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May 27, 2022 at 7:00 pm – May 29, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Documentary Fundamentals 2022

The fundamentals documentarians need to understand to plan, produce, and release an independent documentary today with Jessica Kingdon and her film Ascension as a case study.

Today’s documentary landscape is rapidly evolving with new avenues and pitfalls around every corner. DOC FUNDAMENTALS, our annual six session professional development series, responds each year to the changes we see in the field and is geared towards preparing emerging and mid-career independent filmmakers with all the foundational knowledge they need to complete a feature documentary. We’re ecstatic that this year’s Documentary Fundamentals course is led by Filmmaker Jessica Kingdon, director of the widely acclaimed and Oscar-nominated Ascension that was called, “a beautiful industrial symphony” by Variety and “one of the year’s most compelling documentaries” by Vogue. It’s so exciting that much of Ascension’s team will join us for this weekend in May!  You’re invited to follow along and trace the trajectory of one of this recent documentary hit all the way from its pre-production and planning stages to post-production and through its spectacular distribution.

Ascension will serve as a case-study across all the sessions including PLANNING, SHOOTING, EDITING, FINANCING, and RELEASING your documentary. Each session features a range of exciting, advanced and award-winning professionals from the field and many from this film who represent all aspects of producing a documentary feature. It is perfect as a primer or a way to refocus and rethink your project in today’s changing landscape! You can attend all sessions with a SERIES PASS or just tackle the hurdles where you need help with a single session.


The full series pass includes access to all of the 2022 Documentary Fundamentals sessions listed below and the public screening of Ascension. You can also tailor your Doc Fundamentals attendance to your personal needs and select each course a la carte for $25/session.

About Ascension

The absorbingly cinematic Ascension explores the pursuit of the “Chinese Dream.” Driven by mesmerizing—and sometimes humorous—imagery, this observational documentary presents a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all.

An Oscar-nominated and Tribeca Film Festival winner, Kingdon’s Ascension was named “An instant classic” by Variety. The Guardian called it “a fascinating film about China that has universal things to say about income inequality and aspiration everywhere” and the Hollywood Reporter noted that “Ascension finds aesthetic allure and fodder for debate in the complex symphony of industrialism and the people functioning within its order and disorder.”

About Doc Fundamentals

UnionDocs has developed this ongoing program for documentarians, after receiving countless requests from folks who desire a better foundation for navigating the modern landscape of independent filmmaking and has received feedback that this course does the trick! Each year we select an array of guests that represent the best of the field with contemporary approaches to navigating with best practices.

Reflections from past participants of Doc Fundamentals:

“Overall a great balance between breadth & depth; I feel very encouraged & equipped with the basic knowledge of how turn my projects into more serious endeavors.”

“The focus of the sessions on brass tacks issues like funding, logistics, legal & business matters, organizing production flow, and how to find & work with collaborators was excellent; it’s the most helpful information that can be shared in such a relatively limited amount of time & it conveys a trust in session participants that they will find their own way through”

“I really enjoyed the concept of breaking a single documentary down over several focus points. Looking forward to future courses! Thank you!”


Day 1: Friday, May 27

7:00 pm — Planning Your Documentary

with Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Patrick Kondas (Ascension), Nathan Truesdell (Ascension)

8:30 pm — Ascension Screening

Day 2: Saturday, May 28

11:00 am — Financing Your Documentary

with Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Kira Simon-Kennedy (Ascension), Caroline Von Kuhn (Ascension), Lucila Moctezuma (Ascension) 

2:00 pm — Directing and Shooting Your Documentary

with Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Maggie Li (Ascension), Elizabeth Lo (Ascension)

4:00 pm — Editing Your Documentary

with Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Omar Mullick (Ascension), Stephen Maing (Ascension)

Day 3: Sunday, May 29

2:00 pm — Post-Production for Your Documentary

with Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Gisela Fullà-Silvestre (Ascension), Cédric Von Niederhausern (Ascension) & Dan Deacon (Ascension)

4:00 pm —  Releasing Your Documentary

With Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), David Magdael (Ascension), Greg Rhem (Ascension)



Jessica Kingdon

Jessica Kingdon’s first documentary feature ASCENSION 登楼叹 (2021), was nominated for 94th Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category. It won three Cinema Eye Honors, Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival, and Best Editing at DOC NYC. The film was nominated for six Critics’ Choice awards, the DGA Awards, Spirit Awards, the Gotham and the International Documentary Association.

Jessica Kingdon is a Chinese-American director/producer named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine and selected for the 2020 DOC NYC “40 Under 40” list. Her award-winning short COMMODITY CITY (2017) is an observational documentary about the world’s largest wholesale mall in Yiwu, China and played at over 50 film festivals. She co-directed the short IT’S COMING! (2020), and ROUTINE ISLAND (2019). Her work has been supported by organizations including SFFILM, Chicken & Egg, Cinereach, Sundance, Field of Vision, and Firelight Media. She co-produced “In The Cards” (dir. Colin Kane Healey, Tribeca 2021), “Born To Be” (dir. Tania Cypriano, NYFF 2019,)“The Waterslide” (dir. Nathan Truesdell, True/False in 2018), “Old Stone” (dir. Johnny Ma, Berlinale 2016). Residencies include UnionDocs and a MacDowell Fellowship. She is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and Brown Girls Doc Mafia.

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May 27, 2022 at 7:00 pm
May 29, 2022 at 6:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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