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Seeing the Future in a One-on-One meeting with MIT’s Open Story

Posted on October 12, 2018


Christen Marquez, a PIC-funded filmmaker, shares her experience and gives tips on how to navigate one-to-one sessions at the most recent "Getting Real 2018" Conference. 


Getting Real 2018 was the third biennial conference for documentary filmmakers, organized by the International Documentary Association (IDA). The majority of the events take place along Hollywood Boulevard just a few miles from my home, but I have not until this year had the privilege of attending.  Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) organized a dinner for Native Hawaiian filmmakers attending the conference. I was grateful to have the chance for us to sit together and talk about the projects that we’re currently working on.

Other than being able to reconnect with fellow filmmakers from Hawaiʻi, I was also fortunate to participate in the Real Talks Round Table program at Getting Real, which is like a speed dating circuit for filmmakers and funders. During the conference the most interesting one-on-one meeting was with Kat Cizek, who is the Artistic Director of the MIT Open Documentary Lab’s Co-Creation Studio. I was able to do a little research before meeting Kat, but honestly not as much as I would have liked.

The Open Doc Lab is a sprawling and exciting program that is cutting edge enough that I don’t quite understand it all, but I know I really want to. Kat was the perfect person to meet in this kind setting, and it was an opportunity to meet with someone who was outside of my normal feature documentary comfort zone. We had an energetic chat about tech, collaborative processes, and I am excited about digging deeper into the project’s that are coming out of the Open Documentary Lab for inspiration and staying in touch with Kat.

When I was walking back to my car, I had a quick chat with some other filmmakers at the conference, and I realized that many of the filmmakers, especially those who are just getting started often do not know about these opportunities to have private meetings with funders until they are already at the conference. It’s a shame since it’s a free and very valuable resource open to people participating in the conference.

There are many conferences like Getting Real that provide opportunities to meet with funders, but they often have a separate program name and require a separate application aside from just registering for the conference. I have found that many filmmakers do not know about these programs before attending a conference, and therefore get left out of a valuable piece of the experience. As mentioned earlier at Getting Real, the meeting program is called the “Real Talks Round Tables.” Other conferences like Independent Film Project’s (IFP) annual conference have IFP Week and Reel Screen West with a variety of pitch and roundtable options.

You will usually have to submit a short paragraph and reel as part of the application requirements for these programs. After that, you will be assigned and given a schedule of your meetings. Once you have the list of people you will be meeting with, keep in mind a few of these tips to help you prepare.

  • Do as much research as you can about the people you are meeting. There is sometimes a wide range of people who you can meet with at a conference. Some are funders, distributors, or even consulting producers. It benefits you to know who you are talking to.
  • Building on the point above, if you know who you are talking to, you can tailor the questions that you ask in your meeting.
  • Bring a one-sheet with you, in case someone asks, but don’t get caught up in feeling like you need to show people materials unless you are asked for them. Make the most of this in-person opportunity to have a genuine conversation about your work. You can always send a PDF version later as a follow-up to your meeting.
  • For some reason there is usually no internet service in the spaces that these meetings are conducted in, so have a Quicktime video file of your work sample locally available to show if someone asks during your meeting.
  • Bring two good set of headphones and a splitter, sometimes you might be meeting with two people.
  • Be sure to get contact information for the people that you met with so you can send follow-up emails and stay in touch.

If you are planning to attend a filmmaker conference make sure that you apply and prepare for the private networking opportunities that are out there.


Photo courtesy: Christen Marquez.
(L to R): Cheryl Hirasa (PIC Director of Program Development & Content Strategy), Justyn Ah Chong, (PIC-funded filmmaker), Renea Veneri Steward (Producer for EMMY Award winning series Family Ingredients), Erin Lau (Director & Writer), Christen Marquez, Heather Giugni (Native Hawaiian Filmmaker, executive producer of EMMY awarding winning series, Family Ingredients).


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