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Brand New Doc Fest Coming to NYC

By Brian Brooks | Indiewire April 6, 2010 at 7:10AM

Filling an extended gaping hole for non-fiction filmmakers and fans that has existed in New York City, a new documentary festival is being launched in downtown Manhattan this fall.
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Filling an extended gaping hole for non-fiction filmmakers and fans that has existed in New York City, a new documentary festival is being launched in downtown Manhattan this fall.

Toronto International Film Festival doc programmer Thom Powers, IFC Center's John Vanco and Raphaela Neihausen, the new event's executive director, have unveiled DOC NYC, the first documentary film festival of it's kind in the city since filmmaker Gary Pollard's Docfest effectively closed its doors nearly a decade ago. The trio already work together on New York City's ongoing "Stranger Than Fiction" film series for new docs.

Billing itself as an event "celebrating documentary storytelling across the fields of film, photography, prose, radio and other innovative forms," DOC NYC will hold its inaugural edition Wednesday, November 3 - Sunday, November 7 at IFC Center, site of "Stranger Than Fiction.". Additionally, the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) will serve as the event's 'Presenting Partner' along with Tisch School of the Arts. Both the festival's opening and closing night events will take place at NYU's Skirball Center for Performing Arts Auditorium.

A New York City home is a core aspect of the event, explained Thom Powers, who said that the city itself will be a major plus for established and emerging doc filmmakers because it is at the pinnacle of cultural influence. "Filmmakers can take advantage of New York City as a center of media, publishing, advertising and humanitarian work to bring these films to very influential audiences that you don't necessarily get in other cities," added Powers.

Husband and wife doc duo Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen, in Cannes. Image courtesy Stranger Than Fiction.

While the total size of the program is still being determined, eight films will anchor the festival's documentary competition, which will emphasize world and U.S. premieres. But, Powers said that not all competition films need to be premieres. Additional sidebar sections will focus on specific themes and retrospective programming. Powers added that the festival will include roughly 30 events, ranging from films to conversations to other presentations. Organizers will not have an open call for submissions this year. Individuals interested in suggesting titles are invited to email a one paragraph description of a film to the festival (via their website).

"One thing we're excited about having is a festival that spotlights the wider nature of documentary storytelling," Powers - who will serve as the event's Artistic Director - told indieWIRE today. "As a documentary programmer, it's exciting when I get to reach outside the world of film and engage with different groups. The significant footprint for us is to cross different documentary fields." He also said that after premiering at a festival like Toronto or Sundance, docs sometimes have few options for screening in an event later in the year. He hopes DOC NYC will fill some of that gap.

"In Toronto there are great docs premiering and they don't have great choices sometimes for places afterward, so for some of these Toronto films like 'Videocracy' or 'Colony' that played at Stranger Than Fiction, a Doc NYC can be a great platform to move from Toronto to NYC."

Powers, who will continue to serve as a documentary programmer for the annual Toronto festival in September, said that DOC NYC does not plan to compete with pitching forums at festivals like this month's Hot Docs and November's IDFA in Amsterdam. But, he hopes the event will enable filmmakers to navigate the ever evolving distribution landscape with their docs.

"Hot Docs and IDFA do what they do very well and they're not a model I'm looking to replicate, they're already doing it. Filmmakers' strategies for festivals generally are moving away from viewing a festival as a place to sell your film, though that may still be the case for places like Toronto or Sundance, though even there it's a tough path," Powers said, "So what I see are filmmakers using festivals not to reach distributors, but to reach audiences." Powers continued by emphasizing the need for filmmakers to utilize festivals to generate buzz and identify their audience no matter which route to distribution is ultimately utilized.

The new event on the fall festival circuit will be up against other European doc festivals that are taking place at the same time this year, including Doc/Fest in Sheffield (Nov. 3 - 7) and CPH:DOX in Copenhagen (Nov 4 - 14). As for other concurrent U.S. fests, Denver's international festival is set for November 3rd - 14th this year and AFI Fest is set for November 4th - 11th.

"Of the overlap with Sheffield, Powers notes that he's had conversations with and has high admiration for Sheffield's leadership team, including Heather Croall and Hussain Currimbhoy, and argues that the nonfiction world is big enough for both festivals," filmmaker and blogger AJ Schnack reported today, continuing, "He added that he'd love for the fests to share titles and have filmmakers travel to both."

DOC NYC's advisory board includes two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple, author Nelson George, cartoonist Joe Sacco, Cara Mertes of the Sundance Documentary Development Fund, Ruby Lerner of Creative Capital, and Philipp Engelhorn of Cinereach.

“DOC NYC will fill an important void in New York City and will be a cornerstone for documentary storytellers from all over the world to showcase premieres, hold panels and give audiences the thrill of discovery,” said Vanco, who will serve as the fest's Managing Director, in a statement about the new event. “We’re creating a festival that will curate people as much as work, creating a space for the world’s leading thinkers, activists, creators, and celebrities to come together for dialogue, inspiration, and incubation of ideas.”

[For more information about the DOC NYC, visit their website.]

-- the full press release is listed on page two --

DOC NYC FESTIVAL LAUNCHES WITH INAUGURAL EVENT THIS NOVEMBER

FESTIVAL WILL CELEBRATE DOCUMENTARY STORYTELLING IN FILM, PHOTOGRAPHY, PROSE & MORE

ANNUAL FESTIVAL WILL BE BASED AT THE IFC CENTER AND NEARBY LOCATIONS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NYU-SCPS

New York, NY – April 6, 2010 – DOC NYC (www.DOCNYC.net), New York City’s first and only festival celebrating documentary storytelling across the fields of film, photography, prose, radio and other innovative forms, will hold its inaugural festival Wednesday, November 3 – Sunday, November 7, 2010. DOC NYC was announced today by Managing Director John Vanco, Artistic Director Thom Powers, and Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen; the team behind IFC Center’s successful film series Stranger Than Fiction. Vanco is Vice President and General Manager of the IFC Center, where DOC NYC will be based. Powers is documentary programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) has signed on to be the festival’s Presenting Partner, in association with Tisch School of the Arts. Opening and Closing Night events will be held at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts Auditorium at NYU’s Washington Square campus.

For its first year, the festival will take place over five days showcasing diverse events, retrospectives and presentations on photography, prose, and the spoken word. The centerpiece of DOC NYC is a competition of eight documentary films emphasizing World or U.S. Premieres that will take place at the Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, November 3rd. Additional sidebar sections will focus on specific themes and retrospectives.

“DOC NYC will fill an important void in New York City and will be a cornerstone for documentary storytellers from all over the world to showcase premieres, hold panels and give audiences the thrill of discovery,” said Vanco. “We’re creating a festival that will curate people as much as work, creating a space for the world’s leading thinkers, activists, creators, and celebrities to come together for dialogue, inspiration, and incubation of ideas.”

“We want to take a fresh approach to the concept of a festival,” said Powers. “Since New York City is the center of journalism, broadcasting, publishing and more, it makes an ideal location to gather the world’s leading documentary storytellers across many fields and give them a platform to reach new audiences. The line-up will look at the past, present and future.”

“We want to congratulate the IFC Center on creating a festival devoted to this compelling segment of the industry,” said Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting Commissioner Katherine Oliver. “New York City is the independent film capital of the US, and the perfect location for a festival focusing on documentary filmmaking. At MOFTB, we serve as the one-stop shop for all productions shooting throughout the five boroughs, offering premier customer service.”

Representing the span of documentary storytelling, the festival’s advisory board includes two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple, author Nelson George, cartoonist Joe Sacco, Cara Mertes of the Sundance Documentary Development Fund, Ruby Lerner of Creative Capital, and Philipp Engelhorn of Cinereach.

More information can be found online at www.DOCNYC.net. Patrons from all over the world can experience the festival through its web site, which will feature exclusive content including video clips, on-the-scene reportage, and ways for audiences who are inspired by DOC NYC films to get more involved.

About Thom Powers, DOC NYC Artistic Director
Thom Powers is the creator and host of the acclaimed documentary series Stranger Than Fiction that takes place at the IFC Center. Now in its 13th season, STF has earned an international reputation and featured esteemed guests such as Jonathan Demme, Laurie Anderson, Albert Maysles, and Barbara Kopple. Powers also serves as the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where he presented premieres of celebrated titles such as “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Food, Inc,” “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” and “Encounters at the Edge of the World.” He also curates TIFF’s Mavericks conversation series, where he has hosted discussions with President Jimmy Carter, Chris Rock, Matt Damon, Howard Zinn, and others. He has taught at New York University for 10 years and recently received an award for Teaching Excellence. He co-founded the Cinema Eye Honors – an annual award for documentary excellence – now in its fourth year.

About Raphaela Neihausen, DOC NYC Executive Director
Raphaela Neihausen is the executive director of Stranger Than Fiction and oversaw the creation of its web site, media strategy and growth in season pass holders. Prior to STF, she worked for seven years at Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman), advising Fortune 100 companies on strategic growth. Neihausen also produced the documentary “Miss Gulag” (recipient of grants from the Ford Foundation and Sundance Documentary Fund) that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to be broadcast all over the world. She speaks six languages and holds a BSFS/MA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

About John Vanco, DOC NYC Managing Director
Through his leadership roles in film distribution and exhibition over the last 15 years, John Vanco has strived to connect great works of cinema with appreciative audiences. Greenwich Village’s IFC Center, led by Vanco since its 2005 opening, serves as a focal point for the independent film community. As one of the founders of Cowboy Pictures, Vanco led the distribution efforts on behalf of dozens of foreign language, documentary and American fiction features, including works by Lynne Ramsay, David Gordon Green, Catherine Breillat and Shohei Imamura. Cowboy also programmed an innovative film calendar at a Manhattan cinema and managed the theatrical libraries of Janus Films and Pennebaker/Hegedus films. Previously, Vanco served in various capacities at Miramax, New Yorker Films and Fine Line Features.

About IFC Center
IFC Center is a state-of-the-art cinema in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village. Opened in June 2005 following an extensive renovation of the historic Waverly Theater, the theater expanded from three screens to five in 2009. Bringing the very best in new foreign-language, American independent and documentary features to NYC audiences, IFC Center is also known for its innovative repertory series and festivals, showing short films before its regular features in the ongoing "Short Attention Span Cinema" program, and special events such as the guest-programmed "Movie Nights" and frequent in-person appearances by filmmakers. The theater's lobby concession stands feature a unique array of food and merchandise, from organic popcorn, locally-made vegan baked goods and David Lynch coffee to CineMetal t-shirts, books and a carefully curated selection of classic, foreign and independent films on DVD and Blu-Ray. IFC Center also offers a membership program that includes ticket and merchandise discounts, free members-only screenings and other rewards. For additional theater information, current and upcoming program details and more, visit www.ifccenter.com

About the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Established in 1934, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) is among the several colleges and schools that comprise New York University, one of the largest private research universities in the United States. NYU-SCPS offers 14 graduate degrees, undergraduate degrees for both traditional-aged and adult students, and more than 100 certificates and 2,500 continuing education courses in key sectors where New York leads globally: Real Estate; Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management; Global Affairs; Philanthropy; Communications Media, Publishing, Design, and Digital Arts; Business, Marketing, and Finance; and the Liberal and Applied Arts, among others. NYU-SCPS programs in Design, Digital Arts and Film include professional certificates and intensives in such areas as filmmaking, video production, documentary, editing, producing, and many others. For additional information, visit www.scps.nyu.edu/film.

This article is related to: Documentary







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