The truth is, I was about ready to give up on the project when I was accepted to the BAVC Mediamaker Fellowship program. I had spent the previous year and a half submitting to funder after funder and the seemingly endless stream of “No’s” was taking it’s toll on me. Three days before the applications were due I got home from a job that had run into overtime, opened my computer to the half completed application and thought to myself “why bother? It’s just going to be another no.” I knew that I was going to be on a shoot the next two days and that evening was my last chance; if I didn’t submit it then I wouldn’t have time after that. I sat there with my glass of wine contemplating closing my computer and joining my girlfriend on the couch for a moment before I said to myself “suck it up Kevin. Get to work.” And that’s what I did.
A month or so later when I got the email that we’d been chosen I was pretty confused. At that point we’d decided to turn our work sample into a short which had been getting some festival play and won a few awards and were ready to leave it at that. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the fellowship but I showed up that Monday morning ready for anything.
Fast forward 10 months later and boy am I glad I made myself finish the application that night. The fellowship is a strange beast, it’s part workshop, part boot camp and part therapy session, there’s really nothing else out there like it. For someone like myself who is basically just starting out, it was truly an honor to be invited to be part of a cohort of so many other phenomenal projects. One of the unique things about the cohort is that both the filmmakers and the projects are from a wide range of career and project states. There are so many things you don’t even know you don’t know when trying to put together your first full length doc and having that front row seat to the process is quite literally something money can’t buy.
Beyond that BAVC Media was great about bringing a broad range of mentors and coaches through the program to talk to us from everything from Fundraising to Budgets to Virtual Reality. A professional pitch coach critiqued our pitches, we had a Q&A with an entertainment attorney who specializes in documentaries, I mean literally every facet of making a documentary and getting it out into the world there was someone who came through the BAVC Media program to talk to us about it. And because it’s a year long program that meets over ten months, they were able to tailor the fellowship towards the needs of each of the fellows as everyone’s projects developed.
In September at the IDA Getting Real conference ( one of great events BAVC Media brought us to) it was said on several occasions that being a documentary filmmaker can be a lonely road. Part of the reason IDA founded Getting Real was that they thought getting a bunch of people who love documentary together in one place, talking about the thing they love is an important way to advance and push the form. Well they’re right and BAVC Media has known that since they founded the Mediamaker Fellowship to create a safe space for mediamakers to feed each other’s creativity, support each other’s struggles, and nourish each other’s passion.
I know for a fact that we would not be where we are with our project if not for the Mediamaker Fellowship. The support, mentorship and guidance I got through the program kept me going and helped me better understand both my process and how to navigate getting a project off the ground. We’re now in the beginning stages of production with a little bit of grant money behind us thanks to the Berkley Film Foundation and, while we still have a long way to go, it finally feels like things are coming together. And for that I can’t say enough good things about BAVC Media and the Mediamaker Fellowship.
Applications for the 2017 National MediaMaker Fellowship are due Friday, January 27, 2017.