“At Silverdocs, the [industry] access is there, but it’s probably more democratic,” Sitney says. “Any filmmaker has access to the head of HBO, the head of Discovery, [the PBS documentary series] POV, because they’re all going to the same parties, the same networking events.”
For documentary producer Josh Levin, who manages the West End Cinema, Silverdocs affords an opportunity to experience Washington as “Docuwood,” where such nonfiction production and commissioning powerhouses as PBS, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel make their homes — not to mention the myriad independent filmmakers plying their trade in and around the city.
“I can’t think of any other event that shows just how large the D.C. filmmaking community is,” Levin says of the five-day industry conference Silverdocs holds every year. “We have a tremendous amount of filmmaking here, and not a tremendous amount of the concept of it being an industry here. So going to the conference and seeing a couple hundred people . . . who are here and making good stuff — I think that’s pretty cool.”
Levin adds that, thanks to a pitch session he attended in 2009 while he was producing the wind-power documentary “Cape Spin,” he met with representatives of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We ended up meeting a funder,” Levin says, “and several nonprofits who have agreed to help us with outreach and awareness.”
Still, Levin won’t be showing “Cape Spin” at Silverdocs this year. The festival occurs too close to the film’s opening at the West End next Friday. “If a movie premieres at Silverdocs in June and opens June or early July, it’s not going to work,” Levin says. “There’s a limited attention span and limited imagination-capture with audiences. And if all of the marketing, promotion and awareness that’s being built around a film is about playing a festival on these two dates in Silver Spring, then for us to open it a week later means that everybody’s looking over there and not over here.”
For now, at least, everybody’s looking “over there” — a bustling corridor in Silver Spring that Seavey, for her part, remembers as a construction zone she needed to wear a hard hat to navigate. “It takes a decade or more to make a place feel like home,” she says today. By that calculation, Silverdocs is right on schedule.
More on Silverdocs:
10 movies not to miss at Silverdocs
Full Going Out Guide listing: Silverdocs
The AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival takes place Monday through June 24 in Silver Spring. Call 301-495-6705 or visit www.silverdocs.com.