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Apr 22, 2022 at 10:00 am – Apr 24, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Modes of Making: Producing for Documentary

With Laura Coxson, Laverne Berry, Kyle Martin, Rachel Traub, Sweta Vohra, Jamila Wignot & Jessica Wolfson

The process of bringing a documentary film to light, especially in the independent or experimental landscape, can happen in a multitude of ways. Ideas emerge or are sourced, funding is assembled from multiple grants, funders and campaigns, directors come with particular visions and goals – and even the story itself will have its own creative and practical strengths, challenges and unforeseen turns along the way. Yet the producer is expected in many ways to reign in the uncertainty; to provide stability and a clear path forward.

What constitutes a producer’s work? Where does their job begin and end? What are best practices in a field that tends to be plagued by opacity? Join UnionDocs and Laura Coxson (The Proposal, Iris, Graven Image) to explore the nuts and bolts of production, from the nitty gritty of setting up a production properly to the state of documentary production today. Open to any and all producers, from those who are directing and producing their documentary projects themselves to associate producers, co-producers, and producers working on others’ projects, this workshop will seek to instill solidarity among those who produce and provide basic information that can otherwise seem inaccessible.

The three-day workshop is organized in stages, from development/pre-production to production and the future of documentary production and the industry writ large. On Friday, April 22, participants will hear from Laverne Berry of Berry Entertainment Law on agreements and access. That afternoon, our lead Laura Coxson will dive into the work and art involved in development and pre-production, from grant writing to deck creation to team building, looking specifically at her latest film, Handheld, as a case study. On the second day, participants will hear from Jamila Wignot (Ailey) on the director-producer relationship (and the differences and overlaps between both roles) and from Kyle Martin (Cryptozoo, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project) on creative producing. The weekend will close out with a feedback/problem-solving session for participants with Laura and Sweta Vohra (Multitude Films), along with a state-of-the-documentary-production-industry roundtable with Rachel Traub (Concordia Studios) and Jessica Wolfson.

Producers of all stripes, join us for this engaging and eye-opening conversation!

NOTE: This workshop will require in-person participation from all participants. Each participant must present proof of vaccination . Any and all questions, please reach out to [email protected].


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for documentary filmmakers, aspiring podcasters, journalists, and media artists. This workshop is in person and will be conducted in compliance with CDC protocols.

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).

$350 early bird registration by April 15th, 2022 at 11:59PM.

$400 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until April 15th. After April 15th, 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: To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . After the early bird registration deadline of April 15th, 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 22, – 10:00am - 4:00pm

10:30a -12:30p – Agreements, Access: The Nuts and Bolts of Setting Up a Production with Laverne Berry
12:30p – 2:00p – LUNCH
2:00p – 4:00p –  From Grant Writing to Team-Building: Documentary Development with Laura Coxson

Saturday, April 23, – 10:00am - 4:00pm

10:30a – 12:30p – Creative Production with Kyle Martin
12:30p – 2:00p – LUNCH
2:00p -4:00p – The Director-Producer Relationship with Jamila Wignot

Sunday, April 24 – 10:00am - 4:00pm

The State of Documentary Production
10:30a – 12:30p – Feedback/Problem Solving with Sweta Vohra and Laura Coxson
12:30p – 2:00p – LUNCH
2:00p – 4:00p – The State of the Industry with Rachel Traub and Jessica Wolfson

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


First Workshop Session




Second Workshop Session


Wrap Up


Laura Coxson is a Leo, loves documentary films that have a sense of humor, and strongly believes in the spirit of collaboration. She never saw archival footage she didn’t like, and will happily research almost any topic if it involves talking on the phone. She got her start at Maysles Films, Inc. where she learned most everything she knows–and has been freelance producing ever since.

Emmy-nominated, she’s screened films at festivals such as the NYFF, Sundance, Berlinale, Sheffield, Hot Docs, Full Frame, Play Doc, Tribeca, SXSW, CPH Docs and more! She graduated from Bard College, lived in Edinburgh, Scotland and Philadelphia, PA before moving to New York City.

She is a proud new member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Laverne Berry is an entertainment and media business affairs attorney representing independent film and television producers, directors, production companies, distribution companies, authors and media companies. Drawing on eighteen years as a television producer and distribution executive before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Berry understands both the business and legal sides of the media marketplace.

Ms. Berry has been designated as an approved clearance counsel for Fair Use review by Media/Professional Insurance, a world-wide leader in Media, Cyber and Technology insurance coverage.

Ms. Berry also has been involved in Alternative Dispute Resolution for 20 years. She is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, American Arbitration Association (AAA) Los Angeles, New York and Boston Commercial Arbitration Panels; the AAA/Federal Communications Arbitration Panel; the AAA Mediation Panel; the Independent Film and Television Alliance (formerly known as the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA)) arbitration panel, and is a member of ABA Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution in the entertainment industry.

Jamila Wignot is an award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker. Her body of work includes AILEY (Sundance ’21); the Peabody, Emmy, and NAACP award-winning THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS; TOWN HALL a feature-length co-production with ITVS about the Tea Party movement; and for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE the Peabody Award-winning “Triangle Fire” and Emmy-nominated “Walt Whitman”. Wignot’s producing credits include Sierra Pettengill’s RIOTSVILLE, USA (Sundance ’22);  “Hands On,” for The New York Times FX/Hulu series The Weekly; W. Kamau Bell’s directorial debut BRING THE PAIN: THE DOCUMENTARY;  and the narrative A STRAY (SXSW ’16) by Sundance Award-winning director Musa Syeed.

Kyle Martin is known for his work with Matt Wolf on Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, Teenage, and Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell. He has also produced Cryptozoo, Tiny Furniture, and My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea, among other features, both documentary and narrative alike. Martin is the recipient of the Sundance Institute’s Mark Silverman Producing Fellowship, the San Francisco Film Society’s Kenneth Rainin Foundation Fellowship, the IFP/Cannes Marche Du Film Producer’s Network Fellowship and the Sundance Institute/Rotterdam Cinemart Producing Fellowship. He was named one of Variety‘s “Ten Producers to Watch” in 2012.

Sweta Vohra is a documentary filmmaker and journalist based in New York City. She spent eight years at Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines, where she produced and directed over a dozen films that covered race, policing, immigration, women’s issues, surveillance and technology.

Rachel Traub is the Director of Development at Concordia Studio, launched by Davis Guggenheim to focus on documentary storytelling, production, and finance.Previously, she served as VP of Non-Fiction at AGC Studios, where she oversaw the production, finance, and international sales of multiple feature documentaries, including 3 projects with CNN Films. Prior to that Traub consulted for Topic Studios non-fiction team, and formerly oversaw feature film development/co-productions at Warrior Poets. where she ushered numerous feature documentaries and non-fiction series through development, production and post, including NO MAN’S LAND (Tribeca Film Festival 2017) and THE DEVIL WE KNOW (Sundance 2018).

Jessica Wolfson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She began her career working at IFCtv Originals where she produced films by many renowned filmmakers including Kirby Dick, Steve James, John Landis, and Jon Favreau. Jessica has directed several films including HOT GREASE (Discovery Channel) and RADIO UNNAMEABLE (Kino Lorber) and produced many feature and short documentaries including LIFE & LIFE, SACRED, REVENGE OF THE MEKONS and A GIRL AND A GUN. She has created content for PBS, Discovery, History Channel, ESPN, CBS All Access, MTV, Wall Street Journal, Magnolia, Conde Nast, and many brands and nonprofits. Her most recent projects include KINDERLAND and THE PAINT WIZZARD (New Yorker). Jessica was named “20 Under 40” by DOC NYC in 2010. She has acted as consultant for many documentary projects, a mentor for the Gotham and Tribeca Film Institute and teaches documentary production at New York Film Academy. Currently she is the executive producer of the creative agency at Indeed.com.

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Apr 22, 2022 at 10:00 am
Apr 24, 2022 at 3:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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