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Jun 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Documentary Fundamentals: Planning

With Lana Wilson, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon and Innes Smolansky

This session of Documentary Fundamentals covers all the basics of PLANNING YOUR DOCUMENTARY. 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 these issues including legal rights and clearances, business basics for filmmakers, budgeting, and structuring agreements for talent and crew. Plus more on how to stay organized and on top of all these moving parts during the early stages of planning your documentary!


Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is a documentary filmmaker from NYC. Her editing debut won an Emmy for WGBH’s Greater Boston Arts series and she has continued to distinguish herself on award-winning films, web and television programs.

She is the co-producer and editor of DOCUMENTED, the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant. The film had record viewership for its CNN broadcast, and was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary. Her latest film, BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, about the renowned poet and activist, won Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color at the African Diaspora International Film Festival. Other producing and editing credits include Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, about manhood and gender politics in Hip-Hop, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Best Documentaries of 2007,” Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter, a gripping film about a Malian mother’s fight for asylum to protect her daughter from ritual genital cutting, and America By The Numbers: The New Mad Men, which won the Imagen Award for Best National Informational Program.

Innes Smolansky is a transactional entertainment attorney with more than 20 years of experience in representing independent producers, production and distribution companies, writers, authors, directors, performers, visual artists and composers in independent motion picture production, documentaries, television deals, international co-productions, book publishing and personal management deals. Her practice includes counsel on legal and business transactions in the entertainment industry, including drafting, reviewing, negotiating deals and counseling clients on all aspects of film and television production from low to high budgets including development, financing, production, talent, employment, management, distribution deals and rights clearances.

Prior to opening her own firm at the end of 2003, Innes worked for 5 years as an entertainment attorney at Cowan DeBaets Abrahams and Sheppard and at Leavy Rosensweig & Hyman; and prior to that for 3 years in the corporate departments of Gordon Altman and at the New York Office of Dewey Ballantine. Innes is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She frequently lectures on film and television law at the New York City Bar, NY State Bar, Downtown Community Television, PGA East, NYU, The New School and at other entertainment industry related seminars and festivals. Innes was born in St. Petersburg Russia and studied at Brown University (B.A. magna cum laude); University of Pennsylvania (J.D.); University of Paris X (Diplome D’Etudes Juridiques Europeenes et Internationales).

Lana Wilson is an Emmy Award-winning and two-time Spirit Award-nominated director, writer, and producer based in New York. Her most recent film, The Departure, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim and went on to be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. The Departure was called “A work of art” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “Moving…like a haiku” by The New York Times, and “A genuinely spiritual experience” by The Washington PostThe Departure was theatrically released in 30 US cities last fall, starting with a held-over run at New York’s Metrograph, and nationally broadcast on PBS this year. Wilson’s first film, After Tiller (co-directed by Martha Shane)premiered at Sundance in 2013 and went on to win an Emmy Award for Best Documentary. It was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, four Cinema Eye Honors, and the Ridenhour Prize. After Tiller was theatrically released in 50 US cities by Oscilloscope and nationally broadcast on POV. Wilson has also worked as a writer and producer for television. She is a 2018 Women at Sundance Fellow, has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute, and holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University.

Buy A Series Pass

DOCUMENTARY FUNDAMENTALS! A nuts-and-bolts professional development series designed for the emerging or intermediate documentary filmmaker, Documentary Fundamentals at UnionDocs is six-part program taking place over the course of one weekend. Buy a SERIES PASS ($125) or choose to attend individual sessions ($25/each). This program has been an ongoing series at UnionDocs for many years. It developed from our experience with documentarians who needed a better foundation across the board to navigate production and distribution as an independent filmmaker in today’s landscape.

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Jun 22, 2018
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

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