News & Events

September 2009

Documentary Institute Moves to Wake Forest University

Due to statewide budget cuts, the Documentary Institute will no longer offer a graduate program in documentary film. But the top-ranked documentary program will continue at Wake Forest University where DI faculty members Sandra Dickson, Cindy Hill and Cara Pilson will join Wake Forest professor and award-winning filmmaker Mary Dalton in launching a new graduate documentary program.

Offering students the option of an MA or MFA in documentary production, the Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest will continue the DI tradition of producing award-winning and socially significant student documentary films. “We will be part of a top-ranked national university with a strong intellectual tradition and a keen sense of social responsibility—the perfect environment for creative and responsible storytelling,” says Dickson, who joined the Wake faculty in July.

The new Documentary Film Program will begin in Fall 2010.

August 2009

Best Feature Doc Win for A Sh'mal World

Best Feature Doc Win for A Sh'mal World

A Sh’mal World, produced by 2008 DI graduates Michelle Friedline and Laureen Ricks, recently took top honors in the documentary feature category at the 2009 New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase.

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June 2009

Silverdocs Honors Maysles

This year’s Silverdocs Film Festival offered DI students an opportunity to catch up with some former mentors at an event honoring renowned filmmaker Al Maysles. The festival honored Maysles, who is widely recognized as a pioneer of “direct cinema” and regarded as one of America’s foremost non-fiction filmmakers, at its annual Charles Guggenheim Symposium. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple attended the event to pay tribute to Maysles’ filmmaking career.

DI student Carlos Torres,who spent last summer interning with Kopple’s Cabin Creek Films in New York, welcomed the chance the evening gave him to catch up with Kopple. 2008 DI graduate Michelle Friedline, and former Maysles Film intern, also attended the event. Michelle is one of several students who have interned at Maysles Films and reaped the benefits of learning the craft from one of the industry’s most respected filmmakers.

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April 2009

10th Annual Student Screening

The Documentary Institute will showcase the work of the 2009 graduating class on Friday, May 1 at the Reitz Union Auditorium at 5:30 p.m.

The Tenth Annual Student Documentary Screening is sponsored in part by the Governor’s Office of Film & Entertainment, which attracts and promotes film and video production in Florida.

Preview Films

Gilbert Just as "Generous" Second Time Around

Gilbert Just as "Generous" Second Time Around

Incredibly generous. That is how DI students described Peter Gilbert after his last visit to the Institute. And true to form, Gilbert left the same impression on the current crop of DI students during his second visit to campus. The acclaimed filmmaker recently came to UF to share his expertise with students and to screen his latest documentary film, At the Death House Door. But the highlight of the visit for first-year DI students was a pitch session with the filmmaker. Each student team presented a thesis film idea to Gilbert and received a critique on presentation and story development.

The student teams were impressed with both the depth and the breadth of Gilbert’s critiques. “It was so refreshing to hear feedback on our prospective thesis films,” said Jameil Hamilton. “His feedback was an invaluable part of evaluating the viability of our film idea. The amount of time he spent with each group asking questions and trying to ascertain the crux of our film was a pleasant surprise.” Peter Salamone added, “He offered great constructive criticism. It’s a work in process and he really helped.”

Gilbert also took time during the screening of his own film to meet personally with two students about a new idea. Saman Piracha said, “Since we were so new to the idea, his advice and direction was invaluable. He spent almost two hours with us to work out the details and share his own experiences. He was a huge help!”

In addition to listening to first-year pitches, Gilbert also met with each of the second-year teams to review their creative thesis projects.

March 2009

NYT Editor Shares Expertise in Documentary and Multi-Platform

NYT Editor Shares Expertise in Documentary and Multi-Platform

Lars Klove for The New York Times

The DI has invited Jane Bornemeier to speak to students about her work in documentary production and her experience in developing multi-platform delivery systems for The New York Times. Bornemeier has 30 years of experience as an editor at the nation’s top newspapers, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, she has served as executive producer of award-winning documentaries on HBO, Discovery Times and Showtime. Bornemeier also created The New York Times video unit and she developed, and now manages, The Times’s successful Podcasting operation. You can hear her Podcasts at and on iTunes.

Bornemeier will visit UF on Thursday, April 2. She will discuss her documentary work at 11 a.m. in Room 3020, Weimer Hall and will talk about her transition from print to digital and her work with multi-platform delivery systems at 3 p.m. in Room 3032, Weimer Hall.

DI Faculty Partner with African Studies on $50,000 Grant

The Center for African Studies recently received a $50,000 grant to conduct research and to produce a documentary film, in partnership with the Documentary Institute, on Muslim societies in Africa. DI faculty members Cindy Hill and Cara Pilson collaborated with the Center for African Studies on the grant application to the Social Sciences Research Center.

The SSRC grant will allow the Center for African Studies faculty to work with DI student filmmakers to develop a film aimed at increasing public understanding of Muslim Africa. Specifically, the grant will be used to produce a documentary focused on two major Muslim societies of sub-Saharan Africa, the Hausa-speaking region of northern Nigeria and the Swahili coast. Hlll and Pilson will serve as advisors on the documentary project. “We are very excited by the prospect of both learning from the DI faculty and students, and of helping a student team develop a project that focus on some fascinating, but very little known in the US, African Muslim societies,” said Leonardo Villalón, Director of the Center for African Studies.

DI Wins Top Emmy Honor--Again!

DI Wins Top Emmy Honor--Again!

For the second consecutive year, a DI student film brings home the top Emmy honor. Standard Deviation, co-directed by 2008 graduates Christopher Brannan and David Randag, was named the winner of the Documentary category at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s 30th College Television Awards black-tie gala in Los Angeles.

Standard Deviation is the story of the troubled, but brilliant, young physicist Billy Cottrell and the events leading to his incarceration as an Eco-terrorist. The film has screened at Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (awarded Best Student Documentary prize), The Daytona Beach Film Festival (Audience Favorite), and the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival. It will also screen at the Buffalo-Niagra Film Festival in May.

Standard Deviation faced its fair share of competition. It went up against two films from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism in the final round of the documentary division.

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DI Forms Advisory Board

The Documentary Institute is pleased to announce the formation of an advisory board. Churchill Roberts, co-director of the Institute, said the idea came from former UF Provost David Colburn. “David told us what should have been obvious from our experience with the Department of Telecommunication Advisory Council—that an advisory board can be a tremendous resource for ideas and support and networking.”

Sandra Dickson, also a co-director, said after ten years of operation, an advisory board was the next logical step. “Professional filmmakers and friends and alumni of the documentary program have been helpful in so many ways. Now we can formalize our relationship with them.” Roberts said he hopes to convene a meeting of the new board within the next month.

Advisory Board Members

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