BY ALEX HOLT
The first time Silver Spring nonprofit Docs in Progress held its student showcase, so many people attended that some audience members had to sit on the floor to watch the films in a space that could only fit 75 people. About double that audience packed the Silver Spring Civic Building for last year’s edition.
Takoma Park too
So this year, Docs in Progress is changing the event’s name from Silver Spring Stories to the Community Stories Festival, lengthening its span from just one evening to four entire days and broadening its reach to include both Silver Spring and Takoma Park. The festival will start on Thursday with a night devoted to documentary shorts about Takoma Park and span four days of workshops, screenings and storytelling sessions.
The organization’s executive director Erica Ginsberg said Docs in Progress started out with a mission of helping emerging documentary filmmakers realize their dreams.
“That could include anyone – from someone who had never touched a camera before but had a great idea – to people who are already making films but really needed, kind of, to have a support system as they’re going through the process,” Ginsberg said.
It’s a mission that Ginsberg said is best realized by tying filmmakers’ stories to the communities around them.
“Documentary filmmaking is not something that you’re doing in a vacuum, you’re doing it for an audience,” Ginsberg said. “So Community Stories is kind of a natural outgrowth of that.”
Before each year’s films are selected or even shot Docs in Progress gives its students a list of specific topics, such as local restaurants, small businesses, other area nonprofits and local artists, and lets them choose which ones they want to cover. Beyond that, it’s up to the students themselves to do the rest of the work.
One of the filmmakers chosen for this year’s festival, Lisa Fanning, was already a documentary photographer but began taking classes with Docs in Progress because she felt limited by what she could do with the still image. Both Fanning and her classmate John Filson were interested in food and food truck culture so they chose to do a short on Takoma Park’s relatively new Food Truck Fridays program.
“It seems to be something that sort of took off on Fridays,” Fanning said, “because people come from work, they’re tired, they finish their kids’ sports activities in the evening and they just kind of want to get something to eat and go home.”
Fanning also said Docs in Progress is itself a great example of a local community.
“Docs in Progress is very much a community organization so it really highlights community and what’s important in the community,” Fanning said.
All of the events at the Community Stories Festival will be free and open to the public. The festival will start on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Takoma Park Community Center and wrap up next Monday at 7 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, with other events taking place at the Silver Spring Civic Center and Docs in Progress’ headquarters on First Avenue in Silver Spring.
The website is here.