DocWok 1.1

26-30th November 2012
Ramna Walia

The first edition of the DocWok programme opened with a five day residential workshop, held from the 26-30 November at Zorba The Buddha, New Delhi. The programme is a collaborative effort between Magic Lantern Movies and DOK-Leipzig which brought together a distinguished team of senior professionals from Germany, India and UK to tutor and mentor six documentary projects, selected from across the country. A first of its kind in India, the programme was conceptualized with the aim to bridge the gap between knowledge, practice and the market economy for documentary films in India and to find fresh ways of thinking about editing, distribution, and sophisticated marketing and exhibition spaces for the same.


Robin Mallick, Director Programmes for South Asia, Goethe Institut, formally launched the first edition of DocWok as a part of ‘Germany in India 2011-12: Infinite Opportunities’ at a press conference on November 26 at Max Mueller Bhavan and introduced its initiators, Gargi Sen, partner, Magic Lantern Movies, and Claas Danielsen, director of DOK-Leipzig. The two further introduced to the press the DocWok team of tutors- Ilo Seckendorff, initiator of Dok Incubator, the well known editor Stephan Krumbiegel, producer and distributor Stefan Kloos from Germany, Peter Symes, the initiator of Sheffield Doc Fest, and Oliver Huddleston, the well known editor from UK, along with filmmaker-editor Sameera Jain and Sanjiv Shah from India.


Gargi Sen also introduced the final six projects for the programme- The Textures of Loss (Dir/Ed: Pankaj Butalia), Metro-polis (Dir: Gautam Sonti, Usha Rao), The Bullet Does not hit One Head (Dir: Shazia Khan; Ed: Saba Rehman), Behind the Tin Sheets (Dir(s): Yashaswini Raghunandan, Ekta Mittal; Ed: Abhro Banerjee ), That Elephant, from the Bridge (Dir: Abhilash Vijayan; Ed: Navneet Sukhla) and Miranagri (Dir: Anjali Panjabi; Ed: Khushboo Agarwal).

The only public event of the workshop, the press conference was the perfect platform for reflections on the peripheral position of documentaries within the mainstream media, and raised debates that came up throughout the workshop in reference to market and audience for the films. While discussing the critical need for a structured support for documentaries (which is otherwise mostly self-reliant for resources, guidance, feedback as well as exhibition) Gargi Sen expressed her gratitude towards Goethe Institut and British Council for helping in the realization of DocWok. Claas Danielsen reiterated Gargi’s views and emphasized the need for continued explorations and experimentations within the field of documentary film practice and foregrounded DocWok as a critical platform for developing the aesthetics of a hybrid film culture where each learns from the other. The press conference was followed by the screening of a film Tzvetanka, directed by Youlian Tabakov. The event was widely covered by various dailies such as The Hindustan Times, The Deccan Herald and Dainik Bhaskar, amongst many others.

In an attempt to organize an all-inclusive and participatory workshop, the programme was carefully designed with three important areas of focus- the group sessions, which were largely expert sessions on the various processes concerning the commissioning and circulation of documentary films- the writing of project synopsis, issues of finances and funding, making trailers for a pre-production and post-production film as well as issues concerning distribution; the individual editing and mentoring sessions, which foregrounded the aim of the workshop to provide a balance between discussions and hands-on editing sessions for each projects; and lastly, the group screenings which gave a common ground to the tutors as well as the participants to watch each other’s work and discuss it.


The first two days of the workshop primarily focussed on the group screenings of the rough-cuts which also served as an open round table discussion on the aesthetic choices, length and other story telling devices. The feedback reflected a mix of cultural albeit expert opinions on the films. These plenary viewings proved to be a highly reflective and creative discussion on the rough-cuts and mapped the graph for the individual sessions for each of the projects. The participants were also given the space to discuss their projects with sets of two tutors for individual tutoring sessions. The purpose of the sessions was to provide a more in depth re-thinking on the projects and plan the edits at the individual work stations set up for each project. The schedule was reorganized on the third day with a focus on individual sessions with the tutors, while also accommodating more time for the director-editor teams of each project to work independently in their workstations.

On day four, the individual sessions were complimented by a two-part group session by Peter Symes, on writing project synopsis, both short and long, for various commissions. Peter harked back to his experience with the BBC to foreground the importance and technique of writing project synopsis for various commissions and grants . Moreover, he accentuated the need to maintain clarity while arousing intrigue and interest in the prospective project. Peter’s session was complimented by Stefan Kloos’s session on trailers. In this session, Stefan advised that each project should have a 1.5 to 3 min long trailer for both production and distribution stages of the film, which encapsulates the visual story board for the entire film. He emphasized that this practice would not just make the rough cut structurally cogent, but also create a visual template for the main themes and subjects.


The last day of the workshop provided a connecting link to the sessions of the previous days. The first half of the day concluded the individual sessions through fresh eye meetings with tutors where some of the reworked rough-cuts were screened, and each project was reviewed for its progress through the course of the workshop. This was followed by the final group session which tied up the role of the first workshop in the larger development of each of the projects within the programme. A tentative timeline was then collected from the participants to plan the logistics of the next workshop where marketing and distribution strategy for the projects would be charted out and networks would be sought with distributors. The discussion was followed by a brief session headed by Gargi Sen where she discussed the market for documentaries in India with respect to finances and broadcast. She emphasized the need for setting up an accessible and transparent system for government funding to support the development of innovative projects. Led by Gargi Sen, Claas Danielson and Ilo Seckendorff, the forum was then formally opened to all, in order to further evaluate the format, schedule and overall performance of the workshop. The cultural mix of the group and the non-threatening environment provided by the workshop was greatly appreciated by the tutors and the participants and proved to be a very enriching cultural collaboration. The participants also contented that the communal experience of watching films and the rich discussions were invigorating.

This concluding session proved to be a highly reflective and the discussions drew on trends from the documentary practice in India and the urgent need to continue with the endeavor and perhaps open it up to a much larger community of filmmakers in the future editions of DocWok.