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IFP Announces Documentary Line-Up for Its Annual Independent Filmmaker Labs

by Website Update on September 9, 2011


Cannes, France (May 16, 2011) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the 10 documentaries selected for participation in the 2011 Independent Filmmaker Labs, a year-long fellowship for first-time feature directors that begins with initial sessions taking place May 16-20 in New York City.

Presented by IFP, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, the Independent Filmmaker Labs are a highly immersive free mentorship program supporting first-time feature directors with projects in post-production as they complete, market and distribute their films. Focusing exclusively on low-budget features (<$1million), the Labs provide filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films.

“The Labs have evolved into IFP’s flagship program for emerging filmmakers, and we’re thrilled that so many alumni are attracting attention with their work,” says IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente. “Through the Labs we can devote a significant amount of time to ensuring that these new filmmakers have the tools and mentorship needed to both make their first features a success and establish a solid footing for their careers.”

Recent documentary alumni include Give Up Tomorrow (Tribeca 2011- Audience Award; Hot Docs 2011); Our School (Tribeca 2011); Fambul Tok (SXSW 2011); A Rubberband Is an Unlikely Instrument (Hot Docs 2011); An Interview with Simone Weil (IDFA 2010); Between the Folds (Independent Lens 2009; Peabody Award 2010) and War Don Don (HBO Documentary Films 2010). Since 2005, 107 documentaries and narrative features have participated in the Labs, with 72% of the projects completed and premiered at major US and international festivals.

Through the Labs, IFP works to ensure that talented emerging voices receive the support, resources, and industry exposure necessary to reach audiences. Drawing from a national candidate pool, 20 projects (10 documentaries and 10 narratives) are selected for the Lab fellowship. Narrative Lab selections will be announced in June.

A three-part mentorship program spanning the year, the Labs begin with the Finishing Lab (May 16-20) providing creative feedback on the cuts and workshops on all phases of completing and delivering a feature – and initial mentoring on audience development, marketing, outreach partners, festivals and sales strategies, and evolving distribution options.  A Marketing Lab follows in September during which filmmakers get more focused support on their individual film promotion and audience building strategies along with participation in IFP’s Independent Film Week: pre-scheduled meetings for the projects with potential buyers, funders and festival programmers. In December, the Distribution Lab specifically focuses on hands-on creation and analysis of the necessary tools and initiatives for each film’s festival launch, individualized distribution strategy, and web and marketing plans.

Throughout the Labs, there are multi-tiers of mentorship support: via the program’s supervising Lab Leaders who lead each of the intensive sessions overall, workshop session leaders who provide technical, creative and strategic support on films to completion, and an additional producer or director mentor per project who provides feedback and continuing advice outside the Lab.  Beyond the Labs, IFP continues to support the films in an advisory and marketing support role throughout the lives of the films.

“This year’s lab documentaries are a terrifically strong and varied selection, which speaks both to a very talented group of emerging documentarians in the field, and a filmmaking landscape that continues to offer up exciting non-fiction work” says Milton Tabbot, IFP’s Senior Director, Programming. “Quality, however, is only a starting point today, and the goal of the Labs is to help these filmmakers lay the groundwork for success in a multi-platform world, while putting the finishing touches on their films.”

The supervising 2011 Documentary Lab leaders are producer Lori Cheatle (The Kids Grow Up; 51 Birch Street); producer Lesli Klainberg (Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema, IFC’s Indie Sex); and Jon Reiss, director and marketing & distribution specialist (Bomb It!; Think Outside the Box Office).  Individual workshop leaders include, amongst others: composer Nathan Larson (My So-Called Enemy; Boys Don’t Cry); music supervisor Barry Cole (Trouble the Water); editors Carol Dysinger (Deadline), Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), Nancy Kennedy (Why We Fight), Mary Manhardt (Racing Dreams), John Walter (Capitalism: A Love Story; How to Draw a Bunny), and Adam Zucker (Carol Channing: Larger Than Life), Film Presence founders Sara Kiener and Merrill Sterritt; and Nick Kadner, Mike Aaron and Marissa Shrum from Mother New York.

As part of IFP’s ongoing commitment to diversity, the Independent Filmmaker Labs also seek to ensure that at least 50% of the participating projects have an inclusive range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions.

The Independent Filmmaker Lab program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, New York State Council for the Arts, SAGIndie/Screen Actors Guild and Time Warner. Lab partners include The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, BMI, Deluxe New York, Eastman Kodak Company, FILMMAKER Magazine, Mother New York, 92YTribeca, Rooftop Films, United States Artists and the Sundance Documentary Film Program.

The selected projects for the 2011 Documentary Lab and Lab Fellows are:

Herman’s House

What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a 6-by-9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of? This film captures the remarkable creative journey and friendship of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3, and artist Jackie Sumell while examining the injustice of prolonged solitary confinement. Fellows: Angad Bhalla (Director, Producer); Lisa Valencia-Svensson (Producer); Loring McAlpin (Executive Producer)

High Tech, Low Life

Two of China’s first and most daring citizen reporters challenge the status quo by reporting on censored news stories and pushing the boundaries of free speech. Armed with laptops, cell phones, and digital cameras they travel the country as independent one-man news stations while learning to navigate China’s evolving censorship regulations and avoiding the risk of political persecution. Fellows: Stephen Maing (Director, Producer); Trina Rodriguez (Producer)

The Light In Her Eyes

At her mosque school for women and girls in Damascus, Syria, preacher Houda al-Habash gives women firsthand knowledge of the Qur’an. She encourages her students to take their secular education seriously and live public lives. Immersed in a conservative Muslim community, The Light in Her Eyes reveals the unique role women are playing in the contemporary Islamic revival. Fellows: Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix (Directors/Producers)

Northern Light

In the northwoods of Michigan, three compelling women struggle to achieve their dreams as they balance marriage, work, and motherhood.  This is Northern Light—a cinematic, observational documentary that explores the American working class experience through rich, character-based storytelling.  From a frozen corner of the country emerge three modern American families. Fellows: Nicholas Bentgen (Director); Lisa Kjerulff (Producer); Yoonha Park (Editor)

Oscar’s Comeback

Melodrama and culture collide behind-the-scenes at a unique, annual mom-and-pop film festival held in a struggling, all-white South Dakota small-town. From historical reenactments to heated debates to ‘corporate’ take-over, it’s an everything-goes event dedicated to their most famous ‘native son’ — controversial, early 1900s black film pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. Across 7 years, experience the tumultuous festival’s rise, fall and transformation. Fellows: Lisa Collins (Director, Producer); Mark Schwartzburt (Co-director; Producer)


An intimate portrait of a global crisis woven from indigenous scenery and vérité footage, capturing colors, sights and sounds while exploring dedicated health workers and those in their care through intense and beautiful moments. Sister tells the story of health workers from Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti revealing maternal and newborn mortality as a human rights issue. Fellows: Brenda Davis (Director, Producer); Alexandra Swati Guild (Director of Photography, Associate Producer) ; Alison Shurman (Editor)

Sun Kissed

When a Navajo couple’s children are born with a rare genetic disorder, they enter a tug of war struggle between tradition and Western medicine.  As they discover alarmingly high numbers of the disease on the Reservation and trace its origin to a traumatic event in Navajo history, they grasp the genetic and cultural effects of American colonialism on their lives today. Fellows: Maya Stark and Adi Lavy (Directors/Producers); Jocelyn Glatzer (Producer)

The Twelve O’Clock Boyz

Deep inside Baltimore City, a generation of fatherless sons searches for release, mitigating the pressures of life in the inner city by embracing a community of illegal dirt bike riding. After “Pug”, a child growing up in a combative West Baltimore hood, suffers a loss in his family, he finds solace in the dirt bike group. Fellows: Lotfy Nathan (Director, Producer); Ross Finkel (Producer); Patrick Wright (Producer, Editor)

Us Naked: The Adventures of Trixie and Monkey

Weirdo meets high-glam in Us Naked, the story of Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey, a thirty-something couple sharing a peculiar life as an acrobatic-burlesque super-duo. From overdrawn checkbooks to major theatrical productions, Trixie and Monkey endure life on the road to make big eyelashes and monkey ears a full-time reality. But how long can they keep this up? Fellows: Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander (Director, Producer); Scot Hollander (Producer); Kata Frederick (Editor)

Welcome to the Machine

As a ‘human film about technology,’ Welcome to the Machine moves between expert interviews, portraits of people who have intimate relationships with technology and the filmmaker’s experience of becoming the father to triplets. Fellow: Avi Zev Weider (Director, Producer); Ann Husaini (Editor)

About IFP
After debuting with a program in the 1979 New York Film Festival, the nonprofit IFP has evolved into the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, and also the premier advocate for them. Since its start, IFP has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers – voices that otherwise might not have been heard. IFP fosters the development of 350 new feature and documentary films each year through its Project Forum of Independent Film Week, Independent Filmmaker Labs and projects in its fiscal sponsorship program. IFP believes that independent films enrich the universal language of cinema, seeding the global culture with new ideas, kindling awareness, and fostering activism. The organization has fostered early work by leading filmmakers including Charles Burnett, Edward Burns, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Mira Nair and Kevin Smith.


For more information on IFP, please contact:

Amy Dotson, Deputy Director, IFP (212) 465-8200 x203

Milton Tabbot, Senior Director, Programming, IFP 465-8200 x207

Marian Koltai-Levine – [email protected] / 212-373-6130
Freida Orange- [email protected]/ 212.373.0114