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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, March 2003

By Tom White

Dear Readers:

Let's say the subject of your documentary has a past that is indelibly connected to American history. Such is the case with Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco's Daughter from Danang, which tells the story of Heidi Bub, the daughter of an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman, and her unsettling re-discovery of her Vietnamese roots. What gives Daughter from Danang its proper context in the beginning is the footage—from the Vietnam War and from Operation Boatlift, the Ford Administration program that re-patriated Amerasian children like Bub. This is the time in which Bub was born and raised, and this is the history to which she travels back. Lily Ng talks to Dolgin and Franco about this journey.

Footage often serves as the  contextual lubricant, bringing history alive, moving the story forward. Frontline, the flagship program out of PBS' WGBH, has distinguished itself over the past 20 years with its blend of penetrating journalism and riveting storytelling. And it hasn't been just the experts and eye witnesses who have helped to tell the stories; it has been the news footage that lends a sense of immediacy to contemporary issues. Ann Putney speaks to some of the key players who have made Frontline the venerable and respected program it has been.

And where do we get this footage? David Heuring speaks to representatives at three major archive houses—ITN Archive, ABCNEWS VideoSource and National Geographic—about what makes their collections unique.  Of course, there's an art to finding these images—and clearing and licensing them—and Barbara Leigh Gregson, who has made an exemplary career out of tracking down footage, shares the ins and outs of this very necessary component of documentary making. 

Elsewhere in this issue, we look at education. Mitchell Block offers a revised, updated and condensed version of the Guide to Documentary Production Training Programs from the November 2001 issue—this time focusing on adult and continuing education programs. Documentary maker and teacher Jeff Swimmer shares his experience teaching at such a program—in Switzerland. At the high school level, IDA has been developing and implementing programs of various shapes and sizes for many years. Thelma Vickroy, who has been instrumental in helping to move the latest program, Docs Rock, forward, updates us on the next step  in this exciting program.

Finally, in a new, occasional feature in the magazine, we look at a specific region—here, the Pacific Northwest in North America—to get a sense of the documentary-making community there. Seattle-based Seth Magalaner talks to filmmakers, festival programmers and media arts leaders about what makes the region vital. Next issue, we travel to London and Spain.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White