As writers, we have a unique vision and a variety of platforms in which to express our thoughts. A perennial and growing medium is the documentary. If you look at the list of documentaries in the past several years, you will find almost every subject, from the political, to health, to the obscure, and more. A unique collaboration is enjoyed with this form.
We will explore recent documentaries from the writer’s point of view. What makes the documentary successful, and how do you define this success? How do you promote, and what are the ways in which it can “get out there”? What happens to the writer’s words and organizational ideas once the process begins? Does it start with the writer or with the producer or director? What are some ownership and budgetary concerns? Who raises the money and who gives it? What are the future prospects for a writer who has become involved?
LESLIE NEALE‘s first film, the award-winning “Road to Return,” narrated by Tim Robbins, prompted a Senate Bill from the House Judiciary Committee to fund the aftercare program in six more states. Her best-known film, “Juvies,” followed 12 juveniles for five years who were all tried as adults and sentenced to adult prisons. Narrated by Mark Wahlberg, “Juvies” aired on HBO and toured the world as one of the top ten Human Rights Watch Films of 2005.
Other credits include: a documentary about Gospel Music called “Rhythm of the Heart, A Healing Presence,” chronicling the renegade healing practices of the Medical Mission Sisters; “Ironwood,” a documentary short on the college program at Ironwood State Prison which helped spread the college program throughout California State Prisons; and another short for Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Justice. She is currently producing a documentary on restorative justice and the healing power of forgiveness between victims and perpetrators called “Unlikely Friends.”
JESSICA KIVNIK’s documentary short film “Carp: A Four Letter Word” examines the complex issues surrounding the fight to keep aquatic invasive bighead and silver carp from entering the Great Lakes. The film premiered in 2010 at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the Chicago 360 Documentary Film Series.
Jessica is a writer/producer/director who has contributed to many varied projects for screen and stage. She studied sketch and improv comedy at Second City and iO, and wrote, produced and performed in several shows at Second City, iO, Sketchfest and the Chicago Improv Festival. She is a producer on the upcoming web series “Wikisoap,” a contributing writer for Examiner.com and is currently writing a feature-length romantic comedy.
ADAM SCHOMER In his recently completed feature documentary, “The Highest Pass,” we follow a yogi with a death prophecy who leads a group of motorcyclers into the Indian Himalayas and over the highest road in the world. It’s a stunning look into wisdom in real-life practice. In addition to writing and producing, Adam teaches yoga, has written the spiritual book series “The Free Life,” and guides trips to India. His writing credits include the children’s TV show “Becka and the Big Bubble,” the books by the same name, the graphic novel “The Pedal Pals,” and his company i2i Productions is currently developing a children’s documentary- style TV series.
JEFFREY BERMAN is the founder of RDRR Productions, a produced screenwriter, and member of several committees at the Writer’s Guild of America. Berman sold his first script to Ron Howard and Brian Grazer for Imagine Films. Since then he has written scripts for nearly every major studio in Hollywood, including The Walt Disney Company, Universal, Paramount, NBC, The Hallmark Channel and many more. Berman is also the creator and host of the award-winning series “The Write Environment,” which features interviews with some of today’s top TV series creators and screenwriters, and the science-fiction Film Noir web series, “Naught for Hire,” featuring the adventures of lost-in-time detective Nick Naught.
TELLY DAVIDSON is author of the award-winning “TV’s Grooviest Variety Shows,” which was cited by the TV Academy, NPR, and several national newspapers, and the forthcoming novel “Pop Culture,” as well as developing several media tie-in projects on films and TV shows. His film and TV reviews have been published in over a dozen magazines and commercial websites; he has worked on specials for NBC, the American Film Institute, and on the new PBS documentary “Pioneers of Television II,” as well as its Emmy-nominated forerunner. He has hosted or been a part of earlier IWOSC panels like “From Books to Film,” “Biographies and Memoirs,” “Covering the Celebrity Beat,” and two “Trends in Publishing” panels. He is an active member of IWOSC and PEN-USA.