The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on docs with its first-ever seminar series on documentary filmmaking, to be held in October. The Academy seminar series isn’t new, according to Randy Haberkamp, organizer and Academy director of educational and special projects. He says the Academy usually holds two or three seminars per year on various filmmaking topics. But the emphasis on docs this year is new, he says. And it’s no coincidence that it’s happening just a few months after Freida Lee Mock was appointed as Governor of the Academy’s Documentary Branch.
Says Haberkamp, ‘Freida Lee Mock was just elected governor and this is the first time the documentary branch has had a governor and strong voice within the Academy board.’
Speakers will include Academy Award winning doc-maker Mark Harris (Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport) and Mock, also an Oscar-winner for her film Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. ‘By and large it’s a pretty hard-hitting documentary group with a lot of different topics and points of view,’ Haberkamp notes. He adds there will be some crossover: both doc-makers and feature film types interested in documentary will be able to mingle in an intimate forum.
The emphasis of the seminars is on ‘the creative process’, says Haberkamp. Topics covered will include documentary tricks of the trade, finding the story, and, ‘how to find an audience without losing your soul.’ Above all, the series will focus on sharing experiences and advice from those in the know. ‘I think the feeling is that in the doc world, it’s a tough road, especially for theatrical releases,’ says Haberkamp. ‘And so, bringing special attention to problems and solutions is certainly a worthwhile thing to do.’
The seminar series, which kicks off October 3 at the Academy’s Little Theater and runs every consecutive Wednesday until October 23, is open to the public. By coincidence, the seminars fall during the Academy and UCLA’s annual documentary screening series.