For a week in June we had our second annual filmmaker retreat in partnership with the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) and CNN Films. The Camden/TFI Retreat presented by CNN Films in Camden and Rockport, Maine provided five U.S.-based documentary filmmaking teams from diverse backgrounds with professional guidance and mentorship to help them advance their filmmaking careers.
The retreat mixed filmmaker presentations and feedback sessions with hikes, lobster dinners and scenic boat rides. The idea was to have participants go completely offline, with limited social media and web access, so they could dive in to a week of creative stimulation free of distractions from the outside world.
One of the mentors at the retreat, Amy Hobby, our VP of Artist Programs, and an Academy Award®-nominated producer (And Everything Is Going Fine, Shepard & Dark, Secretary, Love, Marilyn, What Happened, Miss Simone?), observed how the low-pressure environment of the retreat really encouraged exploration.
“The Camden/TFI Retreat is a haven for documentary filmmakers to both work out issues of character and story, and to reflect on their works-in-progress secluded from everyday distractions and industry pressures at large,” she said. “The five filmmakers this year got to spin around and push and pull in a beautiful setting near the ocean and emerge with fresh ideas and confidence to move to the next level.”
The filmmakers and projects invited to the Camden/TFI Retreat included:
A Woman’s Work – Yu Gu (Director/Producer); Elizabeth Ai (Producer)
Football and feminism collide in this feature documentary that follows three former NFL cheerleaders and their class‐action lawsuits brought against their teams.
The Family I Had – Katie Green (Co-Director/Producer); Carlye Rubin, (Co‐Director/Producer)
What begins as a seemingly isolated incident of a 13‐year‐old boy killing his sister slowly dissolves into illuminating the anatomy of a broken family.
Two Gods - Zeshawn Ali (Director/Producer); Aman Ali (Producer)
Two Gods follows a group of young Muslims who are fed up with making caskets and arranging funerals for young men who are continuously dying at the hands of gang violence, who unite together to bring the boys into their funeral homes to teach them about death, and through that process, show them how to live again.
Currently Untitled Project – Myles Kane & Josh Koury (Co‐Directors)
This film documents the complex, tortuous, and challenging process of creating nonfiction. It follows an acclaimed author, chronicling his reporting style, watching as he types out each word, and witnessing the ever-changing dynamic with his subject and only source. The film is an unprecedented window into the relationship behind the story and an exclusive look at the writer's life, legacy, and process.
Untitled Malheur Documentary - David Byars (Director/DP); Stash Wislocki (Producer)
On January 2, militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon. The filmmakers were granted exceptional access to the inner workings of this 41-day siege. Events took a bloody turn when law enforcement waylaid the occupation leadership enroute to a community meeting, killing one of their members. Untitled Malheur Documentary explores this uniquely American convergence of nationalism, guns, and religion, providing a glimpse of those on the inside of this movement.
At the retreat, Bryce Norbitz, Manager, Artist Programs at TFI was most inspired by how valuable it was to have other well-regarded filmmakers review the participants’ films and provide notes on how to take their work to the next level.
“The partnership between CNN Films, CIFF and TFI allows for filmmakers to receive invaluable feedback from advisors while taking a deep dive into their film, away from the bustle of their lives,” she said. “For a filmmaker to be able to turn off their cell phone and take a long walk on the beach with an amazing artist like Marshall Curry or Enat Sidi is a unique and film-changing opportunity. We saw concrete changes in each of the five films throughout the week.”
The benefits of the retreat don’t stop after the week is up. Filmmakers continue to develop their relationships with the mentors they meet at Camden. For example, Jeff Unay, a participant at last year’s retreat connected with retreat mentor and producer Andrea Meditch, known for her film Man on Wire, who later signed on to his film Greywater as Executive Producer.
Photo Credit: Alexandra Morrow