Reaching The Summit – Insider Tips For Navigating Documentary’s Rocky Terrain

Reaching the Summit: Insider Tips For Navigating Documentary’s Rocky Terrain is a panel discussion about the state of the industry, giving practical information and perspectives from across the field on funding, producing and distributing non fiction in 2023. The discussion will be moderated by John Cooper, former Sundance Film Festival Director, and features a panel of folks involved in documentary filmmaking and festivals. Panelists include Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen, Sundance Institute Director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs Carrie Lozano, and Emmy®-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker, El Equipo Director Bernardo Ruiz.

The panel is a special presentation of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, hosted by festival Co-Director Cynthi Stefenoni at 11 a.m. on March 18 at Sebastopol Center for the Arts. =

The 16th SDFF runs March 16-19, 2023, followed by a Virtual Festival March 20-29, which features a selection of films from the live fest. Tickets cost $12 and are available to the general public now.

Panelists (l-r): Moderator John Cooper, longtime Programmer and Director of the Sundance Film Festival; Carrie Lozano, Sundance Institute Director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs; Bernardo Ruiz, Emmy®-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker, El Equipo Director; and Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Executive Producer.

John Cooper, Moderator
For three decades John Cooper was a member of the Sundance Film Festival programming team. In the early years, he moved from a programmer, to the Director of Programming before eventually being named director in 2010. From 2010 to 2020 he oversaw all aspects of the annual Sundance Film Festival in addition to expanding ventures to Sundance Film Festival: London and Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong. From 1995-98 Cooper also served as director of Outfest held annually in Los Angeles. He has also been a guest curator and juror at major festivals around the world and was accepted into the Academy of Motion Pictures in 2020, when he also came to live in Sebastopol, where he has quickly become invaluable to our vibrant community.

Carrie Lozano, Panelist
Carrie Lozano is Director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs at the Sundance Institute where her programs support a broad slate of independent, domestic and international nonfiction storytellers focused on human rights, social justice and innovative approaches. In addition, she leads Sundance’s Ignite and Accelerator programs, which focus on emerging storytellers and providing career advancement opportunities for Sundance supported artists. Prior to Sundance, she designed and directed the International Documentary Association’s Enterprise Documentary Fund, where she supported filmmakers working at the intersection of documentary and journalism, including Going To Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, A Thousand Cuts, Through the Night, Always In Season and One Child Nation. At IDA, she also led the Pare Lorentz fund, which supports US-focused social issues and environmental justice films.

Lozano is also an award winning documentary filmmaker and journalist. She was previously a documentary executive at Al Jazeera America and a senior producer of the network’s investigative series Fault Lines, where her team garnered numerous awards including an Emmy, a Peabody, and several Headliner Awards. Among other work, she produced the Academy Award nominee The Weather Underground, the live cinema piece Utopia In Four Movements and produced, directed, and edited the Teddy Award nominee Reporter Zero. Her most recent film collaborations are The Ballad of Fred Hersch, The Interpreters, Belly of the Beast and Prognosis: Notes on Living. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and serves on the board of jurors of the Peabody Awards. She is also on the board of ProPublica and on the advisory boards of PBS Frontline and U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism where she is an alum.

Bernardo Ruiz, Panelist
Bernardo Ruiz is a two-time Emmy® nominated documentary filmmaker and member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. His 5th documentary feature, El Equipo is also being screened at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival on March 18, where he will also appear in a post-screening panel discussion on the film with human rights investigator Eric Stover. His directorial feature debut, Reportero (2012), about reporters facing threats for their reporting on organized crime and political corruption at a Tijuana weekly, premiered at Full Frame (U.S.), IDFA (Europe) and Ambulante (Mexico). New York Magazine called it “a powerful reminder of how journalism often requires immense amounts of physical and psychological bravery.”

Ruiz’s other directorial credits include: The Infinite Race (ESPN’s 30 for 30, 2020) and Harvest Season (Independent Lens, 2019), which opened the 2019 Sebastopol Film Festival and was nominated for a James Beard Award.

Lois Vossen, Panelist
Lois Vossen is the founding executive producer of Independent Lens on PBS, which each season co-produces 22 original documentaries, 10+ documentary shorts for PBS YouTube, journalism shorts with legacy journalism outlets, and docu series including Philly D.A. Independent Lens has received 27 Emmy Awards, 26 Peabody Awards, 8 duPont Awards, 10 Academy Award nominations, and was honored with the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2022 International Documentary Association Award for Best Continuing Series. She was on the Television Academy Board of Governors and BOG Executive Committee, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). She’s been a juror for DOC New Zealand, Toronto International Film Festival, Shanghai International Festival, SXSW, Palm Springs International Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, among others. Prior to ITVS, Lois was Associate Managing Director of the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Labs. She has commissioned and co-produced several films, including One Child Nation, Hazing, Belly of the Beast, I Am Not Your Negro, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution, Newtown, TOWER, among many others.

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