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Utopia Studios
10/05/2008, 2:00PM
$ 15

More and more filmmakers are attracted to the documentary realm, telling challenging political and social stories that the general media left behind or delving into personal situations that reveal the human condition in its glory and its darkest moments. With the constant growth of documentary production in the U.S. and all around the world, the question often comes up: are these films viable commercially? Who and where is the audience? And do these films make the kind of impact the filmmakers are hoping for? Five years after the meteoric success of Fahrenheit 9/11, are the documentaries holding their own, or do they need a mega-hit doc every year to perpetuate the perception of them being financially lucrative? This panel of documentary filmmakers and experts will discuss today's state of documentary filmmaking and explore new creative ways for a film to succeed in a tight marketplace, with an eye towards its future growth.

Heidi Ewing has taken on a wide range of subjects, which include the inner workings of Scientology, ritualistic body modification rites in Sri Lanka and the criminal justice system in the Bronx. Previously, she delved into the dramatic world of Cuban politics with Dissident, a film about the struggle of Havana-based Nobel Peace Prize nominee Oswaldo Paya--a film that was made clandestinely and has been shown around the world. She and Rachel Grady made their feature doc debut in 2005 with The Boys of Baraka. The team followed with Jesus Camp, nominated for an Academy Award¨. She and Rachel are currently making a new film in Saudi Arabia. Heidi is the co-owner of the New York-based production company Loki Films.

Morgan Spurlock is the writer/producer/director of the Academy Award¨-nominated film Super Size Me. His highly acclaimed series 30 Days recently completed its third season on the F/X network. The show examines social issues in America and has been praised by such diverse groups as the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Spurlock's latest directorial project, Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? premiered at Sundance 2008. In 2006, Spurlock and Arts Alliance America created a film and distribution partnership to release films considered to be groundbreaking and important that were overlooked by the majority of filmgoers.

Ellen Kuras, a respected cinematographer, has won the Sundance Film Festival dramatic Excellence in Cinematography Award an unprecedented three times: for Tom Kalin's Swoon in 1992, and for two of Rebecca Miller's films, Angela in 1995 and Personal Velocity in 2002. She has also received two Emmy Award¨ nominations for A Century of Women and Spike Lee's 4 Little Girls. Other film credits include Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind.

Michael Tucker has worked in the Balkans, Southern Africa, SE Asia and the Middle East. In 2003, the outbreak of the war in Iraq pulled Tucker to Baghdad, where he followed an armored car salesman making sales calls for what later became Bulletproof Salesman. While filming Bulletproof Salesman, Tucker took interest in the story of US soldiers deployed in Baghdad and began to work on Gunner Palace in August 2003. After the critically acclaimed release of Gunner Palace in the Spring of 2005, Tucker began work on The Prisoner: or How I planned to Kill Tony Blair, recently nominated for Independent Spirit and Cinema Eye Awards. Tucker is working on his first narrative screenplay.

Kief Davidson is an award-winning feature film and documentary director born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His latest film "Kassim the Dream," premiered at the 2008 Tribeca film festival and will theatrically release the film in early 2009. His prior film, "The Devil's Miner," made its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2005 and won over a dozen awards at international film festivals including Tribeca, Hot Docs, Chicago, Woodstock, Jerusalem and Mexico City. He received the prestigious DGA Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Directing and won the coveted PBS Independent Lens Audience Award. "The Devil's Miner" screened theatrically in over 140 cinemas across Europe and the USA. Davidson currently divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City with his wife Kathleen and son Liam.

Ron Mann established his international reputation while in his twenties with a series of award-winning theatrical documentaries including Imagine the Sound, Poetry in Motion, Comic Book Confidential, Twist, and Dream Tower. His 1999 documentary, Grass presents a humorous and surprisingly balanced history of recreational marijuana use in the late 20th century. Go Further, which follows actor and activist Woody Harrelson as he takes to the open road on his Simple Organic Living Tour followed. In addition to making films, Mann and veteran Toronto film and music promoter Gary Topp distribute films in Canada under the banner "Films We Like."

Brett Morgen is an Oscar nominated director and producer who's credits include Chicato 10 (2007), The Kids Stay In the Picture (2002), ON THE ROPES (1999), and Nimord Nation (2007). He has won numerous awards including a Peabody, DGA Award for outstanding direction in a documentary, IDA award for Best feature length documentary, Sundance Film Festival Jury Award, and an Academy Award nomination. His films have screened at festivals all over the world including Cannes and Sundance, where his most recent film, Chicago 10, premiered as the opening night film.

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