You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Share doc dough

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:
While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14).

Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule crew size and the sheer necessity of creating on a shoestring budget combine to keep production costs extremely low. If a major upfront production cost is paying non-actors, then truly independent documentaries will be increasingly jeopardized.

That said, why should a $10 million profit be reaped off a subject’s back with zero compensation, as apparently was the case in the recent film “To Be and To Have”? (Particularly when the subjects contribute substantially to the film’s success?)

The answer here is the same as for low-budget feature filmmaking: limited profit participation. Unlike with mainstream Hollywood films, offering net participation on a single-subject documentary wouldn’t be just a gesture, but a practical solution to compensation without impractically inflating the budget. And before anyone objects too strenuously, perhaps they can name 10 independent documentaries that have grossed $10 million.

Elizabeth Schwartz
(The author is the producer of the independent documentary films “L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!” and “Klezmer on Fish Street.”)

More Voices

  • Charles Manson Dead at 83

    Charles Manson Changed the World by Making Homicide — and Himself — Part of Popular Culture

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • The Lion King Broadway

    How 'The Lion King' Ushered in the Era of the Blockbuster on Broadway

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • Kevin Spacey Clarance Darrow Broadway

    Broadway Gets Serious About Sexual Harassment

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • Scrips Discovery Partnership

    A Merger Between Scripps and Discovery Could Be a Smart Fit

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • profiles theatre Sexual Harassment

    Sexual Harassment in the Theater: How Chicago Fought Back

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • TV Television problems Expenses Placeholder

    Netflix Has Secret Weapon in Hollywood's Multibillion-Dollar Arms Race

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

  • sweeney Todd Barrow Street Theatre

    Commercial Off Broadway Isn't Dead -- It's Turning Into Broadway

    To the Editor:While pundits are correct in warning that paying documentary subjects could compromise content, independent documentary production has evolved in recent years (“Docu drama in Gaul,” Daily Variety, Oct. 14). Advances in video technology, the increasing number of theaters capable of exhibiting video (thereby eliminating the need for a costly blowup to 35mm), miniscule […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content