Almost by definition, we documentary filmmakers work in siloes of our own making. In making a film, we may only be meaningfully involved with a handful of other people – subject/s, a few crew members perhaps and maybe an editor. But to stay within the silo is the kiss of death; total immersion can be wildly distorting. There’s a numbness that can set in as you wrestle with moments on film again and again and again.
As artists and storytellers, we must reach outside our siloes if we are to maintain a healthy, creative perspective on our work. This need is critical, and we seldom do this enough. When we can, we’ll reach out to a handful of trusted friends to help give us some perspective — but that process is necessarily intermittent and can only be pushed so far; other filmmakers have their own busy schedules and pressing priorities.
Enter the BAVC Media National MediaMaker Fellowship program. BAVC Media carefully chooses a cohort of eight filmmakers – casts them, really – based on the films they’ve made and the films they’re working on, plus several other qualities, including smarts, inventiveness, enterprise, passion and generosity. As we met intensively for a few days, five times over the course of a year, these filmmakers came to know me as well as my film really well, and I theirs; we traveled with each other intellectually and emotionally as we each pushed our projects toward completion. If most other attempts to reach outside our siloes are efforts to create “community”, the Fellowship opportunity is truly “community on steroids!”
I am immensely thankful for having been granted this opportunity. Built into the ten-month program are a number of enriching experiences: comparing notes and problem-solving among the cohort members; entering into give-and-take conversations with leaders in all aspects of documentary filmmaking; meeting new friends and colleagues at film festivals and conferences; but perhaps the best part of the BAVC Media fellowship – and the one I least expected – is the creation of a lifelong bond with seven other wonderful filmmakers.
This bond hasn’t come about just by accident. It’s clear to me that BAVC Media intentionally chooses filmmakers who are exceptionally caring and supportive toward each other. The Fellowship is so successful because they pick Fellows who carry with them a generosity of spirit. You’re likely to be surprised at the depth of connection you can make as you navigate through the program.
Applications for the 2017 National MediaMaker Fellowship are due Friday, January 27, 2017.