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Nov 5, 2021 at 10:30 am – Nov 7, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Altered States: Representing the Far Reaches of Consciousness

With Courtney Stephens, Jessica Bardsley, Jessica Beshir, Carl Elsaesser, Joshua Gen Solondz & Caveh Zahedi

Altered States: Representing the Far Reaches of Consciousness will spend three days exploring a diverse array of nonfiction approaches to portraying, inducing, and engaging with the emotional, psychological, and the pharmacological. How can we depict the ecstatic in documentary? What does the “outer space of consciousness” look, sound, and feel like? What techniques can be used to allow audiences to transcend in and beyond the cinema? 

Ranging from Caveh Zahedi’s performative documentation of his own psychedelic trips to Joshua Gen Solondz’s use of visual techniques to engage and prompt altered states in his viewers, the six sessions comprising this weekend workshop will invite participants to probe the limits of both physical and artistic cognizance. It will be helmed by Courtney Stephens, who will open the workshop by showing a selection of her own affect-oriented work and pieces by others to begin this journey with the workshop’s participants.

Additional guests include Jessica Beshir, who will speak about her film Faya Dayi and its ecstatic, mystical, and aesthetic employment of the compound khat; and Carl Elsaesser, who will talk about invoking cinematic genres, including melodrama, to conjure uncanny emotions. Jessica Bardsley, who is due to present her work at UnionDocs that Sunday, will also join the workshop that morning to speak about her depictions of insomnia and paranoia. Turn on and tune in!


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, film producers, journalists, curators and media artists. This workshop is open to people local to New York and those wishing to participate remotely. Three spots will be allocated for people looking to participate via Zoom and 12 will be available for individuals looking to participate in person in the UnionDocs Lean-To in Brooklyn.

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).

In order to participate in person, selected participants must provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of the workshop’s start.

$350 early bird registration by October 29th, 2021 at 5PM.

$400 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until October 29th. After October 29th, 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.

NOTE: There are three spots allocated for people looking to participate remotely via Zoom.  Twelve spots will be available for individuals looking to participate in person in the UnionDocs Lean-To in Brooklyn.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . After the early bird registration deadline of October 29th, 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.

In order to participate in person, selected participants must provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of the workshop’s start.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Friday, Nov 5, – 10:30am - 4:00pm

AM: Introduction by Courtney Stephens
PM: Caveh Zahedi

Saturday, Nov 6, – 10:30am - 4:00pm

AM: Carl Elsaesser
PM: Joshua Gen Solondz

Sunday, Nov 7 – 10:30am - 4:00pm

AM: Jessica Bardsley
PM: Jessica Beshir

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


First Workshop Session


Lunch (on your own)


Second Workshop Session


Wrap Up


Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker whose non-fiction and experimental films explore the contours of language, historical geography, and women’s lives. Her work has screened widely, at venues including the Berlinale, Museum of Modern Art, New York Film Festival, National Gallery of Art, South by Southwest, The Garage Museum, and the Hong Kong, Camden, Mumbai, Luxembourg, Dhaka, and San Francisco International Film Festivals. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a California Humanities Grant, and was one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. A graduate of the American Film Institute, she co-founded the Los Angeles microcinema Veggie Cloud and has curated film programs for The Getty, Museum of the Moving Image, and Flaherty NYC.

Jessica Bardsley is an artist-scholar working across film, writing, and studio art. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Media Practice and Theory at Colgate University and a Visiting Fellow in the department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies at Harvard University. Her films have screened within the U.S. and internationally at festivals like CPH:DOX, Visions du Réel, EMAF, Flaherty NYC, RIDM, True/False, and many more. She is the recipient of various awards, including a Princess Grace Award, Grand Prize at 25FPS, the Eileen Maitland Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Best Short Film at Punto de Vista, and numerous Film Study Center fellowships. Her research and writing have been supported by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Henry Luce Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies. She received a Ph.D. in Film and Visual Studies from Harvard University and an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jessica Beshir is a Mexican-Ethiopian filmmaker whose debut, feature-length documentary, Faya Dayi, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival before screening at Visions du Reel, True/False, New Directors/New Films, IFFR, and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, among other festivals around the globe before being released theatrically by Janus Films. Her short film, Hairat, premiered at Sundance in 2017 and played at IDFA and other festivals before getting picked up by Topic Studios. She received her B.A in film studies and literature at UCLA and is based in Brooklyn, NY.

Carl Elsaesser is interested in ways to frame his work through ritualistic and slow practices in order to think with a project – as something akin to skin or clothing that he can wear throughout his day, as he teaches class, walks through the town late at night, or skypes with friends and family halfway across the country. His previous works have screened regularly at festivals and exhibitions including The New York Film Festival, The Walker Museum of Art, Crossroads Film Festival, The Tacoma International Film Festival, Urban Video Project, Other Cinema, The Pensacola Museum of Art, and the Ann Arbor film festival where he was awarded the Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for Emerging Experimental Video Artist in 2016. He has been lucky enough to receive grants and residencies throughout his career including a Minnesota Arts Council grant, a residency with the Ellis Beauregard Foundation as well as a residency with The Squeaky Wheel Media Center.

Joshua Gen Solondz is an artist working in moving image, sound, and performance. He’s screened in a variety of festivals including Images, Toronto International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Onion City, Black Maria, Portland International, Milwaukee Underground, CAAMFest, San Diego Asian Film Festival, Chicago Underground, Locarno, Mar del Plata, FIC Valdivia, Viennale, and New York Film Festival’s Projections. He’s has also shown at venues such as REDCAT, Light Industry, UnionDocs, Harvard Film Archive, MoMA, DINCA, NYU, Red Room, ATA, 3s, and Black Hole Cinematheque. Solondz has received awards from Spectral Film Festival, Black Maria, New Orleans Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, and Ann Arbor Film Festival as well as commissions for shows at Heliopolis, ACRE TV, WNDX, and microscope gallery. He has an ongoing collaboration with Jim Supanick as the electronic slime duo known as SynthHumpers. Solondz was a 2019 MacDowell Colony Fellow. Josh studied at Bard College and received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his partner and occasional collaborator Emma Brenner-Malin.

Caveh Zahedi has made five features and over a dozen shorts, primarily humorous experimental autobiographies. His works include The Sheik And I (2012), I Am A Sex Addict (2006), Tripping With Caveh (2003), In The Bathtub of The World (2001), I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore (1994), and A Little Stiff (1991). Zahedi has won awards from the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Film and Video Festival, the Athens International Festival and the Atlanta Film and Video Festival. He has received funding from the Film Arts Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, The Parsa Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

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Nov 5, 2021 at 10:30 am
Nov 7, 2021 at 4:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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