‘Meet the Press’ to Collaborate With AFI for Expanded Film Festival

MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) -- Moderator Chuck Todd appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 11, 2018. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC)
William B. Plowman /NBC

WASHINGTON — NBC’s “Meet the Press” is moving forward with a second film festival this fall, joining with AFI for a multi-day event that will feature issue- and political- themed documentary shorts.

Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” said that documentaries, particularly among millennials, are like the “new books,” and allow the show to widen its reach and to spotlight issues in a longer format.

“This got started because I have been dying to get into the documentary business,” he said, adding that it is a “natural growth of ‘Meet the Press.'” While the current political environment feels polarized and divisive, he said, it’s also a moment when people also are “more engaged than ever” and want to dig deeper on the issues.

Michael Lumpkin, the director of AFI Docs, said that one of the things that distinguishes the “Meet the Press” event is its focus on political and issue-oriented documentary shorts, a format that he said is “booming right now” in part because they can be more nimble than feature-length projects. The festival will be held from Oct. 7-8, and submissions are being accepted here. Entries must be 40 minutes in length of less.

The first festival last year, held on Nov. 13, featured three entries that went on to be nominated for Academy Awards: “Heroin(e),” about first responders coping with the opioid epidemic in Huntington, W.Va.; “Edith+Eddie,” about nonagenarian newlyweds whose lives are disrupted by a family feud; and “Knife Skills,” about recently released ex-prison inmates who try to remake their lives by working at a Cleveland fine dining restaurant.

Todd said that a goal is for “Meet the Press” to create one or two of its own documentaries per year. He already has ideas for such projects, and says that the subject would be “a societal issue that crosses partisan lines.”

At the AFI Docs film festival on Thursday, Todd moderated a discussion with director Kimberly Reed following the screening of “Dark Money,” about the insidious influence of big money in state politics in Montana. “Meet the Press” was a media sponsor of this year’s AFI Docs event, taking place this weekend in Washington and Silver Spring, Md.

“Dark Money,” with its focus on the personal stories of how individuals are impacted by the flood of campaign money in the system, is an example of how “storytelling matters when you are trying to raise awareness of the issues,” Todd said.