By Randi Altman
Los Angeles — Lesley Chilcott, known for her work on documentary films such as the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth as well as It Might Get Loud and Waiting for Superman, has been curating the most recent Producers Guild of America (PGA) series in LA, called The Doc Club.
“The PGA asked me if I would chair the West Coast division of the Documentary/Non-Fiction Committee last summer,” she explains. “So having noticed that the PGA is already extremely well organized, I thought my contribution could be to start a new documentary screening series — a place where PGA members and friends of the PGA could go once a month and see a documentary for free. LA is very spread out, as is the documentary community, so I thought this could be both an enjoyable and a helpful addition [to the community]. The PGA was very supportive of this idea, so I thought I’d give it a go.”
In Los Angeles, they typically screen the first Thursday of each month, and Chilcott has committed to a year. The showings had taken place at The Landmark, originally, and now they are at the Arclight in Hollywood. “I owe both theaters a big thanks. And if the Arclight will have us for awhile, we’ll stay.”
The way Chilcott (@LesleyChilcott) chooses which film to show is “very curatorial,” she says. “I thought it important to start out the series by doing something a little different, and I wanted to start this right off the bat.”
The first three films shown were sports-related documentaries, and the current group of three are all from female directors. “We are doing something whimsical for the next three. I have a small committee of advisors that I consult when we are making selections,” she says.
The series is free to PGA Members and guests only, so they seek out sponsors. Company 3/Deluxe sponsored the first two screenings (The Short Game, directed by Josh Greenbaum, and McConkey, directed by Scott Gaffney, Rob Bruce, David Zieff, Murray Wais and Steve Winter). Momentous Insurance sponsored the next two (China Heavyweight, from filmmaker Yung Chang, and After Tiller, from directors/producers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson).
But the series is more than just a screening. At the end of each showing, there is a very brief Q&A where they’ve had anywhere from one to five people from the film participate in answering questions.
The attendees are encouraged to come to the Salon afterwards for an informal gathering in the bar area, where the filmmakers continue the conversation. “It’s been really nice so far because our guests have been really supportive of the films, and always ask the filmmakers how they can help get the word out,” reports Chilcott. “They genuinely want to help; and documentaries always need help. Plus it’s just a nice place to hang out with other filmmakers.”
“Red Bull Media House (the distributors of McConkey) was amazing — they hosted the bar afterwards and gave out copies of the film, and were a pleasure to work with. The makers of China Heavyweight came in from Canada, and the Quebec consulate held a small Quebecois Beer tasting for our guests. We have had great luck so far. It’s a small series, with an intimate setting that I think the filmmakers appreciate.”
The most recent film to be screened has won many festival audience awards: It’s American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, directed by Grace Lee, who also produced.
On March 13th, the Doc Club will show Anita, the new documentary about Anita Hill by director Freida Lee Mock.
If you are a PGA member, check out the calendar section of the PGA Website (http://www.producersguild.org) for details.
And for those in Washington, DC, there is also a DC PGA Doc Club.
What’s up next for Chilcott in terms of making her own films? At the moment she’s directing a short film about a small village of women coffee growers in Costa Rica. And upcoming she will be working on a couple of commercial projects.
Top Photo Caption: Lesley Chilcott (far left) with the McConkey panel.