Chatting with SF Doc Summit's Andrew Zinnes

Posted on: Monday, July 23 2012

By Matt Sussman, Marketing & Development Associate


Any event with the slogan "helping to get your story told" is a cause after our own heart. So it was a no-brainer when Andrew Zinnes, co-author of The Documentary Film Makers Handbook, asked BAVC to help out with his upcoming SF Doc Summit. The two-day event at San Francisco State University brings together the Bay Area documentary community to network and hear from such industry notables as writer/director Frederick Marx and distributor Cristine Dewey. 


BAVC will also have quite a presence at the Summit: Music Rights Consultant Brooke Wentz, current MediaMaker Fellow Nancy Kelly and former E.D. Morrie Warshawski are all slated to speak. I caught up with Andrew to ask him more about the Summit and what attendees can expect. Discounted registration is still available for friends of BAVC: just use the code "BAVC" during checkout and save $40!


BAVC: How did you first get the idea to do a Doc Summit? And what's your connection to documentary film?


Andrew Zinnes: My first connection to documentary film was around 2000. I had just finished working in feature film development and I was burned out. A friend of mine said he was doing a doc on women trying to make an Olympic team and he needed help with some shooting and producing. So I did and ended up going to Sydney for the Olympics. The idea for the DocSummit came about because I am one of the co-authors of The Documentary Film Makers Handbook, which is part of the Guerilla Film Makers Handbook series. My wife, Genevieve Jolliffe who is also one of the founders, hooked me into it when we started dating, which is when I was logging the footage for that Olympic film. I told her she should do one on docs and she agreed. The whole DocSummit series is based on asking industry experts advice on their field rather than one filmmaker  or author's POV. We wanted to take that concept and bring it to a live audience, so between the London Screenwriter's Festival and the Doc Summit, we are able to get experts in a room and have the audience ask them the questions they want answered.


BAVC: You've put on Doc Summits in other cities (Chicago, London). Why San Francisco?


Zinnes: San Francisco is by far the biggest hub of documentary and non-fiction filmmaking on the West Coast. People always think that Los Angeles is the capital of all filmmaking, even docs. And there is quite a bit there. But with the activism and social minded nature of the people of the Bay Area, documentary reigns supreme. So it was a natural to come here!


BAVC: What can attendees -- both filmmakers and non-filmmakers alike -- expect at the SF Summit?


Zinnes: They can expect a relaxed, inclusive experience where they can get their questions answered. They can expect to be with like-minded people who all are there for the love of documentary film. For filmmakers, the networking and information is priceless. In our other Summits, people have actually started working together on projects and that's exactly what we want.  For non-filmmakers, you will get a sense of the films you love greater than just watching them. And who knows, perhaps you'll want to take that passion a step further and help a new friend out much like I did all those years ago.


BAVC: What's the last documentary you saw that stuck with you?


Zinnes: Good question. I just saw The Other F Word. It combines two of the thing that are near and dear to my heart: music and fatherhood. It was fascinating to see how these hard rock and punk musicians transitioned themselves to fatherhood and how that affected their art. Many of these guys sang about dark, dangerous stuff or anarchy and now they are confronted with the most anarchic thing in the world: a child. You ever try getting one to bed on time? I just recently had twin boys and I have a daughter, so as an artist of sorts, I can understand how that changes your perspective, and in the case of The Other F Word, with perfect irony.