Programs Mon 10.20.2014

Hot Docs in Progress—Get a Sneak Peek at Nine Films on the Verge of Greatness

Among the events at the upcoming Film Independent Forum is a sneak peek at the exciting projects developed in the 2014 Film Independent Documentary Lab. This diverse group of filmmakers will share scenes from their films and discuss their experiences getting these projects made in an interactive session that will explore the specific opportunities and challenges of making a documentary today.


Farewell Ferris Wheel
After a career in music management, Jamie Sisley is making his feature documentary debut with Farewell Ferris Wheel, which explores the dual morality of the H-2B seasonal immigration visa through the lens of the American Carnival and a Mexican town that provides one-third of the carnival’s labor. He said that the Doc Lab was “instrumental in connecting our film with creative feedback and production resources at a time where we needed it them most.” The film is currently in post-production. Sisley plans to finish the film and enter the festival circuit in 2015.


Argentinean filmmaker and editor Estevan Argüello brought his film Jiàoliàn (Coach) to the Documentary Lab. Argüello’s film tells the story of Norman DeSilva, an American who became the head coach of the Foshan Long Lions, a professional basketball team in China, and seemingly overnight turns their bad luck around. The film was shot over two months in 2012-2013, and Argüello is currently finalizing the music while submitting to festivals. “With the help of the Lab,” he said, “I was able to pinpoint where I was with the cut and what I needed to do to advance the work to the next stage.”

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LIKE A ROLLING STONE: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres

Filmmaker and journalist Suzanne Joe Kai went through the Documentary Lab with her film LIKE A ROLLING STONE: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres, a portrait of legendary American journalist, author and broadcaster Ben Fong-Torres, an original editor-writer at Rolling Stone. The shoot will continue this fall and a work-in-progress is being edited, and Kai plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in November that will include rare memorabilia offerings to support the film’s completion. Kai said the Lab experience was “magical—priceless.”


My Uncle Gloria
Former TV news reporter Robyn Symon’s Documentary Lab project is My Uncle Gloria, a bizarre gender-bending story about an elderly man who goes into hiding as a woman during a nasty divorce, then makes the change permanent and becomes a transgender activist who finds love while trying to reconcile with her dysfunctional family. Symon first started to work with Gloria 10 years ago and is currently shooting a few more scenes and working on the final cut. She hopes to submit My Uncle Gloria to festivals in 2015. Symon said “above all, I realized what a lifeline [the Lab] is for a filmmaker to belong to a community like the Film Independent family.”


Right Footed
Documentary filmmaker and writer Nick Spark’s documentary Right Footed chronicles Jessica Cox’s struggle to overcome enormous physical and emotional obstacles to become the world’s first armless airplane pilot. After a journey of nearly three years, including filming on three continents and in the midst of the Typhoon Haiyan disaster zone, the film festival version of Right Footed is nearing picture lock. Spark just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to finish the project. He said the Documentary Lab “provided a much-needed deadline for us to aim for,” and “really raised the bar on what we hoped to achieve.”


San Francisco-based filmmaker and journalist Cassidy Friedman will bring his doc-in progress Soledad to the Forum. The film follows three inmates set to be released from one of California’s most violence and overcrowded prisons as they seek rehabilitation through a radical process of cathartic storytelling. Friedman has been working on the project since early 2013 and is currently raising funds to complete its last phase of production and to support the development of the rough cut. Friedman participated in the Film Independent Fast Track program, which, he said, “greatly informed our prospective marketing and distribution goals.”

D 300 Megaphone

Street Fighting Man
Filmmaker Andrew James will be at the Forum with his doc-in-progress Street Fighting Man, about three men fighting to build a stable life for themselves in post-industrial Detroit. In the time since Street Fighting Man began shooting in the summer of 2010, James took the film to Independent Film Week and the Hot Docs Forum and participated in the Sundance Doc Edit Lab as well as the FIND Doc Lab, which James described as “incredibly helpful. We made great friends and allies…and it added to our editorial process immensely.” The film is almost finished, and James has begun submitting it to festivals.


Thank You for Playing
Filmmakers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall are working on their documentary Thank You for Playing, about an indie video game developer who creates a poetic video game to document his experiences raising his 5-year-old son who has terminal cancer. Osit and Zouhali-Worrall have finished principal photography and are currently editing a rough cut of the film for festival submissions. They participated in the Film Independent Fast Track, which they said was “the first time we discussed this film in a public setting with members of the documentary film industry, and we received fantastic feedback.”


We’re with the Band
Documentary and reality TV producer/director Jen Heck brought her documentary We’re with the Band to the Documentary Lab. The film is about a group of unlikely rebels with dubious musical skills who use a band as a cover story to cross forbidden borders into each other’s tangled lives in Israel and Palestine. The film is currently in the advanced stages of post-production, expected to be finished in early 2015. Heck said that the Lab “gave us critical information about the cut’s strengths and weaknesses that really helped us craft what we have today.”

Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger