Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute and Low Key Arts’ Inception to Projection Program Partner to Host Documentary Filmmaking Workshop

Two filmmaking institutions in Hot Springs — the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute and Low Key Arts’ Inception to Projection program — are teaming up this summer to offer a one-of-a-kind program to train emerging filmmakers in the craft of documentary filmmaking. Led by seasoned filmmaker Nathan Willis (Rap Squad), the program will foster a collaborative workshop environment for participants to create their own original short documentary films that will premiere at the 33rd Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (October 18-26), as well as at the Persistence of Vision Film Festival in January 2025.

Course topics for the Documentary Filmmaking Workshop will offer a deep, immersive dive for aspiring filmmakers into topics like, writing for the documentary, building relationships with on- screen participants, interviewing techniques, camera and lighting techniques, journalistic code of ethics, archive media and post-production. The course will begin Monday, July 8 and end Sunday, September 1 and the lectures are primarily hosted on Zoom. The class fee is $400/person (Limited need-based scholarships are available.).

Inception to Projection Film Programs Director Jen Gerber, said, “Inception to Projection is traditionally focused on scripted short films, but in Hot Springs we have 33 years of celebrating the best in documentary forms through the HSDFF. As an academy-qualifying festival in the documentary short film category, it’s a very big deal for these projects to be showcased there. I’ve been a fan of Nathan’s work for many years and our students are very fortunate to have the chance to study under someone with such expertise. We look forward to seeing what the students create under his mentorship and we can’t wait to share these new films with our community in October.”

HSDFF Executive Director, Ken Jacobson, added, “At the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, we have celebrated the art and craft of documentary film for 33 years. We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Low Key Arts and its acclaimed Inception to Projection program this summer on an intensive documentary filmmaking workshop that will provide a topflight, hands-on production experience for those who want to explore the creative process of making a documentary. Having screened filmmaker Nathan Willis’ extraordinary documentaries at the festival before, we couldn’t ask for a better instructor. We know the participants will benefit tremendously from his deep experience in documentary film. We are especially excited to be able to screen the completed films at this year’s upcoming Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.”

Nathan Willis is a documentary filmmaker who has spent his entire life in the American South. He is interested in stories about people, community, faith, disability, and the power of art. He works almost exclusively as a one-person production crew telling intimate, character-driven stories. His first feature-length documentary, Rap Squad, won a Mid-America Emmy Award for Best Cultural Documentary and aired on PBS stations across the U.S. as part of the PBS series, Reel South. His second feature-length documentary, 7 Days: The Opioid Crisis in Arkansas, was created in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas PBS and tells stories of individuals whose lives have been affected by the opioid epidemic. The hour-long film reached over one million views on YouTube within 6-months of being released and was
nominated for two Mid America Emmy Awards.

Willis’ short documentaries have appeared on NBC News, PBS, and Vice. His work has also screened at Slamdance, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Indie Memphis, and Nashville Film Festival. He most recently worked as an episode director and cinematographer on the PBS series, Southern Storytellers. He is currently developing a feature documentary about the foster care system. The upcoming 33rd edition of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will take place October 18-26 with plans to continue and grow such impactful events as “True Stories”, HSDFF’s live storytelling event, and the SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS screening and panel, which both debuted last year. Like the Documentary Filmmaking Workshop, these interactive programs add an important element to the development of a new generation of filmmakers, as well as illuminating local voices and their works. Combined with the always highly anticipated slate of official selections, once again this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will be a can’t miss national film event.

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