Sponsor Shirin Ghaffary’s involvement in the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio.
From Shirin :
I’m so honored to be selected as one of a dozen talented artists around the world selected to participate in the UnionDocs CoLab, a 10 month program for documentary filmmakers in Brooklyn.
By the end of the program I’ll have made a short film that I hope will bring to life the stories of every day immigrants who are trying to live the American Dream.
I’m especially inspired to chronicle the immigrant experience in this moment, at a time when more than ever we’re arguing about what that American Dream means and who deserves a shot at it.
I’ll be donating my time outside my full time job as a reporter to making this film. But there are other real costs that I need help to cover — the administrative, educational, and equipment fees that it takes to run this nonprofit program.
I hope you can share whatever you can to help produce and elevate this work. Even a little bit can make a meaningful impact.
Nobody gets into documentary film for the money or the fame. We’re interested in the medium because it’s a way to tell people’s stories in a dignified manner — one that allows for depth, nuance, and compassion in a way that can connect us to inspire social change. I would be very thankful for any way you can help be a part of that.
I’m a reporter and filmmaker from the San Francisco Bay Area who moved to New York a year ago. My first documentary, “Cloyne Court” is about 150 UC Berkeley students living together in the nation’s largest student commune, and the challenges the historically radical house faces. For my next project with UnionDocs, I’m excited to share stories about the immigrant experience in New York City. When I’m not making documentaries I work as a reporter for Recode covering how technology is impacting the way people work and live. In the past, I’ve worked for BuzzFeed News and PBS Digital making videos.
The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio (CoLAB) is a 10 month program for a select group of media artists from the US and abroad. Based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, CoLAB offers a platform for exploring contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and a process for developing an innovative collaborative project. The program consists of weekly production meetings, seminars, screenings and other public programs, along with regular masterclasses and critiques with visiting artists.
In a recent article in The New York Times, film scholar Scott MacDonald, remarked, “UnionDocs has a healthy sense that the older definitions of what constitutes ‘experimental’ cinema and what constitutes ‘documentary’ are up for grabs.” Similarly, the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio represents a new and alternative fellowship model, offering residency and visa support for six participants coming from abroad and an equal number of spots for local, non-resident participants. It is designed to be affordable and, although participants are asked to make CoLAB their primary creative focus, the schedule does accommodate full-time or freelance work. Rather than applying with a project proposal or rough cut, all participants are selected on the basis of previous work and enter the program at square one, open to discovery and fresh connections.
UnionDocs is not simply the host for this activity, it takes an active role producing the collection of short documentary works that comprise the collaborative project. The theme or focus for the year is chosen by the Artistic Director, and resources and research to support this direction are gathered. The CoLAB Director leads the group through an incremental process where new ideas and new partnerships form; each participant finding their own avenues of creative contribution. Regular readings and assignments for seminars stimulate creativity, open discussion and debate, and offer a common set of references for the group. Master classes with visiting artists provide encouragement, inspiration and exposure to a diverse set of conceptual perspectives and practical methods. As projects reach their final edit, unique plans for exhibition and distribution are formulated.
The Brooklyn Rail summed it up with the title of their feature article: “UnionDocs Brings Auteurs Together”. For some, participation in the program may lead to further study. For others, it may lead to independent projects or strengthened careers within the industry. For all, it is an unparalleled immersion in the expansive field of documentary art.
Learn more about the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio here
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