Four Questions with “The Marion Stokes Project” Director Matt Wolf

This year TFI's annual Network Market during the Tribeca Film Festival, over 700 one-on-one meetings occured between TFI-selected filmmakers and industry. Here is a weekly introduction to some of those filmmakers and grantees that were in attendance, and a preview of their upcoming films.

Matt Wolf is a TFI veteran. In 2011, his project Teenage -- a gorgeous and elliptical unconventional history of early teen subcultures -- was awarded the TFI Documentary Fund, and this year marks his return with The Marion Stokes Project. Wolf is a master at finding odd, outsider perspectives through which to view history, and his ability to creatively use archival footage is perfectly in tune with this. The film follows radical counter-culture television producer Marion Stokes, who obsessively documented three decades of TV with her VCR. Somehow, in between the two projects, Wolf also found time to complete It's Me, Hilary, his Sundance-premiering HBO doc on Eloise artist Hilary Knight.

Wolf chatted briefly with us during TFI Network Market about using pitch sessions to get feedback on your film, and his adoration for the recent doc/musical hybrid Tomorrow is Always Too Long.

1.) How did you first get connected with TFI?

My film Teenage was awarded a TFI Documentary Fund grant. I had met Ryan Harrington at various pitching forums, and he's a great ambassador for the documentary film community. Ryan was an important early supporter of that project and TFI was the first funder to give us a grant.

2.) Did you get anything unexpected out of your experiences with TFI Network and the pitch sessions?

I'm very early in the development of the Marion Stokes Project, and this was my first opportunity to pitch it to a group of industry delegates. In general it was just really helpful to get their feedback and to see what they wanted to learn more about. I was really planting seeds for future partnerships at TFI Network, and I¹m sure many unexpected things will develop in the next year or two as I make the film.

3.) What fuels you to tell Marion Stokes' story? What drove you to the material?

I read about Marion Stokes' unbelievable story in a blog article, which said that she had recorded television for 30 years, amassing over 50,000 VHS tapes, which are being digitized by the Internet Archive. I'm drawn toward the stories of outsiders and I love doing creative things with archival footage. So Marion's incredible time capsule of television footage and her unusual story really spoke to me.

4.) What's a doc that you saw in the last year that you found really exciting or unique?

I absolutely loved Phil Collin's new film Tomorrow is Always Too Long that was recently screened at MoMA's Documentary Fortnight. The film is a documentary-musical portrait of contemporary Glasgow based on the music of Cate Le Bon.