What Our Members Say

During our 15 For 15 campaign, we posted a new member testimonial on this page every day. 


Orwa Nyrabia

Producer/Director, Proaction Film
Program Director, DOX BOX

In 2004, Diana, my partner, and I had a very strange idea; it felt to us, in our office in Damascus, that we should specialise in documentary, in "creative documentary", and dedicate all of our time to that only.

As we're both stubborn and cannot accept "difficult!", we ended up stuck in the world's very corner, trying to find a way to understand... many questions... who could tell one how to get funding for a Syrian doc? Who could help drafting a treatment to be presented to financiers? Who would dedicate the time, have the experience and the generosity to discuss a new project idea, from "the dramatic arch" to title options, to what is necessary and what is "nice", to budgeting puzzles, to life with doc-making... what camera to use, best practice on shooting in a car, then, shooting on top of the car!

All of this in a country where very few doc-makers exist, and there is actual nobody to ask for advice.

Then came the internet... very slow and very expensive! It came as a generous gift from Bashar Assad to us, all Syrians... and after listening to the modem's dial-up sound again and again till it connected, I spent a whole night on one of those search engines that do not exist anymore, and found a forum that made me curious! "The D-Word"! I only read for a couple of weeks, was very embarrassed to ask my very ignorant questions... But within weeks, it became the place where I had friends, asked all of those beginner questions, it became the place in which I, from my desk in Damascus, totally penniless, can brainstorm with a wonderful group of filmmakers, where I wasn't lonely anymore, and where coming from an isolated country didn't matter anymore! It was liberating and extremely inspiring! 

The D-Word is just like documentary itself, a choice of being creatively, actively, and selflessly just part of the world vs. the common dream of being a superman.

Orwa Nyrabia
in exile from Damascus, Syria

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Mike Paterson

Producer, 94 ELEMENTS, PFilm

It can be a very lonely business being a documentary filmmaker – your family/friends/partner don't really understand what you do and why you don't have a 'proper' job, and the films you make can fight you every inch of the way – from finding the funds, to grappling with the story, to getting it in front of an audience.

The D-Word is our support group – a place to discuss ideas, learn invaluable skills, find collaborators or simply have a good moan and always find a sympathetic ear or a helpful suggestion. It's constantly inspiring to watch the community help solve intractable problems and make ambitious ideas feel achievable.

The 94 ELEMENTS project is a great example of how a simple discussion at The D-Word can lead to remarkable things - the project simply wouldn't exist without the encouragement and support from the D-Word community. There's nowhere else like it.

Mike Paterson
London, England

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Melody Gilbert

Director/Producer, Frozen Feet Films
Teacher of documentary filmmaking and multimedia journalism, AUBG 

Not too long after 9/11, I quit my job and decided to make documentaries. I just did (you all know what I’m talking about).

When I first started making independent documentaries in 2001, I had no idea what I was doing. I lived in Minnesota, a state that was on the film world map for big time fiction productions like “Grumpy Old Men,” but not known for its indie filmmakers. Everyone I knew who made documentaries worked at our local PBS station (including me).

I had spent 20 years producing and reporting everything from local news to investigative stories, so I knew how to tell a story. I just didn’t know how to make one all by myself. You know, without a paycheck, without my favorite cameramen, and without ink always being in the printer.

Searching for help, I discovered this online community called The D-Word. I wasn’t alone after all! If I had a question about anything, The D-Word was there for me. Which camera is best for shooting alone? What is E&O insurance? Should I go to the IFP Market? Who are the best distributors? How can I get my doc reviewed? Why am I having trouble importing my footage? Should I go to IDFA if my doc wasn’t in the festival but in Docs for Sale? How do I get a fee waiver from a festival? Can I get some feedback about my trailer? How do I run a Kickstarter campaign? And so on. In the 'D-world', I can promote, collaborate and complain while sitting on virtual barstools.

But by far the best thing about The D-Word is that, even though it’s virtual, it’s much more than that. We D-Worders are a family. Whenever I meet a D-Worder in person, there is an instant bond. For me, D-Worders are the film school colleagues I never had because I didn’t go to film school. 

I still make docs. Right now I’m producing this new beautiful film, THE STARFISH THROWERS, and I’m also teaching, currently at the American University in Bulgaria. So now I bring my documentary filmmaking students with me to festivals such as Thessaloniki Documentary Festival or IDFA, and they become part of the D-Word family, too. The Mezrab dinner at IDFA last year was a life-changing experience for many of them. Several D-Worders have visited with my documentary students either in person (John Burgan) or via Skype (Jason Osder, Nick Higgins and more of you in the future, I hope!).

Fifteen years ago, I set out to make indie docs in a world I knew nothing about. Today, I am the director/producer (and sometimes cinematographer) of six feature-length films  that have been seen around the world in festivals, in theaters and on international TV networks. Throughout all of this, The D-Word has been by my side. Like a great husband, The D-Word has never left me.

Melody Gilbert
Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

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Jim Hession

Editor, RICH HILL
2014 Sundance Grand Jury Price 

Early last year, I was actively searching for a worthwhile project that I could jump on board with, so my friend and colleague Garret Savage, a long-time D-Worder himself, urged me to join the community. I wrote a short post introducing myself to everyone, and within a week, I was contacted by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo about the possibility of editing RICH HILL. I hope that the film proves to be just one of many collaborations between the three of us, and we certainly have The D-Word to thank for our bi-coastal introduction.

Cinema making is inherently a team effort, a fact that is all too often overlooked. As filmmakers, one of the most effective things that we can do is to reach beyond ourselves in a collective pursuit to make the kind of films that manage to speak to others in meaningful and relevant ways. For sure, The D-Word is a shining example of how important the existence of a filmmaking community is to the craft. Happy Birthday!

Jim Hession
New York, NY

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Rob Rooy

Director/Producer

I’ve been involved in media production of various kinds all my life, but only recently in the world of verité documentary filmmaking. When I first stumbled onto the D-Word five years ago, I had no idea that it would become such a wellspring of technical help, logistical advice, philosophical and ethical discussions, international perspectives, thought-provoking works-in-progress, impressive role models, strong friendships, moral support – and fun! In a word: community. And it’s such a wonderful bonus when I get to meet my D-Word friends in person! Life without the D-Word would be bleak indeed!

Rob Rooy
Frederick, Maryland

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Elissa Bogos Mirzaei

Director, STRANDED IN KABUL

It was James Longley who first introduced me to The D-Word. At the time I joined in 2012, I was shooting video for a major wire service and interested in learning more about documentaries.

One of the first posts I saw was from Mike Paterson about his exciting project, 94 ELEMENTS. I wanted to try to contribute, but realized I didn’t really have any examples of films besides news reports. So, I set out to make a very short documentary of five minutes to use as a sample. That five minute film — the first my husband and I made together — became a 25-minute documentary, STRANDED IN KABUL, that went on to air on Al Jazeera. So The D-Word really inspired us to make our first film.

Since then, I’ve found it an invaluable resource, full of extraordinarily talented, knowledgable and generous people. I remember I once had a question about a typeface I had to use in Final Cut Pro but didn’t know where to get it, and within an hour, was very taken aback to have received emails from D-Worders with the actual font itself.

Living in Afghanistan, The D-Word has really given me a sense of community with other filmmakers, spread out across the world but united in their love of telling stories. I haven’t really posted about my own films yet, but I look forward to sharing more in the future, and I’ve learned so much already from reading the forums. I’m grateful to the wonderful James Longley for introducing me to The D-Word, grateful to all who have welcomed me there, and honored to be part of such an remarkable group of people.

Elissa Bogos Mirzaei
Kabul, Afghanistan 

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Paul Devlin

Director/Producer, POWER TRIP, THE FRONT MAN

I joined The D-Word at the beginning, and it has been wonderful to watch Doug Block's vision evolve into an essential resource for documentary filmmakers. Imagine, the collective, world-wide wisdom and experience of the international documentary community gathered in one place! Whenever I have a question to ask or information to share, I turn first to The D-Word. As I take my 5th documentary feature out into the world, it's good to know that The D-Word has my back!

Paul Devlin
New York, NY

Paul also made this video in support of The D-Word, shot at his day job (covering March Madness for CBS).

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Tracy Heather Strain

Director, Lorraine Hansberry documentary project (in progress)

On The D-Word, there is something for everyone who makes documentaries. Within this community of which I’ve been a member since 2002, the generosity of expertise sharing is unmatched except by the quality of the information. Even if one cannot log on regularly like me, there is years’ worth of great content still available to digest whenever it works. Face-to-face encounters with D-Worders in Boston and on the road have been fun and rewarding.

As someone who is embarking on my first independent documentary after a couple of decades of working on other people's films and commissioned television documentary projects, The D-Word has been a key resource helping me find my footing on this slightly different terrain as well as learn to navigate with everyone else the opportunities and challenges that the emerging media technologies bring to our work. This is also my first year of teaching documentary production at a university, and thankfully, there is a thread on The D-Word about that new adventure, too!

Tracy Heather Strain
Boston, MA

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Thomas LennonThomas Lennon

Producer, THE BLOOD OF THE YINGZHOU DISTRICT
2006 Academy Award

When I first heard of The D-Word, I thought, why be part of that? Some kinds of competition you want to shield yourself from. Don’t go to a gathering of parents all trying to get their kids into college. Don’t join a group of filmmakers all jockeying for funding and reputation. I joined out of politeness, because I was Doug Block’s friend, and stayed away.

Now, years later, The D-Word has become part of my thought process. The problem of the day? I post it online and join a vast, humming, chattering aggregation of filmmakers to think along with me. Out of the thousands, maybe four or five jump in and tease out the issue with me. Generosity? Yes, but it’s more complicated than that. To help another is to help one’s own self – that’s the strange alchemy of the crowd. I’ve made new friends on The D-Word, organized a day-long workshop, found people to hire. I’ve taught myself whole swaths of craft I didn’t know. 

Technology has turned us into lone wolves: we shoot for ourselves, rough-assemble films on our kitchen table, stare at screens with earplugs that shut everything out. It’s efficient, sure; it’s also lonely. Only fair then that technology should give us something back: a new group of friends, most of whom we’ll never meet, spread to the corners of the earth, arguing and chattering and laughing about the shared dilemmas and obstacles and pleasures of this work.

Thomas Lennon
New York, NY

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Simone Fary

Nerds Make Media

For me, The D-Word is truly remarkable not only in what it accomplishes for documentary filmmakers, but that its visionary founders had figured out a formula for online learning communities earlier and better than most other fields. This includes those who supposedly have expertise in such things. I wrote a blog post about it, but the key takeaway is that there is no substitute for the time and attention that have been so generously contributed by the founders and hosts over a decade and a half.

Now is our time to make a small gesture of thanks in return for all the knowledge and support provided over the years.

Simone Fary
Silver Spring, MD

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Michael Rabiger

Author, Directing the Documentary

There are many documentary interest sites, but especially helpful is the one founded by Doug Block called The D-Word at www.d-word.com.

Its archives are a mine; discussions include every level of maker and cover every aspect of production and post-production. It's a work of enthusiasts – free, interactive, and with participants from all over the world. 

Michael Rabiger
Chicago, IL

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Lirpa LoofLirpa Loof

Grant Supervisor, Transatlantic Film Board

12 years ago exactly to this day, on 1 April 2002, I experienced a moment of panic. We had just set up the new Transatlantic Film Board as a generous fund for truly independent films that wouldn’t fall into the usual mainstream categories that had dominated the American and European markets for so long.

My problem was that the deadline for applications to our fund was imminent – on that same day, to be precise – but due to some PR disaster, we hadn’t put out the call properly and hence not received any proposals. We had a lot to give – but still no website. I really needed help with this. Fast.

Along came Ben Kempas, one of two co-hosts of The D-Word at the time. He selflessly offered to pass along my call for help to D-Word members. I was willing to allocate between $500 and $50,000 to each of their projects, “almost guaranteed”.

Following Ben’s post on The D-Word on that day, we received a good number of submissions within a few hours, asking for tens of thousands of dollars each. I was ready to grant them all. After all, this miraculous community called The D-Word had truly saved my arse.

I will be forever grateful to you, dear D-Worders. I am delighted to endorse your fundraising drive, and I truly hope you’ll receive just as much money as you asked for back then.

I am also delighted to see that some of the submitters at the time, such as Erica Ginsberg or John Burgan, have since risen to become co-hosts of The D-Word. There could be no better acknowledgement of their good faith.

Lirpa Loof
Never, Netherlands

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Anna Rodgers

Director, SOMEBODY TO LOVE
Nominated, IFTAs "Best Director" 2014

I first heard about this thing called The D-Word when Doug Block came to a wonderful small, remote festival in Ireland called Guth Gafa. I was glad that I took that walk on a windswept beach with him and Marjorie, which solidified my joining this community of documentary makers.

It wasn't until a couple years later though when I met Ben Kempas at the same festival, that I started to engage with The D-Word. For me, the most important thing about being a member has been a very personal, relationship based one. I am known as a fast friend and a connector – I really love getting to know new people and being part of a group of like-minded people.

The D-Word has given me the feeling of being part of a wider family of artists and filmmakers with the same interests, which makes this a less lonely road to travel when times are tough. Documentary making is all about connections between people – we rely so much on our contacts, and The D-Word really is such a brilliant network. It's been most important to me when travelling to festivals or trying to get films out to an audience. We've connected with programmers on the site, let other D-Worders know about screenings, and of course, arranged to meet up and spend time together at festivals.

A real highlight of this for me was in 2011 when myself and my producer Zlata Filipovic went to Silverdocs for what was the best fun I've had whilst touring with a film, but also professionally really enhancing as we took part in the Docs in Progress Peer Pitch through Erica Ginsberg, and later got that film (HOLD ON TIGHT) off the ground, going on to over 50 events worldwide.

More than all of this though, is something intangible – a feeling of the possibilities. The D-Word has always given me a sense that I'm just one D-Word contact away from the next exciting project. When I think about going to work overseas or suddenly want to up sticks and move to New York, I know I'll be putting a post up for some guidance, and that I'll get the best advice.

I encourage every new documentary maker I meet in Ireland to join up. Thank you to Doug and all of the hardworking D-Word Hosts. Writing this has made me want to spend more time on here! Looking forward to the new, improved site.

Anna Rodgers
Dublin, Ireland

You can also watch  Anna's video testimonial.

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Jason Osder

Director, LET THE FIRE BURN

The best part of The D-Word is not on The D-Word at all.

I'd been a member for a while, but hadn't really posted anything or gotten involved until Doug came to the school where I teach and we hung out for the first time. After that, it started to feel different, more real. I started to interact more online. A bit later, we had a "F2F" at Full Frame. I met Mark Barosso and Anna Rodgers and Deirdre Haj that night. (It was the opening night of Deirdre's first Full Frame as director). I kept posting and I kept meeting people, people who I made new memories with. 

Online social networking is fine, I guess, but I think it is only as good as the people you connect with and the things you do in the real world. It's nice to see what your old friends are up to on Facebook, but for the most part, it is the people on The D-Word who I am interested in meeting up with now or seeing their projects come to completion. And I do meet up with them, see and support their films. Not just online but in real life. 

So, the best part of The D-Word is not on The D-Word at all. It's in the real world. It's the real people that you wind up meeting and traveling with, collaborating together, drinking, hugging and loving. There is no doubt that the best new friendships and connections I have made in the last few years come through the doc community in general, and in large part through The D-Word specifically, and that is really special.

Jason Osder
Washington, D.C.

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Sarah George

Director, CATCHING OUT, DWAYNE'S PHOTO

I remember when I first stumbled upon The D-Word: I think it was in the last century! I was reluctant to join, but I was at a moment in the process of making CATCHING OUT, my first documentary film, when I was so desperate for advice, I was willing to try anything. Little did I know that I would get so much more than good advice. I would find true friends and a real sense of community.

There are countless concrete examples of how I've benefitted from being a member of the D-Word community, and I can only echo what others have already said. 

Beyond that, I'm incredibly grateful that the D-Word has given me the opportunity to participate in two different collaborative projects that brought together filmmakers from around the world.The first project was made in response to the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, and I was one of the co-producers. We called it WAR & PEACE, and we were invited to present it as part the Docs Online program at IDFA in 2001. I think it may have been my first time at IDFA, and it was an experience that I cherish to this day.

More recently, I had been on a bit of a documentary hiatus. I was feeling very discouraged, and I doubted I would ever make another documentary again. But one day I checked in on The D-Word after a long time away and discovered 94 ELEMENTS – a collaborative project that tells the human stories behind the 94 naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. I was inspired to tell the story of silver and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of DWAYNE'S PHOTO. And I can't get over how lucky I feel to be able to participate in the documentary community again. 

Big love to The D-Word.

Sarah George
Blue Jay, CA

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Jason Perdue

Director, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

I first encountered The D-Word when, shortly after taking over as Program Director of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, I was asked for my first fee waiver. When I asked in exchange for the waiver that the filmmaker promote my call for entry, he said he'd post it on The D-Word.

I am forever grateful to this person for pointing me to the spirited discussions and honest conversations about documentary film and the intersections of filmmakers and festivals. The ways that The D-Word has influenced and improved the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival are immeasurable. But one that would have never happened if not for The D-Word is our now annual Peer Pitch West hosted by Erica Ginsberg of Docs in Progress. It has become so popular in three short years that, this year, we sold out of pitching slots a full six weeks before the festival. The geographic draw for this program is a testament to The D-Word's and Docs in Progress' reach and astounds me every year.

And finally, the engagement that I've had on The D-Word surpasses any other social network in terms of substance of conversations, viable connections with people that lead to actual creative work, and a sense of trust in the platform and environment that never seems to devolve into the anarchy of most message board/social networks. I fully support The D-Word's crowdfunding campaign and appreciate that this incredible meeting place for doc professionals has remained free and without ads for all these years. Keep up the good work. I've come to rely on The D-Word as place to decompress, get inspired, and become a better festival programmer. 

Jason Perdue
Sebastopol, CA

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Ryan Ferguson

Director, SKATE OR DIE

I can hardly begin to describe how valuable The D-Word has been to me professionally, creatively, and socially. I've been a member since 2006 when, as a relatively new filmmaker, I accidentally stumbled upon the site while searching for info on fiscal sponsorships. I could have never guessed the effect this virtual community would have on my life and career. 

By nature I am not a "social networker", at least virtually speaking (i.e. I finally started using Facebook in 2012, long after both of my parents), so I was actually surprised by just how quickly and how deeply I became immersed in The D-Word. The more one contributes, the more one gains. For me, it's served as part graduate school, part cafe, part office, part psychologist, part rental house, part technical seminar, part trade magazine, part... well, almost everything. Despite living in a large city with a thriving documentary community, my individual process as a director/shooter has often been extremely isolating. Even without the many tangible career benefits The D-Word has provided, the sense of community has been the most important to me. I can say quite honestly that I'm not sure where I'd be today without the support of this community. It's really an amazing feeling to travel alone to a large film festival like HotDocs and arrive knowing that I have a slew of D-Word friends waiting to see movies, have drinks, and share battle stories with. It's a similarly amazing feeling to know that when traveling to nearly any major city, I can put the word out on The D-Word and again have a gathering of likeminded colleagues there waiting for me.

But this sense of friendship and support is really only the tip of the iceberg. The D-Word has also been a place that has gotten me work – actual paying work – and quite a bit of it. I don't know the exact numbers but it's safe to say that I've gotten at least 10-20 shooting/editing gigs over the years through the community. It's also served as my primary resource for technical questions, equipment reviews, funding opportunities, and film critiques. It has served me as a late-night soundboard to vent about personal issues and as a roundtable for deep discussion on documentary ethics. I could go on and on describing the pragmatic resources the site offers and still only feel like I've scratched the surface.

The D-Word community is also an invaluable aide on my own films. I have been working on a doc called SKATE OR DIE for five years. In that time, D-Worders have provided everything from encouragement to trailer reviews, from fundraising tips to actual funds(!) through aide on my crowdfunding campaign.

In 2012, I set out to raise $35,000 via Kickstarter to help fund post-production on my film (to pay the editor who I also indirectly found through The D-Word). After first providing a template through studying past D-Worder campaigns, D-Worders from around the world rallied around my project and helped me successfully achieve my goal. To put this in its proper context, one must understand that these are mostly people with their own projects, their own films, and their own fundraisers. Their generosity was astounding and I definitely couldn't have done it without them. 

The D-Word is organic and genuine. Real people, starkly different in many ways, tied together by common obstacles and passions. There is much power in both community and knowledge and I don't know if I can think of any better integration of the two than The D-Word. It's truly been a privilege to be a part of and I look forward to helping the site and community continue to grow and thrive.

Ryan Ferguson
Chicago, IL

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Laura Poitras

Director, MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY; THE OATH
2012 Mac Arthur Fellow, 2007 Academy Award Nominee
Reporting on Edward Snowden's NSA disclosures

I turn to The D-Word when I hear of someone in the documentary community in danger – when the call went out about Andrew Berends's arrest in Nigeria, or when James Longley’s translator was brutally beaten in Iran, or when a filmmaker is censored or violence breaks out in a place I know someone is filming. Or when the tragic news broke about Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington.

It gives me comfort to know the community is there for me if I ever need it. This community is unique in its generosity of knowledge and support.  It provides a meeting place where people can ask for help and offer it in return. It is a lifeline for documentary filmmakers.

Laura Poitras
Berlin, Germany

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Andrew Berends

Director, BLOOD OF MY BROTHER, DELTA BOYS

OK, so I have to start, of course, with the outpouring of support I got from The D-Word back in 2008 when I was arrested in Nigeria, charged with espionage, when my actual crime was documentary filmmaking. 

I believe Marj Safinia, Aaron Soffin and James Longley led on this, but I fear to start naming more names at risk of definitely omitting too many.

At the peak of the effort, one senator's assistant commented they were receiving over fifty phone calls a day telling them to help save this American guy Andrew Berends detained in Nigeria under torturous conditions with no food or water… While my conditions were never quite that dire, it was a great comfort and no doubt led to a speedier resolution when ten senators did in fact get involved. 

Often, and of late, I am a loyal lurker, chiming in occasionally, checking in often, and always heartened knowing the community is there when I need it.

For me, when I need it most is when I need to vent to the only people out there who can understand the rough and wonderful experiences we go through trying to make meaningful films and perhaps meaning out of our lives. My last outpouring was last year in Sudan when I was battling stifling heat, exhaustion, malaria and the universal challenges of cobbling together a story out of the chaos of people's lives. Without The D-Word, I would have just been drunk on sorghum wine, falling off my motorcycle on a rugged Nuba Mountain road with no one there to share it with.

Andrew Berends
Nairobi, Kenya

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Amy Halpin

Director, Filmmaker Services, International Documentary Association (IDA)

Crowdsourcing is only as good as its crowd, and I can't think of a more diverse and knowledgeable documentary crowd than the filmmakers and industry professionals you'll find on The D Word.

I think "You should join The D-Word" is right up there with "Read the grant guidelines" when it comes to my most frequently dispatched advice to the documentary filmmakers I advise and consult with. 

Amy Halpin
Los Angeles, CA

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Jon Foy

Director, RESURRECT DEAD
2011 Sundance winner, Best Documentary Director

I spent years imagining some great wall between filmmaking professionals and amateurs like myself. So when I first found The D-Word, I was struck by the fact that I was seeing all of these higher-ups of the documentary world – filmmakers, distributors, festival programmers, genius grant recipients – conversing in a very down-to-earth, honest way. They were just chatting, giving advice, commiserating, and it was all very welcoming and personal and genuine.

As for myself, I was full of questions for my own film. Is it bad to have a corporate logo appear in the background of a shot? How do I clear a clip of news footage I want to use? I couldn't afford an entertainment lawyer, so I spent countless hours poring through The D-Word's extensive thread of legal posts, starting back in 1999 all of the way through 2010.

A short time later, my film was accepted in competition at Sundance Film Festival and the very first thing on my mind was that I needed some sort of guidance from an experienced filmmaker, and I needed it quick. I wrote to D-Word moderator Doug Block, whom I'd never met but whose presence I'd noticed consistently on The D-Word over the decade-long span of posts; he was always offering sound advice to filmmakers in a pinch and sharing tips from the experience of making his own films. Doug responded quickly and, before long, became my film's executive producer, attending Sundance with us, and guiding the film to its ultimate TV, theatrical, and streaming distribution.

Over the years since I first stumbled on D-Word, I've come to learn that documentary filmmakers tend to be approachable, cooperative, and helpful folks by nature and that The D-Word is a platform that brings out those qualities.

Jon Foy
Brooklyn, NY

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Nicole McCuaig

Producer/Writer, Network Ten

I am in the fortunate position of making documentaries for a living – around 21 one-hour docos in seven years! I have creative freedom and get to tell stories with voices that would not normally appear on this or any other commercial network in Australia.

I have followed The D-Word on and off for nearly four years and have always found it such a great community of all things documentary. From my outpost here, I have been able to relate and empathise with the experiences of others. In addition I get a good laugh from the banter.

Nicole McCuaig
Brisbane, Australia

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Dean Hamer

Director/Producer, OUT IN THE SILENCE, KUMA HINA

Iʻve been a member of The D-Word since I started making documentaries eight years ago, but I didnʻt really appreciate its importance until I moved to Hawaii to work on our current film KUMU HINA. Itʻs a beautiful island, with wonderful people, but, with a total population of just 1.3 million (half that of Pittsburgh), there isnʻt a very extensive documentary community.

Thats where The D-Word comes in: a group of people who share my questions, hopes, fears, joys and frustrations in turning stories into films.

Case in point: As we were applying to ITVS for funding, we needed to cut down out 22-minute sample reel to 10 minutes for the crucial 3rd-round panel review. ItÊ»s difficult to kill your own babies, so I turned to my colleagues on The D-Word, posting multiple cuts on the “Work in Progress” section of the website. The reactions, comments and suggestions were immensely helpful. It was kind of like having a whole team of trusted story consultants – only they were free!

Bottom line: we received full funding.

This is the kind of collaboration that keeps me coming back to The D-Word, delighted to have the opportunity to interact with so many skilled professionals, and eager to offer my own help wherever it might be useful.

Dean Hamer
Haleiwa, HI

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Deirdre Haj

Festival Director, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Being a member of The D-Word is so important to me as a festival director, but I wasn¹t always a festival director. I was a producer. So hearing from the documentary community in such a comprehensive way reminds me that there is life outside of the festival world. The festival can be a bubble: hard to get into for the filmmakers, hard to get out of for a director. So what better way to stay in touch with the community we serve?

It¹s difficult to hear unvarnished comments about our jobs, but it is also essential. And it is very easy to only listen to sponsors, donors, or A-list directors-of-the-moment.

It is also, in my opinion, probably deadly. 

Perhaps the most moving, the most indulgent part of The D-Word, though, is hearing the glowing reviews of Full Frame after each festival. I have used some of those comments in grant applications and speeches, all to our benefit. But more importantly they get me out of bed in the morning, and get me to work on the darkest of days. 

The D-Word community ensures that we are moving in the right direction, and staying true to our mission. And it is the one place where filmmaker and festival director can be a part of the same community: the documentary community. 

Whatever role I play, that is the community that matters most to me. 

Deirdre Haj
Durham, NC

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Laura Paglin

Director, FACING FORWARD, ELEVEN

As a documentary filmmaker pursuing my craft in the midwest, I felt isolated until I discovered The D-Word. Never have I experienced a virtual community where I've felt so comfortable expressing my thoughts and soliciting feedback. I'm inspired, sharing in the struggles and triumphs of my fellow docmakers as we each slog through our personal projects.

Many connections I've made through The D-Word have evolved beyond the virtual into working partnerships and friendships.

Laura Paglin
Cleveland, Ohio

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David Herman

Director & Producer, Telescope International

Sitting alone in muddy Gloucestershire with a documentary idea and three weeks to a deadline for a funding application, I met The D-Word. A D-Worder who was testing a top-of-the-line camera for a review flew to the UK and shot my trailer. I got my first funds. Six months later, with massive collaborative coaching and rewriting of an application by the D-Word gang, I received a large ITVS grant. Doc done and broadcast, I revel in the warm milieu of hundreds of doc filmmaking colleagues The D-Word has brought my way. Alone no more.

David Herman
Hampshire, England

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Nina Gilden Seavey

Director, The Documentary Center, George Washington University

I'm not much of a joiner. Of anything. Indeed, my basic philosophy about my work is, "Wake up early. Do your job. Get back home again." I like to keep things simple. So joining The D-Word was pretty contrary to my nature.

But, thankfully, when I joined I met an eclectic bunch – many D-Worders were like myself. Most importantly, I found that many of them had a perspective on a life as a documentarian that I shared: they understood that this career we've chosen is a marathon, not a sprint; that to be true to goal of observing life you need to actually engage with it in all of its facets, intensely; and over the long-haul that your character is as important (probably more so) as the things you produce. So I like that. A lot. It's rare to find those values in a collective ethic but I found them in The D-Word. Lovely.

Nina Gilden Seavey
Washington, D.C.

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James Longley

Two-time Academy Award Nominee, IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, SARI’S MOTHER

There are times in a documentary filmmaker's life when she needs to find a connection with her peers, her comrades, her friends, her fellow documentary filmmakers. Sure, we see each other at film festivals now and then – but our tribe is paper-thin across the globe. We documentarians need a unifying force, and in the age of the Internet that force is The D-Word.

If you're me – meaning you're a person who spends years at a time living in far-away places to work on film projects – then that need for contact with an understanding community is something inevitable and constant.

In the real world, I might go for months at a time without ever talking to a person who has watched a film in a theater.

On The D-Word, I find myself virtually surrounded by a group of intelligent, real people who understand exactly what I'm doing, people who understand my craft. I can ask about a menu item on my camera and get an answer from a camera-person I trust in under an hour. That doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what The D-Word is, but for documentary filmmakers, there is no other such place on the Internet.

Even if I'm on the far side of the world from home, I always have that warm, enveloping sense of community that The D-Word offers up on a daily basis. The regulars, the stalwarts, the old-timers, the newcomers, the lurkers – they're all there, and they're all there with a shared intent: To support their community and find support when they need it themselves. To congratulate each other on victories and commiserate with each other in defeat, to make available the specific expertise that we have, our collective knowledge, our ideas, and to help each other in time of need. Ours is not an easy business.

Once, a few years ago, a good friend of mine was making a documentary in Nigeria and was thrown into prison by local authorities. The D-Word stepped up to the plate and devoted a section of the site to his release. The outpouring of support and real, coordinated action was something to behold, resulting in substantial pressure on the Nigerian government and the release of my friend. And that’s all that needs to be said about what The D-Word means to documentary filmmakers.

James Longley
Kabul, Afghanistan

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Heidi Fleisher

Producer, 94 ELEMENTS

The D-Word is a truly unique and invaluable tool for documentary filmmakers and industry professionals. The D-Word has accompanied me through many professional steps and milestones and it’s not an overstatement to say that The D-Word has played a major role in my documentary career. When I joined I was relatively new in the documentary world, and finding The D-Word seemed like a miracle! It provided me with an immediate support system and a wealth of information that I would never ordinarily have had access to, building my confidence and making everything less daunting.

Living overseas, The D-Word has allowed me to stay connected with the American documentary market throughout the years, as well as stay abreast of the latest international trends, industry events, and funding opportunities. As a direct result of The D-Word I’ve been able to hire crew members from across the world, create long-lasting strategic work relationships and participate in co-productions including the interactive project 94 Elements launched by D-Worder Mike Paterson who I met at a D-Word event in Sheffield. One of the keys to The D-Word’s success is the generosity of the large number of veteran filmmakers and influential industry professionals who freely share their knowledge, experience and insight. I have never seen such commitment from an online community, but of course The D-Word is much much more… 

Heidi Fleisher
Paris, France

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Thom Powers

Film curator, Toronto International Film Festival,
DOC NYC, Stranger Than Fiction, Miami Film Festival,
Montclair Film Festival, Sundance NOW, SocDoc

The D-Word is an indispensable resource for getting straight talk and detailed advice from doc makers that's hard to find elsewhere.

Thom Powers
Montclair, NJ 

 

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Tracy Droz Tragos

Director, RICH HILL
2014 Sundance Grand Jury Prize

I've been a member of The D-Word for nearly 10-years. It's an amazing real-world, up-to-date source of advice, camaraderie and community for working documentary filmmakers. I stop by for camera recommendations, word-smithing my log-lines, trailer feedback, festival strategy, the down-lo on applying for a grant, Kickstarter support, and a pick-me up when work-life balance seems off. Most recently, the D-word is where I found Jim Hession, the editor of RICH HILL. With Jim in NY and me in LA, I'm quite sure we never would have made the connection, were it not for his post there.

Tracy Droz Tragos
Los Angeles, CA

You can also watch Tracy's video testimonial.

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Veton Nurkollari

Artistic Director, Dokufest Kosovo

Before discovering The D-Word, I simply had no idea what kind of great community is out there. And while it was virtual to me when I joined back in 2006, it was great when faces started to appear at many film festivals. Some of them even made it down to Kosovo (hi Erica, Doug, Ben, James, Magdalena, Jason, Sean, Paul, Melody) while I had the chance to meet many others in Amsterdam, Toronto, Sheffield and elsewhere. Thanks to The D-Word, Mezrab dinners at IDFA still remain one of my fondest experiences at film festivals.

It was also fantastic to discover great solidarity as well as generosity among the members, not to mention great sense of humor. But above all it is great discussions at The D-Word that make this community so unique and why I am so proud of being part of it.

Happy anniversary D-Word!

Veton Nurkollari
Prizren, Kosovo

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Jill Morley

Director, FIGHT LIKE A GIRL

Documentary filmmaking can be a strange and lonely experience. We obviously aren't doing this for the money, so most people don't understand why we even do it.

To have an online forum where documentary filmmakers and talent can ask each other for advice, navigate production, refer talented editors, DP's, sound people, composers and others, is a valuable asset to have. I am grateful to have been able to create a feature film, a trailer, a poster, and recruit talent all from the D-Word!

Over the seven years that I made FIGHT LIKE A GIRL I relied on The D-Word for information that I probably could not have gotten from anywhere else. I know I created a much better film than I could have without it.

Jill Morley
Los Angeles, CA

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Kurt Engfehr

Creative Director, Reboot Media
Co-Producer and Editor, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, FAHRENHEIT 9/11

During a break in my latest adventures in career mis-management, which this time consisted of testing which was worse, out-dated forms of torture or editing documentaries, I noticed an email from my pals at The D-Word. It was short and to the point. "Hey!" it said, "You! Write something nice or we'll revoke your Documentary Ignitor License." Oh, man. That's harsh. I couldn't afford to lose that!

I pulled the short, sharp bamboo spikes from under my fingernails and, very gently, typed a reply, "If it would please you thus, humble overlords, I, your unworthy servant will attempt to relate the importance of your awe-inspiring on-line documentary community to the masses!" I noticed there was blood all over the keyboard from the spikes. I just shrugged. I've been editing for 20 years, not the first time I've left a trail of blood over the J-K-L keys. I grabbed a useless Firewire 400 cable to use as a tourniquet. I need those fingers.

But, all kidding aside, for nearly 12 years, I've been a proud D-Word member (I even have the official D-Word ballcap!). Hold on...12 years? Really? Holy shit.

During that period of time, The D-Word has been a constant in my life. You see, there are two things no one tells you when you're first starting out in the doc game: 1. Making a documentary is really fucking hard. And 2. You can't do it alone. Interestingly, The D-Word helps assuage both those issues.

Example #1:

In January of 2010, when the earthquake hit Haiti, I got a phone call. Could I help produce a documentary for IFP about it? Being young and stupid, I said 'sure'. Things were going well until the last moment when a Haitian contact fell through and I found I needed someone on the ground in Haiti. Interestingly, a discussion was taking place that day on The D-Word about some of the more adventurous filmmakers on the board contemplating the idea of heading to Haiti to document the aftermath of the quake. With a flurry of emails and phone calls, I connected with an award-winning filmmaker who had just made his way there. He quickly delivered what I needed and his story became the centerpiece of the doc.

Example #2:

Money. Through contacts on The D-Word I've gotten work, and have gotten work for others. As a networking forum, it's invaluable.

Another great thing about The D-Word, which I don't find on any other site, is vigorous debate about basic, underlying documentary concepts. Pros and cons of various sources of funding, issues of ethics and morality when dealing with subjects, fair use vs. the high cost of archival footage; these and other topics are bashed about on The D-Word on a daily basis and the exchange of thoughts and ideas has always been helpful to me in making my way through the gator infested swamp that is documentary filmmaking. 

I guess the most important thing I can say about my involvement with The D-Word after all this time is that, well...unlike every other online filmmaking community I've joined, after nearly 12 years, I'm still on it enough to remember my password. Good job, D-Word!

Kurt Engfehr
New Jersey, USA

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Margot Roth

Editor

Over the past 15 years, The D-Word has answered or solved almost all of my life’s little problems and questions. Things such as:

  • “How can I import these weird graphics?”
  • “How can I not have a nervous breakdown while switching editing platforms for this gig?”
  • “Who can sound-mix my film locally, within my budget, and is awesome?”
  • “How can I keep in touch with my fellow professionals even though I spend most of my life by myself in a small dark room?”

Through D-Word over the years, I’ve found collaborators, technical expertise, inspiration, support, intellectual stimulation, commiseration, and friendship. Real friendship, too. Like the kind of people who will spring you out of prison in Nigeria. (Not me personally.)

And especially while I’ve been in China the last few years, I’ve depended on it to stay connected to my people. 

You know, if you consider The D-Word itself a sort of documentary of all the people, projects, words, ideas, and images that have passed through it over the years, I would say that it was my favorite documentary. It only got more and more interesting as it went along. I loved the recurring characters, I loved the new faces, I loved the random but ultimately poetic nature of the themes, triumphs, and struggles. I loved the variety and the vérité. 10/10, would watch again.

Happy 15th Birthday, D-Word!

Margot Roth
Dalian, China

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Nick Higgins

Director of Photography, FIRST POSITION, THE CRASH REEL
Producer, Department of Expansion

As a D-Worder you never have to fly solo like "Johnny-No-Mates" when you go to a festival, as it's inevitable there’ll be a handful of D-Worders there that you probably know even if you’ve never actually met them in the flesh before, insta-posse. When you are about to head off shooting somewhere exotic and you need some specific advice you can almost guarantee that a D-Worder either lives nearby or already knows the lay of the land. In most cases, you post your query and within a few hours you’ll have your answer. Personally, I’ve worked with at least a dozen D-Worders and I’ve been recommended to other filmmakers via the D-Word network for literally hundreds of days of work as a DP. It would be a much more lonely documentary world without The D-Word.

Nick Higgins
Los Angeles, CA

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Elena Rossini

Director, THE ILLUSIONISTS

How to best describe The D-Word? It's like a tight-knit family, source of infinite film wisdom and a terrific support system all rolled into one. Since joining in 2005, I have greatly benefited from the amazing advice of its members; I've been recruited for interesting projects; I've hired talented crew members for my films; and ultimately I've built friendships with people I greatly admire. It's a true lifeline for any documentary filmmaker.

Elena Rossini
Paris, France

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Nels Bangerter

Editor, LET THE FIRE BURN

Over the last 10 years I've lived and made a living as a documentary film editor in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, and the Bay Area – my wife's career has required that we do some city-hopping – and it's been a hell of an adventure. Each new city has its own tight-knit community of filmmakers. Infiltrating one after another, especially in a short time frame, could have been a real drag at the very least. And for an editor whose engagement in great projects depends heavily on personal relationships, trust, and word-of-mouth, each of those moves could have been professionally disastrous. Frankly, The D-Word has saved my ass.

The D-Word is an online forum unlike any other – a website and online community that is somehow much more actual than virtual, more personal than pixellated. Why it works is a mystery – maybe it's the idiosyncratic configuration of the site, with its never-ending topic-based discussions. Maybe it's the gravitational pull of talented and thoughtful members and hosts. Maybe it's that participants are not avatars or e-mail addresses but actual people with names, hearts, and personalities. Wherever the magic lies, the result is that I've not only had a constant professional community in the cloud, but also a personal introduction to the real-world film cliques that exist everywhere I've gone.

But now, with Oakland as my home for the foreseeable future, The D-Word has become valuable in a different way. With the rise of Dropbox, Google Docs, Vimeo, etc., I think filmmaking itself has become something that can occur truly successfully over the internet. Take as evidence LET THE FIRE BURN which I edited while living three time zones away from the director (D-Word member Jason Osder). The film has been tremendously successful, and our workflow has paved the way for more remote collaborations already. Unquestionably, the documentary craft is changing, and it seems to me that The D-Word's role (especially with a few extra bucks to support & improve it) is destined to become even more central to how we all make films in the future.

Nels Bangerter
Oakland, CA