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Jun 1, 2018 at 10:00 am – Jun 3, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Forms of Experience: Approaching the Social Issue Documentary

Led by Su Kim with Nanfu Wang, Cecilia Aldarondo, Steve Maing, Sam Aleshinloye, and Deborah Stratman

Within the realm of issue-driven documentary, a common visual language is often used to communicate empathy, urgency and action around a cause. This workshop will explore what it’s like to work outside of that framework, where filmmakers tell deep human stories about complex societal issues while emphasizing and experimenting with artistic expression, aesthetics and an articulated perspective. Participants will develop conceptual and practical skills for producing and situating their documentary film practice within a context of critical engagement with the world.  

Led by producer Su Kim (Hale County, This Morning, This Evening) with guest instructors Deborah Stratman, Cecilia Aldarondo, Sam Aleshinloye, Nanfu Wang and Steve Maing, this 3-day course will cover a range of theoretical and practical approaches. Topics include ethics and representation, the personal as political, crafting a lost history using archival materials, and how your finished film relates to the world.

Participants will think through the context of their subject, learn how to find the right approach to tell their story, matching form and content, and consider how to develop goals for getting their work seen.


Background images from Sanson and Me, a forthcoming film directed by Rodrigo Reyes and produced by Su Kim. Poster image from Midnight Traveler, directed by Hassan Fazili and produced by Su Kim.


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, film producers, journalists, curators, brand representatives 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 registration by May 22

$350 regular registration

The fee will be non-refundable after May 22nd.

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.

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.

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


Friday, June 1: 10:00am - 5:00pm

11am – 1pm: Su Kim

2pm – 4pm: Nanfu Wang

Saturday, June 2: 10:00am - 5:00pm

11am – 1pm: Cecilia Aldarondo

2pm – 4pm: Deborah Stratman

Sunday, June 3: 10:00am - 5:00pm

11am – 1pm: Sam Aleshinloye

2pm – 4pm: Steve Maing

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


Warm up, inspiring references, case study, eye training.


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique




Share / Discussion / Exercise


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique




Workshop Exercise + Critique


Wrap Up



Su Kim is a documentary producer in New York City. Her work has received numerous grants including from ITVS, Sundance Documentary Fund, NYSCA, California Humanities Council and Tribeca Film Institute. She was a 2015 Women at Sundance Fellow. Currently, she is producing ONE BULLET AFGHANISTAN with director Carol Dysinger, SANSON and ME with director Rodrigo Reyes, and MIDNIGHT TRAVELER with director Hassan Fazili and producer Emelie Mahdavian. Her recent film HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING with director RaMell Ross and producer Joslyn Barnes premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and won U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision.

Steve_Maing Headshot - cropped

Stephen Maing is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, cinematographer and editor based in Brooklyn. His feature documentary, High Tech, Low Life chronicled the story of two of China’s first dissident citizen-journalists fighting state-monitored censorship and was broadcast nationally on PBS’ award-winning series P.O.V. His short film, The Surrender, produced with Academy Award winner Laura Poitras, documented State Department intelligence analyst Stephen Kim’s harsh prosecution under the Espionage Act. It received a 2016 World Press Photo Award for Best Long Form Documentary and was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary. His most recent feature Crime + Punishment, received a Special Jury Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was filmed over four years and follows a group of minority whistleblower cops known as the NYPD12, an innocent young man stuck in Rikers and one unforgettable private investigator as they expose harmful policing practices in New York City. Stephen is a fellow of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and recipient of the International Documentary Association’s inaugural Enterprise Investigative Journalism grant as well as a 2016 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Reporting Fellow.  He has directed films for the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Nation, The Intercept and Field of Vision.  He is co-directing a forthcoming cross-sectional film about American national identity, and teaches a summer course in documentary cinematography at Massachusetts College of Art & Design.


Nanfu Wang is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. Her feature debut Hooligan Sparrow was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award for best documentary feature. Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the film has screened at festivals in over 25 countries including Hot Docs, Sheffield, Full Frame, and Human Rights Watch Film Fest. It opened theatrically across North America and was later released on POV, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. It has won over twenty awards internationally including the Best Debut Film at the Cinema Eye Honors and the Truer than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. Wang was honored by the International Documentary Association with the 2016 Emerging Filmmaker Award.

Originally from a remote village in China, Wang overcame poverty and lack of access to formal secondary education and went on to earn graduate degrees in communications and documentary film from universities in China and the United States. Wang holds master’s degrees from Shanghai University, Ohio University, and New York University respectively.


Cecilia Aldarondo is an award-winning director-producer whose feature documentary MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART debuted at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on POV in 2017. She is a 2017 Women at Sundance Fellow and was one of Filmmaker Magazine’s ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ in 2015. Her work has been supported by grants from the Sundance Institute, the MacDowell Colony, Jerome Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts, and many others. She currently works Assistant Professor of Film at Skidmore College.


Deborah Stratman is an artist and filmmaker interested in landscapes and systems. Much of her work points to the relationships between physical environments and human struggles for power and control that play out on the land.  Most recently, they have questioned elemental historical narratives about faith, freedom, levitation, expansionism, surveillance and sinkholes.  Stratman works in multiple mediums, including sculpture, photography, installation, drawing and audio.  She has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA NY, Centre Georges Pompidou, Hammer Museum, the Whitney Biennial, Witte de With, Walker Art Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and has done site-specific projects with venues including the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Temporary Services, Hallwalls (Buffalo), Mercer Union (Toronto) and Ballroom Gallery (Marfa).  Stratman’s films have been featured at numerous international festivals including Sundance, Rotterdam, the Viennale, Full Frame, Ann Arbor, True/False, CPH:DOX and Oberhausen. She is the recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, an Alpert Award and grants from Creative Capital, Graham Foundation, Harpo Foundation and the Wexner Center.


Sam Aleshinloye is a New York City-based documentary filmmaker, short-form video content producer, and freelance photographer.

He has produced, directed and shot projects for FIJI Water,  Black Enterprise, The Lip Bar, Magnolia Ice cream, TheUrbanDaily.com, HelloBeautiful.com, NewsOne.com, Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, the LuckyRice Festival, Falling Whistles, and Miss Black New York USA.

In his documentary film work, he has worked on PBS original television series America In Prime Time,  PBS multi-Emmy award winning documentary series POV, the PBS World Channels Your Voice, Your Story, yet to be released film Rokia: The Voice of a New GenerationProject Talent,  the 2015 Sundance Film Festival premiere selection documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, the WORLD Channel Against All Odds: A Fight for A Black Middle Class, and the SHOWTIME Networks documentary Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!



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Jun 1, 2018 at 10:00 am
Jun 3, 2018 at 5:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

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