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Two Days in Tucson

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Patti Lee, producer / DP, A Small Act

Two and a half days is not a long time–certainly not enough time for me to get to know Tucson. What I did and who I saw, though, left a positive impression on me of Tucson as a small town with a strong and motivated arts community.

My first night in town with Film Forward kicked off with a meet-and-greet party at the Tucson Museum of Art followed by a screening of A Small Act, which I shot and produced, at The Loft. Looking around at the marquee and the posters at The Loft, I was really comforted that there was a place for people to see lesser-known independent movies, foreign films, and others not in the mainstream. Even in Los Angeles, where I live, the arthouse is a rare find. Actually, maybe it’s “especially in Los Angeles.” The audience seemed very engaged, making the Q&A very lively. The highlight of the evening was when a woman in the audience from Congo made a very impassioned thank you for showing the importance of education, and she shared that she was helping her siblings get through school. These are the moments that make all the pain and hard work of making a movie worthwhile.

The next day, I went to see Winter’s Bone and listened to the Q&A with producer Kate Dean. This was not the first time I saw the film, but I was still blown away by the beautiful simplicity of the story and the incredible performances.

On the last day of the trip, I showed A Small Act to film students at the University of Arizona and had a great discussion with them after. I’ve spoken to quite a number of film classes before, but I have to say, these students were so excited and tuned in. Normally, I have to change tactics once in a while when I see the yawns spread across the room. Not one! 

Later in the day, I conducted a workshop at the Joel D. Valdez Library – “Using dramatic narrative techniques in documentary filmmaking.” I showed the film trailer and my favorite clip in the movie (I won’t say here, because I don’t want to give anything away) and spoke in more depth than I ever have before about the entire filmmaking process for A Small Act. Tucson, you now know my secrets! Lots of questions came from the audience that began, “I’ve never made a film before, but I want to make a movie about….”  My advice? Do your research, surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and MAKE THAT FILM!

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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