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Mar 22, 2019 at 10:00 am – Mar 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Reality in the Making: Documentary and Performance

Led by Lynne Sachs

This workshop is SOLD OUT.

Please sign up for the waitlist below to receive updates regarding any openings or similar future opportunities.

At root, the nature of documentary exploration relies on a keen sense of observation. Inspired by the great documentary performances in films by Shirley Clarke, Abbas Kiarostami, Marlon Riggs, Jean Rouch, Orson Welles and many others, this workshop will integrate this heightened awareness into a hybrid form of response and interpretation using performance as our foundation. If a person is conscious of being in front of a camera, then every movement, gesture or word spoken is a form of willing collaboration in performing the self. Our intention, as a group, will be to break the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction.

With this in mind, we will investigate the confluence of performance and documentary by engaging with artists with a range of backgrounds and intentions including: activist street anthropology, devised theater, movement research, performance art and site-specific cinema spectacle. Participants in this workshop will come with disparate experiences. Some people will have honed a fine-tuned documentary practice. Others will be comfortable directing actors and writing scripts. Still others will arrive with no media background whatsoever, but are willing to engage deeply in a collective pursuit of a new mode of reality-inspired artistic production.

In addition to tackling the aesthetic and conceptual challenges involved in creating a live documentary performance, we will also discuss strategies for working with observational video material in a mixed media theatrical setting and producing in a storefront, restaurant, warehouse or anywhere else that you could bring together an audience.

This three-day intensive is designed for a small group of professionals (15 people maximum) and will expose participants to a broad range of analysis and creative approaches to contemporary practice of documentary performance. Led by Lynne Sachs (Your Day is My Night, Every Fold Matters) with guest instructors Alison S.M. Kobayashi (Say Something Bunny!), Walis Johnson (The Red Line Archive) and Lizzie Olesker (NYU, Every Fold Matters), participants will explore the topic through masterclasses, seminars and a day-long, hands-on, collaborative exercise facilitated by Lynne.

Participants will also have the opportunity to experience the first act of Say Something Bunny!. Please only register if you are able to attend all 3-sessions and participate in a short personal exercise before the course. Participants will write one paragraph and shoot a three minute video with a camera or cell phone prior to the beginning of the workshop.  No video editing is required. Lynne will send out specific information about how to prepare this material.

There will be a corresponding public event with live performances on Thursday, March 21. Workshop attendees will receive free entry.


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).

$300 early bird registration by March 8, 2019; $285 for members.

$350 regular registration; $335 for members.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until March 8th. After March 8th, 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 March 8th, 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, Mar 22

AM: Intro and Presentation by Lynne Sachs
PM: Performance and Presentation at Say Something Bunny! with Alison S.M. Kobayashi

Saturday, Mar 23

Full day: Hands-on creative workshop with Lynne Sachs

Sunday, Mar 24

AM: Presentation by Walis Johnson
PM: Presentation by Lizzie Olesker

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


Intro + warm-up


Presentation by guest speaker


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker


Workshop Exercise + Discussion


Wrap Up


Lynne Sachs makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Strongly committed to a dialogue between theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project.  Between 1994 and 2006, her five essay films took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany — sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Gunvor Nelson, Barbara Hammer, Craig Baldwin and Trin T. Min-ha. Recently, she began integrating live performance into her work. Both Your Day is My Night (2013) and The Washing Society (2018) evolved from two-year New York City performance tours.

Sachs has made over 25 films which have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto’s Images Festival amongst others. Her films have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts and other venues nationally and internationally. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana and the China Women’s Film Festival have all presented retrospectives of Sachs’ films. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband filmmaker Mark Street. www.lynnesachs.com

Alison S. M. Kobayashi is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist whose hybrid work mixes documentary and fiction through video, performance, installation, interactive and illustration. Her performance Say Something Bunny! has received critical acclaim, is a NYTimes critics’ pick and was listed in Time Out’s 2017 top ten productions. Kobayashi has received nominations for a 2018 Drama Desk award and United Solo Special Award and is the recipient of the 2006 TSV Artistic Vision Award. She was a guest artist at the 2008 Flaherty Film Seminar and her work was the focus of a Spotlight Presentation at Video Out, Jakarta International Film Festival. She was a 2016 Yaddo and MacDowell Colony fellow.

Walis Johnson is an interdisciplinary artist/researcher whose work documents the experience and poetics of the urban landscape through oral history, ethnographic film, artist walking practices, performance and socially engaged art. Her practice explores hidden fissures of culture and history that upend understanding of the political, economic and cultural structures to define the American condition. The Red Line Archive Project activates conversations about the personal and political affects of redlining using her own family story growing up in Brooklyn.  She is a former  2017 Culture Push Fellow and a comissioned artist of Walking Lab, an international research collaborative network of artists, researchers and academics investigating the theory and practice of walking . She has presented and exhibited work at the Queens Museum, Flux Factory, Animart Conference, in Delphi, Greece, and the Oral History Summer School in Hudson, New York. Walis holds an MFA from Hunter College in Interactive Media and Advanced Documentary film and has taught at Parsons School of Design.

Lizzie Olesker is a Brooklyn based writer, director, and performer. Her plays and performances combining social history and personal experience have been developed and seen at the Public Theater (Dreaming Through History), New Georges (Embroidered Past), Cherry Lane Theatre (Razing Houses), Ohio Theater/Dixon Place/Invisible Dog (Infinite Miniature) and Clubbed Thumb (A Kind of Mother). She’s collaborated as a writer and actor with the Talking Band theater company at La Mama, HERE, and on international tour, and recently as a director for Louise Smith’s solo piece Dorothy Lane. She co-directed the film The Washing Society with Lynne Sachs, a hybrid documentary inspired by their devised laundromat performance, Every Fold Matters. Active in her adjunct faculty union UAW Local 7902, she teaches playwriting/performance at NYU and the New School.

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Mar 22, 2019 at 10:00 am
Mar 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm
$285.00 – $300.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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