The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival is currently featuring a wide range of intriguing documentaries. The festival's selections such as The List and Searching For Sugar Man are allowing innovative cinematic voices to emerge. For documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner, her work being honored at the Sundance Film Festival proved to be life altering. Her film, Dig!, a informative foray into the 1970's music scene, won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival in 2004. We Live in Public, an astonishing portrait of the internet age, achieved the same honor in 2009.
Her latest venture has taken her to Tribeca in order to sit down with emerging documentary filmmakers. The show web BYOD (Bring Your Own Documentary) been a passion project for the remarkably accomplished Timoner. Now playing on TheLip.tv, the series sheds light on the realities of creating non-fiction films. The project has reunited her with Vladmir Radovanov, who executive produced We Live In Public. Radovanov, who was instrumental in the development of BYOD, serves as the show's co-host.
The International Business Times had the chance to talk to Timoner about BYOD, how Sundance has effected her career, and the current pool of docs at the Tribeca Film Festival.
What led you to create your show BYOD (Bring Your Own Documentary)?
I had wanted to do a TV show about documentaries for quite a while because documentaries have quite an impact on our culture. This can be directly or indirectly, on our politics and on our lives. I as a filmmaker, I make films that are extremely dramatic, real, and have suspense driven narratives. I'm not known for the straight forward issue film. Most good documentaries are very visceral experiences. The film's that make you feel something have amazing stories behind them.
I knew that the show would be an undertaking for sure but a learning experience as well. I'm on the road with a lot of great filmmakers and I often interact with them but rarely get to see their work. The show allows me to give advice as a filmmaker. It's more of a conversation. My hope is that aspiring filmmakers out there can get insight into aspects of documentary filmmaking, such as financial issues and development. There's so much to say about how these films are made and how the industry is changing.
There's also the subject matter of the films. We've covered everything from tsunamis, poverty in America, Detroit, and urban farming. Right now we're at the Tribeca Film Festival covering documentaries. Today alone we've covered three feature docs, along with five short films. They cover a range of subject matters for instance, Side By Side, which Keanu Reeves produced, to Cat Cam and Sexy Baby. It's a fascinating endeavor.
You've won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival twice, how has that altered the path of your career?
Making the first film that I won for; Dig! was a seven year journey. While making the film, I gave birth to a son, which was far easier than giving birth to the film. The Sundance submission deadline actually happened to correspond with the birth. When we won the award, I just couldn't believe it but my feet were firmly planted on the ground because I was a new mother.
In terms of my career, it really took off at that point. I became known to the world and that was lovely and wonderful. It provided me with an upbringing for my son that I couldn't have afforded otherwise.
The second time I won Sundance was incredible because no one had won that award twice. The win told everyone that I wasn't a one hit wonder. It proved that it wasn't just having a great story the first time around but that it was also me. That was really important for my career.
What do you think major festivals, like Sundance and Tribeca, do for documentary films?
It's immeasurable. First of all, many documentaries will never be seen on a big screen, outside of a festival. Second, it's gives directors a chance to interact with audiences. They can get audience feedback and develop their work further and in general it creates a conversation. It also allows them to be reviewed by such outlets as the New York Times and Variety, which can help them qualify for the Oscars.
The festivals also allow documentary filmmakers to promote their work and potentially find distributors. Of course if you win, you're whole career can change.
What documentaries have you seen at Tribeca this year that have really stood out to you?
Last night I saw Morgan Spurlock's film Mansome, which was a fun/light film about male grooming. He's a very entertaining filmmaker and a friend of mine. Baseball in a Time of Cholera, which is about the Cholera outbreak in Haiti. It's directed by David Darg and Bryn Mooster and it focuses on a little baseball team that was started in the country with a couple of aid workers. Sexy Baby is another amazing one.