Group modeled after 1920s cine groups

New York City serves as home base for documentary directors of every stripe, from the established (Barbara Kopple, Albert Maysles) to the emerging (Judith Helfand, Dan Klores). But at DocuClub, where they exist side by side, there is no pecking order.

Launched in 1994 by Susan Kaplan (“Three of Hearts”), DocuClub was modeled after the Continental cine clubs of the 1920s and ’30s to provide filmmakers with a forum for discussion and feedback. What began as an informal group of eight has mushroomed into a mailing list of 4,000. Relationships with Silverdocs, Full Frame and Newport film fests help extend DocuClub’s influence beyond city limits.

Members convene at the IFC Center for monthly get-togethers including Idea Workshop pitch sessions and In-the-Works screenings. Rough cuts of “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” “Born into Brothels,” and “Boys of Baraka” have all screened in the past.

Unsure about including footage they couldn’t bear to part with, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing brought “Boys of Baraka” to DocuClub for an outside opinion. Recalls Ewing: “You could feel the energy of the room. You could tell when people were shifting what to take out, and when the film should end.”

Constance Marks (“Green Chimneys”) was one of four filmmakers who presented trailers and pitches to reps from HBO, Cinetic Media and POV at a recent Idea Workshop. No tyro, Marks was still grateful for the feedback she received that night on her “Elmo/Kevin Clash Project Narrative,” about the puppeteer behind the Sesame Street character.

“I know how to make movies, but selling them is very hard for me,” says Marks. “It definitely gave me perspective that I will take with me to interviews and into the editing room.”

Discovery exec Andrea Meditch spotted Stephanie Jones’ jump-rope doc “Doubletime” while on a panel last spring and helped shepherd it into completion. The film premiered at SXSW and will be showcased at Tribeca.

“It’s all about creating community,” says Kaplan. “There are online communities for filmmakers, but we’re about interacting with each other face to face.”

Attests Grady about the nonfiction forum: “Every city should have one.”

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