(Caitlin Boyle, Film Sprout counsels David Soll on outreach)
I can imagine having at one point earlier in life thought "wouldn't it be amazing if someone created a program that X," wherein X stands for the entire mission statement, schedule, description, leaders, mentors, editing advisers and first-time filmmakers involved in the IFP Documentary Lab. Which is to say, I'm impressed, and I'm impressed to the point that I find it hard to believe this fantastic idea was actually put in to effect.
Here is a program that takes ten first-time documentary feature filmmakers (also ten narrative filmmakers, in their own lab [we don't mix well]) who are entirely dissimilar from one another in sensibility and subject matter, yet share with each other varying degrees of bewilderment with the state of our films, our careers, and the industry. Which are three very large things about which to be bewildered, and together suggest a common state in which nearly every first time filmmaker is finding themselves these days.
If you are a bewildered filmmaker - as I am (although I shouldn't speak for the entire group. some of the other filmmakers look really un-bewildered, in fact) - what the lab offers you appears at first to be a crash course in finishing, distribution models and editorial decision making. But then you arrive on the first day, they go ahead and fill you in on everything else the Lab actually is. Now, you've read all this in the literature ahead of time, but because you are not especially bright (you are, remember, trying to make an independent documentary feature in 2010), your lab leaders are nice enough to go over the scope of the program one more time. First, you realize they aren't just offering you a 'crash course', but relationships with mentors and editing advisers who are among the finest documentary talents in the business. And then you realize they selected three of these folks to actually be "lab leaders" - which means they are running the lab, in person, for every minute of this week, and together serving a function somewhere between that of batting coach, psychotherapist and rabbi. And then, you realize, they've picked filmmakers as your peers who each have compelling, hugely exciting projects of their own. And then, when you're starting to think Okay, this week looks pretty good to me, they tell you this whole thing isn't just one week at all. No, it's actually a YEAR, and will include continued mentoring with each adviser/leader/mentor offering one on one meetings outside the scheduled sessions, phone calls, letters, emails, text messages to help you continue resolving issues and facing down the intimidating landscape of independent film. And THEN, after offering you (are you kidding?) all this support, they - almost it seems just to mess with your head - they have the nerve to tell you the entire program is free.
So my point is, after a few days, my point is that yeah, I think the Lab is a good idea.