The 2023 FilmNorth Forum also includes two original conversations made available via Zoom to all Forum attendees. Providing Zoom access to the Forum allows for wider participation – statewide and nationally, with a special emphasis on connecting with filmmakers who are working outside of traditional film centers and urban areas.
From Funding to Distribution: Indie Film Disruption
Filmmakers Liz Manashil and Naomi McDougall Jones have spent their careers working to forge new, better, more sustainable models for independent film. From Liz’ work at the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship and as an independent sales and distribution consultant to Naomi’s work launching The 51 Fund—private equity to finance films by women—and her paradigm-shifting Joyful Vampire Tour of America self-distribution of her second film to their collaboration on Constellation Incubator, which brought 60 filmmakers together to redesign the independent film ecosystem, these two trailblazers have amassed nearly 30 years combined experience in disrupting the status quo and now gather for a conversation about the most promising pathways ahead.
Liz Manashil is an independent feature filmmaker who works in artist support. She managed Sundance’s Creative Distribution Initiative during its entire tenure and now consults with her fellow filmmakers (independently and through The Film Collaborative) on how best to navigate the labyrinthine-like world of distribution. She is incredibly proud to have contributed to both the Distributor Fact Sheet and the Distributor Report Card and is in the process of making and documenting the making of her third feature, a horror comedy called Best Friends Forever and has just produced her second child. She regularly does panels, public speaking, and educational workshops at fancy places like Sundance, Rotterdam, Film Independent, and Doc NYC. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner, son, daughter, and dog, Laura Palmer.
Naomi McDougall Jones is a storyteller and changemaker. She has written, acted in, and produced two award-winning feature films. The first, Imagine I’m Beautiful (2014), collected 12 awards on the film festival circuit before receiving a theatrical and digital distribution deal and is now available on AmazonPrime. Her second feature, Bite Me (2019), was released via a paradigm-shifting three-month, 51-screening, 40-city Joyful Vampire Tour of America that took the country by storm, and is now available on iTunes, GooglePlay, and Amazon. She is currently at work on her next two feature films: Hammond Castle, an adult fairytale for which she received the honor of being the first artist in residence at the final home of Ernest Hemingway in Sun Valley, Idaho, and The Control Room, a psycho-sexual thriller co-written with Christian Coulson.
Naomi is an advocate and thought leader for bringing gender parity to cinema. Her writing on this has appeared in The Atlantic, Ms. Magazine, and Salon.com, and she gave a virally sensational TEDTalk, What it’s Like to Be a Woman in Hollywood, which has now been viewed over one million times and can be seen on TED.com. Naomi’s first book, The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood, debuted as a #1 Amazon bestseller and received an electric critical response, with The Christian Science Monitor calling it, “…an outpouring of passion that will change the ways in which movies are seen,” and is now available wherever books are sold.
Naomi has been a guest speaker at NYU, Columbia, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities and her book is on the curriculum at colleges and universities around the globe. Naomi is currently at work on her second book, Wytx: Vivisection of a White Woman by the Ghost of Ernest Hemingway and a Whole Host of Ancestors. She is a Founder of The 51 Fund, a private equity fund dedicated to financing films by women. Their films Cusp and Shayda both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award respectively. More at www.naomimcdougalljones.com.
Ethics and Values in Documentary Production
When directors Yoruba Richen and Brad Lichtenstein embarked on their latest documentary about the events surrounding a coup d’état in Wilmington, NC in 1898, they knew that trust building with documentary subjects and the community required a sensitive approach. Partnering with Wilmington-based Working Films, they started with (and budgeted for) a “participant convening” to create a safe space for everyone connected to the traumatic event to come together, connect, and begin a dialogue around the project. Learn about this inspiring approach to documentary filmmaking in this inspiring conversation moderated by Andrew Peterson, Executive Director FilmNorth.
Yoruba Richen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on multiple outlets, including Netflix, MSNBC, FX/Hulu, HBO, and PBS. Her most recent film The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and won a Peabody Award and is currently streaming on Peacock. Other recent work includes the Emmy-nominated films American Reckoning (Frontline), How It Feels to Be Free (American Masters), The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show (Peacock), and Green Book: Guide to Freedom (Smithsonian Channel).
Yoruba directed an episode of the award-winning series Black and Missing for HBO and High on the Hog for Netflix. Her film The Killing of Breonna Taylor won an NAACP Image Award and is streaming on HULU. Her previous films The New Black and Promised Land won multiple festival awards before airing on PBS’ Independent Lens and P.O.V.
Yoruba is a past Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow and won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access. She was a Sundance Producers Fellow and Women’s Fellow and is a recipient of the Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker’s Award. Yoruba is the Founding Director of the Documentary Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker who has been making documentaries since 1998 and founded 371 Productions in 2003. His recent film, When Claude Got Shot (produced with Stick Figure) premiered at the 2021 SXSW film festival, was featured in May of 2022 on PBS’ series Independent Lens, and won the 2022 Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. His latest work is American Reckoning (with producer/director Yoruba Richen) for Frontline, a film about a Black resistance movement in Natchez, MS, and the murder of civil rights leader Wharlest Jackson, Sr. It has been nominated for the 2023 Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary.
Brad was nominated for two additional Emmys: one Sports Emmy for the VR film Ashe ’68, which premiered at Sundance in 2019, and a News and Documentary Emmy for the 2012 Independent Lens/PBS film As Goes Janesville. He won two Duponts: one for the 2016 Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned (produced with Kartemquin Films) and another for his 2001 film Ghosts of Attica (produced with Lumiere Productions).
With Emily Kuester, Brad directed Messwood for Participant, which premiered in 2021 at DocNYC. The film follows a high school football team made up of kids who come from two different communities: one suburban and white and the other urban and Black. In 2020 he directed with Miela Fetaw Metcalfe Park: Black Vote Rising, a short for PBS/World Channel and The Intercept. His 2018 film There Are Jews Here won a Telly award and was broadcast on PBS/World. Brad was nominated for a Peabody for his radio series about gun violence, Precious Lives.
Brad has also produced for Frontline and Bill Moyers. He is credited for the recent films Attica, by Stanley Nelson, and Citizen Ashe, by Sam Pollard and Rex Miller. His company has long been committed to nurturing the careers of emerging women and BIPOC storytellers.
Molly Murphy (she/her) joined Working Films in 2001 and now serves as Director of Partnerships and Innovation. She is one of five executive directors. In her tenure, she has planned and directed impact campaigns, facilitated partnerships, and coordinated coalitions centered around the use of documentaries to catalyze progress on the biggest issues of our time. Molly has designed and led dozens of trainings, for filmmakers and changemakers, focused on leveraging the power of film to make an impact. In her current role, she is responsible for Working Films’ external relations, forging connections in the documentary film industry and within social justice movements, and lifting up Working Films’ approach and learnings, while building with others in our field to increase collective impact. Molly co-leads Working Films’ fundraising efforts and is part of the team of directors responsible for organizational and programmatic strategy and sustainability.
Molly is part of the Documentary Accountability Working Group (DAWG). She also serves on the board of Justice for My Sister (JFMS), a nonprofit collective that trains women of color and non-binary youth, and fosters youth with a culturally-relevant and trauma-informed approach to tell stories through a gender equity and racial justice lens.
In her spare time, you can find her listening and dancing to music, gardening, and spending time with her friends and family on the coast of North Carolina.
Priscilla Haile is a Caretaker and Early Childhood Educator born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a member of Coming To The Table, a national organization dedicated to transformative racial justice, and a participant of an in-production documentary about the coup d’etat and massacre in Wilmington 1898.
In addition to being the Executive Director of FilmNorth, the leading filmmaker support organization in the Upper Midwest, Andrew Peterson serves as Director of Programming for the Provincetown International Film Festival, a position he’s held since 2006. From 2008-2012 Andrew served as Vice President of Production for Werc Werk Works, an independent film production and finance company, where he co-produced the feature films Howl (Sundance Opening Night 2010), Life During Wartime (Venice, Toronto, New York 2009), Thin Ice (Sundance 2011), and Darling Companion (Sony Pictures Classics, 2011). His other producing credits include World and Time Enough, Older Than America and the segment “This Car Up” for Boys Life 4: Four Play. Andrew holds an MFA from New York University Graduate Film School, where he was named Best Director and Best Screenwriter, and has taught filmmaking at Macalester and Middlebury Colleges. He regularly consults independent films and film festivals.