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Apr 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Documentary Planning

With Tom Davis, Karen Shatzkin, and Sierra Pettengill.

What are the essential business and legal issues to consider as you plan your documentary film? What can you do now to avoid problems later? Do you need an LLC? What is E&O insurance? This session covers issues of legal rights and clearances, business basics for filmmakers, budgeting, structuring agreements for talent and crew, and more.

Featured Presenters:


headshotTom Davis is a partner at SeeThink Films. He produced their debut film, DARKON (IFC TV) which is currently optioned for a narrative remake by Plan B / Paramount. He produced New World Order (IFC TV) and was the lead producer of SeeThink’s narrative debut KING KELLY. He is currently in production on a untitled feature documentary with director Luke Meyer. Projects in development include the hybrid documentary HOLY WATER, to be directed by Josh Nussbaum of MssngPeces, and FOURTH WALL, a documentary about a psychotherapy cult, with Meyer.


karenA member of the New York law firm of Shatzkin & Mayer, P.C., Karen Shatzkin has worked on legal issues affecting documentary films for more than 25 years, primarily on behalf of independent filmmakers and independent production companies. She has vetted films pre-release; negotiated contracts with creative personnel, distributors, studios, and networks; and responded to claims against filmmakers. Her clients run the gamut from well-established, award-winning documentarians to first-time filmmakers. A graduate of Columbia Law School, Ms. Shatzkin has an active litigation practice in addition to her transactional work for filmmakers and other creative clients.  She has conducted numerous seminars to documentary filmmakers about fair use and other legal issues affecting documentary production.  More details about Ms. Shatzkin’s background are available at www.shatzkinmayer.com and a number of film projects she has advised are on her IMDb entry.

sierraSIERRA PETTENGILL is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. Town Hall, her directorial debut, will broadcast on PBS’ America ReFramed on April 1, 2014. She is the producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Cutie and the Boxer, and the archival producer of Matt Wolf’s Teenage (Tribeca ‘13) and Ross Kauffman & Katy Chevigny’s E-Team (Sundance ’14). For PBS, she was the associate producer of the Emmy-nominated Walt Whitman, as well as the Peabody Award-winning Triangle Fire. She was also the associate producer of HBO’s Wartorn: 1861 – 2010, produced by James Gandolfini, and Nick Bentgen’s Northern Light.


A reflection on love, sacrifice, and the creative spirit, this candid New York documentary explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of renowned “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and his artist wife Noriko. As a rowdy, confrontational young artist in Tokyo, Ushio seemed destined for fame, but he is met with little commercial success after he moves to New York City in 1969, seeking international recognition. When 19-year-old Noriko moved to New York to study art, she fell in love with Ushio—abandoning her education to become the unruly artist’s wife and assistant. Over the course of their marriage, their roles shifted. Now 80, Ushio still struggles to establish his artistic legacy, while Noriko is at last being recognized for her own art—a series of drawings entitled “Cutie,” depicting her challenging past with Ushio. Spanning four decades, the film is a moving portrait of a couple wrestling with the eternal themes of sacrifice, disappointment and aging, against a background of lives dedicated to art.


A nuts-and-bolts professional development series designed for the beginning or intermediate documentary filmmaker, Documentary Fundamentals @ UnionDocs is six-week course culminating in a certificate of completion. Registrants can also attend individual sessions. This curriculum developed out of our experience hearing what fundamentals documentarians need to understand to plan, produce, and release an independent documentary today.

Hosted by the Cutie and the Boxer (2013) team, Documentary Fundamentals is essential learning for the documentary filmmaker, covering business basics, fundraising and financing, production and post-production strategies, transmedia campaigns, sales and distribution models.  Each session features guest speakers sharing tips and secrets of the trade, with an emphasis on real-life case studies and best practices.  Full guest speaker list to be announced.

Documentary Fundamentals is designed for beginning or intermediate filmmakers with projects in any stage of development or production (even the daydreaming stage!).  Sessions combine formal presentations with extensive time for in-depth discussions with participants.

Registrants completing all six sessions will receive a Certificate of Completion, and will have special opportunities to promote their projects within the UnionDocs network.  Specific guests and topics are subject to change. Doors will closed at 7:15 and we will being each session promptly at 7:30pm.


4/27 | Planning Your Documentary – featuring producer Tom Davis (SeeThink) and attorney Karen Shatzkin, hosted by Producer Sierra Pettengill.

5/4 | Financing Your Documentary – featuring José Rodriguez (Tribeca Film Institute), John T. Trigonis (Indiegogo) and CPA Fred Siegel, hosted by Producer Sierra Pettengill.

5/16 | Directing and Shooting Your Documentary – featuring Oscar-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman, award-winning filmmaker Malika Zouhali-Worrall, hosted by Director Zachary Heinzerling.

NOTE: This session will be hosted by AbelCine in Manhattan (609 Greenwhich Street)

5/18 | Editing Your Documentary – featuring editor David Teague (The Brooklyn Vitagraph Company), Will Cox (Final Frame), hosted by Director Zachary Heinzerling.

6/1 | Graphics, Music, and Your Transmedia Campaign – featuring graphic designer Teddy Blanks (CHIPS) and musician T. Griffin,  hosted by Director Zachary Heinzerling

NOTE: At 5pm before this session Macktez will present a special free planning bootcamp workshop as a supplement to the series, featuring Noah Landow and Reed Payne.

6/8 | Releasing Your Documentary – featuring programmer Dan Nuxoll (Rooftop Films), hosted by Producer Sierra Pettengill.



Apr 27, 2014
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

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