Our world is not an easy place to be human. I became a documentary filmmaker because I was tired of mourning loss without also creating beauty. By crafting images and sound into breathing things, and using rigorous journalism in partnership with magical imagery, I am able to hold the grief and rage that are a part of striving for a better world. My goal is to create films that interrogate power structures, while also embracing expansive imagination. The summer lab will immerse me in a community of innovative filmmakers that are working to address the most challenging issues of our time. I could not be in better company to grow as a media maker.
I will be using the 5 weeks in UnionDocs’ Summer Lab to deepen my practice as a filmmaker and to develop my first feature film, THE QUIET PART, about a rural town in the Midwest struggling to create unity in the face of a white supremacist pagan group that recently moved to town. With its incorporation of shadow puppetry and other magical and surrealist art forms, the film goes beyond “traditional” documentaries to create an immersive experience engaging the subconscious to help metabolize the difficult subjects of racism and white supremacy.
Participating in this lab and collaborating with other innovative filmmakers is the perfect launching pad for this film. Documentaries take years to make. By investing in our film early on, we’re creating a strong foundation that will ensure all the artists and crew will get a fair living wage as the film moves from development to production to final product. Your support at this early stage is so helpful to make this happen!!
With great humility and gratitude,
Rachel Lauren Mueller (she/her) is a Minneapolis-based, documentary director, cinematographer and investigative journalist from a tiny town in the Colorado mountains. She crafts images and sound into breathing things and her magical world-view best articulates itself in the stories she tells of the underbelly: small religious groups, the incarcerated, mischief-makers and revolutionaries. With her background in investigative journalism, she creates films that interrogate power structures while embracing expansive imagination through magical realism.
Rachel is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism with a focus in documentary filmmaking where her work was recognized with the Reva and David Logan Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting. This year she is part of the first ever IF/Then Short Film Distribution Fellowship for her forthcoming film 8 DAYS AT WARE. Rachel’s films have been supported by the Berkeley FILM Foundation, the Investigative Reporting Project and Foreign Language Area Studies. Most recently she was the DP for a segment on the Chinese docuseries, ONCE UPON A BITE. She has been a fellow at FilmNorth’s Inclusive & Socially-Conscious Filmmaking lab, GroundTruth Films and the Overseas Press Club.
You can check out her past work here:
About the Summer Documentary Labs:
The UnionDocs Summer Documentary Lab are a program for a select group of media artists from the US and abroad. Based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Summer Labs offer a platform for participants to spend the Summer making strides and clarify the creative direction of their projects to attract the potential team members, funders and producers they need to find their way to the finish. With a specialized hybrid in-person / remote format, an intensive schedule of screenings, open seminar discussions, weekly industry “field trips,” and inspiring artist visits from some of the most dynamic voices across the field of documentary, the SUMMER DOCUMENTARY LABS are tightly structured environments that bring participants into a select group of emerging filmmakers to get challenged and encouraged to think through every aspect of their works-in-progress.
Drawing inspiration from across disciplines, this intensive program should not be mistaken for an industrial, journalistic, or traditional documentary training. Scholar Scott MacDonald highlighted in The New York Times that, “UnionDocs has a healthy sense that the older definitions of what constitutes ‘experimental’ cinema and what constitutes ‘documentary’ are up for grabs.” Much emphasis is placed on workshopping lab participants’ writing about their projects as a way to both clarify the creative direction and attract potential team members, funders and producers. Participants receive focused, honest and helpful feedback on their project proposals from prominent documentary artists and industry experts.
The Early Production Lab in July is for projects about to go into production. Filmmakers have already likely shot some of their material and have access to their subjects and are looking for ways to strengthen their media samples, and pitches and work through the ideas as they approach the production stage and plan for the entire process all the way through to distribution.