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IDA Workshop: Developing Engaging Stories 


Click here to download the Zoom chat file.

Free and open to the public.

When presented with a seemingly infinite number of possibilities, documentary filmmakers sometimes find themselves frozen in indecision about the direction of their project. In those moments of indecision, the emotional core of the film can get lost. In this 2-hour event, dual Emmy award-winning filmmaker Geoffrey Smith will help attendees to unearth “the beating heart of their film story, and to draw the most clarity, emotion, and drama from it.”

Hosted by two current Getting Real Fellows, this session will begin with a talk that explores the history and utility of story archetypes. In Smith’s view, archetypes give filmmakers “a basic roadmap of the key emotional and psychological tentpoles.” This understanding could lead to wider audiences attracted to emotional themes, a clearer story before production or shooting begins, and an easier time describing your project to financiers, gatekeepers, and others. Following the talk, IDA’s Manager of Artist Programs, Gabriella Ortega Ricketts, will engage Smith in a freewheeling conversation about how filmmakers can adapt the concepts of story archetypes to a diverse range of documentary filmmaking practices. This session will conclude with an audience Q&A and 30 minutes of community-building breakout sessions, including ones hosted by Freetown Media in Sierra Leone and the Charlotte Unconventional Film School.

The workshop will cover:

  • A breakdown of archetypes, and their history in the storytelling realm
  • Examples of archetypes and their function in existing documentary films
  • Tools for incorporating these ideas when planning shoots
  • A roadmap for incorporating story archetypes into grant application and pitching materials

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Geoffrey Smith, Speaker

Geoffrey Smith is a double Emmy award-winning director who was at the BBC in London for over 13 years. He has made 24 films for all the major UK broadcasters, won over 40 major International awards, was listed in the New York Times Best Films list for his feature doc “The English Surgeon,” and his last two features sold widely, had theatrical releases and screened at hundreds of film festivals across the world.

In love with cinema from an early age, Geoffrey is passionate about the power of documentary to reach wide audiences and ran his own film festival in Australia for 5 years. He is very much in demand as a consultant and story editor on a wide range of high-level international projects, and works intensely with directors and producers to get the very best out of their ideas and material.  

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Julie McElmurry, Speaker 

A self-taught documentary filmmaker, Julie started a local, community-based film school for adults to make filmmaking classes affordable and accessible. Money is often a barrier for people who want to learn filmmaking and Julie strives to negate that barrier by bringing together skilled filmmakers and adults who want to learn from them through live, in-person classes.

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Arthur Pratt, Speaker

Arthur V. A Pratt is a Sierra Leonean filmmaker, and Pastor based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is a co-founder and manager of the Freetown Media Centre program in Sierra Leone (the only film collective in the country) with numerous credits and awards for the films and plays he has produced. Film credits include; CHARITY 2010 (Writer/Director), which received festival awards at the Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles, Semana del Cine Experimental de Madrid, Spain. Survivors (2018 Director and Producer) for which he was nominated for an Emmy. His most recent work is “The New Boat” which he produced.