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Doc U: “The Business of Documentary Filmmaking”

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by

Doc U: The Business Side of Documentary Filmmaking

Doors Open: 7:00pm
Discussion & Audience Q&A: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Wine Reception to Follow

The Cinefamily
611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Lisa Leeman

Chris Perez Jeffrey Schwartz Lee Storey

Documentary filmmakers come in all stripes and from all walks of life, and often the only shared quality is a passion for their subjects and a desire to get the story told. Underlying these disparate characteristics however, are fundamental aspects of how all documentary business models must operate. What are the various options available to filmmakers, to be set up in the business of making documentaries? What business model works best for you and your filmmaking? How can you decide? And what are the implications come tax time?

On WEDNESDAY MARCH 21, join moderator Lisa Leeman (One Lucky ElephantCrazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trunga) as we look at case studies from filmmakers working in the field and hear from industry experts on the best practices of accounting and business management, with a focus on the impact and things to know when filing your taxes.


Lisa Leeman (Moderator)
Lisa Leeman writes, directs, & produces documentary films. Lisa directed the award-winning One Lucky Elephant, which played theatrically in 2011, as part of OWN’s documentary-of-the-month club, and was chosen as part of the US State Department’s Documentary Showcase. She is currently co-directing, with Paola di Florio, a feature doc on the life and teachings of the renowned modern mystic Paramahansa Yogananda. Lisa’s work includes producing the feature doc Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trunga, (with director: Johanna Demetrakas), which opened theatrically in NYC & LA in winter 2011; directing Out of Faith; and co-directing Who Needs Sleep with Haskell Wexler. Lisa’s first feature, Metamorphosis: Man Into Woman, won the Filmmakers Trophy upon its premiere at Sundance (1990) and garnered POV’s highest ratings that year.

Leeman has served as a judge at the Sundance Film Festival and as the president of the International Documentary Association. She spent a decade editing social-issue docs, and has published articles about the international documentary scene, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking. She is on the faculty of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has taught documentary filmmaking in Beijing, China; Amman, Jordan; and of course, Los Angeles.

Chris Perez, Associate, Donaldson + Callif
Chris represents independent filmmakers, the majority of them documentarians, through all aspects of the filmmaking process, including financing, production and distribution. Together with Michael Donaldson, and on behalf of the IDA and other documentary organizations, Chris appealed to the U.S. Copyright Office in 2009 to allow documentary filmmakers secure an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for extracting material from commercial DVDs for use in their documentary films under the doctrine of fair use. Chris is again part of a team including the IDA that is attempting to renew and expand that exemption this year. Chris has also assisted with other advocacy projects involving the IDA, including amicus briefs involving Lee Storey’s Smile Until It Hurts, Joe Berlinger’s Crude and the issue of net neutrality.

Jeffrey Schwarz
Jeffrey Schwarz is President & CEO of Automat Pictures, a leading producer of studio EPKs (electronic press kit), Blu-ray and DVD content, original TV programming, and feature films. He has contributed to the success of dozens of major studio releases for directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Sam Mendes, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Joe Dante, Barry Sonnenfeld, Paul Verhoeven, John Carpenter, Chris Columbus, Sidney Lumet, and the Coen Brothers. Television productions include Starz’s Sex and the CinemaIn the GutterHitchcocked! and Shooting the Police: Cops on Film, and IFC’s Reservoir Dogs Revisited and Still Swingin’. Automat Pictures provided exclusive backstage content for the 2010 Academy Awards produced by Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic. In 2008, Jeffrey premiered the GayVN award winning feature documentary Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, a portrait of adult film star Jack Wrangler. It is distributed by TLA Releasing and had its television debut on the LOGO network. Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, about the legendary Hollywood showman, won the 2007 AFI Fest Documentary Audience Award among many other festival honors. It was released in 2009 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. His latest feature documentary is HBO Documentary Films’ Vito, about the beloved activist and author of The Celluloid Closet, which premieres summer, 2012. Schwarz’s current project, I Am Divine, is now in post-production.

Lee Storey
Lee Storey is the director/producer of Smile ‘Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story, her début feature documentary that screened at IDA’s DocuWeeks in 2010. After learning that her husband was secretly a former member of Up With People, she began her journey into filmmaking. Lee received national attention in 2011 when the IRS took her to trial in the US Tax Court in Phoenix, Arizona, claiming that the making of Smile ‘Til IT Hurts was a hobby and not a business because, the primary purpose of making a documentary is to “educate and expose” and not to make a profit. Lee received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Indian Studies from UCLA, and her law degree from U.C. Berkeley. While still practicing law, Lee is working on her second documentary film about music producer Peter Asher with co-producer CC Goldwater (Mr. Conservative).

Michael Garelick, ATA, ATP CEO / President, Garelick Business Management Inc.

The evening’s on-stage conversation will be followed by an audience Q&A, and a reception on the Cinefamily’s backyard Spanish patio!

For more information on IDA’s Doc U: documentary.org/doc-u

IDA member: $15  •  IDA student member: $5  •  Non-member: $20

Seating is limited so buy your tickets now to be guaranteed admission.

Join IDA now! For discounted admission prices and more!

(Purchase admissions above.)


Doc U: The Business Side of Documentary Filmmaking


Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Doors Open: 7:00pm
Discussion & Audience Q&A: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Wine Reception to Follow


The Cinefamily
611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036



Meters on Fairfax: 2hr parking until 8pm, free thereafter. Parking in the lot across Fairfax is $3.00. Non-permitted parking available in neighborhoods behind The Cinefamily.

Doc U is the International Documentary Association’s series of educational seminars and workshops for aspiring and experienced documentary filmmakers. Taught by artists and industry experts, participants receive vital training and insight on various topics including: fundraising, distribution, licensing, marketing, and business tactics.

Special support provided by:

Los Angeles County Arts Commission HFPA AXIS PRO
Thought Equity MotionIMAXIndie Printing


Members and Supporters of IDA

For more information on this event and to purchase tickets visit the EventBrite page.

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