Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Need for Niche: Re-thinking a Film’s Festival Circuit

Traversing the Niche Festival Market

Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet along with Abina and the Important Men will screen at niche driven festivals in Napa Valley and Toronto, Canada this month.  Con Moto looks at the tradition of chamber music as lived by the world famous Alexander String Quartet as they travel through Poland.  Abina is an animated film adapted from the award-winning graphic novel about a young woman who escapes slavery and takes her master to court in West Africa during the late 1800’s.  The distribution of these films is an eye-opening education in the vital role niche festivals play in the life of films that are made on the fringes of the mainstream.

There is an evident and clear need for alternative spaces for films operating in niche categories, genres and content.  They create important discussions with their respective communities. A film’s life through the festival circuit varies widely from years past.  As Daryl Chin and Larry Qualls note, the possibilities are many as “we are living in a time of developing alternatives. Though the hegemony of the commercial industry remains, there are fringe activities and new models for exhibition, distribution, and dissemination.” We must be aware of alternative possibilities that exist on the “fringe” especially considering new modes of storytelling and content historically pushed to the margins are becoming more and more part of the conversation in the mainstream, in form and content.

“Con Moto” & “Abina” Laurels

The landscape of festivals is much different considering the proliferation of niche markets and stories emerging from minority and marginalized communities. The remapping of festival options for a film has aided in the “survival of the phenomenon of film festivals,” and helped retain the festival space as, “a zone, a liminal state, where the cinematic products can bask in the attention they receive for their aesthetic achievements, cultural specificity, or social relevance” (Marijke de Valck). I would extend these thoughts to speak directly to the opportunities created through the niche and fringe festival markets. From the perspective of content that represents peoples and histories ignored in mainstream outlets, or discussions about the direction of form and new media, these niche environments help support and encourage storytelling to challenge the status quo. This provides agency to voices and filmmakers who are now finding outlets, gaining traction and proving a need for diverse storytelling.


This profound diversity in the festival scene is something we are witness to. We develop relationships and attend festivals that may not ordinarily cross our virtual path. Con Moto had early success in two online film festivals, an option with growing strength and one that speaks to global audiences. Con Moto is also an example of a film that can bridge art forms that may not typically intersect. We have been able to screen this film in conjunction with chamber music performances and events. Screening in this manner speaks to specific audiences and gives the film opportunity to thrive in curated spaces.

With Abina being adapted from a graphic novel, it has the ability to screen in chapters – as a series – or from start to finish as a feature. This connects nicely with festivals seeking to draw out discussions surrounding new media in storytelling. This is in addition to the rich history the film and graphic novel explores. Raindance created a Webfest and VR Arcade to the expand the main festival in recent years, speaking to the power and importance of emerging niche markets, and we were inspired that Abina could contribute to that dialogue and interaction.  The programmer’s thoughtful approach was not only inclusive but also bold, adding Abina to a documentary program as the only animated film in the bunch.

Soumyaa @ Raindance FF


It’s not just the makers but the programmers who are making this revolution happen.  Without alternative thinkers who are gatekeepers to exhibition, these smaller films would not reach the audiences they are now being connected to.

DocFilm held its first conference last year, Pluralities, on the expanded state of documentary including a panel on niche distribution led by Susie Hernandez from KQED. This panel featured an insightful dialogue with Masashi Niwano from the Center for Asian American Media, Daniel Moretti from Frameline and Marc Smolowitz Independent Producer extraordinaire of 13th Gen.

They discussed both festival cycles, but also the varied and unique options a film has in distribution. They also pointed out that as access to content becomes more democratized and varied films will need to reflect these diversified audiences and their backgrounds.

We are encouraged to see the direction our industry is headed, as the panel, who represent highly diverse backgrounds, are in positions that serve as gatekeepers to exhibition. It makes abundantly clear that terms examined here – niche and fringe – should now and forward be considered on their own volition rather than in deference to any commodified mainstream or homogenized market.

Pluralities Panel on Niche Distribution: Led by Susie Hernandez KQED



Coming up, Con Moto and Abina have been announced as Official Selections for upcoming festivals, The Classical Arts Film Festival and The Toronto Black Film Festival.

Con Moto has the privilege of opening the festival with the feature-length documentary Beautifully Scary. Operating to promote the classical arts the Jarvis Conservatory is in its third year as host of this festival. These two films will start the conversation on the importance of the arts, inspiration, and education. If you can join us, Soumyaa and I will be in attendance and will participate in a Q&A after the screening.

The Alexander String Quartet & DocFilm Crew in Poland

Finally, Abina and the Important Men is thrilled to be among the films at this year’s Toronto Black Film Festival. Speaking further to the specific way films are being programmed and ultimately shared with a community, Abina will be part of the TBFF Kids Film Festival. This selection of films aim to inspire and empower children through the discovery of filmmaking, animation, story-telling and more. This is especially exciting as Abina was adapted to exist supplementally as an educational tool in high-school history curriculum. This provides yet another opportunity for Abina to be viewed through a new, yet equally important, lens.

Quoted Content:

  1. Chin, Daryl, and Larry Qualls. “Open Circuits, Closed Markets: Festivals and Expositions of Film and Video.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, vol. 23, no. 1, 2001, p. 33. Project MUSE [Johns Hopkins UP], doi:10.2307/3246488.
  2. “Film Festivals from European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia.” Film Festivals from European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia, by Marijke de. Valck, Amsterdam University Press, 2007, p. 30.

#documentary #filmfestival #Abinaandtheimportantmen #ConMoto #CAAM #Frameline #13th Gen #KQED #ClassicalArtsFilmFestival #TorontoBlackFilmFestival #TheAlexanderStringQuartet #Animation #Raindance #RaindanceWebFest #DocumentaryFilmInstitute #SFSU #SFStateLCA

Pluralities Nonfiction Film Conference Full Schedule


Join us NOV 8th and 9th at San Francisco State University for an exciting line-up of filmmakers, researchers, performance, VR, and discussion about all things nonfiction. We welcome Kim Nelson and her team from University of Windsor in Canada with their live doc project 130 Year Road Trip, Kelly Gallagher from Antioch College with panels and workshops on animation and resistance, Jason Fox from Princeton University to discuss his World Records journal published by Union Docs and presenters from across the Bay Area and beyond including a niche distribution panel with Susie Hernandez from KQED, Daniel Moretti of Frameline, Masashi Niwano with CAAM and producer Marc Smolowitz and the Munduruku VR Amazon experience created by Alchemy VR with Greenpeace.

Check out the full schedule. Attendance is FREE.


Register for your FREE tickets here:


Kelly Gallagher is an experimental animator, filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Media Arts at Antioch College in Ohio. Her theoretical work investigates the radical and feminist possibilities of experimental animation. Her animations, experimental films and documentaries have screened internationally at venues including: Ann Arbor Film Festival, London ICA Artists’ Biennial, LA Film Forum, Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Traverse City Film Festival, and Anthology Film Archives. She is the recipient of the Ivan Kaljević Award from Alternative Film/Video Festival Belgrade, the Helen Hill Award from Indie Grits, the Audience Award from Brazil’s Fronteira Film Festival, and the Jury’s Choice Award from Black Maria Film Festival.

Kim Nelson is the Director of the Humanities Research Group and an Associate Professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Windsor in Canada. Her work has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, the Windsor Endowment for the Arts and have screened at international film festivals and on university campuses in Canada, the US and Europe, as well as online with KCET in the US. Kim has held fellowships in Germany, Canada, and the US, and she has been a board member and programmer at the Windsor International Film Festival since 2010. Her current interest is in conceptualizing and creating live participatory cinema as an alternative future for screen culture.

Jason Fox is a filmmaker and lecturer at Princeton University. He has taught in the Graduate School of Cinema Studies at New York University, Vassar College, and Cooper Union. His award-winning work as a director, cinematographer, and editor has screened internationally in film festivals including Sundance, AFI Fest, and Venice, on broadcast television, and in gallery installation settings.  He has worked as a film programmer in conjunction with The American Museum of Natural History, The Flaherty Seminar, and the Museum of Modern Art, among other venues. He is a recipient of a Union Square Award for social justice, and he is also the founding editor of the peer-reviewed journal of documentary studies, World Records, published by UnionDocs in Brooklyn, NY.


Nov 8th & 9th – All Day

An Immersive VR Experience: Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon

Combining cutting-edge Virtual Reality filmmaking and multisensory storytelling, Munduruku opens a window into the lives, stories and struggle of the Munduruku Indigenous People in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

Wednesday, Nov 8th

9:00am: Coffee/Tea – All are welcome

9:10am-10:45am: In Resistance with Filmmaker Scholars

  • Kelly Gallagher (Antioch College): Animation as Power and Protest (working title)
  • Alexander Johnston (UC Santa Cruz): Evidence of Evidence
  • Kevin Pina (CSU, East Bay): Documenting Dissent

11:00am-12:00pm: Identity: Constructed, Deconstructed

  • Yuriko Romer (Independent Filmmaker): Diamond Diplomacy
  • Talena Sanders (Sonoma State University): Prospector
  • Nyssa Chow (Columbia University, NY): Still Life, A Digital Book

1:00pm-2:00pm: Consequences of Historical Rendering and Technology

  • Kim Nelson: Constructing a Historiophoty for/in the Digital Sublunar
  • Rob Nelson: Whether you Win or Lose, Bombing Civilians is Complicated: Strategies of Explanation in the Canadian and German Documentaries ‘Death by Moonlight’ (1992) and ‘Der Feuersturm’ (2003)

(Both from University of Windsor, Canada)

2:15pm-3:45pm: Innovation & Scholarship in Nonfiction Media Journals

  • Jason Fox: The Documentary Camera and World Records Journal, Princeton University
  • Alexander Johnston: Now!  Journal of Urgent Praxis
  • Soumyaa K. Behrens: Pluralities Journal, Documentary Film Institute
  • Kelly Gallagher: Now!  Journal of Urgent Praxis

3:45pm-4:15pm: Short Reception – Everyone welcome to attend

4:15pm-5:45pm: Emergent Stories: How Niche and Diaspora Films Impact Smaller Communities

  • Susie Hernandez from KQED
  • Masashi Niwano from Center for Asian American Media
  • Daniel Moretti from Frameline
  • Marc Smolowitz Independent Producer, 13th Gen

Thursday, Nov 9th

8:00am: Coffee/Tea – Everyone welcome to attend

8:20am-9:25am: Politics, Activism and Visibility in Golden Gate and Gezi Parks*

  • Cahal McLaughlin (Queens University Belfast): Introduction
  • Şirin Fulya Erensoy (Istanbul Kültür University): Documenting Injustice in a Time of Media Blackout
  • Soumyaa K. Behrens (SFSU): Nail House: Political Gentrification in San Francisco

* This panel is in collaboration with the Center for Documentary Research Conference at Queens University and will be conducted live and via Skype.

9:30am-11:00am: Small Hands-On Workshop with Kelly Gallagher

11:00am-12:20pm: Agency in Nonfiction: To Tell One’s Own Stories

  • Harjant Gill (Towson University): Exploring South Asian Masculinities Through Ethnographic Film
  • Emily Beitiks (SFSU): Documenting Disability
  • Aaron Dickinson Sachs (St. Mary’s College) & John Drew (Adelphi University): Cacao Stories, A Food Manifesto

2:10pm-3:45pm: 130 Year Road Trip (Performance, Live Documentary)

  • Kim Nelson, Rob Nelson, Lana Oppen, Brent Lee (University of Windsor)

3:45pm-5pm: Reception – All are welcome

7:30pm: Screening of Kelly Gallagher’s films at Artists Television Access

#pluralities #docfilminstitute #nonfiction #sfsu #130yearroadtrip #animateddocs #scholarfilmmaker #researchpractitioner #documentarydisrupted

DEADLINE EXTENDED – PLURALITIES: Nonfiction Film Journal and Conference




We are excited to welcome Kim Nelson and her team from Windsor University to present a live documentary project that will close out our inaugural conference.

Kelly Gallagher, filmmaker, scholar and animation maven from Antioch College will also be in attendance to share her work and conduct a hands-on session with attendees. There will also be a special screening of Kelly’s films at ATA in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Our conference will also coincide with Queens University in Belfast, Ireland and we will be skyping in Cahal McLaughlin for a crossover session with the his new Doc Research Center.


The Documentary Film Institute announces a call for submissions to be included in their inaugural non-fiction film journal (first publication – Spring 2018) and conference to be held the Fall of 2017. Accepted submissions for the journal will be considered for the conference focused on opening a dialogue on non-fiction film scholarship and workshops towards the development of the Documentary Film Institute’s new journal, Pluralities.

This call is open to traditional papers, as well as PPT presentations, multi-media presentations, digital book chapters, new media and any other innovative ways of delivering scholarship on your research. Film projects, archives, exhibits, and installations are also invited.

All work related to nonfiction film history, theory and practice are welcome as well as projects from any discipline that has an intersection with the medium. In particular, the Institute values work that investigates global justice, cultural equity, democracy, the environment, the urban experience and underrepresented voices and stories. A focus on innovations in nonfiction film production and theory are also of interest including animated histories, performance art, experimental approaches, data visualization, mapping and the examination of theoretical concepts framing these approaches. All submissions will be considered.

Conference Deadline Extended: Oct 2, 2017

Journal Deadline Extended: October 20, 2017

Journal Notification date: January 31, 2018

Submit proposals to with subject heading: “Pluralities Submission”

Paper proposals should include bio, short abstract (300 words) and bibliography. Ultimately Papers/Presentations should be between 5-25 pages in length formatted in Chicago Style.

Projects submissions should include bio, project description and links to the work or work samples that demonstrate the work you wish to have considered.


Fall 2017 – November 8th & 9th

Location: San Francisco State University

Pluralities: A Project of San Francisco State University’s Documentary Film Institute

It is urgent, in these times, to secure spaces where democratic conversations can occur. Documentary film is one of the most powerful tools we have to research and reflect on our collective human experience and create connections to better ourselves. There is currently no single hub for global conversations around documentary film and how it illuminates and intervenes in the social issues defining our age.

San Francisco State University’s Documentary Film Institute plans to meet this need by creating Pluralities, a multi-media, digital journal. Pluralities will use nonfiction film to engage the humanities in nuanced dialogue. It will bring together a cosmopolitan group of thought leaders, creative thinkers and learning communities to participate in the same global exchange as documentary filmmakers. Pluralities will also offer far-reaching avenues for national and international nonfiction filmmakers and scholars to exhibit, examine and exchange their work in one platform. In addition, it will provide an umbrella for the various creative and scholarly pursuits that are housed at the Documentary Film Institute.

The journal will function as an online and interactive space that identifies, experiments and innovates new forms of multi-media scholarship in the field using a no-fee open source platform. In addition, it will bring together thought leaders and creative professionals in bi-annual symposia and conference settings to further interrogate these new approaches to scholarship and intersectionality in the burgeoning areas of nonfiction film and the humanities. Pluralities’ vision is to be part academic journal, part aggregator of underserved global voices and part provocateur to the field of nonfiction film and the visualization of the humanities. The journal will feature the work of graduate students as well as columns that debate issues of representation and history in film in language accessible to a non-specialist public. The aim is to collect multiple versions of reality in one space in order to question the possibility of any master narrative, filling in the holes of history and the present with experiential knowledge and self-critique.

The Bay Area is the birthplace of nonfiction film and, as a center of cultural, political and technological innovation, the region remains a hotbed for documentary filmmaking. As a university dedicated to global justice, equity and accessibility, and rooted in cross-cultural studies, SF State is the most compelling place to ground an innovative multi-media, digital journal for nonfiction film. The university’s values and the extraordinary diversity of our students, faculty and staff empower us to give agency to underrepresented communities all over the globe.


The Documentary Film Institute functions as a production hub and incubator in which individual filmmakers, researchers, community members and entrepreneurs pursue a variety of projects, whether they are emerging talents or established veterans. It supports applied research initiatives and critical discourse, from large-scale grants relating to documentation to conferences on the documentary tradition. Since its inception in 2005, the Institute has screened more than 120 films and hosted more than 40 visiting filmmakers for more than 12,000 attendees.

Journal Editor: Soumyaa K. Behrens

Open Access Publishing Hot Topic at #SCMS17

DocFilm just returned from this year’s SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies) conference in the big old city of Chicago.  Not as gritty as I remember it from days past, Chicago is hip, happening, and operating at warp speed.  There were wireless “charging rings” for your devices in the coffee shops, not to mention mobile ordering and pick-up at Starbucks.  The smart elevators in the AON center whisked you up to the 80th so fast you got a bit of a head rush from it.  And, one of the most interesting discussions at this year’s event was also concerned with the inter-future of academic publishing, aka the open access model.

open access scms17 chicago

There were two workshops dedicated to the topic and a flurry of the biggest gatekeepers of profit, non-profit and alternative forms of book and journal publication as well as the new guard of revolutionary writers, bloggers and scholars who are aiming to democratize the system and a couple people who seem to fall in both of those categories… The big question at hand: is open access a revolutionary model or just another way for the major players to control the system?  Can it possibly be a sustainable form for sharing research without the traditional backing of book sales and publishers’ prestigious marquees?

There is a whirlwind of new websites out there with the explicit intention to share, share widely and share freely.  Things like Critical Commons, Film Studies for Free,, (in) media res, Lever Press and SCMS backed [in]Transition.  Many of these initiatives spun into being as a response to the Budapest Open Access Initiative which was first published (online) in 2002.  There are countless additional sites that uphold its vision for free access via the arts, sciences, humanities, and social disciplines.  This has also given way to multi-platform approaches to creating scholarship using live annotations, film and audio clips and other creative renderings to deepen the relationship between the reader and the researcher, speak to a more global audience and include non-academic writers who may have just as much to contribute to the conversation.

Sustainability remains the key challenge to this rebellious effort meant to level the playing field of academia and research as something reserved only for the intelligent elite.   Many of these websites have also closed up shop after burning out from handling every aspect of publication themselves due to little or no funding or simply been unable to raise the minimum amount needed to keep their initiative alive.  And, alive, on the internet, is a very real problem.  Outdated pages, expired links, journeys to Error 404 abound.  There’s nothing more stinky than a rotten internet corpse.  Without regular maintenance, a system or platform to retain embedded data and, of course, M-O-N-E-Y, these efforts all have an eventual end.  As Mary Francis of University of Michigan Press pointed out (she was a panelist and vocal audience member), less and less people have the need to publish as tenured positions at University are decreasing at a rapid pace and Universities are saving that cash by bringing on the dreaded “adjunct” faculty instead.  If there is no professional need to publish, what then?  She also stressed that the processes of the presses have not really changed.  Yes, they now sometimes offer an open access version of a book or journal but not much else has evolved.  She wondered if we are looking in the right place to resolve this issue of inclusion, access and democracy among academics.

With 2020 swiftly approaching, so does a new referendum by the European Union entitled Horizon2020.  All scientific research papers that are produced under publicly funded initiatives must be made available for free.   We will see who’s ready (and who’s not) to capitalize on this when the new decade dawns.   At DocFilm we are eager to take part in this dialogue and help facilitate it.  We are busily constructing programs, initiatives and strategic partnerships to launch our own open access, multi-media nonfiction journal (working title) Pluralities.  Using the engagement with the so-called real as a center, the journal will mesh theory and practice of nonfiction film, explicitly connect with other disciplines in hopes to visualize, digitize and democratize research, media, and innovative reflections on reality.

open access scms17 chicago

Many many thanks to the SCMS17 for hosting these workshops and the fascinating individuals who structured the conversation as well as those who participated in it.

Workshop G5: Film and Media Studies in the Digital Era

Chaired by Caroline Edwards with Jefferson Pooley, Katie Gallof and Anna Froula

Workshop N16: Open Access Book Publishing

Chaired by Eric Hoyt with Mary Francis, Nedda Ahmed, Vicki Mayer (whose open access book I just downloaded), Lea Jacobs and Ben Brewster

Both with extremely vocal and sometimes adversarial crowds to whom I am also grateful.

Written by Soumyaa K. Behrens, Photos by Robert Barbarino

Be A Green Gator: #SustainableSFSU


Hey Gators, ever wonder where your trash goes after you throw it away? Be a Green Gator is an informative video that shows the lifecycle of your trash, recycle, and compost at SFSU. Waste management is crucial knowledge because throwing away trash has huge impacts on our global environment. For a healthy environment, it is important to know what trash bins to use to dispose your waste. Click the link for more information on correct Trash Bin Usage and share the video with other SF State students for a #SustainableSFSU

This project was developed through the Emerging Leaders Program at San Francisco State University.  DocFilm DIrector, Soumyaa Behrens graduated from the program and helped expand composting, green procurement and education surrounding the three bin system along with team members: Constance Cavallas, Caitlin Steele, Dylan Mooney, Jonathan Foerster, David Chelliah, Megan Dobbyn and Peter Le.

The animation was a collaborative effort by the DocFilm team and student assistants Daewon Kim and Kylie Pisciotto.

#SFSU #Docfilm #Trashbinusage #Wastemanagement #Greengator #Recycle #Compost #Trash

#EmergingLeaders #SustainableSFSU

DocFilm Forum: Barbara Hammer Master Class Conversation

DocFilm friends and community members,

Visual artist, filmmaker and SFSU alumna Barbara Hammer will be joining State students, faculty, staff and guests for a screening of her 2015 documentary, Welcome to this House on February 10th. Details of this public event can be found below.

On February 11th DocFilm will be recording the Master Class conversation with Barbara Hammer and Professor Cheryl Dunye as part of their ongoing series DocFilm Forum. 

DocFilm Forums are ongoing dialogues that investigate the urgent issues of our time by bringing together experts in the field of Documentary, alongside Social Justice Leaders, NGO Directors, Writers and Policy Makers.  Forums are held in front of a live audience and taped for broadcast and sharing at later dates.

Barbara Hammer

Our Fall 2016 Forum featured a conversation on the film Peace Officer and can be viewed here.

Film Screening! Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet plays Oct 1

We are excited to share one of our newest releases with the Chamber Music community and the General Public!  Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet follows the world-class musicians on the road in Poland as they play Beethoven and share their talents and legacy with Polish audiences.


This Saturday, Osher Life Long Learning Institute hosts an all day Chamber Music Immersion event featuring master classes, performances, film, and dinner!  Schedule is below:

Special Segment (limited access):

3:00 pm – Lecture “Master Class Pieces”: John Prescott

3:45pm – Master Class Observation

Main Event

5:00 pm – Find Seating

5:30 pm – Concert: Alexander String Quartet

6:15 pm –  Film Screening: “ Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet”

6:45 – Q&A and Reception with the Filmmakers and Alexander String Quartet

7:00 – Dinner

To reserve your complementary spot for the screening of the film, follow the link below. On the right hand side of the site, under tickets, simply select “Film Only” to confirm your seat.

We would greatly appreciate the support of this production and hope to see you there.

Call for Interns! – Fall 2016 Semester

Documentary Film Institute Internships


DocFilm interns working at the McRoskey Mattress Co.


Terms of Internships: Fall 2016, meeting weekly. 120 hours to be completed during semester for 3-units of credit under supervision of DocFilm Director, Soumyaa Behrens. 

How to Apply: Email brief letter of interest, summarizing your relevant skills and experience, to DocFilm Director, Soumyaa Behrens at

Qualified applicants will be invited for an initial group interview.


Production Intern (1 opening)

Description of Internship: Work on various SFSU and Bay Area documentaries: lighting setup, studio and field shooting, sound recording, archiving, and transcribing. Assistance with production of annual screening of new VDC films. May be asked to assist with setup for Poetry Center events, some of which may be off campus. Work directly with DocFilm Director, Soumyaa Behrens on various producing projects. Applicants that enjoy fast paced working environments and are willing to take initiative, think on their own are encouraged to apply.


 Social Media and Administrative Intern (1 openings)

Description of Internship: Identify and cultivate key social media relationships. Find opportunities for grants and partnerships. Work on various administrative tasks. Research and develop tactics and strategies DocFilm can adopt to build brand awareness and strong partnerships in the Bay Area. Assistance with production of annual screening of new VDC films. Work directly with DocFilm Director, Soumyaa Behrens on grant writing and research. Students with a passion for Documentary Film are strongly encouraged to apply. Students must have strong verbal and written communication skills and strong Word, Excel and PowerPoint abilities


Post-Production Intern (2 openings) 

This semester we are looking for 1 position to be focused on story editing, and another to focus on motion graphics and animation.

Description of Internship: Post-production work on various SFSU and Bay Area documentaries to include organizing footage, developing rough cuts with feedback from DF admin and various constituents, and motion graphics as needed. Applicants should be proficient with the Premiere Pro CC suite on a Mac OS platform, have experience editing short or feature length documentaries and have strong word processing skills. Highly organized applicants who can manage large amounts of assets and are willing to take initiative and think on their own are encouraged to apply. Applicants should feel comfortable with taking notes/feedback from the Director and Producers, which can then be translated into new cuts for viewing. Applicant may be asked to work occasionally on shoots operating camera and/or sound recorder, and to assist with production of annual screening of new VDC films.


Producer / Research Assistant (1 opening)

Description of Internship: Work directly with DocFilm Director, Soumyaa Behrens on various producing projects. Assistance with production of annual screening of new VDC films. Work can include assistance with producing of various SFSU and Bay Area documentaries: editing, shooting, sound recording, archiving, transcribing as well as distribution, marketing and budgeting. Research focused on current non-fiction journals and conferences, identifying trends, topics, guests, etc. Research focused on development of future projects including but not limited to: Non-fiction Film Conference, TEDX event and the DocFilm Forum. Students with a passion for Documentary Film are strongly encouraged to apply. Students must have strong verbal and written communication skills and strong Word, Excel and PowerPoint abilities.


 SFSU Poetry Center – Potential for year long appointment

Production / Post-Production (1 opening: paid position $15/hour)

 Videographer / Editor for Poetry Center Live Reading Series & Digital Archive

Under the supervision of DocFilm Director Soumyaa Behrens, the videographer is responsible for attending and recording all scheduled Poetry Readings in the renowned Poetry Center Reading Series. Dates are as follows:

  • September 8 7:00pm – SFSU Poetry Center
  • September 15 7:00pm – SFSU Poetry Center
  • September 24 7:00pm – McRoskey Mattress Co. (off campus)
  • September 29 7:00pm – SFSU Fine Arts Gallery
  • October 6 7:00pm – SFSU Poetry Center
  • October 9 5:30pm – ATA (O.C.)
  • October 20 7:00pm – SFSU Poetry Center
  • October 27 7:00pm – SFSU Poetry Center
  • Nov – Dec Dates TBD

Using digital technology, the videographer will record each reading, add bumpers and credits as well as perform basic editing (color correction and sound mix) and tag files to conform with protocols developed by DocFilm & Academic Technology for ingesting recordings into SFSU’s Digital Information Virtual Archive (DIVA).


  • Attend Poetry Center Events for purpose of creating video documentation of performances.
  • Export raw video masters (archival file) for each performance.
  • Export separate audio (MP3) file from video masters.
  • Create MP4 distribution copy with bumpers, credits, light editing.
  • Tag and label files in accordance with guidelines developed by DocFilm & Academic Technology.
  • Create select short (2 min) videos of “highlights” at each event for Poetry Center communications and promotions.
  • Transfer master and completed edited files to DIVA within one week of original recording date.
  • Weekly or bi-weekly meetings with DocFilm staff to report and problem solve potential issues encountered in course of completing duties.



Documentaries are famously long-duration projects.

In most cases there is an initial concept, a treatment or story outline, perhaps with bullet points or a list of potential interviewees. There is most likely a stated purpose, a point of view, and a hopeful outcome in mind, but no fixed script – the story evolves over time.







Jan Millsapps, Writer-Director
Madame Mars: Women and the Quest for Worlds Beyond  


Producers and directors find themselves spending months, years, locating and managing resources, gaining (and sometimes losing) access to vital subjects, engaging in considerable research (nobody wants to tell an incomplete or incorrect story), viewing and reviewing recorded material for its on-screen value, and juggling categories of subject matter to determine what belongs in the finished film and what does not.


Our first shoot: preschoolers at Chabot Space and Science Center creating their own solar system and performing as planets, asteroids, comets and the sun. This young woman played Mars.

The Madame Mars project began with a focus on women and Mars with the stated purpose of ensuring girls’ and women’s roles in future space science, space tech and space exploration. Forty-two interviews later – shot in eleven locations, resulting in more than a hundred hours of footage – we find ourselves immersed in editing, a gargantuan task made of many small, tentative steps, quite a few missteps and subsequent corrections, a few giant leaps of faith, and months of hard, hard work.

Documentary filmmakers must often search over time for their story, constructing and assessing many mental, paper and digital edits, identifying themes and connections that eventually solidify the concept into a coherent form, and determining the best way to present the material.

Eventually the footage begins to speak its own story; when that occurs, filmmakers must listen carefully.

The Madame Mars story that has emerged is bigger than women and Mars: it is a voiced commitment to ensure that humanity fully and accurately represents itself as we take our next big step into the universe. At the same time the story is smaller: from the hours of interviews, we believe we have found the voices that best represent our collective quest for futures in space that are representative of all of us here on Earth.

We have been fortunate to meet and talk to many from diverse backgrounds. Did we interview everyone on our initial list? Not by a long shot. But we feel confident that the characters you will see onscreen not only share the individual dream for finding one’s own place in space, but also a commitment to the larger goal of furthering human exploration of Mars – and worlds beyond.

Mars looms large over our story, a continuous presence in our collective consciousness from the earliest days of the space age, now extending far into our real, virtual and imagined off-world futures. Like all of those yearning for a red planet encounter, we are poised to see the fulfillment of our own Mars dream, as we take the final steps of our long, long journey.


We welcome Sreang Hok – better known as “C” – the Madame Mars team (seen here working with DocFilm’s Robert Barbarino). As he completes his thesis film at SF State, C will also guide us toward a final edit. 

History Reimagined: The Story of Abina Mansah


History is an infinite collection of truths that are known and truths that are hidden, destroyed, forgotten, silenced or ignored.  The modern day historian has the complicated task of setting the stage for society to understand the tales of our past that are well recounted as well as those that are missing.  And, while we cannot actually reach into the past and change it, we can restructure its meaning and shape by bringing forward true stories that were once left out.

History Professor Trevor Getz has done just that, authoring a graphic novel that tells the true story of Abina Mansah, a slave girl on Africa’s Gold Coast in the 1800’s who took her master to court for enslaving her.  Based on the transcripts of her actual trial, Abina and The Important Men, brings to center stage the tale of one young woman’s attempt to not only gain freedom but also justice in a very cruel world.

Abina did not win her case.  She wanted her voice to be heard but it was not…until now.   Now Abina’s story can be sounded across the world in the form of a book, a film and there is even going to be an app for that.  Abina did not realize the power of her actions at the time but her efforts paved the way for the world we have today.  Getz remarks, “The Abina project has always been about amplifying the voice of a young, enslaved, African woman who refused to quiet down in the face of systematic denigration.  Film allows us to bring her words and strength to a much larger audience.”

Getz’s novel has received much praise and was awarded the James Harvey Robinson prize from the American Historical Association.  Now, Getz has teamed with DocFilm and Yudu to breathe new life into this work by creating a sound and motion film of Abina’s story that will anchor a new app for history students across the country.  This innovative collaboration hopes to set a new trend in education.  By resurrecting Abina’s story via graphic novel, film and in a digital application, students can engage, interact and empathize with the story deeply and meaningfully.  This model creates a modern experience infused with essential lessons about personal biography, slavery, colonialism and the enlightenment.

Getz says, “The African great novelist and film-maker Sembene Ousmane said, years ago, that film is the medium of the people.  I like to think that making Abina’s story available in film will allow her story and words to reach an audience of people who can sympathize with and understand her experiences and their meaning.”

Created with the time and talent of San Francisco State University students, staff, faculty and support, Abina and The Important Men is also an example of the kind of bold thinking that distinguishes our university from the rest.  Slated for completion in early 2016, the Abina App will premiere in classrooms in the Fall of the same year.

written by, Soumyaa Behrens


trvorTrevor R. Getz is Professor of African History at San Francisco State University.  He has published in the fields of world history, the history of imperialism and colonialism, and heritage studies.  His principal focus is on the slavery and emancipation in nineteenth century West Africa.  His most recent book on this topic, Abina and the Important Men, won the James Harvey Robinson prize from the American Historical Association.  He edits the Oxford University Press African World Histories series and is currently working on a primer for teaching African History for Duke University Press as well as co-editing a collected work on slavery and emancipation in Ghana with Rebecca Shumway for Bloomsbury Press.