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Sep 20, 2019 at 10:00 am – Sep 22, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Art of the Interview

Led by Sarah Friedland

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

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

Join UnionDocs and filmmaker Sarah Friedland (Here After) for a three day intensive that will unpack one of the most effective and common tools in the documentary toolkit: the interview. We’ll go beyond the unimaginative ways interview is often employed and share tips for getting material that can drive emotion and a complex narrative forward.  

Together, we’ll tackle the pitfalls of the “talking head” and look at the ways that interviews can be used as an artistic practice. Through seminars and work-in-progress critiques, participants will each, in their own way, push the boundaries of the interview, and learn how to put this new knowledge into practice.

Lead instructor Sarah Friedland will be joined by guest filmmakers, print and audio journalists, and oral historians including Steve Maing (Crime + Punishment), Ursula Liang (9-Man), Linda Villarosa (NYTimes Contributing Writer), Nyssa Chow (Oral Historian), Luis Luna and Sylvia Ryerson (Melting the Ice).

Discussion will cover approaching traumatic material with subjects sensitively and ethically, prioritizing active listening in the moment as an interviewer, techniques for working with contentious or volatile subjects, and best practices for conducting interviews with subjects with whom you are intimate; family and friends.

Open to filmmakers, audio creators, journalists, scholars and anyone who’d like to delve into expansive ways of capturing compelling interviews. Current projects are not required to attend, but encouraged!


Open to everyone, though this workshop is best suited for film and audio makers, producers, journalists, curators and media artists. It would be great, if you have a project in progress to present to the group during the time reserved for critique.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. After you register, you will be contacted and asked for a short statement of interest and bio. Briefly describe your experience, interest and background and share a link to a work sample if you have one.

$295 early bird registration by September 6th, 2019 at 5PM. $350 regular registration.

$285 members early bird registration by September 6th, 2019 at 5PM. $335 regular member registration.

+ $10 credit card processing fee.

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, participants must pay the registration fee in full via card, check or cash. If unable to pay the full fee upfront a payment plan may be accommodated, please contact us to arrange.

Prior to the early registration deadline of August 30th, 2019, participants may withdraw from the workshop and receive half the course fees as a refund. To withdraw from this course, please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

After August 30th, 2019, registration fees are not refundable or transferable. Any withdrawals after the deadline will result in the full cost of registration being forfeit; there will be no exceptions.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Participants will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days.

If a workshop is rescheduled, participants are 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.


Fri, Sep 20 – 10:00 - 5:30p

Intro + Welcome with Sarah Friedland

AM: Sarah Friedland

Documentary and experimental film/video maker, Sarah Friedland will share strategies for how to best prepare yourself and your subjects for an interview. She will also talk through the aesthetic and creative possibilities of the interview by presenting examples from her own work that go beyond the talking head to use the interview as a creative storytelling device in documentary film and expanded cinema.


Guest Instructor:

PM: Nyssa Chow

Oral historian Nyssa Chow works at the intersection of ethical listening and the translation of experience through storytelling. In this session you will learn about Nyssa’s unique approach that combines oral history interview practice with a new media based art practice. She will also speak about her nuanced experience interviewing family and loved ones for her own artistic work.

Sat, Sep 21 – 10:00 - 5:30p

Guest Instructors:

AM: Stephen Maing

Documentary filmmaker Stephen Maing’s body work of speaks to his unique access to interviewees. This session will investigate the purpose of the interview,  and the stories people want to tell verses the story you set out to tell. Emphasis will be placed on approaches to interviewing subjects embroiled in struggle and conflict.

PM: Sylvia Ryerson and Luis Luna

Radio producer and sound artist Sylvia Ryerson works at the intersection of documentary radio and community organizing, along with fellow community activist and radio host Luis Luna to create Melting the ICE. In this session, you hear about their independent trajectories and the bodies of work that led to this unique collaboration, as well as the institutional collaborations that have made this work possible. You will be taken through the anatomy of producing Melting the ICE; project goals and hurdles.  Expanding the practice of interviewing as an instrument; sharing voices to connect and disrupt through collaborative practices.

Sun, Sep 22 – 10:00 - 5:30p

Guest Instructors:

AM: Ursula Liang

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Ursula Liang will take you through the many challenges of producing an interview. This interactive session will give students the opportunity to practice interviewing with Ursula and collaboratively explore challenging production scenarios; from interviewing celebrities to interviewing in a foreign language.

PM: Linda Villarosa

In this session, we will learn about how print journalist Linda Villarosa respectfully dives deep to report on communities impacted by inequality and tell a well researched, nuanced and compelling story of their experiences. She will share her work reporting on the rates of maternal death in the African-American community, and on the disproportionately high rates of HIV among America’s black gay and bisexual men.

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


Intro, warm ups








2 participants present their work / Workshop or Exercise


Wrap up


Sarah Friedland received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and the International School of Film and Television in Cuba and her MFA from the Integrated Media Art Program at Hunter College. Her documentary films and installations are concerned with personal stories that reveal larger histories and intricacies about place and society. Friedland’s works with longtime collaborator Esy Casey have screened widely in the US and abroad and have been supported by grants from the Jerome Foundation, the Paul Newman Foundation, the William H. Prusoff Foundation, The Princess Grace Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Center for Asian American Media. In 2009, after the debut of her feature documentary Thing With No Name, she was named one of the “Top 10 Independent Filmmakers to Watch” by the Independent Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2014 Paul Robeson award from the Newark Museum for her documentary The Rink, which aired on PBS (WNET/NJTV) in 2017 and was nominated for a New York EmmyShe is currently working on a feature documentary titled Lyd In Exile, which she is co-directing with Rami Younis, and which was selected to pitch at the DocCorner Market at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. . She has received residencies and fellowships from the Center of Contemporary Art in Pont- Aven, the LABA House of Study, the MacDowell Colony, and Meerkat Media. Friedland is the Director of the MDOCS Storyteller’s Institute at Skidmore College.

Stephen Maing is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and visual journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. His filmmaking merges an interest in underrepresented individuals and communities, and the evolving considerations of identity, visual language and narrative structure. His first feature documentary, HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE filmed over five years, documented two of China’s first dissident citizen-journalists as they reported on censored news throughout mainland China. His short doc THE SURRENDER, produced with Academy Award winner Laura Poitras, intimately documents State Department intelligence analyst Stephen Kim’s ordeal as he is harshly prosecuted under the Espionage Act and sent to prison. His most recent feature CRIME + PUNISHMENT tells the gripping story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities

Ursula Liang is a journalist who has told stories in a wide range of media. She has worked for The New York Times Op-Docs, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, ESPN The Magazine, Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, StirTV, the Jax Show, Hyphen magazine and currently freelances as a film and television producer (“Tough Love,” “Wo Ai Ni Mommy,” “UFC Countdown,” “UFC Primetime”) and story consultant. Liang also works for the film publicity company, the 2050 Group, is a founding member of the Filipino American Museum, and sits on the advisory board of the Dynasty Project. Liang grew up in Newton, Mass. and lives in the Bronx, New York. “9-Man” is her debut as a director.

Linda Villarosa runs the journalism program at CCNY. A former editor and contributing reporter for the New York Times, she also served as the executive editor of Essence Magazine. Professor Villarosa has also written or co-written a number of books, as well as a novel. She contributes to several national publications, in print and online.

Nyssa Chow is an oral historian, interdisciplinary artist, and writer. She is a Princeton University Arts Fellow for 2019-21. She has served, as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and as faculty in the Columbia University Oral History Masters Program.  Nyssa is the 2018 Recipient of the PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History, won for the book project, Still. Life. The project also won the Columbia University Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. She’s a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Women in Film and Television Fellowship, the Toms Fellowship, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Foundation Award. She was the recipient of a Sloan Foundation Grant, and in 2014, she won the Zaki Gordon Award for Excellence in Screenwriting. She is a graduate of the Columbia University’s MFA program and the Columbia University Oral History Masters Program.

Sylvia Ryerson is an independent radio producer and current graduate student in American Studies at Yale University. Prior to graduate school, Sylvia co-hosted Appalshop’s Calls from Home radio show, a nationally recognized program sending toll-free phone messages from family members to their loved ones incarcerated in the U.S. prison system, and she co-founded Restorative Radio, a participatory documentary project working with families to create “Audio Postcards” for their loved ones incarcerated. Her work has been featured on NPR, the BBC, The Marshall Project, the Boston Review, the Third Coast International Audio Festival, Transom.org, and in the film The Prison in Twelve Landscapes.

Luis Luna is a community organizer with the Working Families Party in Connecticut, a photographer, artist, and longtime immigrant rights activist.  For over eight years Luis has hosted his own monthly program Modulo Lunar on WPKN-FM Community Radio in Bridgeport, CT, where he mixes alternative and politically charged Latinx music with discussions of social justice issues, to amplify collective voices in his community.

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Sep 20, 2019 at 10:00 am
Sep 22, 2019 at 5:30 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

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