The Art of the Documentary Pitch Workshop

Oct 17, 2009
2:00 – 4:00 PM ET
New York

In Association with SnagFilms

How do you sell a documentary? In this workshop/competition, five preselected emerging nonfiction filmmakers will pitch their ideas to a panel of distinguished documentary producers. The producers will give them feedback on their concept as well as their presentation skills—great lessons for all aspiring filmmakers. The winner will receive a $5,000 grant, sponsored by SnagFilms, to be used toward the completion of the pitched film.

This year, the five finalists (listed below) were chosen from more than seventy-five applicants.

WINNER Till Schauder, From Texas to Tehran
Kevin Sheppard is the American star of Shiraz, a basketball team in Iran's Super League. A jocular extrovert, Kevin's many talents include connecting effortlessly with just about anyone. This makes him an effective, if unusual, ambassador in a country that has not had a U.S. embassy since 1979. Kevin's dare-devil nature allows him to explore the unofficial Iran—for example, he hunts for a Christmas tree during the holidays—and his many friendships give him insights into the social issues that have become so apparent during Iran's recent elections.

Annie Heringer, The Pigeon Game
In The Pigeon Game, Annie Heringer films homing pigeon racers leading up to the biggest New York pigeon race of the year. Homing pigeon racing is a tradition that's quickly disappearing, marking the end of an era in which American cities were defined by the working class. The Pigeon Game provides an inside glimpse into a fervent world that's slowly fading away.

Jennifer Redfearn, Sun Come Up
Sun Come Up follows the relocation of the world's first climate refugees, the Carteret Islanders—a community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean. Climate change is eroding the shoreline of the islands at an alarming rate and threatening to destroy the islanders' idyllic lifestyle. A group of families from the Carterets races to find land in nearby Bougainville before the next high tide season, but the move will not be easy—Bougainville itself is recovering from a violent civil war.

Leo Sacks, A Taste of Heaven: The Heartbreak Life of Raymond Myles, Gospel Genius of New Orleans
Raymond Myles, the greatest gospel talent of his generation, went from a childhood of abject poverty to the brink of international music stardom, only to be murdered during a 1998 carjacking. Myles was also a highly visible representative of a vital but scorned minority within the black New Orleans church community: gay worshippers ostracized because of their sexuality. The film looks at his life against the background of the complex social issues of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Therese Shechter, How to Lose Your Virginity
Pop stars like Miley Cyrus are flashing purity rings, abstinence-only sex education continues to dominate school curriculums, Purity Balls are on the rise, and "Barely Legal" pornography is a top seller. In How to Lose Your Virginity, Therese Shechter explores the age-old virgin/whore doublebind. She analyzes the mixed messages of coming-of-age films, attempts to infiltrate an Abstinence Clearinghouse conference, talks to older virgins about their lives, observes the knowing art direction of a porn shoot, and wonders whether virginity can even be defined. 

Based on the criteria of persuasiveness of the pitch, originality of the vision, and viability of the project, the panel will select one finalist as the winner of a $5,000 grant to be used toward the finalist’s completion of the documentary pitched at the workshop. The decision of the panel will be final and binding.

Andrew Mer, Vice President, Content Partnerships, SnagFilms
Diana Holtzberg, Vice President - USA Operations Acquisitions, Project Development, Sales, Films Transit International
Charlie Maday, Senior Vice President, Programming, History
Molly Thompson, Vice President, A&E IndieFilms
Chris White, Director of Programming & Production, P.O.V.

2008: Circo directed by Aaron Schock
2007: The House that Herman Built directed by Angad Bhalla
2006: Whatever it Takes directed by Christopher Wong
2005: Asparagus! (A Stalk-umentary) directed by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly


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