Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Jan 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm – Jan 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Speaking Truth to Power: A Workshop on Investigative Documentary

With lead instructor Hilke Schellmann

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

Please sign up for the waitlist below to receive updates regarding any openings or similar future opportunities.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

There has never been a more challenging, a more interesting and a more important time to be an investigative journalist than today. We now live in a time where the very basics of journalism – the search for facts and accuracy – are questioned. In these turbulent times, there has never been a greater need for investigative journalism and for the press as a watchdog holding government and the powerful accountable.

This weekend intensive explores the power of investigative documentaries in all visual genres: feature docs and shorts, illustrations and new forms of storytelling like motion graphics and VR/360. Participants, a small group of 15 people (max), will learn from these top leaders of the film and media industries and receive direct feedback to their questions and personal projects.

Led by Emmy-award winning investigative journalist Hilke Schellmann (VICE, Frontline, NYU Journalism) this seminar brings together several guest speakers, thinkers and practitioners from different backgrounds—investigative journalists, filmmakers, doc funders and commissioning editors.

During the weekend intensive you will learn how to do investigative reporting: how to spot and report impactful stories that are hiding in plain sight. How to use social media to find and report investigative stories and how to background and triangulate people using simple online tools.

Participants will dissect investigative documentaries with the filmmakers and learn step-by-step how they report the stories, conduct accountability interviews and make visually compelling documentary. The course will also cover how to corroborate and fact-check stories, get funding for your investigative docs and show how new forms of visual storytelling like VR/360 and illustrations have given investigative journalism new life. Over the course of the weekend, participants will have ample time to workshop pitches and present visual material to our guests.


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, film producers, journalists, curators and media artists.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. When you register you will be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your experience and a film project (it would be great if you have a project in progress that you would present to the group during the work-in-progress critique sessions), plus a bio. There’s a spot for a link to a work sample (and CV, which would also be nice, but is not required).

$295 early bird registration

$350 regular

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until the early deadline. After the early deadline, the fee is non-refundable.

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a BYOL, i.e. bring your own laptop. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash. After the early bird registration deadline, course fees are not refundable or transferable and any withdrawals or deadlines will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Friday, Jan 26

PM: Introductions/Hilke Schellmann

Saturday, Jan 27

AM: Derek Kravitz
PM: Nanfu Wang

Sunday, Jan 28

AM: Judith Helfand
PM: Lindsay Crouse

Each day follows this general structure, with some minor variations and substitutions:


Warm up with introductory questions + viewing exercises


Presentation by guest speaker + discussion


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker + discussion


Discussion + sharing of work


Wrap up with closing questions


Hilke Schellmann is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and assistant professor of journalism at NYU’s Carter Institute. She most recently worked as a producer for VICE’s Emmy-award winning HBO series. Hilke also produced, shot and directed the documentary Outlawed in Pakistan. The film was dubbed “among the standouts” at the Sundance Film Festival by The L.A. Times and called “extraordinary” by Variety. Outlawed in Pakistan aired on PBS FRONTLINE and won an Emmy Award among many others.

Hilke’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, ARD, ZDF, TIME and The Atlantic as well as on WYNC. From 2009 to 2012, she spearheaded video coverage as a Multimedia Reporter for the New York section at The Wall Street Journal.

Hilke is a Fulbright scholar and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She also received a master’s degree in Cultural Studies and Political Science from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. She is one of the co-founders of the the non-profit Center for Documentary Art UnionDocs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Nanfu Wang is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody-winning filmmaker based in New York City. Wang’s feature debut Hooligan Sparrow was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award for best documentary feature. Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2016, Hooligan Sparrow has won over twenty awards internationally including two Emmy Nominations, a Peabody Award, a Cinema Eye Honor for the Best Debut Film, the George Polk Award for the journalistic achievement, an IDA award, and the Truer than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. Hooligan Sparrow opened theatrically across North America and was later released on POV, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.

Her latest feature documentary I Am Another You premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017 and won two awards including the Luna Chicken & Egg Award for Best Feature directed by a woman and the Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling. I Am Another You opened theatrically in September 2017 and was scheduled to be broadcasted on Independent Lens in January 2018.

Originally from a remote village in China, Wang overcame poverty and lack of access to formal secondary education and went on to earn three master’s degrees from Shanghai University, Ohio University, and New York University in English Literature, Media Studies, and Documentary respectively.

Lindsay Crouse is the Coordinating Producer for the New York Times Op-Docs series. Since joining Op-Docs in 2011, she has worked on more than 260 short films, VR, and interactive documentaries that won two Emmy Awards, two Peabodys, and two Oscar nominations for best short documentary.

Judith Helfand is best known for her ability to take the dark worlds of chemical exposure, heedless corporate behavior and environmental injustice and make them personal, highly-charged and entertaining. Three of her films premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with national broadcasts on PBS (POV), HBO and The Sundance Channel. In addition to THE UPRISING OF ’34 (co-directed with George Stoney), her films include the Sundance award-winning and 2X Emmy nominated film BLUE VINYL (co-directed with Daniel B. Gold and co-produced with Julie Parker Benello) and its Peabody Award-winning nominated prequel A HEALTHY BABY GIRL, as well as EVERYTHING’S COOL, also co-directed with Gold.

A committed field-builder and educator, Helfand co-founded Working Films, one of the nation’s first non-profits dedicated to engagement in 2009, and Chicken & Egg Pictures, a non-profit film fund dedicated to supporting women documentary directors with strategic grants and creative mentorship in 2005. In her Chicken & Egg Pictures role, where she served as Creative Director for a decade, Helfand was Producer on the Oscar-nominated, Dupont winning short, THE BARBER OF BIRMINGHAM, and Executive Producer for the award-winning films BROOKLYN CASTLE, SEMPER FI: ALWAYS FAITHFUL, PRIVATE VIOLENCE and HOT GIRLS WANTED. In 2007 a Rockefeller Media Fellowship and a United States Artist Fellowship, one of 50 awarded annually to “America’s finest living artists.” Along with LOVE & STUFF, Helfand is deep in post-production on COOKED, a film about the politics of disaster, extreme weather and survival by zip code, set for completion and launch in 2017, and slated for broadcast on Independent Lens. She lives on the UWS with her toddler daughter Theodora.

Derek Kravitz is the research editor at ProPublica. Previously, he was a reporter and editor for the Greater New York section of The Wall Street Journal; a national economics writer for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C.; a local government and transportation staff writer at The Washington Post; and a crime reporter at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.

Kravitz was also a postgraduate research scholar at Columbia University, and was a co-author of the journalism school’s independent review of Rolling Stone magazine’s now-retracted campus-rape story. He graduated with a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and master’s degrees in international relations and journalism from Columbia University. He teaches investigative reporting at Columbia’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

+ Register


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Tickets are no longer available


Jan 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm
Jan 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

Support UnionDocs’ next phase and new building by becoming a member

Peek in the window of our bustling building in NYC and tune into the ideas and energy bubbling up from the UNDO Center.

Tune into cutting-edge, powerful and poetic documentary programs and connect to conversations with the artists and thinkers passing through.

Now available at the Apple Store.



Unlimited access to all of our monthly offerings for the price of two espressos.



Keep it simple and save. Unlimited access to our sweet offerings for a reduced, annual fee and receive some added benefits.



In the neighborhood, a working artist, student or senior? This membership is for you. Fill out a quick form for a discount code to an annual membership.



Get all of the benefits of the Annual UNDO Membership plus an annual subscription to UnionDocs Editions, a set of publications, merchandise or special objects.

UnionDocs is grateful for support from:

UnionDocs is hiring. 

Join the UnionDocs team.

Pod Pod 2023 Group 02

Pod Pod is now accepting applications.
Apply today!

Calling all AUDIO MAKERS looking for a bit of motivation, peer support, collective production and a dose of inspiration for your personal project —  join us for 3 months this Fall!