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Nov 1, 2019 at 10:00 am – Nov 3, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Flaws And All: Character In Documentary

Led by Lana Wilson

What makes an unforgettable character in a documentary? Whether charming or appalling, goal-driven or existential, heart-on-their-sleeve or maddeningly opaque, many people (either ordinary or extraordinary) have the potential to be transformed into complex and memorable documentary characters. What should you look for when casting a documentary? What fiction techniques can inspire directors to explore the literary characteristics of real people in imaginative ways? How do conflict, struggle, and change figure into forging an emotional connection between a character and an audience? When should the director consider making themselves a character? And how do you create a character out of someone malicious, uncooperative, or no longer living?

Flaws And All: Character In Documentary will explore all of these questions and more, in a lively and rich three-day workshop led by director Lana Wilson (The Departure, After Tiller), featuring a bevy of award-winning filmmakers as special guests: Ezra Edelman (Director, O.J.: Made In America), Kaitlyn Greenidge (New York Times contributing writer, Author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman), Penny Lane (Director, Hail Satan? and NUTS!), David Teague (Editor,  Life, Animated, The Departure), and Matt Wolf (Director, Recorder, Teenage).


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).

$295 early bird registration by October 18, 2019 at 5PM.

$350 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until October 18th. After October 18th, 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 October 18th, 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, November 1st – 10:00a - 5:30p

Intro & Welcome

AM: Lana Wilson (The Departure)

PM: Kaitlyn Greenidge (Novelist and NYTimes contributing writer)

Saturday, November 2nd – 10:00a - 5:30p

AM: David Teague (Life, Animated)

PM: Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made In America)

Sunday, November 3rd – 10:00a - 5:30p

AM: Penny Lane (Hail Satan?)

PM: Matt Wolf (Recorder)

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


Lana Wilson is an Emmy Award-winning and two-time Spirit Award-nominated documentary director. Her most recent film, The Departure, was called “A work of art” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “Stunning” by Filmmaker Magazine, and “A genuinely spiritual experience” by the Washington Post. The Departure premiered at Tribeca in 2017 and was nominated for the 2018 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. It opened theatrically at New York’s Metrograph, followed by a release in over 30 US cities. It was picked up for distribution by FilmRise and nationally broadcast on PBS last year.

Wilson’s previous film, After Tiller, premiered at Sundance in 2013 and won an Emmy Award for Best Documentary. It was also nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, four Cinema Eye Honors, and the Ridenhour Prize. After Tiller was theatrically released in 50 US cities by Oscilloscope and nationally broadcast on POV. The film was named one of the top five documentaries of the year by the National Board of Review, and featured in “Best of 2013” lists in the LA Times, Village Voice, Indiewire, Artforum, and more. Flavorwire named it one of the “50 Best Documentaries of All Time.”

Wilson has also worked in television and short-form filmmaking. She directed A Cure for Fear, a short-form web series that premiered at Camden in 2018 and recently launched on First Look Media’s Topic.com. She also wrote and produced the premiere episode of the National Geographic documentary miniseries I Am Rebel (2016). Wilson has been awarded artist fellowships from the Sundance Institute, MacDowell, Yaddo, and Film Independent, and was named to DOC NYC’s inaugural “40 Under 40” list. She is a recipient of the 2019 Chicken & Egg Award. Wilson is a graduate of Wesleyan University and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Kaitlyn Greenidge is the author of the novel WE LOVE YOU, CHARLIE FREEMAN. She is a contributing writer for the NEW YORK TIMES and is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

David Teague is an Emmy-winning documentary film editor and writer. His work includes Life Animated, Cutie and the Boxer, The Departure, E-TEAM, Mondays at Racine and Freeheld. His work as a consulting editor includes Knock Down the House, Cameraperson and The Reagan Show.

Ezra Edelman is an award-winning filmmaker. He most recently directed O.J.: Made In America, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2017. It was his third film for ESPN’s acclaimed 30-for-30 documentary series. 

He also has produced and directed three films for HBO, including Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals and The Ghosts of Flatbush.

In 2013, Edelman co-produced the Oscar-nominated documentary Cutie and The Boxer

A native of Washington D.C., Ezra graduated from Yale University and currently lives in Brooklyn. 

Penny Lane is an award-winning nonfiction filmmaker who was named one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and a Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Award winner.

Her most recent feature-length documentary HAIL SATAN? recently debuted at Sundance and will be released by Magnolia Pictures in 2019.

Her third feature-length documentary THE PAIN OF OTHERS premiered at Rotterdam 2018, and went on to BAMcinemaFest, Sheffield Doc/Fest, SF DocFest, BAFICI, Sarasota and Maryland Film Festivals.

Her second feature-length documentary NUTS! premiered at Sundance 2016, where it won a Special Jury Award for Editing. It has since screened at many other film festivals such as Hot Docs, Full Frame, Ashland, Maryland, Cleveland, Sarasota and BAFICI.

Her debut feature-length documentary OUR NIXON premiered at Rotterdam 2013, had its North American premiere at SXSW, won the Ken Burns Award for “Best of the Festival” at Ann Arbor, and was selected as the Closing Night Film at New Directors/New Films.

Penny’s short films are distributed by VTAPE and include titles such as THE VOYAGERS (2010), THE COMMONERS (2009) and WE ARE THE LITTLETONS: A TRUE STORY. Her 2005 short THE ABORTION DIARIES has become an important organizing and educational tool across the nation. THE ABORTION DIARIES has screened in at least 42 states & worldwide at over 350 different community venues, ranging from bars to art centers to clinics to colleges, and also on Yes! Television and Free Speech TV. In 2006, Penny was given a Choice USA “Generation Award” for her work on this film.

Penny has been awarded grants from the Sundance Institute, Catapult Film Fund, Creative Capital, Cinereach, TFI Documentary Fund, Jerome Foundation, LEF Foundation, NYSCA, Experimental Television Center, IFP and Puffin Foundation. She was named “Most Badass!” at the Iowa City Documentary Film Festival in 2009.

She received her MFA in Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her BA in American Culture and Media Studies at Vassar College. She has taught film, video and new media art at Colgate University, Bard College, Hampshire College and Williams College.

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 feature documentaries include Wild Combination about the cult cellist and disco producer Arthur Russell, and Teenage about early youth culture and the birth of teenagers. His latest film Recorder is about the activist Marion Stokes, 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 is about the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who adopted his younger boyfriend in the early 1980s to obtain equal rights. 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.

In addition to filmmaking Matt organizes film screenings and public events, and he is the Co-Curator of Film for the 2019 Whitney Biennial. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the Directors Guild and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

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Nov 1, 2019 at 10:00 am
Nov 3, 2019 at 5:30 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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