The Art of the Documentary Pitch Workshop

Oct 16, 2010
2:00 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.

2010 Finalists
This year, the five finalists (listed below) were chosen from more than eighty-five applicants.

WINNER Mike Plunkett, Charge

Charge is a cinematic journey that uncovers the human stories behind the green energy revolution and the struggle to develop what is arguably this century's most important resource: lithium. Over half of the world's lithium—the key component used in electric car batteries—is found beneath a remote and beautiful salt flat in Bolivia. As demand for lithium escalates, Bolivia—South America's poorest nation—will play an increasingly important role in the global supply of sustainable energy. Through three converging narratives—a Bolivian salt farmer who lives and works on the salt flat, a nationalist mining official for the Bolivian government, and an American Green energy activist—Charge examines humanity’s struggle to break with its troubled past. Whether it is Bolivia’s striving to end its historic cycle of poverty, or the United States’s fighting to combat its dependency on foreign oil, it is clear that the world is poised for change locally, nationally, and globally.

Honorable Mention Elisabeth Sperling and Trish Dalton, One Night Stand
What could happen if you turn your creativity on at full power, full speed, with top-notch collaborators? One Night Stand is an intimate, behind-the-scenes documentary film following top Broadway and television writers, actors, and directors as they invent four original short musicals, from the blank page to the live stage, all within twenty-four hours. Think A Chorus Line meets Project Runway—a window into the creative process intensified by a tight deadline: the spark, the anxiety, the camaraderie, and the ultimate thrill of expression.

The Meerkat Media Collective, Brasslands
A tiny Serbian village explodes with brass cacophony and riotous celebration as half-a-million fans descend upon GuÄa, the world's largest trumpet competition. An unlikely New York City brass band voyages to represent the U.S. (the first Americans  ever to compete) only a decade after NATO bombs rocked Belgrade. The hopes and fears of a diverse international cast of Gypsies, right-wing nationalists, and Serbian locals collide at a moment when cultural appropriation confronts its origin. Brasslands offers an intimate and sometimes unsettling portrait of how disparate societies search for common ground, amidst infectious Balkan beats that leave no ear unaffected.

Hayley Downs and Julie Kahn, Swamp Cabbage
Swamp Cabbage is a dark and sweaty documentary about Hayley Downs, a half-Cracker* stuck in Brooklyn who discovers that the eccentric Florida childhood she left behind is actually the key to surviving love and loss in an increasingly fragile world. An unlikely collision of rural Florida and urban Brooklyn cultures,  Hayley’s tragicomic journey through sunshine-state mythology, toxic relationships, rural cooking, and disappearing habitat ultimately changes how we view conservation, community, and the food chain.
* In Florida, “Cracker” is a term of pride referring to the descendants of Florida pioneers known for their ability to survive in the treacherous Florida wilderness. It is unrelated to the slur meaning ignorant white bigot.

Cathryne Czubek, A Girl and a Gun
Penetrating well beyond the Hollywood image of the armed female, A Girl and a Gun illuminates the growing female gun culture in the U.S. to contemplate the complex relationship between cultural ideas of womanhood and gun ownership in America.


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.

Diana Holtzberg, Vice President, Films Transit International
Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director, POV
Lauren Lazin, Filmmaker and Executive Producer, MTV Networks
Andrew Mer, Vice President, Content Partnerships, SnagFilms
Molly Thompson, Programming Director, A&E Indie Films
Susan Werbe, Executive Producer, History

Join us for a complimentary reception after the event at 4:30 pm. 



2009: From Texas to Tehran directed by Till Schauder

2008: Circo directed by Aaron Schock
PITCH WORKSHOP NEWS: See Circo, the 2008 Pitch Workshop winner, at the Margaret Mead Film Festival. Paley Center members can purchase tickets at the discounted price of $10 by mentioning their affiliation with the Paley Center when buying tickets at Central Reservations at 212-769-5200.

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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