Laura Poitras launches documentary unit Field of Vision

The Citizenfour director (pictured, left) is launching a short-form documentary unit called Field of Vision with filmmaker AJ Schnack (center) and former Hot Docs programmer Charlotte Cook (right).
September 9, 2015

Citizenfour director Laura Poitras is launching a documentary unit called Field of Vision with filmmaker AJ Schnack and former Hot Docs programmer Charlotte Cook.

Billed as a “filmmaker-driven” unit that will pair docmakers with ongoing news stories, Field of Vision will commission and create 40 to 50 original episodic and one-off short-form, non-fiction films in collaboration with news site The Intercept and First Look Media.

The unit will launch at the 53rd annual New York Film Festival on September 27 with the world premiere of Poitras’ Asylum, a series about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as well as a selection of original work commissioned by Field of Vision that will be announced at a later date.

The first season will then become available online two days later via the Field of Vision site and The Intercept, the site Poitras launched last year with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. Films will debut weekly until November and a second season will begin in 2016.

The docs will also be distributed through other platforms, including film festivals, streaming sites and cable TV.

“Our goal with Field of Vision is to create a platform that responds quickly to the world around us, tells great stories with images, and encourages artistic risk taking with a fast production cycle,” Poitras said in a statement. “In building Field of Vision, AJ, Charlotte and I are inspired by past examples such as World in Action and Life magazine.”

“This is an exciting moment in documentary storytelling,” added Schnack. “By providing an outlet for filmmakers to create both episodic and short-form films and by giving them the resources they need to produce original and innovative work, Field of Vision will expand visual storytelling in the digital age, while responding to unfolding events in real time.”

The first two seasons will feature new works by Kirsten Johnson, Heloisa Passos, Iva Radivojevic, Michael Moore, Shola Lynch, Yung Chang, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, Beau Willimon, Dustin Guy Defa, Jarred Alterman, Jill Magid, Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, among others.

Poitras’s feature doc about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, cleaned up on the awards circuit earlier this year. The film won the Academy Award for best documentary as well as BAFTA and Director’s Guild of America awards.

Schnack is an independent filmmaker whose credits include the films Caucus and Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), as well as the Al Jazeera America doc series Midterms.

Cook spent the past four years as the director of programming for Toronto-based film festival Hot Docs. In May, she announced she was leaving the organization for an opportunity “at the intersection of documentary film production and curation.”

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.