Professional workshops for independent documentary filmmakers

(Pictured above: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter leads a session at the February 2017 workshop.)

WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 23 – Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018


WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Independent filmmakers with multiplatform projects that include a documentary film who are interested in using journalistic practices and principles to boost their storytelling. Women, minorities and those from underrepresented communities are encouraged to apply.

SUMMARY: Independent filmmaking is flourishing, but stories can be undermined when filmmakers and journalists don’t bulletproof their stories against powerful critics or opponents. The goal of this workshop is to elevate the journalistic standards of independent filmmakers, increase the impact of their stories and help them break new ground. Topics covered will include:

  • Interviewing and storytelling techniques to strengthen creativity
  • Fairness: how to prepare for public information/distortion of your reporting
  • Ethics: recreation of events, point of view scenes, use of hidden microphones and cameras, use of studies and polls, providing recording equipment to third parties, use and limits of releases, privacy and trespassing, payments and licenses, advance screenings
  • Sources: relationship with sources, use of confidential sources, the “reporter’s privilege”
  • Legal: libel, copyright law, plagiarism, how to avoid litigation

The workshop will include one-on-one coaching, as well as ongoing support for participants via phone or Skype with veteran journalists and legal experts for up to a year following the course.

Through the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, financial assistance is available for those who need it. Please do not let cost be a barrier for applying.

INSTRUCTORS: Veteran producers and reporters from the IRP and elsewhere, including IRP Director Lowell Bergman; Gary Bostwick, media attorney; and Dawn Porter, award-winning documentary filmmaker; and Kerry Smith, senior vice president of editorial quality for ABC.

REQUIREMENTS: Interested applicants must submit the online application, their resume, a letter of recommendation from someone who knows their work and a one-page memo explaining their project and what editorial issues it has raised. Applicants might be interviewed by phone.

DEADLINE TO APPLY: All materials must be submitted by June 15.

QUESTIONS? Contact Sahra Bhimji at

Generous support for the workshop is provided by:

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Additional support is provided by:

ABC News

Professional Workshops Application

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