ITVS Receives NEA Research Grant to Better Understand Relationship Between Documentary Makers and Participants

By ITVS Staff
Posted on March 21, 2023

Amid intense ongoing discussions of ethics in the arts, including the potential power imbalance between filmmakers and film participants, ITVS will research evidence-based practices that documentary filmmakers may use as they work with people who participate in their films. 

ITVS is partnering with researchers from Columbia University and American University, and with the following filmmaking organizations to form a “design team” to guide study design, recruit filmmakers to take the survey, and ensure the findings are useful for the documentary filmmaking field:

  • Brown Girls Doc Mafia 

  • Documentary Accountability Working Group 

  • Documentary Producers Alliance

  • FWD-Doc 

  • Flaherty
  • Nia Tero
  • Youth FX: NeXt Doc 

The design team will also actively engage film participants in the survey design and analysis. 

“The conversation about filmmaking ethics and best practices is important, overdue, and more relevant than ever,” said Sherry Simpson, ITVS Senior Director of Engagement & Impact. ITVS Director of Research & Evaluation Grace Anglin added: “We hope this research will provide the documentary filmmaking community with critical insights into how filmmakers and the field can better support the use of these practices.”

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this project from ITVS, part of the NEA’s investment in studies that explore the value and impact of the arts,” said the NEA Director of Research & Analysis Sunil Iyengar. “Research studies such as this one are key to our agency’s goal of understanding the factors, conditions, and characteristics of our country’s arts ecosystem and the many ways the arts can impact other areas of American life.”

Over the course of 2023, ITVS and the design team will survey filmmakers and conduct focus groups to better understand how filmmakers perceive their relationship with film participants and how they approach that relationship. The research team plans to share findings from the study widely among members of the filmmaking community and work together to build on identified best practices. 

Take the survey through September 29.

Matching funds for the NEA support of this research is provided by the Ford Foundation.

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