When President Trump rails against respected news organizations as purveyors of “fake news,” what’s really going on? Is he playing to popular mistrust of the media? Serving the interest of top donors and political backers? Pre-emptively discrediting any outside scrutiny of his administration? While the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not the first to criticize the press, the attacks from the White House are qualitatively different from attacks by other leaders under fire. They take aim at verifiable truth as a universal value, and at the legitimacy of an independent press that seeks information in the public interest. Setting the stage for Double Exposure 2017 are Charles Lewis, author of The Buying of the President series and, more recently, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Far Right and staff writer at The New Yorker, and Matt Thompson, executive editor of The Atlantic.
In the United States, the White House has labeled the press an “enemy of the people,” and incited physical violence against reporters. It has turned the full force of the Justice Department against whistleblowers, and pledged to “open up the libel laws” to fight unflattering coverage. While the Obama Administration may have laid the groundwork by increasing prosecutions of whistleblowers and journalists, as some contend, the Trump Administration has upped the ante: There is talk of new government powers to place reporters under indefinite surveillance and of harnessing the Espionage Act—which carries a potential life sentence—to pursue reporters who publish classified information. In Syria, the threat is physical, fatal in fast-changing ways, and leaves no room for error. In Mexico, investigative storytellers fall victim to drug cartels and government forces alike—with the only protection coming from other reporters and the public. Filmmakers, whose projects typically take years between inception and completion, can be especially vulnerable to sudden shifts in threats, to themselves and to their subjects. How can journalists and filmmakers work safely amid a sudden and dramatic heightening of the risk of telling a story? How can they better protect their subjects and whistleblowers, who are often on […]
Over the last decade, a bold spirit of innovation has emerged among visual artists who are committed to leveraging new technologies to create more collaborative, interactive, and immersive storytelling. Pioneering works in transmedia, virtual reality, gaming and other kinds of storytelling represent a convergence of forms that push the boundaries of story and authorship. How does the further mixing of professional cultures—that of filmmaker and journalist—affect storytelling? How are news organizations and documentary filmmakers redefining journalism’s possibilities using emerging tools and new technologies? What are the potentials offered by emerging technologies to tell new stories and reach new audiences? And what is their intended impact? This panel will hear from leading programmers and practitioners on the cutting edge of these new innovations, to offer a glimpse into the horizon of visual storytelling.
The process of making films has a particular metabolism. Many projects, from inception to completion, take months, years, sometimes a decade to bring to fruition. Yet, in the current political climate, with major scandals breaking on a near daily basis, filmmakers wishing to tackle urgent issues must work more quickly, in a range of formats and for a variety of platforms. In newspaper journalism, of course, there is an infrastructure already in place for the release of fast breaking news, but for investigative journalists, like filmmakers, stories often take months, and occasionally longer than that. How can filmmakers and investigative journalists do the kind of digging required to unpeel stories at warp speed on a daily basis? This panel explores the new challenges and opportunities presented by an increasingly tumultuous political climate, and looks at the ecosystem being put into place to support the rapid deployment of stories, from new practices, to new funders to the expansion of platforms designed to present this work and give it context, meaning and impact.
A series of New York Times interviews introduced the protagonist of Icarus—the whistleblower at the center of the film who exposed widespread doping of Russian athletes—even before the film’s celebrated debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. While documentarians typically find inspiration in newspaper accounts, Icarus turned that convention on its head. Filmmaker Bryan Fogel and producer Dan Cogan sought in advance journalistic coverage to protect their film subject, Grigory Rodchenkov. They turned to New York Times reporter Rebecca Ruiz, who had been in touch with Rodchenkov before he came to the United States, and offered exclusive access to a prized source under their protection. Their goal—one not shared by Ruiz, as a journalist: to shield their subject from potential prosecution, or even assassination, as Rodchenkov was not only exposing the scandal: his own lab had supplied the ‘cocktails’ that enabled Russians to dope their athletes at the Sochi Olympics, and beyond. Fogel, an amateur cyclist, had been so fascinated by the question of pharmaceutical enhancement in sports, that at first he planned a doping regimen for himself to see if it could go undetected. He would film the results of this experiment in a satirical style akin […]
Journalism and filmmaking spring from two different cultures, each with their own approaches and assumptions, ethics and forms. Skills and resources that may be inherent in one profession are often not available, or even visible to the other. Increasingly, however, we are seeing cross-sector pollination, in which the work of journalists and filmmakers are integrating and overlapping. Filmmakers are embedding in newsrooms to work alongside reporters, helping those newsrooms develop visual forms of storytelling and engage with new audiences in ways print reporting alone could not. At the same time, filmmakers are selectively incorporating tenets of investigative reporting into their work, and adapting the supportive infrastructure of a newsroom, such as legal counsel, fact checking, and security measures, into their production process. The most successful practitioners, editors, and curators, on hand for this session, are aiming to achieve storytelling more transcendent than the sum of its parts.
While the Pulitzer Prize has never gone to an undercover reporter, the practice of shedding the status of an outsider to live the story is as old as Sir Richard Burton, who wandered Arabia, and Nellie Bly, who feigned insanity to expose brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in the late 1800s. In documentary filmmaking, immersive storytelling found its most vivid and persuasive form only in the 1960s, with the parallel direct cinema and cinema verité movements, a mode which has since remained a touchstone of the genre. In our current information-saturated environment, immersive storytelling has the ability to cut through spin and noise to reach more complex and deeper truths. While undercover reporting and clandestine infiltration, along with overt forms of immersion and embedding, may trade authority and distance for authenticity, they bring vulnerability as well—in the gathering of the story as well as its telling. Blending into the background can raise a raft of unanticipated ethical and legal issues, in the physical and virtual world. This panel will explore the process by which investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers approach this critical form of immersive storytelling.
Filmmakers and journalists have long recognized the important role that storytelling and “voice” have in expanding perspectives and fostering a collective conversation, a practice that is all the more urgent in the age of siloed newsfeeds and assaults on “media elites.” This panel examines a fast-developing trend that builds narrative agency from the ground up, in an effort to reach the unlikely viewer: the emergence of first-person and community initiated storytelling. Affordable and readily available technology, for one, is bringing those living an experience into the investigative process, and opening new channels for them to tell their own stories. We’ll hear about unique collaborations between reporters, filmmakers and residents, as well as strategic supporters developing skills and outlets for citizen journalists. We’ll also explore what happens when a filmmaker shares a distinct vulnerability with her subject, and uses personal experience as the starting point of a cinematic investigation.
Hardly any journal or film exists without the people you’ll hear from here. A select group of fiscal supporters of prominent journals and films will give a behind-the-scenes view of the inner-workings of the funding process. They will discuss how they make strategic funding decisions and determine desired outcomes; what they deem a successful project; and how prospective grantees can more successfully position their projects for funding. This is not to be missed.
The traditional ways to view a film are becoming increasingly obsolete. On-line platforms, many emanating from established news publishers, have become the go-to site for the exhibition and consumption of cutting-edge works of investigative film and visual journalism. Hear from leaders in the online digital exhibition space, on the kinds of work they’ve produced in the past, what they’re looking for going forward, and the best way to approach them with new stories and ideas.
Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, The Keepers investigates the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick, a beloved nun at Archbishop Keogh High School, who tried to stop the serial sexual abuse of students by the school’s chaplain. Nominated for an Emmy Award, and told in serial form over seven episodes, Ryan White’s remarkable film follows an investigative reporter and two alums of the school, now retired, who take it upon themselves to unravel the mystery of their former teacher’s brutal killing, a murder that has reverberated through the decades. The Keepers raises important questions about police involvement in a network of abuse in a town where the archdiocese ruled unchallenged, the church leadership’s indifference to the suffering of victims, the failure of prosecutors to protect the public, and the subsequent cover-up that allowed a killer to literally get away with murder. From a cinematic perspective, The Keepers also raises questions about the distinctive experience of episodic storytelling—which is fast emerging as standard in the visual and aural investigative mode; a film’s ability to intervene in and directly impact the world beyond celluloid; and the responsibility of a filmmaker to his subject, who entrusts her most vulnerable secret to […]
The Pro Bono Legal Clinic offers investigative storytellers lacking legal representation the opportunity to connect with experts who can knowledgeably discuss legal challenges they are confronting. Leading attorneys in the areas First Amendment law, privacy and libel, Freedom of Information, whistleblower protection, copyright and intellectual property will be on hand. Attorneys will brief participants on case law and trends relevant to the problems that journalists and filmmakers have articulated upon registering for the clinic, and field questions from them. Attorneys have also agreed to consider representing select participants in need of counsel on an ongoing basis pro bono. The clinic is open only to attendees of the Double Exposure Symposium who have pre-registered. Seating is limited and on a first-come first-served basis.
From Ferguson and Charlottesville to Nairobi and Bogata, covering volatile situations presents immense challenges for independent documentary filmmakers. You must make quick decisions on any number of situations: where to place a camera on the frontline of unpredictable protests, whether driving down a dangerous road is the right thing to do for you and your crew, or whether to trust a fresh source for your story. This Safe+Secure workshop will inform filmmakers how to assess and mitigate the plethora of risks one faces whilst making a film, be it legal, surveillance or violent confrontations. The training is relevant to a variety of situations such as war, natural disasters, protests, organized crime, repressive states, or digital security challenges affecting investigations done even from your bedroom! While most hostile environment-training deals with ducking crossfire and kidnappers, this session will teach you how to avoid unnecessary peril with careful preparations before, during and after assignments. Participants will emerge with a better understanding of how to shun hostile parties and film more safely.
In an era where fake news and filter bubbles seem to create alternative realities and threaten the basis of democracy, it’s more important than ever that investigative journalism is factually correct, so viewers can trust the reporting. In this workshop, we will show what can happen if journalists and news organizations neglect to fact-check before publishing or for the sake of dramatic storytelling omit important facts. This is a hands-on workshop; we will train participants to strategically and efficiently fact-check their own biases and their own reporting, even if the filmmaker has no institutional support. We will show how to independently verify facts, background people and how to use new tools that can help journalists verify when and where an image was shot. Filmmakers will not only develop a road map to fact-check their own work, they will also learn about investigative skills and tools that will benefit any reporting, and even facilitate distribution. Lindsay Crouse from the The New York Times’ Op-Docs team will share how her news organization verifies visual content and two independent investigative filmmakers, Pulitzer Center grantees Eleanor Bell formerly with the Center for Public Integrity and Hilke Schellmann, Emmy-Award winning investigative journalist and […]
Mark Felt. Daniel Ellsberg. Karen Silkwood. Frank Serpico. Throughout history, whistleblowers have risked their lives to expose illegal or unethical activity, and have played a critical role in government accountability. Filmmakers and journalists working in the investigative mode often rely on the testimony of a crucial witness, vulnerable subject, or whistleblower, but what is their responsibility to keeping them safe, both legally and psychologically? As documentary filmmakers and journalists find themselves venturing into increasingly dangerous terrain, what are best practices for shooting and sharing sensitive or volatile information? This intensive workshop, led by the filmmaker, Sonia Kennebeck, the producer Ines Hofmann Kanna, and the subject, Lisa Ling, of National Bird — a film about the US reliance on aerial combat drones and the impact on three former operators and current whistleblowers involved in the tracking of targets — is designed to introduce practical resources and specific strategies to investigative filmmakers about how to protect sources and subjects and keep them safe during and after filming.