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Apr 15, 2016 at 10:00 am – Apr 17, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Interactive Documentary and VR: Designing the Digital Documentary

With Sean Flynn, Francesca Panetta, Oscar Raby, Kel O'Neill

Digital technologies such as the web, mobile devices and VR headsets have given filmmakers and media artists a new suite of tools and techniques for capturing and presenting documentary stories. Interactive screens offer the potential to more deeply engage audiences in representations of reality, but they also force producers to give up some degree of control and allow users the choice of where to look, what to click, and how to experience a story.

Designed by Sean Flynn in collaboration with UnionDocs, this workshop will explore the creative possibilities and challenges of making documentaries for digital platforms. In presentations and workshops led by guest speakers, students will be exposed to a range of design strategies and production/distribution processes for making interactive, participatory and immersive narratives, including on emerging VR platforms like the Oculus Rift.

Throughout the weekend, students will have an opportunity to put these ideas into practice by developing their own concepts, prototypes or treatments for a digital documentary project, while refining these ideas through feedback sessions with experienced producers. They will leave better equipped to communicate their ideas to funders and potential collaborators.

The workshop takes place on the days before and after the Tribeca Film Institute’s “Interactive Day” conference, giving students additional opportunities to experience the latest interactive documentary and connect with other producers.


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, interactive storytellers and producers.

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 in filmmaking practice and your project, plus a bio. There’s also a spot for a link to a work sample that will be reviewed by one speaker.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Focus is on discussion and workshopping students’ projects. The goal is to help you design and develop your interactive documentary.

This workshop is three full days; please only enroll if you can commit to the entire schedule.

$350 early bird registration by November 14th, 2016 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 November 14th. After November 14th, 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 PayPal. After the early bird registration deadline of November 14th, 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, April 15: 10:00 - 5:00 pm


Storytelling in a User-Centered World (or: Immersive Storytelling)

9:45 – 10:30am: Introduction

10:30 – 11:00am: Travel to Tribeca Storyscapes (50 Varick St)

11:00am – 12:00pm: Q&A with Kel O’Neill @ Tribeca Storyscapes (project: The Ark by Jongsma + O’Neill)

12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

1:00 – 1:30pm: Travel back to UnionDocs

1:30 – 3:00pm: Workshop (user-centered design, paper prototyping)

3:00 – 5:00pm: Presentation by Sean Flynn + viewing/discussion of VR projects

5:00 – 5:30pm: Debrief

Saturday, April 16: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm


Documentary in the Digital Age

11:00am – 6:00pm: This day is allocated for Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive Day.

Program available here: tribecafilminstitute.org

Sunday, April 17 – 10:00a - 5:00p


Interactive VR and Documentary Co-Creation

10:00am – 11:00am: Workshop

11:00am – 1:00pm: Presentation by Oscar Raby (Project: Assent)+ discussion with students

1:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

2:00pm – 4:00pm: Presentation by Francesca Panetta (Project: 6X9. An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement)+ discussion with students

4:00pm – 5:00pm: Critique / feedback on projects / debrief

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



Sean Flynn is the Director of the Points North Documentary Forum at Camden International Film Festival, where he develops and produces programs that advance the work of nonfiction filmmakers and media artists. In 2015, Sean completed a master’s degree at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies department, where he worked as a researcher at the MIT Open Documentary Lab and wrote the thesis “Evaluating Interactive Documentaries: Audience, Impact and Innovation in Public Interest Media.” While at MIT, Sean co-founded the Datalore Hack and contributed writing to IndieWire, Reverse Shot and a MacArthur-funded research report on interactive documentary and digital journalism. Sean began his filmmaking career as an Associate Producer and Co-Director of Photography on the feature documentary BEYOND BELIEF, which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Sundance Channel. Sean was also a Producer on the ITVS-supported feature THE LIST, which premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In 2012, he was a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow in Mumbai, India.


Francesca Panetta is a multi-award winning sound artist and journalist. She works for the Guardian as a Special Projects Editor leading on projects which innovate in storytelling. Working with journalists and multimedia producers, developers and designers, she has commissioned and directed flagship pieces such as Firestorm, The Shirt on Your Back, the View from the Shard, The First World War: an interactive multilingual interactive documentary. In addition to her work at the Guardian, Francesca works as a sound artist specialising in binaural sound design and non-linear storytelling, usually in physical landscapes. Francesca talks around the world about digital storytelling and innovation in audio.


Oscar Raby is an award-winning multimedia artist. His work has ranged from feature documentary to installation and live performance. Oscar’s interest is in using interactive media to explore the placement of the individual experience inside larger historical narratives and how this history is built by institutions. Oscar has worked with the Memory and Human Rights Museum in Chile and the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. His Virtual Reality immersive experience ‘Assent’, about the Chilean dictatorship, has been exhibited world-wide including screening at the Ocular Evolution show at the 2015 Sundance New Frontier exhibition, and receiving the Audience Choice Award for Interactive Storytelling at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014. Oscar is a regularly invited guest speaker at interactive art and new media festivals and symposia around the world. His artistic practise has been supported by organisations including Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Council England and Tribeca All Access. Along with Producer Katy Morrison they run the VR production studio VRTOV from Melbourne, Australia.


Kel O’Neill is a director, writer and producer working at the intersection of documentary, art and technology. He is the co-creator (with Eline Jongsma) of PBS’s Emmy-nominated, Webby-honored interactive documentary “Empire,” and the winner of the inaugural Tim Hetherington Visionary Award.  http://www.jongsmaoneill.com/


Apr 15, 2016 at 10:00 am
Apr 17, 2016 at 5:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

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