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The Paley Center for Media Announces Aaron Schock’s Circo winner of the PaleyDocFest’s Art of the Documentary Pitch

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New York, NY—The Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television & Radio) is proud to announce that Aaron Schock and his film Circo ("Circus") is the winner of The Art of the Documentary Pitch which was held on October 25, 2008, during the ninth annual PaleyDocFest. Schock will receive a $5000 grant from The Documentary Channel®, sponsor of this year's Art of the Documentary Pitch Award. [View a clip from Circo.]

The Art of the Documentary Pitch is both a workshop and a competition in which five emerging filmmakers pitch their ideas before a live audience and a panel of distinguished documentary executives who candidly critique each filmmakers' presentation and concept, while discussing the process of developing a documentary project for theatrical or broadcast consideration.

The 2008 Art of the Documentary Pitch judges were Diana Holtzberg, Acquisitions/Project Development Director USA Films Transit International; Lauren Lazin, Filmmaker and Executive Producer, MTV Networks; Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director, P.O.V.; Tom Neff, CEO/Founder, The Documentary Channel; Molly Thompson, Programming Director, A&E IndieFilms; and Susan Werbe, Executive Producer, History.  They chose the winner based on criteria such as persuasiveness of the pitch, as well as originality and commercial viability.

"As one of the signature events of the PaleyDocFest, the Art of the Documentary Pitch underscores the Paley Center's commitment to the nonfiction genre and independent filmmakers," said Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of The Paley Center for Media. "It has been a thrill to see a doc go from pitch to film festival or DVD release, like previous winners Whatever It Takes and Asparagus, and we are proud to once again recognize emerging talent in the documentary arena. We are also grateful to The Documentary Channel and our esteemed judges for supporting this important initiative at our annual film festival."

"The Documentary Channel was honored to be a part of the Paley Center's unique Documentary Pitch workshop, where I was very impressed with the quality of the pitches, as well as the insightful comments and viewpoints of my fellow judges," says Tom Neff, The Documentary Channel founder and CEO.  "It was difficult decision, as all five docs will eventually be completed, and we knew they would all be great films."

"The winning film, Circo, had a beautifully shot, very well-cut demo, and the film had a strong, poignant theme of working children and loss of childhood," Neff continued. "The director, Aaron Schock, also gave a forceful, clear pitch that demonstrated a strong command of his subject matter and the approach that he would take toward his material."

Circo is a film that examines the life, tradition and hardships of Mexico's rural traveling circuses by following the ten-member Ponce family troupe over a period of nearly two years. The Ponce family circus grapples with the difficult choice to continue their century-old family tradition or seek a better life, especially for their children, outside the circus. Seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old performer/laborer, Circo is ultimately an intensely intimate portrait of a family making a living from their sweat, artistry, wit, and tenacity against the backdrop of Mexico's collapsing rural economy.

The four other finalists selected for the 2008 Art of the Documentary Pitch were Sarah Klein's Mother of the Year, which profiles several women from around the country who leave their crucial roles at home to vie for the titular honor; Stephen Maing's A Coal Miner's Son, about a young Chinese vegetable seller turned citizen journalist sets out from his rural, industrial hometown to report on China's most controversial and censored news stories;  Bismillah, by Jolene Pinder and Sarah Zaman, which tells the story of Farheen Hakeem, a feisty thirty-one year-old Muslim Girl Scout troop leader who puts herself under public scrutiny by taking part in the consummate patriotic act-running for public office; and Shukree Hassan Tighman's More Than a Month, a first-person narrative of the filmmaker's campaign to end Black History Month, a journey that explores racial equality at the intersection of history and identity in American society.

Since its inception in 2003, The Paley Center for Media's the Art of the Documentary Pitch has aimed to find and cultivate talented filmmakers with compelling stories by connecting them with the industry professionals who can help bring their documentary projects to fruition.  Over the years, many of the documentaries pitched at PaleyDocFest have gone on to play at film festivals around the world and/or secure distribution deals.  The 2007 winner, Angad Bhalla's The House That Herman Built, is currently in development with the acclaimed PBS series P.O.V. Christopher Wong, whose documentary Whatever It Takes garnered the 2006 Art of the Documentary Pitch prize, was subsequently honored with a Sundance Institute Film Fellowship and is currently readying his film for the festival circuit after screening it at this year's PaleyDocFest as a work-in-progress. Another 2006 pitch, Kimberly Reed's Prodigal Sons, went on to screen at the Telluride Film Festival to great acclaim while the filmmaker herself was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker magazine. The 2005 winners, Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly, premiered their finished film Asparagus! (A Stalk-umentary) at the 2006 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and went on to win the Best Documentary Award at the Rural Route Film Festival before releasing their work on DVD.

Now in its ninth year, the annual PaleyDocFest, which ran October 16 - 27, 2008, is the centerpiece of The Paley Center for Media's ongoing commitment to the documentary form.


The Paley Center for Media, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms for the professional community and media-interested public. Drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the leaders of the media community, the Paley Center examines the intersections between media and society. The general public can access the collection and participate in programs that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media. Through the global programs of its Media Council and International Council, the Paley Center also serves as a neutral setting where media professionals can engage in discussion and debate about the evolving media landscape. Previously known as The Museum of Television & Radio, the Paley Center was founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, a pioneering innovator in the industry.  For more information, please visit

About The Documentary Channel®: The Documentary Channel (DOC) is the USA's first 24-hour television network exclusively devoted to documentary films and is the Voice of the Independent Documentary Filmmaker.  DOC seeks out and showcases independent, cutting-edge and international non-fiction programming rarely seen in the U.S., and often then only in film festivals or other special venues.  Many of DOC's programs are U.S. or world premieres on television.  DOC is the television viewer's round-the-clock opportunity to see fascinating, eclectic and award-winning documentary films of all lengths and genres, from classics to cutting-edge.  Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., with offices in New York and Los Angeles, The Documentary Channel was founded by CEO, Oscar®-nominated and Emmy®-winning documentary filmmaker Tom Neff.  DOC launched on DISH Network (Channel 197) in January 2006, and now reaches over 21 million homes nationwide. DOC is carried by several broadcast stations in major television markets including NYC TV (Channel 25) throughout the greater New York metropolitan area.  DOC's Web site is located at