Ask the Doc Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "Sync or Swim"

The Documentary Doctor takes a look at filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic's "Sync or Swim."


A still from "Sync or Swim."

In the spirit of the Summer Olympics, the Documentary Doctor takes a look at filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic's Sync or Swim, which goes behind the scenes with the synchronized swimmers of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Also, check out the Doctor's previous Anatomy columns.

About this column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "This Is Where My Dog Is Buried"


A still from "This Is Where My Dog Is Buried"

The Doc Doctor takes a look behind the success of Israeli Producer and Director Nir Keinan's documentary This Is Where My Dog Is Buried. He describes the mistakes he made and the smart moves that ultimately led to the financing of the film. Also, check out the Doc Doctor's previous Anatomy columns.

About this column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "Muskrat Lovely"

A look at Amy Nicholson's film, which aired on PBS's "Independent Lens"


The Fur Flies: Filmmaker Amy Nicholson shot "Muskrat Lovely" in less than three weeks.

To make Muskrat Lovely (view the trailer), her first full-length documentary, Amy Nicholson packed a small crew into a car and drove from New York City to rural Maryland. Her subjects were the women participating in the 50th anniversary muskrat-skinning competition, which they refer to as a pageant. She had only one camera and under three weeks to get all of the footage she needed. Here, she explains how she pulled it off. Also, check out the Doc Doctor's previous Anatomy columns.

About this column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea"

Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer braved camera-melting heat to film their documentary


A Shore Thing: Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer spent four years filming "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea."

The Independent's Doc Doctor Fernanda Rossi analyzes the success of Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea (view the trailer), directed by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer. The filmmakers talk about sleeping in their car, having a camera melt in the heat, landing John Waters as a narrator, and re-editing their film after its world premiere at Slamdance. Also, check out Rossi's last "Anatomy" column on The Longing. Attention Colorado Filmmakers: The Doc will be conducting her signature workshops on story structure and trailer mechanics in Denver on May 17 and 18; she is also speaking at the Boston Media Market on May 30. For details, visit Documentarydoctor.com.

About this column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "The Longing"

The deeper she got into shooting, the more emotionally engaged filmmaker Gabriela Böhm became in her subjects' plight. The result is a very different film from the one she set out to make


Shul Politics: "The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America" looks at would-be converts like Borys and Maritza Valvarde.

The Independent's Fernanda Rossi interviews Gabriela Böhm about her film The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America. Böhm initially intended to make a dispassionate historical documentary complete with reenactments. As she became emotionally attached to her subjects, however, Böhm decided to rethink the tone of her film. The result is a compelling documentary that has been screened at more than 20 festivals worldwide.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "I Was a Teenage Feminist"

Therese Shechter talks about where the idea—and the money—came from, for this very personal, irreverent film


The Filmmaker's Mystique: Therese Shechter of "I Was a Teenage Feminist"

The Independent's Fernanda Rossi looks at Therese Shechter's film I Was a Teenage Feminist (watch the trailer), which has screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide. The filmmaker assembled an impressive advisory board to help her make the film. And she financed a portion of the post-production with money raised from a Canadian television network — but only after a true stroke of luck. Attention New York Filmmakers: The Doc Doctor is bringing her signature workshops on story structure and trailer mechanics to New York City on April 12 and 19. For more information, go to DocumentaryDoctor.com.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "51 Birch Street"

Doug Block talks about the making of his hit documentary about his parents' marriage


Doug Block and his mom

The Independent's Documentary Doctor, Fernanda Rossi, looks at how filmmaker Doug Block made 51 Birch Street, a documentary about his parents' mercurial relationship. The film was a critical and commercial success (watch the trailer here), enjoying theatrical distribution for nine months in 60 cities worldwide. But like all filmmakers, Block had his struggles. Among them: sound quality. Also, check out the Doc Doctor's recent "Anatomy" columns on Divan and Rock and a Heart Place.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So starting this month, the Doc Doctor decided to go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. Each month, her "anatomy" will be a chance to learn from their hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Successful Film: "Divan"

Filmmaker Pearl Gluck uses her quest to reclaim a sofa to unpack the story of her Jewish heritage


An Antique Road Show: In "Divan," filmmaker Pearl Gluck uses a sofa to chart her Jewish heritage.

In Divan, filmmaker Pearl Gluck embarks on a quest to reclaim a sofa on which esteemed rebbes slept. The journey takes her and the audience from New York City to Hungary, Ukraine, and Israel. The documentary has been accepted by more than 40 festivals including Tribeca, had a run at Film Forum in Manhattan, and aired on the Sundance Channel in the U.S. and on Channel 8 in Israel. You can watch the trailer, or check out previous columns that analyze the success of the films Rock in a Heart Place and Kiran over Mongolia.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So starting this month, the Doc Doctor decided to go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. Each month, her "anatomy" will be a chance to learn from their hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "Kiran over Mongolia"

How Joseph Spaid's documentary became the toast of 25 film festivals and counting


Nomad Girl with Dombora: Passing through valley en route to winter pasture.

In a new monthly feature, the Doc Doctor Fernanda Rossi presents a case study of a successful documentary film. Her first patient is Joseph Spaid, the producer and director of Kiran over Mongolia, a film about eagle hunting that has been screened at more than 25 film festivals from Estonia to Dubai. The Doc Doctor notes that Spaid filmed Kiran in less than four months spread over a four-year period. The filmmaker also discovered that a fire-proof safe was a wise investment.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So starting this month, the Doc Doctor decided to go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. Each month, her "anatomy" will be a chance to learn from their hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

Blurring the Lines

The boundary between her film—about children with cancer—and her life evaporated when Julia Reichert herself was diagnosed with cancer


Ohio-based filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s 3-hour and 45-minute documentary A Lion in the House follows five families with economically and racially diverse backgrounds over six years during their fights against childhood cancer.

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