Documentary group panel: 6 documentarians ponder follow-ups
In the narrative world, sequels are all the rage for films and even “limited” series if the first installment is wildly successful, but seldom do you see follow-ups for documentaries. But all six filmmakers at Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Documentary panel — Samantha Stark (“The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears”), J. Clay Tweel (“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults”), Cecilia Peck and Inbal B. Lessner (“Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult”), Tom Beard (“The Year Earth Changed”) and Jeff Orlowski (“The Social Dilemma”) — are definitely not opposed to sequels to their films, some of which cover ongoing stories.
Click on each name above to watch that person’s individual panel interview. Watch our full panel above to hear everyone’s answers and more.
“With our film it feels like it just cracked us open,” Stark says of “Framing Britney Spears,” which spotlights the 13-year conservatorship the pop icon has been under and her recent efforts to remove her dad as conservator. Spears has a court appearance on June 23. “It feels like Step 1. It just allowed you to relate to Britney Spears in a different way, but there’s so much more going on with this conservatorship and the system that enables it and so it would be a dream to be able to do a follow-up. We’re still reporting. I work for the New York Times, so I’m lucky enough that they are allowing me to do that now.”
Peck “would love to see follow-ups from everybody here.” Since “Seduced” premiered in October, she and Lessner have heard from former members of other cults who are interested in speaking out. “So it’s definitely always tempting to go on and do more work in that area,” she says.
For Tweel, he never truly leaves a project behind all the time and effort invested in it, so regardless if a formal follow-up ever happens, he’s always following his former subjects. “A lot of us dedicate so much time and bandwidth in our brain to figure out these stories and how to best present them that you sort of never let go of it completely,” he shares. “I know me, personally, all the documentaries I’ve worked on, I still track what’s going on — everything from like how the teenage magicians that I followed 12 years ago are doing right now or what’s going on with some of the sociologists we interviewed for ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ It’s all the same. I am going to be, probably for the rest of my life, interested in some capacity in following them.”