Female and POC Documentary Directors Receive Funding and Wider Distribution Through Visionary Studio

Some industries flourished during the Covid-19 pandemic. But ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity in these industries takes commitment.

According to Geoffrey MacNab’s Screen Daily article, documentary film crews were better placed than mainstream teams to deal with the chaos caused by Covid-19. “Documentary teams are smaller and more flexible, and are used to working remotely; budgets are lower; and few risks are threatened… Another positive trend is an increased demand for content among broadcasters and streamers. “

“[Even before Covid-19]There has been an explosion of interest in documentaries, “said Kathryn Everett, director of cinema at XTR. She is a filmmaker, political and nonprofit fundraiser, and activist. On sites like Netflix, the movies Documentaries stand alongside blockbuster films. ”It has never been easier to make a documentary film. Anyone with an iPhone [smartphone] can make a movie. The filmmakers are pushing the boundaries in terms of creativity, hoping to tap audiences on streaming platforms.

But just because there are opportunities does not mean that all talents have equal access. Everett, co-founder of XTR, explains her documentary film studio’s approach to ensuring that the world sees the new ideas and diverse perspectives of women and people of color. To do this, she had to recognize how her background gave her the skills to run a film business.

XTR prioritizes telling stories that its founder and co-founders really matter and can change the culture to change the world. The studio does not have a strict filter when it comes to the subject of its projects. Any documentary film can have an impact. Each project is considered.

“For every movie, we ask, ‘Is this the right person to tell this story?’ Everett said. “It means you really wonder if the filmmaker has to be a woman, a person of color, [or someone else]. “Can the filmmaker’s point of view provide insight into the subject of the film?” We think if you think about it intentionally, you end up with a much stronger product, ”she said.

Since launching in 2019, XTR has produced six documentaries at Tribeca Film Festival 2021 and eight documentaries at Sundance 2021.

XTR raises funds to invest directly in the projects of the filmmakers. “So often in the past, documentary makers have tinkered with their budgets,” Everett said. Fundraising is especially difficult for beginning filmmakers, directors and filmmakers of color. XTR provides both equity investments and grants, which it does through its nonprofit arm, XTR Film Society. Depending on the subject matter of the filmmaker, the stage of production of the film or its commercial viability, it may sometimes be more advisable to provide an equity investment, a grant or both.

XTR secured $ 40 million in documentary funding this year alone! Of the 57 feature films that XTR has completed or is in production, 39 are directed or co-directed by women, or 68%. Including:

  • AILEY is on the pioneer choreographer and dancer Black, directed by Jamila Wignot.
  • FAYA DAY is a spiritual journey into the rituals of khat, a leaf that Sufi Muslims in Ethiopia chew for religious meditations, directed by Jessica Beshir.
  • ASCENSION, examines the “Chinese Dream” through observations of work, consumerism and wealth, led by Jessica Kingdon.

“I am fortunate to have a lot of fundraising experience,” said Everett. However, even after raising money for political campaigns and nonprofit organizations championing international education and girls’ education around the world, she doubted she was the right fit for the job. “I’m not a normal studio executive without a quote,” she said. Everett switched to documentary filmmaking when she made a movie. “I realized, after so much time working in these other spaces, that the best and the biggest impact you could have was telling a better story,” she said. Everett cites the impact on the climate change movement made by An inconvenient truth.

‘[When I started at XTR,] I felt like an impostor most of the time, ”Everett sighed. “I didn’t think I belonged to the documentary film industry. do not have. She can speak the same language as the filmmakers whose mission is to tell a story they are truly passionate about. Importantly, she also knows how to raise funds from investors and donors and has operational experience since she built a school and organize huge events.[These experiences] were applicable for [being the head of film at a] documentary film studio, ”she said.

To overcome impostor syndrome, Everett put his head down and learned the ins and outs of the industry and the language of filmmakers. “I always give my best at the job and at the company I work for,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of work-life balance for me.” This intensity pushes her to move forward. Following her North Star – making her work a force for good – is always on her mind. It gives him the courage to conquer or accomplish anything.

XTR offers movies on many streaming platforms including Amazon, HBO Max, Netflix, and Peacock. Because the company isn’t afraid to tackle political issues or taboo topics that might not appeal to streaming services, it also has its own platform to ensure that documentary films get the visibility they want. deserve. In January, XTR launched Documentary +, a free global streaming platform that gives filmmakers another distribution option for their non-fiction films and shorts. It will be the first major streaming platform to share comprehensive audience data directly with filmmakers.

How will you be a force for good?

About Monty S. Maynard

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