How We Spent Our Summer Vacation…

Last month we took 5 documentary filmmaking teams out of the hustle and bustle of New York City and into peaceful and beautiful Camden, Maine. For a full week our five U.S.-based documentary filmmaking teams were provided with programming, professional guidance and mentorship from notable filmmakers, editors and producers to help them advance their filmmaking careers. This is our Fourth Annual Camden/TFI Retreat, presented by CNN Films.

Before we got down to the nitty gritty, we started with a pre-workshop weekend getaway to Hurricane Island. Located in Penobscot Bay Maine, Hurricane Island is run by a foundation that develops science and leadership programs for young students - and all five filmmaking teams spent the weekend at this beautifully scenic island, getting to know each other and bonding while they hiked, canoed and jumped off a pier into the icy cold water! The Hurricane Island Foundation, a supporter of the Points North Institute, were gracious hosts to TFI and the five filmmaking teams for the second year in a row.

This year’s industry mentors and experts include director/producer Kristi Jacobson (A PLACE AT THE TABLE, SOLITARY) producer Susan Bedusa (KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, BISBEE ‘17), editor Francisco Bello (OUR NIXON, THE REAGAN SHOW), filmmaker Yoruba Richen (THE NEW BLACK), Courtney Sexton (vice president of CNN Films) and Josh Braun (film producer and co-founder of Submarine Entertainment).

“As we entered our fourth year of the Camden / TFI Retreat, TFI - along with our partners at Points North and CNN - set a goal for us to elevate the intimacy and bonding experience for all of the filmmaker participants. By the end of the workshop week, the results were evident. There was a palpable shift not just in how these storytellers discussed their projects in front of a room of mentors and decision-makers - but also in how they got along and fed off each other for constructive feedback and emotional support. For me, that kind of organic collaborative spirit is always the highlight of this workshop.” (Jose F Rodriguez, Director of Documentary Programs, TFI)

Here are the 5 participating teams hard at work…  

ETERNAL LIFE FAN CLUB - Rita Baghdadi (co-director); Jeremiah Hammerling (co-director)
A reclusive YouTuber and a Transhumanist politician embark on a road trip across the U.S in a 1978 RV modified to look like a coffin. Their mission? To convince the world they should never die.

- Cecilia Aldarondo (director) and Matthew Cohn (editor)
A kaleidoscopic portrait of life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico.

THE GUT (WORKING TITLE) - Jennifer Maytorena Taylor (director)
Filmed over two years in a small New England community caught in the opioid epidemic and a battle over Syrian refugee resettlement, THE GUT (working title) explores what changes – and what doesn’t – when small town America meets the world and discovers it is us.

THE TERRORIST'S SON - Danny Yourd (director) and Olivia Vaugh (producer)
An intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the life of an Zak Ebrahim, an American boy raised by his terrorist father - the man who helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Zak has spent his life trying to understand what drew his father to terrorism, and struggled with the knowledge that he has his blood in his veins. This is a portrait of a young man who was raised in the fires of fanaticism and embraced nonviolence instead.

- Hannah Jayanti (director) and Alexander Porter (producer)
In 1950, the residents of a small desert town in New Mexico voted to rename themselves after the game show, “Truth or Consequences”. Like many towns where work is scarce, they poured their dreams into the prosperity that might come. Now, nearly seventy years later, the same hopes are playing out as Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, is built just outside of town.

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Laurence and Juan Mateo Menendez