in the end. The pain might not be curable. Please wake up and keep your eyes on [those responsible].

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