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The Documentary Life


Have a passion for making documentary films? Want to learn how to best lead a documentary life? Join award-winning commercial and documentary filmmaker, Chris G. Parkhurst, and special industry guests as they candidly share their filmmaking stories, insights, and experiences, for all to learn how to best lead and live their own documentary dream lives.


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Have a passion for making documentary films? Want to learn how to best lead a documentary life? Join award-winning commercial and documentary filmmaker, Chris G. Parkhurst, and special industry guests as they candidly share their filmmaking stories, insights, and experiences, for all to learn how to best lead and live their own documentary dream lives.








All Good Things Must Come to An End

Can you believe that it was over four years ago that we first began producing episodes of The Documentary Life?? Well, neither can we. But as they say, all good things must come to an end! It has been a great ride this here podcast over the past four years! Which is why this is not our typical end-of-the-season show, my #doclifer friend. Don't miss this one thinking that it's simply a re-hash of parts of past episodes. It is truly much more than that. And finally, I'd like to say, thank...


Winning an Oscar for Your Documentary Film

Imagine stepping up to the podium to accept your award for Best Documentary Feature for the film that you have put your heart, soul, blood sweat tears into. What would you say? Who would thank? Where would you even start? Well, Steven Bognar, of this year's American Factory knows precisely what this feels like. And he details the story of he and his partner, Julia Reichert's walk to that Oscar podium. And he details a heckuva lot more about what it means to live the life of a documentary...


Cinematography in Documentary Film

In the past, documentary cinematography has been in the shadow of narrative feature's, overlooked because of certain, perhaps unfair assumptions about the craft. Well, that is no longer the case since the American Society of Cinematographers, as of this year, has an award for Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Filmmaking. And cinematographers, Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, of the Academy Award nominated, Honeyland, were the recipients of that inaugural award. (Not to mention a host of...


Reality Television and the Documentary Filmmaker

It wasn't that long ago when reality television was a dirty word that incited some pretty strong feelings among the documentary filmmaking crowd. However, non fiction television has come a long way in the past few years. Of course, don't take my word for it. Take it from fellow documentary filmmaker, Joe Litzinger, who is the executive producer of some of non fiction tv's most well known and respected (did I say respected?) shows. Topics Discussed Additional Resources Trailer for...


Documentary Filmmaking During a Pandemic

Documentary filmmaking during this time of a pandemic is something that so many of us doc filmmakers are contemplating. Or doing. Or not doing. Today's episode is filled with both a discussion on the ethics of documentary production during this time as well as best practices & safety protocol for those of us who are making our docs during this time. Documentary filmmaker and TDL host, Chris G. Parkhurst, delves into this discussion with IDA's Carrie Lozano and award-winning documentary...


Race in the Documentary Filmmaking Community

Questions of race and who has the right to tell another person's or culture's or race's stories have recently been at the forefront of the documentary community's collective consciousness. More than that, it's been the subject of recent debate and discussion, whether in industry-led panels, major publications, or social media. Documentary filmmaker and TDL host, Chris G. Parkhurst, delves into this difficult, sometimes divisive discussion with two of documentary's own, Marjan Safinia and...


The Online Film Festival for the Documentary Filmmaker

Lyndon Stone is the founder and festival director of Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Melody Gilbert is a documentary filmmaker well acquainted with the world of film festivals. In light of Covid events, both the festival director and filmmaker, have had to pivot their approaches to documentary film festivals. This is the kind of discussion we documentary filmmakers have been wanting to have ever since the pandemic greatly impacted our doc lives. Topics Discussed Additional...


Spirituality in Documentary Filmmaking with Mickey Lemle

Mickey Lemle has made documentary films about some of the most brilliant individuals in the modern world. From His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Ram Dass to Sir Laurens van der Post, Lemle has been rubbing shoulders with great minds who all have very spiritual & compassionate ways of living. Lemle has had the splendid fortune to be able to tell their stories. Topics Discussed Additional Resources Teaser for The Last Dalai Lama? Teaser...


Personal Trauma in Documentary Film with Sasha Joseph Neulinger

Sasha Joseph Neulinger endured some of the most traumatic events a child can experience. He is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And he has now turned those events into one of 2020's more extraordinary documentary films, Rewind. Neulinger sits down with TDL to discuss his journey making Rewind and to offer some insight into how doc filmmakers might best deal with the depiction of personal trauma in their films. In our first segment, Chris G. Parkhurst, gives us 5 Tips for Making the...


Doc Filmmaking in the Mountains with Eric Becker

Eric Becker has been taking on extreme challenges since he can remember. If it's not racing bikes it's climbing mountains. If it's not climbing mountains, it's making doc films about people climbing mountains. Tune into this week's episode where we celebrate International Everest Day by welcoming doc filmmaker and mountaineer, Eric Becker on to TDL! In our first segment, Chris G. Parkhurst, gives us Reasons for Working on Multiple Documentary Projects at the same time! Topics...


YouTube For the Documentary Filmmaker with David Hoffman

It's hard to refute the power and potential of the second biggest search engine in the world, YouTube. Especially for the independent doc filmmaker. Here at TDL we have long talked about the importance of you, the doc filmmaker, in fully embracing and becoming your best entrepreneurial self. The importance of building your own brand. Raising your own funding. Building audiences for all of your work. Selling yourself and your work. YouTube is a great platform for you to be doing this. In...


Making the Sports Documentary with Gotham Chopra

Sports documentaries have really come into their own as a documentary genre. The truth is that the built-in drama and sometimes off-the-field shenanigans make for some really compelling stories. Entities like ESPN's 30 For 30 series, HBO Sports, Netflix and Hulu's ventures into sports docuseries, all have been making these films and really elevating the stature of the sports documentary. And so has filmmaker, Gotham Chopra. With his business venture, Religion of Sports, Gotham has been...


Documentary Film and the Music Composer with Nainita Desai

When it comes to documentary film - and really film, in general - one of the forgotten heroes is often the film's music composer. And yet, it's often the music that truly elevates a film from good to greatness, making the storyline and all of its visuals just a bit more rich, complex, and emotional. In today's episode I'll take a look at 5 Considerations for Music for Your Doc. This will be followed by a deep dive discussion with world-renowned film composer, Nainita Desai, the multi-award...


Mental Health and the Documentary Filmmaker with Rebecca Day

We doc filmmakers are no strangers to mental health. Whether by the very nature of being doc filmmakers or from the subjects of our documentaries, we're often dealing with levels of anxiety, stress, and/or depression on a daily basis. Still it's not something that we often openly talk about. That is, not until recently, as more and more doc filmmakers and more and more documentary organisations are having open and honest discussions about the topic of mental health as it related to...


Finding Yingying with Jiayan Shi

When it comes to being affected by the coronavirus, we doc filmmakers, of course, are no exception. Whether we work in tv broadcasting, run video productions, or are freelancers, we are all feeling the impact of the massive shutdowns happening due to Covid-19. So in today's episode I'd like to offer up some ways in which we might all stay positive and stay focused on our documentary projects and on a bigger scale, our documentary lives, which have already been significantly affected by...


Fire in Paradise with Drea Cooper

One of the most compelling, intense, and well done documentaries that I saw in all of 2019 wasn't even a feature length film. In fact, its run time was only 39 minutes. But it was 39 mins of riveting documentary that was financed and distributed by Netflix, and it came from ZCDC's Zachary Canepari and Drea Cooper. And Cooper sat down to discuss with us, among other things, what it was like working on this incredible. film. And speaking of run time, in our opening segment, I discuss how to...


Documentary Film Promotions & Marketing with Jon Reiss

The playing field for distribution, promotions, and marketing for independent documentary filmmakers seems to be changing daily. But one thing that remains, is Jon Reiss, the veritable guru on all things film distro, promotions, and marketing. And for this week's episode he weighs in on this latest, including how social media marketing and ad placements are becoming a very important part of the doc filmmaker's toolkit. And for my segment, I delve into 5 Tips for Getting Your Documentary...


First Time Doc Filmmaker Wins the Stanley Cup, with Joshua Riehl

Joshua Riehl was a first time doc filmmaker when he decided to make a film about his passion for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. So how exactly did he manage to pull this feat off, including getting actor Jeff Daniels and some of the world's most recognizable names in hockey to agree to be in his film? Trust me. I wanted to know the same! Topics Discussed Additional Resources Trailer for The Russian Five Sponsors &...


Film Travel Tips and Gear Insurance

Are you thinking of traveling for your doc any time soon? Awesome. You know how much we love to travel for our doc filmmaking. And Chris has got some super useful tips for your doc filmmaking travel adventures! And whether you're traveling abroad or just down the street for your next bit of filming, make sure you and your film gear are protected! Over the years, so many of you #doclifers have asked us about best ways to insure your yourself, your shoots, and your precious film gear. And...


Your Breakthrough Year and #Doclifer, Josh Davidsburg

Shouldn't you be making 2020 your breakthrough year in documentary filmmaking? We all know how difficult, sometimes frustrating, it can be getting our doc films made. And how trying it can be living our doc lives. No one knows this better than I. Which is why in this episode I have decided to challenge you (and I!) to make 2020 a breakthrough year in our doc lives. And speaking of breakthroughs, for the first time on this programme, we host a full documentary discussion with a true blue...