Documentary Feature roundtable: ‘Descendant,’ ‘Fire of Love,’ ‘The Territory,’ ‘Wildcat’

What excites you the most about being a documentary filmmaker? What documentary had a profound impact on you? When you finished your documentary, what was the hardest thing to let go of or walk away from?

These were some of the secrets revealed by four of today’s top documentary filmmakers when they joined Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022/2023 awards contenders: Margaret Brown (“Descendant”), Sara Dosa (“Fire of Love”), Alex Pritz (“The Territory”) and Trevor Frost & Melissa Lesh (“Wildcat”). Watch our lively group discussion above and click on each name to view their solo chat.

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“I like the adrenaline rush of waking up every day and not knowing what’s going to happen,” says Brown. “That’s definitely why I do doc and not narrative. It’s exciting to figure things out on the fly. And also I really love my team. It’s like being part of a traveling circus.” Dosa echoes Brown and adds, “I think it primes my mind to seek out stories and meaning in the everyday. For me, that’s such an energizing way to live.”

Lesh admits, “This is our first feature film so it’s been a total crash-course journey of learning. With this one in particular I realized how potentially healing the process of documentary filmmaking can be, and very reflective. You don’t see us on screen. That was a deliberate choice in the edit. We’re not characters, but our journeys, our pasts, our experiences are very much a part of this story and something that we explored deeply in the making of this film.”

While discussing some of their favorite documentaries, Frost recalls how “Time” by Garrett Bradley affected him. “I watched that film and couldn’t figure out how she made it,” he says. “I say that in a good way. It occurred to me that I would never be able to make a film as good as that. It was so wonderful and lovely and done like a poem, but still told a wonderful story at the same time. That’s a film I remember watching and being changed afterwards.”

Later on, Pritz shared what the most difficult aspect of his documentary to walk away from was. “The sound and the score was a huge component of the storytelling in our film. Our composer traveled with me to Brazil to record the sounds of the rainforest and then used those instrumentally in her score. Getting that right and having the rainforest feel like home rather than this sort of harsh, noise on noise on noise…all of that is such a balancing act. Finding that balance is something that you could spend years on.”

Brown received an Emmy nomination for “The Great Invisible” and won at the Spirit Awards for “The Order of Myths.” Other projects have included “Be Here to Love Me,” “The Black Belt” and “Dirty Money: Point Comfort.” Dosa was a Spirt Awards nominee for “The Last Season.” Other projects have included “ReMastered: Tricky Dick and the Man in Black,” “The Seer and the Unseen,” “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and “Survivors.” Pritz was a News and Documentary Emmy nominee for “The First Wave.” Other projects have included “Blue Nile,” “Parallel Lives” and “My Dear Kyrgyzstan.” Frost and Lesh both worked on “Person of the Forest.” Lesh’s career has also included “Odonates” and “Fairy Shrimp.”

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