Speakeasy Conversations

Full Frame is proud to present the A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy for the eighth year in a row in 2018. The A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy hosts a number of panel conversations over the course of the festival that are free and open to the public. The Speakeasy offers a casual setting where a small audience can listen to industry leaders take on topics that are at the heart of the documentary community today.

The A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy feature spirited and engaging discussions and debates between professionals working at the highest levels, both on stage and with the audience. This not-to-be missed series of conversations takes place on Friday and Saturday at the Durham Hotel.

2018 Speakeasy Conversations

Running with Scissors
Friday, April 6 – 9:15 am

Esteemed documentary film editors come together to discuss their essential role in the storytelling process. How do editors choose projects? When should an editor come on board? How do editors communicate with directors about where their own ethics lie? This conversation examines the multi-layered issues that editors confront.

Moderated by Toby Shimin, This Is Home
Penelope Falk, STEP
Carla Gutierrez, RBG
George O’Donnell, Jackie Robinson


A Discussion with Jehane Noujaim
Friday, April 6 – 12:15 pm

Full Frame Tribute recipient Jehane Noujaim will join festival director Deirdre Haj to reflect on her body of work—her experiences balancing intimacy and urgency as she navigates unfolding stories—and examine the ways her films bring new perspectives to international events and continue to resonate today. Noujaim’s acclaimed films include The SquareControl RoomRafea: Solar Mama, and Startup.com.

Moderated by Deirdre Haj, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival


Documentary in the Time of Fake News
Friday, April 6 – 3:15 pm

Documentary film thrives in the space between impartial journalism and biased propaganda. But today there is increasing hostility towards media, and what passes for truth-based storytelling changes almost daily. How can documentaries retain their reputation for authenticity amidst a climate where public figures and advocacy groups are quick to discredit content that does not support the loudest tweet?

Moderated by Christopher Clements, The Cleaners, Inventing Tomorrow
Stephen Maing, Crime + Punishment
Laura Nix, Inventing Tomorrow
Maxim Pozdorovkin, Our New President


Crime and Punishment with Joe Berlinger
Saturday, April 7 – 9:15 am

This conversation with Thematic Program guest curator Joe Berlinger will explore the ways in which he’s approached crime and punishment in his own work. A leading voice in nonfiction film for the past two decades, Berlinger has made such landmark documentaries as Brother’s Keeper, the Paradise Lost Trilogy, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. BulgerCrude, and Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, among others. In addition to his feature documentary work, Berlinger has created many hours of crime-related unscripted series for television, including Gone: The Forgotten Women of OhioCold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders, and Killing Richard Glossip.

Moderated by Sadie Tillery, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival


#DocsSoWhite: The Gatekeepers
Saturday, April 7 – 12:15 pm
Co-presented with the Southern Documentary Fund

Full Frame’s third iteration of our discussions on the lack of diversity in the documentary filmmaking field focuses on funding and programming. How do gatekeepers influence the ways documentaries are reviewed and adjudicated? Do diverse selection committees foster enough inclusion of equally diverse content? How can we create an inclusive field when the criteria we use to judge film may be embedded in an all-white Western European model? From foundations to film schools to festivals, does the definition of what is a “good” documentary need to change?

Moderated by Naomi Walker, Southern Documentary Fund
Carrie Lozano, International Documentary Association
Lauren Pabst, MacArthur Foundation
Sam Pollard, MAYNARD
Anu Rana, Diverse Voices in Docs, Kartemquin Films


Framing the Conversation
Saturday, April 7 – 3:15 pm

Our continued series of discussions with documentary trailblazers welcomes Full Frame founder and award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski back to the moderator’s chair.  Two-time Academy Award winner, special guest, and advisory board member Barbara Kopple sits down with Buirski to speak about her immense body of work, including her most recent project, A Murder in Mansfield, the relationships she builds with her subjects, and plans for her next steps in an already illustrious career.

Moderated by Nancy Buirski, The Rape of Recy Taylor



2017 Speakeasy Conversations

Framing the Conversation
Friday, April 7 — 9:15 am

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, Full Frame is pleased to launch “Framing the Conversation”, a new series of discussions in the A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy in which individual filmmakers reflect on their work. In this inaugural year, two of the field’s most renowned filmmakers—Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker—discuss their careers and the documentary filmmaking profession.

Panelists include: Chris Hegedus (Unlocking the Cage, The War Room) and D A Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop). Moderated by: Nancy Buirski (By Sidney Lumet, The Loving Story, Full Frame Founder) 

Full Frame Speakeasy – Framing the Conversation from Full Frame Documentary Film Fest on Vimeo.


Out of the Echo Chamber
Friday, April 7 — 12:15 pm

Since Donald Trump’s stunning win in the 2016 presidential election, many in the documentary field are asking the same question: Are nonfiction filmmakers, and the profession in general, out of touch with a huge swath of fellow Americans, and if so, where do we go from here?

Panelists include: Katy Chevigny (E-Team, Deadline), Marshall Curry (If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Street Fight), Cynthia Hill (Private Violence, The Guestworker), and Farihah Zaman (Field of Vision). Moderated by: Deirdre Haj (Full Frame Festival Director)

Full Frame Speakeasy – Out of the Echo Chamber from Full Frame Documentary Film Fest on Vimeo.


Advanced Circuitry: 20 Years of Festivals
Friday, April 7 — 3:15 pm

Full Frame is one of the oldest and largest documentary-only festivals in the United States. Back when we started, there were far fewer nonfiction films and distribution streams than there are now, when there are so many of both. Using the festival as a frame, these esteemed documentary professionals look back at the business of utilizing the festival circuit to promote a film, and how it might work best in the future

Panelists include: Amir Bar-Lev (Long Strange Trip, My Kid Could Paint That), Ryan Harrington (Discovery Communications), Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts, Cartel Land), and Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified). Moderated by: Julie Goldman (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Weiner)

Full Frame Speakeasy – Advanced Circuitry from Full Frame Documentary Film Fest on Vimeo.


Sustainability Now
Saturday, April 8 — 9:15 am

At their recent “Getting Real” conference, the International Documentary Association began a series of conversations on sustainability for the documentary film field. With the NEA, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS once again on the chopping block for federal funding, how do documentary filmmaking professionals respond?

Panelists include: Justine Nagan (POV), Gordon Quinn (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), Michael Schoenfeld (Duke University), and Marco Williams (Two Towns of Jasper). Moderated by: Claire Aguilar (International Documentary Association).

Full Frame Speakeasy – Sustainability Now from Full Frame Documentary Film Fest on Vimeo.


#DocsSoWhite 2.0: Representation, Agency, and Authorship in Doc Film
Saturday, April 8 — 12:15 pm

Who gets to tell whose story, and how do we diversify the world of documentary filmmaking? This panel, begun at last year’s festival, spawned several national op-eds and articles as filmmakers wrestled with the ethics of representation, as well as building support for colleagues who have less opportunity than those in the ethnic majority. Full Frame advisory board member Leo Chiang participated in last year’s discussion and moderates this year’s group, as panelists discuss an issue that is not evolving quickly.

Panelists include: Patricia Benabe (They Took Them Alive, The Hand That Feeds), Whitney Dow (Two Towns of Jasper, Whiteness Project), and Yance Ford (Strong Island),. Moderated by: S. Leo Chiang (Out Run, Mr. Cao Goes to Washington)

Full Frame Speakeasy – #DocsSoWhite 2.0 from Full Frame Documentary Film Fest on Vimeo.

The In-Between
Saturday, April 8 — 3:15 pm

Documentary filmmaking often creates a feast-or-famine cycle for makers who continue to produce work over the course of many years. After releasing a film, there’s a period of time in which the filmmakers are on the road across the country and the world to promote their work. The next creative phase involves digging into the often-lonely and highly unglamorous development process of bringing nascent ideas to life as new, full-fledged projects. Per filmmaker request, this open space for conversation is about giving “between-projects” creative life, professional support, and focused creative feedback.

Past Speakeasy conversations are archived and can be watched on the Full Frame Vimeo page.

2016 Speakeasy Conversations

Beyond the Choir — Friday, April 8, 9:15 am
How do docs with a message reach the unconverted? Filmmakers discuss targeting their work for audiences with a wide range of views.

Watch the Beyond the Choir Speakeasy Conversation!

The New Theatrical — Friday, April 8, 12:15 pm
Distributors discuss methods, both new and traditional, to build audiences for documentary films.

Watch The New Theatrical Speakeasy Conversation!

The Glass Ceiling — Friday, April 8, 3:15 pm
Filmmakers weigh in on the challenges women face in the documentary industry, from gender bias to funding access.

Watch The Glass Ceiling Speakeasy Conversation!

#DocsSoWhite? — Saturday, April 9, 9:15 am
Is the documentary field more diverse than Hollywood? Directors address questions of representation and opportunity.

Watch the #DocsSoWhite? Speakeasy Conversation!

Perfect and Otherwise — Saturday, April 9, 12:15 pm
In this conversation around the 2016 Thematic Program, filmmakers reflect on the inherent drama of documenting the electoral process.

Watch the Perfect and Otherwise Speakeasy Conversation!

Slippery Truths — Saturday, April 9, 3:15 pm
Directors who blur the lines between art and artifice open up about their approaches and the constructions inherent in documentary work.