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Nov 30, 2018 at 10:00 am – Dec 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm

A Letter to the World: Experiments in Essay Filmmaking

With Sky Hopinka, Sara Cwynar, Adam Khalil, Carl Bogner, and James N. Kienitz Wilkins

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

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

“It’s a communicative medium that can propose a shared set of concerns or ethical propositions.  No project can be defined expect by its interference with other projects. To make being “be” is to communicate with others by means of being.” – Simone de Beauvoir

Essay filmmaking is as nebulous a form as the name itself is vague and imprecise.  Through this loose and flowing approach, filmmakers and artists have told stories – personal and poetic – have made statements – political and cultural – and ignored and disregarded those boundaries.  By using and manipulating traditional non-fiction conventions and offering in return something new, challenging, and evocative, this genre is in constant conversation with the makers themselves and the worlds around them.

Join UnionDocs and filmmaker Sky Hopinka to explore the theory and practice of this shape-shifting genre. Open to filmmakers, students, artists, scholars and more, this three-day intensive enable artist to articulate their ideas and explore new methodologies in crafting their work.

Participants in this intensive workshop will have the chance to work with a wide range of scholars and practitioners: Sky Hopinka will lead the course with help from filmmakers and writers James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Sara Cwynar, Adam Khalil, and Carl Bogner. Through seminars and work-in-progress critiques, together participants will each, in their own way, push the boundaries of reality-based work, questioning truth and fact as they are conveyed and represented, and learn how to put this new knowledge into practice. Current projects are not required to attend, but encouraged!


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).

$300 early bird registration by November 14th, 2018 at 5PM; $285 for members.

$350 regular registration; $335 for members.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until November 14th. After November 14th, 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. Course fees are not refundable or transferable, and any withdrawals 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, Nov. 30: 10am-5pm

AM: Sky Hopinka
PM: Sara Cwynar

Saturday, Dec. 01: 10am-8pm

AM: James N. Kienitz Wilkins
PM: Adam Khalil

Sunday, Dec. 02: 10am-5pm

AM: Carl Bogner
PM: Work-in-progress Feedback Session

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


Sky Hopinka was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, California, and Portland, Oregon and is currently based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Portland he studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. His work centers around personal positions of homeland and landscape, designs of language and facets of culture contained within, and the play between the accessibility of the known and the unknowable. He received his BA from Portland State University in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
His work has played at various festivals including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images Festival, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, American Indian Film Festival, Sundance, Antimatter, Chicago Underground Film Festival, FLEXfest, Projections, and the LA Film Festival. His work was a part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial and the 2017 Whitney Biennial. He was awarded jury prizes at the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, the More with Less Award at the 2016 Images Festival, the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, and 3rd Prize at the 2015 Media City Film Festival.

Adam Khalil (Ojibway) is a filmmaker and artist. His practice attempts to subvert traditional forms of ethnography through humor, relation, and transgression. Adam’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Sundance Film Festival,  Walker Arts Center, UnionDocs, e-flux, Artist Space, Microscope Gallery (New York), Spektrum (Berlin), Trailer Gallery (Sweden), Carnival of eCreativity (Bombay). Khalil is a 2017 Sundance Art of Nonfiction grantee, 2017 Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Opportunity Fellow, UnionDocs Collaborative Fellow and Gates Millennium Scholar. In 2011 he graduated from the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College.

Sara Cwynar  (b. 1985, Vancouver, Canada) received her Bachelor of Design from York University, Toronto, Canada in 2010 and her MFA from Yale University, New Haven, USA in 2016. Her work involves a constant archiving and re-presentation of collected visual materials. She is interested in the way that images morph, accumulate, endure and change in meaning and value over time, and the effect this has on a collective worldview. Sara Cwynar has exhibited internationally at Oakville Galleries, Oakville; COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; M+B Gallery, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, Foxy Production, Andrea Rosen, Eleven Rivington, New York, USA; Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy. Cwynar’s works can be found in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA Library, New York; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USA; Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany; Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada; amongst others. Sara Cwynar currently lives and works in Brooklyn, USA.

Carl Bogner teaches in the Department of Film, Video, Animation & New Genres at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where, for 19 years, he has lead a range of undergraduate and graduate classes, including foundational lectures on experimental film and workshops on writing. (This semester’s graduate seminar: “On Naming”; the undergraduate seminar: “Structuring Gaps.”) For 20 years, Bogner has been director of the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival. Also as a curator, he helped initiate two Milwaukee screening series, Woodland Pattern’s once monthly experimental series and the ongoing Experimental Tuesdays series at UWM’s Union Cinema. Other histories include grad school (MFA in non-fiction writing); various stints as a bookseller and as a film programmer; lecturing here-and-there.

James N. Kienitz Wilkins is a filmmaker and artist based in Brooklyn. His work has screened at the New York Film Festival, Toronto, Locarno, Rotterdam, CPH:DOX, BAMcinemaFest, and beyond. In 2017, he was included in the Whitney Biennial and a retrospective of his work was showcased at the Montréal International Documentary Festival (RIDM). In 2018, he is premiering new work in a solo show at Gasworks Gallery (London), and the Biennial of Moving Images (Geneva).

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Nov 30, 2018 at 10:00 am
Dec 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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