“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…,” Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities. The same phrase could describe the state of the documentary industry. 

More independent documentary films and series of exceptional quality are being made than ever before, yet there is an existential dilemma facing the field: how to get that remarkable work to viewers. Distribution opportunities have dried up in the past year – buyers aren’t buying, at least at the pace they used to – provoking deep anxiety among nonfiction filmmakers. 

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We dig into these vital concerns with Thom Powers, documentary programmer at the Toronto Film Festival, in Episode 2 of Doc Talk. Our podcast hosted by filmmaker John Ridley and Deadline’s documentary editor Matt Carey is produced by Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios and presented in partnership with National Geographic Documentary Films. 

Powers, one of the most respected figures in documentary, diagnoses the reasons for the sluggish acquisition market, but he also takes an optimistic view of the future of documentary. And he discusses some of the hottest documentaries to premiere at TIFF, including what he calls an “WTF” film about a man who was basically confined in a room, naked and alone, for over a year, all for the sake of a proto-reality TV series. 

And Powers shares his perspective on whether the Motion Picture Academy’s Documentary Branch, which determines the Oscar doc shortlist and the nominations every year, is unfairly eliminating some major filmmakers from consideration, punishing them for their popularity.

That’s in Episode 2 of Doc Talk, a podcast for all who love the art of documentary film.

Listen below:

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