Welcome to The Documentary Newsletter. This edition offers a round-up of reads and references. This newsletter is curated and written by Documentary Site.
This edition goes behind the headlines, into the industry, to the streets, to the rescue, and more.
Making the Headlines
While national news has declined significantly in the last 20 years through revenues, employees, and reputation, local news has been hit even harder. Storm Lake provides a portrait of the struggles a small daily newspaper faces. NPR offers an extensive interview with Art Cullen, who works for the paper and wrote a book about the publication.
Merger Raises Objections
Online behemoth Amazon has its hungry eyes on the MGM movie studios, and the proposed merger is currently under review with the Federal Trade Commission. The benefits for Amazon are fairly obvious, with access to its own studio, but, probably more importantly, the MGM library to fuel the long tail of its streaming service. Patricia Aufderheide argues that the merger will impact negatively on independent filmmakers, shutting them off from opportunities and revenues and subjecting them to whims of random removals, among other problems. Read more about her arguments at Documentary Magazine.
The End of Double-Dipping
Variety reported that the Television Academy closed a loophole that allowed certain films eligibility for both Oscars and Emmys.
To the Street
Here We Go Again
Are stars ever happy with the documentaries about their lives, even when the director counts herself as a huge fan? Jagged is an HBO documentary about Alanis Morissette's rising star with her Jagged Little Pill album in 1995. Though she appeared in Alison Klayman's documentary, Morissette now claims not to support the film and argues about its story. The Los Angeles Times offers one take, and Slate has more.
Attica Rebellion Reflections
The esteemed Stanley Nelson recently released a documentary about the notorious prison's 1971 rebellions. To delve further into the history, Nelson brought Tyrone Larkins, who experienced the rebellion himself, into the story. Larkins was hesitant to participate at first but eventually came around thanks to talking with co-director and producer Traci Curry. Check the story and half-hour conversation with Nelson, Larkins, and Curry.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
A Variety article discusses the documentary “boom” in Hollywood and questions if the boom is too much of a good thing. While the article misses the 1990s cinematic turn with Roger & Me, Paris is Burning, and Hoop Dreams, it provides a loose chronicle that arrives at streaming, the game-changer. Documentary programming can bring both prestige and audiences to a streaming service, such as Netflix or Amazon. But with popularity comes questions about integrity and opportunity.
The Telluride Film Festival brought some publicity to feature documentaries making their festival debuts and circuit runs. One getting great buzz was The Rescue, by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the same team behind the gripping Free Solo. The Rescue follows the story of a youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Northern Thailand and the heroic efforts to rescue them. IndieWIRE has an excellent review.
The following is worthwhile advice for any cinematographer: “Every Shot Has a Beginning, Middle and End.” The book Conversations with Cinematographers: The Eye Behind the Lens explores cinematographers’ experiences through in-depth interviews. This book review explains more.
Read This Report
Patricia Aufderheide and Marissa Woods released “The State of Journalism on the Documentary Filmmaking Scene.” This report is a must-read for anyone working in documentary within the United States. It addresses varied subjects as film criticism, business journalism, documentary standards and practices, and public trust.
I am continually fascinated with sound, its volume, and its recording, which is why this project caught my attention. Conserve the Sound, an online museum, features recordings of sounds made by objects such as a typewriter, an Apple iBook, and a pinball machine. Check out the pocket camera or the View-Master.
Thank you to everyone who has shared their comments and feedback. Your suggestions for links, readings, podcasts, and more are welcome. Feel free to connect on any of these socials. Also check out Pop Doc, weekly on Clubhouse.