With Notes from the Border, Iva Radivojevic revisits the thematic concerns of her recent feature, Evaporating Borders, which was an intimate account of migrants living in Cyprus — the island to which Radivojevic moved when she was a young girl fleeing the war in Yugoslavia. Her new film also returns the director to the elliptical short form that she has extensively explored on her website, Iva Asks, which helped make her one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2013. The day before her new film premiered at the New York Film Festival, I met with New York-based Radivojevic to talk about the making of Notes from the Border.

Did the Field of Vision team come to you and say — we know the work you’ve been doing, we like what you did with Evaporating Borders, and we’d like you to pursue this story?

Radivojevic: Right — we know what you’ve been doing … No, what happened was, they knew of my work, they liked the work — Laura actually executive produced my last film — but they approached me with something entirely different. It was about militarization of the police in the U.S. But while I was researching that the laws changed, something fell through, and it was no longer seeming like a good direction to go into. Meanwhile I was following the story about the migrants, the refugees, which back then was only a small story. And I said, here’s an interesting thing that’s happening on this Greek island of Kos, and they really liked it. But I was actually a bit skeptical about doing the same kind of story.

Because your feature is largely about this topic. Radivojevic: Which was about the island of Cyprus — so a different country. And it was Palestinian refugees, not Syrian refugees. But the same topic, basically.

Let’s step back briefly to talk about your relationship to this region. What brought you to Cyprus in the first place?

Radivojevic: I grew up in Cyprus. Once the war in Yugoslavia started, my mom, my sister and I left and went to Cyprus. I’ve been living here in New York for a long time, but I visit my family a lot, and each time I went back I realized there was a new wave of migrant refugees coming. And the attitudes towards them are different than they were towards us when we arrived. There was a rise of xenophobia, racism, attacks, all kinds of stuff. So I thought, this is something we need to talk about, and that’s how that project came about. Because I grew up there I knew it very well. I speak the language, and thought I could talk about it through an immigrant lens because I was an immigrant.

Which then leads to this new film, and a situation that you’re able to recognize as related to the one you recently filmed. Except this was happening right now, it was unfolding right before your eyes.

Radivojevic: It was this summer. Things were happening so fast that literally week by week the situation was getting progressively worse and worse. So I would film in one location, leave, and then a week later there would be some kind of riot there. It was incredible, the speed at which things were changing, and the speed at which the numbers of refugees were increasing. So the initial story was oh, here’s this island that’s dealing with a huge number of refugees coming in. There’s this makeshift, burned-down hotel where nobody was taking care of the refugees, where they had no food or anything. So this was something to look at. And when I got there it was that, but it was so many more things. And it was all just getting piled up. The island of Kos was getting hundreds of refugees a day, and it was getting progressively worse. Then people started dying, and that’s when people started paying attention. Initially I was going to make this small story about the hotel, but it grew into a story about multiple borders.

You felt that the hotel wasn’t enough, that you needed to move around and chase the story as it developed?

Radivojevic: My initial thought was to take a personal, poetic approach to it, which my other films also take. But then we switched gears a little bit.

To my eyes there’s so much poetry to the film you made, both in your shots and your construction of those shots. So what do you mean in terms of switching gears? Being clear about certain information and the setting?

Radivojevic: Yeah. It’s tricky when you do something that’s happening right now, at this moment. What do we want to convey? What’s important? We want to give you the information, but we want to also give you this way to connect, and potentially go a little deeper than the dissemination of information. That was a challenge.

So how did that result in the film you made?

Radivojevic: It was a collaborative effort. We had to think through it all together. I was working with really great people, whose opinions and collaboration I really appreciate. It was a first time for me, because usually when you’re making your own film, you’re making your own film. Whereas in this context you’re working with other people, and you have to come up with something that works for everybody. It was interesting and challenging at the same time. You kind of have to feel it out — how does that feel, how does this feel, and how is it still mine?

And that was in the construction of it?

Radivojevic: The editing.

Which, considering how recently you were overseas, I imagine you started on the ground?

Radivojevic: I would send the rough cuts. And then we’d go over it. And I suggested that I should go to the borders. Then I would send another rough cut, and we’d talk about it more.

You’d never worked like this before, where it’s unfolding as you’re shooting and you’re working with a production team back home?

Radivojevic: No.

What was it like being more of a reporter than you normally think of yourself as being?

Radivojevic: Even when I’ve dealt with political issues in my films, I don’t like to take an advocacy or even journalistic approach, so that was a challenge. I was doing something that was very present — I’m reporting on it, I’m being a journalist, but at the same time how do I say it in a voice that’s my voice, that’s true to my vision, that’s how I wish to express things?

Were there things that you were avoiding because of those concerns?

Radivojevic: It’s less of a conscious thing than a feeling thing. At some point I really got sick of putting the camera in people’s faces. I tried to pick up the camera and I would feel disgusted with myself and I couldn’t do it. So I decided early on that I would not have interviews — which is something I don’t really like anyway. It was very much an instinctual thing. I was trying to be more present with the people I was meeting, to feel the experience rather than let me document what’s happening.

So when would you pick up the camera? What would you shoot?

Radivojevic: I would film situations. But I wouldn’t impose on people. If they wanted to talk to me they’d talk to me. I spent two weeks with a group of people, 12 people. And we did everything together. We went to play pool, we went out to eat, we went to the beach, we went to a club. I thought how can my presence — because it’s my choice to be there, it’s not their choice to be there — how can my presence be helpful to you? How can I make our crossing of paths truly beneficial? I just decided that I wanted to experience what they’re experiencing. Of course I can’t really, because I’m coming from a different place. But I can at least have an understanding, which can somehow translate into the film. Not in the sense that I’m documenting it, but that I’m feeling it.

While there, in the moment, are you constantly thinking about how to convey that? And about how will it look on screen?

Radivojevic: I do because I also edit. When I’m filming something immediately I’m editing — probably like you, as you interview me. That idea might change five times but I want to be covered, at least in one or two ways. If I was doing an observational piece or if I was doing a voiceover piece, I want to be covered. Then after that comes the collaborative process, because it is a commissioned piece, it’s not solely my decision. There’s something they’re searching for that they want to talk about, and so there’s a balance that needs to be reached in terms of what they want to serve and what I want to serve.

As an editor, was it challenging to turn this around so quickly?

Radivojevic: Yeah, but a few years ago I started this blog, and this was when I first started making films. And I made myself make a short film a week. This was like an exercise. So I became so good and fast at editing things, and turning things over quickly. So I told Laura, listen, that’s not a problem. That’s the easiest part of this whole thing for me.

Talking to Laura, AJ and Charlotte about the Field of Vision project, they like the idea of setting up challenges for filmmakers. If working quickly wasn’t too challenging for you, what was?

Radivojevic: The biggest challenge was that the story was getting out of control. I couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. I couldn’t chase each sensational thing that happened. And that’s not really what I want to talk about anyway. So the challenge was how do I present this when it’s all in the news, when everyone knows about it. How do I make it relevant, and at the same time speak to something larger than that this was happening. I was really struggling with this. So there was this idea to make it a diary. And I think that works, because I can say — this is from a specific section of the summer, this is where it starts, this is how it progressed, and this is what I found on my way.

I like how it allows for your perspective as well is your subject N’s perspective without those perspectives being in conflict or incompatible. It formally allows for both stories. And throughout, you also open cracks into other perspectives as well. The fact that Kos is a vacation spot, that people are on vacation while this is happening around them, it’s a fact and a POV that stands alongside these others. Radivojevic: It’s so surreal. You have these two realities. I found myself in the same dilemma — you know, I want to go for a swim. You don’t know how to deal with it. I was in the refugee camps for two or three weeks, and it was hard for me — I can’t even imagine how hard it is for the people actually going through this and living there. Then to throw myself back into this other thing? It’s disturbing to me. You go through a range of emotions — shock, then acceptance, then “how do I help?” And then, “I can’t do anything.” Then after I left it became 15 times worse. The whole city became a tent city. At first we’d be on this beach at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, waiting for the boats to arrive. It was us, the smugglers, some fishermen waiting for the boat so that they could take the engine and sell it — you know, Greece is in crisis too. Then two weeks later you don’t have to go to the beach at 4 in the morning. They were just coming. Every time of the day. That’s how fast things were moving.

What was it like in the refugee camp?

Radivojevic: The camp had no water, no electricity. And the food was only coming from the volunteers, who’d find food from restaurants and bring it. There’s no way to talk about it, really.

Even though you were supposed to pursue a different story entirely for Field of Vision, and though you’ve got other, very different projects that you’re pursuing, do you feel drawn back to this topic?

Radivojevic: I do, but not in a bad sense. I had an incredible experience this summer and met some incredible people. And it was a humbling experience. Yet I think it’s time to move on now, after this. No more films with the word “border” in it. But truly this, for me, was a life-changing thing.

Correction: September 30, 2015 An earlier version of this interview incorrectly stated that during Radivojevic’s visit to the Greek island of Kos this past summer, 4,000 refugees were arriving daily. The interview has been updated to reflect that hundreds of refugees were arriving daily.

IF/Then Shorts, in partnership with Hulu Documentary Films calls short-documentary filmmakers based in North America to take part in the Inaugural IF/Then x Hulu Short Documentary Lab. This lab will channel Hulu and IF/Then’s shared vision of creating a new pipeline of diverse talent and incubating strong voices who will be the next class of non-fiction storytellers.

Program Details:

Four filmmaking teams will be chosen to participate in a one-year lab focused on short-documentary production and career training. For the first six months, filmmakers will be individually mentored through production by IF/Then staff and take part in monthly virtual cohort trainings, consisting of keynotes from industry heavy-hitters and edit consultations. Upon rough cut of their projects, filmmakers will be invited to debut their works-in-progress to an invitation-only audience and receive feedback. For the remainder of the program, filmmakers will finalize their cuts and receive high-level festival and distribution strategy consultations, along with guidance creating their publicity materials, and pro-bono legal support. Hulu will have the right to review the projects for potential acquisition or further development.

Each team will receive a $25,000 grant to use for the production of their film.

This opportunity will be open to individuals living in/from North America, with an emphasis on Black and/or Indigenous filmmakers, people of color, women, LGBTQ+, recent immigrants, and individuals who identify as having a disability. We will welcome any and all stories from underrepresented voices, with a strong preference around subjects related to gender, the LGTBQ community or issues unique to the BIPOC community.

Project Eligibility:

  • In addition to the identity eligibility of the maker and the theme, eligible IF/Then Shorts projects must meet the following criteria:
  • Be an original short documentary with a final duration of 10-20 minutes
  • Be completed within six to nine months of receiving the IF/Then Shorts grant
  • Be factually accurate, follow best practices in documentary ethics, and be designed for a U.S. audience
  • Be driven by (a) compelling character(s), with access to the character(s) secured
  • Be presented in English or subtitled in English
  • Have no prior distribution attached and be able to participate in the IF/Then Shorts distribution initiative
  • All stories and storytellers coming from countries and territories in North America. This includes the United States and its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa,) Canada, Greenland, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela, and countries in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Saba, St. Andres and Providencia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos Islands.

KEY DATES:

The application portal will open on January 15, 2021 and close at 11:59pm EST on Feb 15th.

  • January 15, 2021: Open call for IF/Then x Hulu Short Documentary Lab
  • March 31, 2021: Finalists announced
  • April 5, 2021: Virtual Program Kickoff

APPLY:

Submissions are now closed.

Please direct any questions regarding this application to ifthenshorts@fieldofvision.org

Starting July 22, IF/Then Shorts has a new home at Field of Vision. Joining Field of Vision will be IF/Then Shorts Program Director Chloe Gbai and Supervising Producer Caitlin Mae Burke. Founded in 2017 with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, IF/Then Shorts is a fund and mentorship program that supports storytellers in breaking barriers to access, exposure, and sustainability in the media landscape. IF/Then works with creators who experience inequity based on factors such as race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, age, citizenship, and/or geography.

IF/Then Shorts taps into the need for broader geographical representation in the stories that get told through its regional pitch events. It holistically supports short documentary storytellers in their creation of compelling, character-led, community-inspired stories that embody the breadth and diversity of the people and places they represent.

The program addresses the imbalance of representation, perspective, power, compensation, and career longevity among independent filmmakers and media artists. IF/Then Shorts leverages access, expertise, network, and brand to address these challenges. Through grants, mentorship, industry connections, and professional development, IF/Then Shorts helps to ensure that storytellers from a multitude of backgrounds have access to the resources and tools they need to tell their stories, connect with audiences, and thrive in their careers. IF/Then Shorts was previously part of the Tribeca Film Institute, which is planning to pause operations indefinitely in September. "IF/Then Shorts is an incredible program, and one that’s vital to the field," said Charlotte Cook, Field of Vision's Co-Founder and Executive Producer. "We’re so glad that they can find their new home with Field of Vision. The program’s values align perfectly with Field of Vision, and further our overall commitment to shorts and advocating for filmmakers. Chloe and Caitlin are phenomenal, and I feel so lucky that they’ll be joining our team."

IF/Then Program Director Chloe Gbai said of the move: "We’re so excited that thanks to the MacArthur Foundation and Field of Vision we can keep this funding and development pipeline open to diverse, creative nonfiction talent past TFI’s pause this September. This program will have a new life and is ready to uplift the voices that we need to champion during these interesting times."

Supervising Producer Caitlin Mae Burke added: "As a former Field of Vision filmmaker myself, I know how beneficial it is to work with these trailblazers in the short documentary space. I'm overjoyed that all of our active projects and future supported filmmakers will benefit so immensely from this move, and we look forward to the tremendous growth potential for IF/Then possible under the Field of Vision umbrella." IF/Then is currently holding an open call for the North Shorts Grant and Fellowship, in partnership with Points North Institute, The Screening Room, Jigsaw Productions, and the LEF Foundation, for regional filmmakers in the American Northeast. About Chloe Gbai Chloe Gbai is the Director of IF/Then Shorts. Previously, as the POV Shorts and Streaming Producer, she launched POV Shorts, which earned POV its third documentary short Oscar® nomination, two News & Doc Emmy nominations and an IDA Awards nomination for Best Short Form Series.  She has previously worked at Teen Vogue and Viacom, as well as served on review panels and juries for the National Endowment for the Arts, Sheffield Doc/Fest, ITVS, IDA Awards, Black Public Media, Creative Capital, and various other film organizations. She is a member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia and a member-in-residence of the Meerkat Media Collective.

About Caitlin Mae Burke Caitlin Mae Burke is an Emmy-winning producer. Her films have screened and won awards at top tier festivals including Sundance, Berlinale, and Tribeca Film Festival and have been broadcast across the US and around the world. Her work has screened at MoMA, The Museum of the Moving Image, and in movie theaters internationally. She is an inaugural inductee to DOC NYC's "40 Under 40" and alumna of Berlinale Talents. IF/Then currently has funding opportunities available for filmmakers. Please find more information here.

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.

The final round of funding is now closed.

For this final round of funding, we will continue prioritizing providing support to filmmakers of color and filmmakers from other marginalized communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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.

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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