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Oct 4, 2019 at 10:00 am – Oct 6, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Seeing before words: Expanding Directions in The Observational Mode

Led by Adam Sekuler

“I come across this thing as a matter of chance, and maybe occasionally good judgment. I take the risk of shooting it because I think it might be interesting – then my job as an editor is to decide what it is saying, whether I want to use it, in what form, and where I’m going to place it.” – Fredrick Wiseman

The observational documentary is a style that requires patience from the maker, who often begins the process of filmmaking without knowing where the film will become. The Art of Observation is a three-day workshop exploring the theory and practice of observational documentary. Join UnionDocs and filmmaker Adam Sekuler in dissecting the traditional definition, history and practice of observational filmmaking. Participants in this intensive workshop will engage in conversations about the evolution of the observational mode by viewing works, hands-on exercises and conversations with guest artists Kazuhiro Soda and Iva Radivojevic.

Using a looking and listening technique, we’ll investigate how our eyes and ears connect us to space and to others. We will use elements of personal storytelling, narrative and environmental description to generate images and ideas; and then craft those images into the beginnings of observational documentary projects. The goal will be to present lived human experience in a way that respects the context in which that experience takes place, while still presenting an artistic point of view.

Hands on participation will consist of one day in the field, putting these concepts to work by practicing audio and camera work, and one day editing material captured. To keep course costs low, bringing your own camera and laptop is encouraged, though we’ll provide a few materials for those who don’t have equipment of their own.


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 27th at 5PM. $350 regular registration.

$285 members early bird registration by September 27th at 5PM. $345 member regular registration.

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 September 27th, 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 September 27th, 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, Oct 4 – 10:00 - 5:00p

10am – 11am: Intro & Welcome by Adam Sekuler

11am – 1pm: Presentation by Adam Sekuler 

1pm – 2pm: Lunch

2pm – 4pm:  Presentation by Kazuhiro Soda 

4:30 – 5:30pm: Wrap up

Sat, Oct 5 – 10:00 - 5:00p

10am – 11am: Warm-up/ Recap

11am -1pm: Presentation by Iva Radivojevic 

1pm – 2pm: Lunch

2pm – 5pm:  Shooting Exercise

5:00pm – 5:30pm: Wrap up

Sun, Oct 6 – 10:00 - 5:00p

10:00am – 2:00pm: Editing

2:00pm – 3:00pm: Lunch

3:00pm – 5:30pm:  Participant Share and Feedback

5:30pm – 6:00pm: Wrap Up

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


Adam Sekuler is a filmmaker, curator, educator and programmer based in New Orleans. Screening in forums and film festivals throughout the US and internationally, his many alternative films strike a delicate balance between stylization and naturalism, creating a poetic and lyrical form of visual storytelling. These include MY LIFE IN GOOGLE, a personal memoir landscape film and live performance, TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS, an evocative feature-length work-in-progress about choosing how and when to die with Alzheimer’s disease, and WORK IN PROGRESS, an observational look at labor and its various choreographies.

He’s produced short works for Barry Jenkins, Lisandro Alonso, Josh and Benny Safdie, Valerie Massadian, Amie Siegel, and Joe Swanberg. Recently, he edited Robinson Devor’s feature length documentary Pow Wow, which premiered at Locarno Film Festival.

He holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado, Boulder, is Founder and Programmer of Radar: Exchanges in Dance Film Frequencies, Associate Director of Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center and was Program Director for Northwest Film Forum (Seattle) for 8 years. His work has screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Anthology Film Archives, Walker Art Center, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest Filmmakers Festival, Museum of the Moving Image, and dozens of other venues around the globe.

Kazuhiro Soda is a Peabody Award winning filmmaker. He practices an observational method of documentary filmmaking based on his own “Ten Commandments” which prohibits him from doing pre-shoot research or writing a synopsis before filming. He imposes these rules on himself in order to minimize preconceptions and to be able to make unexpected discoveries while filming and editing.

His debut feature documentary “Campaign” (2007) was invited to many prestigious festivals such as Berlinale and was aired in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world. It won the Peabody Award in the U.S. “Mental” (2008) won the Best Documentary Award at the Busan International Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival. “Peace” (2010), the opening film of DMZ Documentary Festival, won the Best Documentary Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Tokyo Filmex. “Theatre 1 and 2” (2012) won the Young Juries Prize at the Festival des 3 Continents. “Campaign 2” (2013) has been invited to such festivals as Cinema du Reel, Hong Kong International Film Festival, and MoMA Documentary Fortnight. “Oyster Factory” (2015) premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival and won the audience award at the Kinotayo Film Festival.

Soda’s latest film “Inland Sea” (2018) is invited to Berlinale and will be released in Japan in April 2018. “The Big House” (2018) will be released in June 2018. He is currently working on “Second Life”.

He is also the author of seven books published in Japan. He taught at the University of Michigan as a visiting professor from 2016 till 2017.

Iva Radivojevic is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She spent her early years in Yugoslavia and Cyprus before settling in NYC. Her films explore the themes of belonging and displacement – sometimes.

Iva’s films have screened at numerous film festivals including the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Rotterdam IFF, CPH:DOX, HotDocs, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and were broadcast on PBS,  Documentary Channel as well as the New York Times Op-Docs. She is the recipient of the 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship, 2017 Sundance Art of Non Fiction Fellowship, 2011, 2012, 2017 Princess Grace Special Project Award and Film Fellowship and was named one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine.

When not working on her own films, Iva enjoys editing, cutting both documentary and narrative films. Her work MA premiered at the Venice Film Festival and Five Star, a film she co-edited won the Best Editing Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. All That Passes By Through A Window That Doesn’t Open, a film she co-wrote and edited, won the Regard Neuf Award at Visions Du Reel in 2017.

Her debut feature length documentary Evaporating Borders has received numerous awards worldwide, was nominated for an International Documentary Association (IDA) Award, a Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight Award and received One World Media Award for Refugee Reporting. Her short film Notes From The Border was commissioned for the launch of Field of Vision, a new documentary unit founded by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook.

She’s currently working on her film Aleph, inspired by a short story from Jorge Luis Borges.

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Oct 4, 2019 at 10:00 am
Oct 6, 2019 at 5:00 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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