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Feb 22, 2019 at 10:00 am – Feb 24, 2019 at 6:00 pm

For Shorts’ Sake

An intensive dedicated to short form storytelling

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

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

Within the last decade, exciting possibilities have opened up for short form documentary. Beyond festival blocks and the feature film calling card, shorts now have a powerful place in the film landscape, with a range of platform and distribution options for projects ranging from investigative journalism to personal narratives and everything in between. Often more affordable, short films can take more risks, be more experimental, and cover stories that can’t be told otherwise.

This three-day intensive will explore the life-cycle of the short: from production and funding to exhibition via online platforms, broadcast and a successful festival run. Led by Jeff Seelbach (Topic Studios), with guests Nina Kristic (OJ: Made in America); Matt Wolf (Teenage; Wild Combination) Chloe Gbai (POV), Opal Bennett (DOC NYC) and Yoruba Richen (The New Black), this theoretical and practical weekend intensive is designed for a small group of professionals (15 people maximum) and will expose participants to a broad range of analysis and creative approaches to contemporary practice of short filmmaking.

This workshop is three days; please only enroll if you can commit to the entire schedule.


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. After you register we will contact you 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.

$300 early bird registration by February 6, 2019; $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 February 6th. After February 6th, 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 of February 6th, 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, Feb 22 – 10:00am - 6:00p

AM: Introduction + Presentation
Instructor: Jeff Seelbach

PM: Pitching + Pre-Production
Instructor: Yoruba Richen

Saturday, Feb 23 – 10:00a - 5:00p

AM: Working with the Archive
Instructor: Nina Krstic

PM: Directing Short Docs
Instructor: Matt Wolf

Sunday, Feb 24 – 10:00a - 5:00p

AM: Digital Platforms and Broadcast
Instructor: Chloe Gbai

PM: Festival Programming for Shorts
Instructors: Opal H. Bennett

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



Jeff Seelbach oversees projects for film, TV, and digital, at Topic – the entertainment studio and digital platform from First Look Media. Recent projects include Pahokee (Sundance 2019), directed by Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas; Black 14 (Topic.com & Sundance 2019), directed by Darius Clark Monroe; A Cure For Fear (Topic.com & Camden 2018) directed by Lana Wilson; and XY Chelsea(forthcoming on Showtime), directed by Tim Travers Hawkins, with EP Laura Poitras.

Jeff helped to launch AJ+, the innovative digital channel from Al Jazeera, where he supervised the commissioning and production of short documentaries for publication on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. He spent four years working on the PBS international documentary series Wide Angle, including projects about gangs in El Salvador, Shia Islam in Iran, and oil politics in West Africa. Jeff graduated from Northwestern University with majors in Film and Political Science, where he was also a Music Director at WNUR-FM, the largest student-run radio station in the U.S.


Opal H. Bennett has been a curator since 2014 when she joined the Programming team at Montclair Film Festival as Shorts Programmer. Beginning as a volunteer for the first Sundance London Film Festival in 2012, she now curates year round. Opal is on the programming teams for Aspen ShortsFest, Athena and Nantucket Film Festivals and is a Program Consultant for The March on Washington Film Festival. She is also on the selection committee for shorts at Cinema Eye Honors. Opal has served on juries for SxSW, IndieMemphis, NewFest, Leuven ShortsFest, IndieStreet Filmfest, Cleveland and Seattle International Film Festivals among others. She has also participated on selection committees for documentary programming and grants. A Columbia Law grad, Opal holds a Masters in Media Studies from the LSE, and received her B.A. from New York University.


A native of New York, Chloe Gbai is a filmmaker/producer whose work centers around issues of race, immigration, and gender. She works as the Shorts & Streaming Producer at American Documentary, spearheading their POV Shorts Initiative, a brand new destination for short-form non-fiction content in public media. She’s a proud alum of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and is currently a resident of Meerkat Media Collective.


Nina Krstic is an award winning director and producer. Most recently she produced the winner of the 2017 Academy Award for best documentary feature O.J. Made in America. Amongst others, her awards include a Peabody, best documentary award from Gotham Independent Film Awards, National Board of Review, Independent Spirit Awards, International Documentary Association, du-Pont Columbia University Award, prime time Emmy nomination, and most recently two Focal awards including Jane Mercer Researcher of the Year.

​Nina’s career began behind the camera with numerous cinematography credits before she found her true love as a producer of heavily archival films. Her other credits include the New York Times Retro Report series, Constitution U.S.A. with Peter Sagal, 1964, Thomas Edison, Big Burn, and her Sundance Film Festival feature 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Film.


Yoruba Richen is a documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on PBS, New York Times Op Doc, Frontline Digital, New York Magazine’s website -The Cut, The Atlantic and Field of Vision.  Her latest film The Green Book: Guide to Freedom will be broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel in February.  Yoruba’s last feature documentary, The New Black won multiple festival awards and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and a GLAAD Media Award.  It was broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens. Her previous film Promised Land, won the Fledgling Fund award for social issue documentary and was broadcast on POV.  Yoruba won a Clio award for her short film about the Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day.  She has also won Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access and was a Sundance Producers Fellow. Yoruba is a featured TED Speaker, a Fulbright fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and a 2016 recipient of the Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker Award. She was chosen for the Root 100s list of African Americans 45 years old and younger who are responsible for the year’s most significant moments and themes. Yoruba is director of the Documentary Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.


Matt Wolf is a filmmaker in New York. His critically acclaimed and award-winning films have played widely in festivals and have been distributed internationally in theaters and on television. Matt’s first feature documentary Wild Combination is about the avant-garde cellist and disco producer Arthur Russell. His second feature Teenage is about the birth of youth culture, based on a book by the British punk author Jon Savage. He is currently finishing Recorder about Marion Stokes, an activist who secretly recorded television 24 hours a day for 30 years.

Matt’s work in television includes the HBO Documentary It’s Me, Hilary about the Eloise Illustrator Hilary Knight, executive produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. He was also Executive Producer, Showrunner, and Writer on a National Geographic miniseries I Am Rebel alongside Doug Liman. The series features 1930s crime scene photographer Weegee, the 1970s police brutality activist turned hijacker Louis Moore, psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin, and the hacker Kevin Mitnick.

Matt’s most recent short film Bayard & Me (Sundance 2017) is about the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who adopted his younger boyfriend in the early 1980s to obtain the same legal protections as marriage. His other shorts include I Remember about the artist and poet Joe Brainard and The Face of AIDS for Time Magazine about a notorious 1992 Benetton advertisement. Matt has made a number of short series about the arts for organizations like The Whitney Museum and the New York Times, and commercials and content for numerous brands. He is a Guggenheim Fellow.

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Feb 22, 2019 at 10:00 am
Feb 24, 2019 at 6:00 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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