Beyond B-Roll: A recap of the SF Documentary Summit

Posted on: Tuesday, July 31 2012


By Halie Kampman, BAVC Marketing Intern
This past weekend the air was buzzing with fresh, innovative energy at the San Francisco Documentary Summit. Documentary filmmakers came together to discuss everything about filmmaking from the initial inspiration for a film, to its final distribution. BAVC had a major presence at the Documentary Summit, and was represented by current MediaMaker Fellow Nancy Kelly, Music Rights Consultant Brooke Wentz and former Executive Director Morrie Warshawski. 
With diverse and accomplished panels of experts, the Documentary Summit covered just about every aspect of filmmaking. Starting on Saturday morning with filmmaker POVs, the Summit proceeded to get deep into the filmmaking process. The structure of the panels roughly reflected the filmmaking process—pre-production, production and post— giving the schedule a natural flow and cohesiveness. 
Perhaps most importantly, the Summit attracted a wide variety of professionals in all areas related to filmmaking. Attendees were able to rub elbows with their peers, and the business cards were flying. The crowd was mostly local but there were a few out-of-towners from film hubs such as Los Angeles and Portland. 
Panelists weren't afraid to tell it like it is.  Many challenged filmmakers to take fresh approaches. Acclaimed producer Fredrick Marx offered valuable insight when he explained, "the difference between an interview and a scene is eye-line," and producer Wendy Slick got a laugh when she quipped, "[documentary] filmmaking is close to being a shrink." 
The gumption many of the panelists was inspiring. Kelly shared how she secured an important interview for her film by holding her ground. “’No’ doesn’t really work for me,” she said. Other panelists encouraged filmmakers to look at their art with a new perspective, by questioning commonly used terms like “b-roll” and “characters” and suggesting less limiting alternatives. 
New technologies and trends in social networking were also hot topics. The pros and cons of professional film cameras versus DSLRs were hotly debated (tradition won, in this case). David Abramovich, of Indigogo, fielded a huge amount of questions on the recent popularity of crowdsourced project funding. 
All in all, the Summit was a must-attend event for anyone interested in documentary filmmaking. Here’s hoping it returns to the Bay Area in the near future.