COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief the mental health crisis that the documentary community has faced for quite some time. Living in survival mode and keeping it all together for their crew and subjects is what document filmmakers are good at, but at great costs to their own mental health and physical well-being. It’s time we stop suffering in silence, and speak up as a community.
On March 31, 2020, NYWIFT and The D-Word co-hosted a panel discussion “Mental Health and Career Sustainability in the Doc World” to explore what lessons can be learnt from this pivotal moment to help create a mind-shift in the industry.
Moderated by Doug Block (The D-Word), panelists include Rebecca Day (producer/ psychotherapist), Kelsey Koenig (Impact Partner Films), Heidi Reinberg (documentary filmmaker) and Chithra Jeyaram (documentary filmmaker).
Rebecca Day is a qualified psychotherapist and freelance documentary producer. She founded Film In Mind in 2018 to address mental health in the film industry and has spoken at festivals such as IDFA, Getting Real Documentary Conference and Sheffield DocFest on the issue. She offers consultancies, workshops and therapeutic support to filmmakers working in difficult situations and with vulnerable people.
She has worked extensively with the Scottish Documentary Institute as a producer and on their impact work, most notably on the successful campaigns around award-winning documentary I Am Breathing and Seven Songs for a Long Life, and has recently joined the impact team on Evelyn, made by Academy Award-winning director Orlando Von Eisendel. Her feature doc Becoming Animal, a Swiss/Scottish co-production directed by Emma Davie & Peter Mettler, was released in 2018 and she is developing a new feature with award-winning filmmaker Duncan Cowles titled Silent Men.
Kelsey Koenig has worked in independent documentary for a decade, and is currently the Senior Director of Development at Impact Partners, a New York-based fund dedicated to supporting powerful documentary films that address pressing social issues. At Impact Partners, Kelsey reviews potential projects to finance, provides creative and strategic support for films, and represents the fund at festivals and markets around the world. Since joining Impact Partners in 2012, she has been involved with the financing and development of over 50 projects (recent titles include: Bisbee ’17, Dina, The Fourth Estate, Icarus, Of Fathers and Sons, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and has spoken on panels about funding, distribution and impact at workshops and other industry events.
Chithra Jeyaram is a writer, director, producer, and editor who makes intimate films about identity, human relationships, race, art, and health. Her first exposure to filmmaking began with a failed attempt to fund a film about an explosive water-sharing dispute between two southern states in India. Deeply affected by that experience, she quit a decade-long career as a Physical Therapist and enrolled in film school. She has an M.F.A in film production from the University of Texas in Austin. She is a Jerome Grantee and a BAVC National Mediamaker Fellowship. She is known for short documentary Rags to Pads, a 3-minute film about menstrual hygiene in India. Her short documentary Mijo, aired on KLRU TV, PBS and played in 50 film festivals around the world. Foreign Puzzle is her first feature documentary and is distributed on New Day Films. Currently, she is in production for Our Daughters, a hybrid feature documentary that examines open adoption in America through an immigrant lens. She is an avid runner and food is her first love.
Heidi Reinberg‘s most recent project is the Untitled Criminal Justice / HS Project, a collaboration with Concordia Studio, Anonymous Content, and XTR. The doc is also supported by the IDA Enterprise Doc Fund, the Catapult Film Fund, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, Tribeca A&E StoryLab, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, the Austin Film Society. Previously, she produced 93Queen, a co-production with ITVS and SWR in collaboration with Arte, which aired on PBS’ POV.
Doug Block is an Emmy, Peabody and Sundance award-winning producer-director who is internationally recognized as a master of the personal documentary form (51 Birch Street, The Kids Grow Up, 112 Weddings). His films have been released in theaters and screened at festivals throughout the world, and been broadcast by HBO, BBC, ZDF and Arte, among many others. He is also the founder and co-host of The D-Word, the leading online community for documentary professionals now in its 21st year.
Produced by Marcia Rock and Swati Srivastava