American Film Showcase 2018 African Regional Workshop

Call for entries: Feature Documentary Film Producing Workshop


In June 2018, the American Film Showcase (AFS) will host 5-7 teams of emerging documentary producers and their filmmaker partners (10-14 participants total) from African countries (participants must be proficient English-speakers) for a six-day workshop focused on documentary film producing. Produced in collaboration with U.S. Consulate in Cape Town and the Encounters Documentary Festival (the oldest and leading documentary festival in Africa), participants will travel to Cape Town, South Africa to learn the ins-and-outs of producing a feature length documentary film with the support of American film experts. All costs related to the program will be covered by AFS. The workshop will be led by Roger Ross Williams and Heidi Fleisher.

Roger Ross Williams: The first film that Roger Ross Williams directed was Music by Prudence, which won the 2010 Academy Award® for documentary short subject. He is the first African American director to win an Academy Award. Williams next directed the feature documentary God Loves Uganda, was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award. Williams is currently working on several projects including a feature documentary about the prison industrial complex for CNN Films and the BBC, a documentary about the legendary Apollo Theater, and a VR series based on his personal story called Traveling While Black for The New York Times. He is also the chief storyteller for Johnnie Walker whisky. His latest film Life, Animated has received countless accolades including over a dozen awards at film festivals around the world, DGA and PGA nominations, and was most recently nominated for the 2017 Academy Awards. Williams serves on the board of Docubox Kenya, and recently, Williams became the trustee of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa; the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art. Williams serves on the Alumni advisory board of the Sundance Institute and the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Heidi Fleisher: Heidi Fleisher is an independent American documentary film producer and consultant who has spent the last 20 years in France, and who now spends her time between Los Angeles and Paris. She spent the year 2015 – 2016 as Head of International Sales and Acquisitions for ARTE Sales, the distribution arm of the European broadcaster ARTE, where she was in charge of curating the catalogue, managing the sales department and handling the Asian market. Prior to joining ARTE, for over 10 years Heidi provided creative, editorial and strategic consulting to documentary filmmakers in order to help them navigate the international market, develop, and finance their films. In parallel she worked with Sunny Side of the Doc for several years to create and implement training initiatives for emerging producers in Brazil, China and France, and has also participated as a project tutor and panelist at various international markets. Juggling yet another hat, she spent two years working as a buyer for the Japanese company Tokyovision and broadcaster Nippon TV from 2013 – 2015. Heidi’s most recent film as a producer is the feature-length documentary Don’t Breathe directed by Nino Kirtadze and co-produced by ARTE France, which premiered at TIFF in 2014.

Program Dates

Arrival Date:
May 31
Program Dates:
June 1 – June 6
Departure Date:
June 7

Feature Documentary Film Producing Workshop Content

In this workshop, 5-7 pairs of one producer and one documentary filmmaker from the region will explore strategies and techniques for producing a feature documentary. With the guidance of the American mentors, the workshop will walk participants through such topics as international financing (both preliminary and production, as well as grants), creative producing, the role of the producer, distribution and sales (including emerging digital platforms), pitching, and film festivals. Mentors will also guide participants in making the right professional connections, taking full advantage of their presence at a major documentary film festival. There will also be opportunities for participants to view films at and spend time exploring the Encounters Documentary Festival.

Programmatic Goals

A primary goal of this workshop is to offer documentary producers and filmmakers in the region a more in depth knowledge base and understanding of the skills needed to produce a documentary film, from a film’s conception, to it’s completion, through its subsequent sale and distribution. A secondary goal will be to create a space for dialogue and collaboration among content creators from across the region who may be facing shared challenges.

Selection Process

All participants will come from African countries and must be proficient English-speakers. U.S. Embassies from Botswana, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe may nominate up to three teams of one emerging documentary producer and one filmmaker for the workshop. Interested teams within the Encounters Film Festival’s network are also welcome to apply. This workshop will be project-based, so potential participants should be nominated based on one specific project that they would like to discuss in the workshop. Ideal candidates are film producers and filmmakers who are in development for their first feature documentary film. They should have experience with producing at least one or two short documentaries in the past. Participants are expected to come to the workshop with a clear vision for a project they are hoping to produce and ideally, they will already have some footage to share.

All nominations should be submitted to:

Selection Timeline

Submission Deadline: April 2
Final Participant Decision: April 20

Application Requirements

From Participants:
  1. Each team member’s resume / CV of no more than two pages and with contactable references.
  2. One-page personal statements including social themes of interest to participants. (One personal statement per team member)
  3. Links to past work,
  4. A treatment or outline of the project the participants are hoping to focus on in the workshop. No more than three pages.
  5. Any audio visual material related to the participants project.

For questions, contact: