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Feb 16, 2017 at 7:08 pm

PRIVATE LIVES, DISPARATE SELVES: An Intensive Seminar on Expanded Personal Filmmaking

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Private Lives, Disparate Selves:

An Intensive Seminar on Expanded Personal Filmmaking


After many decades on the fringe of documentary, personal filmmaking is now muddying the waters of the genre in exciting ways, and up-ending documentary’s sacred tenets of truth-telling and objectivity. Despite persistent cultural prejudices against personal work, we can also see an equally powerful fascination with private lives and intimate subjects.

This weekend intensive draws on a growing, complex landscape of personal films, beginning from the premise that there is no single way to tell a personal story. We will spend two days unpacking a multitude of possible approaches to personal filmmaking, and tackling crucial questions around this thorny cousin of documentary film. Does ‘personal’ always mean autobiographical? How does a filmmaker avoid the pitfalls of narcissism—or indulge in it productively? What are the ethics of working with subjects (both people and stories) that are ‘close to home’? Is personal work incompatible with politics-with-a-capital-P filmmaking, and can personal films have wide-ranging social impact? How do we deal with personal archives, and what can we do creatively with them?

Participants will learn from three talented professional practitioners, artists, thinkers and filmmakers, using their past projects as key examples for discussion. Together we will explore key ideas that range from intimate filmmaking, autobiography, artisanal storytelling, ethics, private archives, social and political engagement and more. Through lectures, group discussions, short exercises and work-in-progress critique, participants will be encouraged to put this new knowledge into practice. Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo, currently in post-production on a feature-length documentary about her uncle (Memories of a Penitent Heart) will lead the workshop. Guest artists include the prolific Su Friedrich (Sink or Swim, The Ties that Bind, Gut Renovation) and Alan Berliner (Nobody’s Business, Intimate Stranger, First Cousin Once Removed).

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


Su Friedrich hanging up xrays in the garden in "The Odds of Recovery"
Su Friedrich hanging up xrays in the garden in “The Odds of Recovery”

  Important Facts

When: Saturday Dec 5th to Sunday Dec  6th, 10am-5pm

Where: UnionDocs, 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211

 Who is eligible?

Open to everyone. We are looking for filmmakers, media artists, writers, professors, 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 a project idea (if you have one), 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.
Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Focus is on discussions, observation and storytelling. The goal is to develop your project conceptually.


$285 early bird registration by November 10th, by 5pm.

$315 regular

Please note that the service charge is waived if payment is made via check.

Checks can be made out to UnionDocs and mailed to 322 Union Ave, Brooklyn NY 11211.


Technology Requirements:

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a b-y-o-m, bring your own laptop.. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.



Intimate Stranger, Joseph Cassuto and Friends at the Beach in Alexandria, Egypt. (1932), Dir. Alan Berliner




9:30-11:00am: Welcome and Student Introductions

11:00am-1:00pm: Presentation by Su Friedrich + discussion

1:00-2:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

2:00-3:00pm: Workshop

3:00-5:00pm: Presentation by Cecilia Aldarondo + discussion

Expect about an hour of homework on Saturday night.



10:00am-11:00am:  workshop

11:00am-1:00pm: presentation by Alan Berliner + discussion

1:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

2:00-3:00pm: Workshop

3:00pm-5.30pm: student presentations + critiques

Su Friedrich: Playing solitaire in “Rules of the Road”, #1
Su Friedrich: Playing solitaire in “Rules of the Road”, #1


Cecilia portrait 2Cecilia Aldarondo obtained her MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College and PhD in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society from the University of Minnesota. Her personal documentary MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART has been supported by grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The Sundance Institute, The Time Warner Foundation, Firelight Media, and The National Association of Latino Independent Producers. In 2015 MEMORIES was selected for IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs as well as Sundance Institute’s Edit and Story Lab. She recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Skidmore College.

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hscheckedshirtSu Friedrich has produced and directed twenty-three 16mm films and digital videos, including Queen Takes Pawn (2013), Gut Renovation (2012), From the Ground Up (2007), Seeing Red (2005), The Head of a Pin (2004), The Odds of Recovery (2002), Hide and Seek (1996), Rules of the Road (1993), First Comes Love (1991), Sink or Swim (1990), Damned If You Don’t (1987), The Ties That Bind (1984), Gently Down the Stream (1981), and Cool Hands, Warm Heart (1979). With the exception of Hide and Seek, Friedrich is the writer, director, cinematographer, sound recordist and editor of all her films. Friedrich’s films have won many awards, including BEST NARRATIVE FILM AWARD at the Athens International Film Festival, OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY FEATURE at Outfest in Los Angeles, SPECIAL JURY AWARD at the New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, GRAND PRIX at the Melbourne Film Festival, the GOLDEN GATE AWARD at the San Francisco Film Festival and BEST EXPERIMENTAL NARRATIVE AWARD at the Atlanta Film Festival. Her work is widely screened in the United States, Canada and Europe and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, The Stadtkino in Vienna, the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, the National Film Theater in London, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the First Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Cork Film Festival in Ireland, the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, The Bios Art Center in Athens, Greece, and the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Friedrich is the recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts (1996), an Independent Television Service production grant (1994), an NEA Fellowship (1994), a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1990), a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1989), a DAAD grant as artist-in-residence in Berlin (1984), as well as multiple grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation her work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Royal Film Archive of Belgium, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Library of Australia, as well as many university libraries. The films are distributed by The Museum of Modern Art, Outcast Films, Canyon Cinema, The Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Center, Light Cone in Paris and the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek in Berlin.

The films have been reviewed in numerous publications, including Variety, Premiere, The Village Voice, Artforum, The New York Times, The Nation, Film Quarterly, The Millennium Film Journal, Sight and Sound, Flash Art, Cineaste, The Independent, Heresies Art Journal, Afterimage, and The L.A. Weekly. Essays on her work as well as excerpts from her scripts have appeared in numerous books, including Crafting Truth: Documentary Form and Meaning (2011) Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art (2010), Women’s Experimental Cinema (2007), 501 Movie Directors (2007), Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream (2005),Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943-2000 (2002), Left In the Dark (2002), The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (2002), Girl Director: A How-To Guide (2001), Collecting Visible Evidence (1999), Experimental Ethnography (1999), The New American Cinema (1998), Play It Again, Sam (1998), Film Fatales (1998), Cinematernity (1996), Screen Writings (1994), Women’s Films (1994), Queer Looks (1993), Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies (1993), Vampires and Violets (1992), and Critical Cinema: Volume Two (1992).

Her DVD collection is distributed by Outcast Films.
More information: http://www.sufriedrich.com

ties01Su and Lore Friedrich in The Ties That Bind (1984), dir. Su Friedrich, ph. Rebecca McBride

8501_ALAN_BERLINER_4b_studio_old_ms (1)
alanberlinerAlan Berliner
‘s uncanny ability to combine experimental cinema, artistic purpose, and popular appeal in compelling film essays has made him one of America’s most acclaimed independent filmmakers. The New York Times has described Berliner’s work as “powerful, compelling and bittersweet… full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures… Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life.”Berliner’s experimental documentary films, First Cousin Once Removed (2013), Wide Awake (2006), The Sweetest Sound (2001), Nobody’s Business (1996), Intimate Stranger (1991), and The Family Album (1986), have been broadcast all over the world, and received awards, prizes, and retrospectives at many major international film festivals.  The San Francisco International Film Festival called Berliner, “America’s foremost cinematic essayist.”  The Florida Film Festival called him “the modern master of personal documentary filmmaking.”  Over the years, Berliner’s films have become part of the core curriculum for documentary filmmaking and film history classes at universities worldwide, and are in the permanent collections of many film societies, festivals, libraries, colleges and museums. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

In July of 2013, Berliner was awarded the Freedom of Expression Award by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. In 2006, the International Documentary Association honored him with an International Trailblazer Award “for creativity, innovation, originality, and breakthrough in the field of documentary cinema.” Berliner had also been a recipient of a Distinguished Achievement Award from the IDA in 1993. In 2002, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture presented him with a Cultural Achievement Award in the Arts, and he was the recipient of the Storyteller Award from the Taos Talking Picture Film Festival in 2001. Berliner’s films have won awards at many major international film festivals, and he has received retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), and many other museums and film festivals all over the world.

Berliner is a recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Jerome Foundation Fellowships, and has received multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  He’s won three Emmy Awards and received seven Emmy nominations from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  Berliner has also served on several non-profit foundation funding panels and various international film festival juries, including the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Jury. He is on the Board of Directors of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.

More information: http://www.alanberliner.com

First Cousin, Once Removed (2013), dir. Alan Berliner, 78 min.

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 Workshop Policies:

Registration & Cancellation To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via PayPal. After the registration deadline of November 10th, 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.






Feb 16, 2017
7:08 pm

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