Changes at Maine documentary school worry its devoted alumni

The departure of the entire four-person faculty from Maine’s small but influential Salt Institute for Documentary Studies has caused concern among the school’s alumni, many of whom found their way into public radio via Salt’s unique classes in audio production. The teachers who left have either declined to discuss their resignations publicly or said their reasons for leaving were personal and unrelated. The executive director of the Portland-based school and its board of trustees echo those accounts. That has done little to assure alums, however, who fear that the close timing of the departures suggests problems behind the scenes. “It’s a pretty clear picture that there’s an underlying issue and a reason they all decided to leave,” says Jen Dean, a photographer and Salt grad who has represented alumni in meetings with Salt leadership.

Photographer turns lens on himself for survival story

John Kaplan was scared. He’d been diagnosed with not one but two types of lymphoma, and chemotherapy had begun to ravage his once-thick head of hair. So he did what came naturally when confronted with human drama: Kaplan, a photographer and teacher of photography, picked up a camera and began to shoot. “For me initially, it was a way to cope with fear,” Kaplan says. He assigned the story to himself and went to work.

Working with Bill

In the beginning, there was CBS Reports. Then came Bill Moyers. It was 1976. Executive Producer Howard Stringer wanted to show the world that the hour documentary was still viable despite the gaggle of magazine-style news shows pushing their way to the screen. Accountants had discovered there was profit in the magazine format and wise men in good-looking suits informed us we were behind the times.

David Fanning’s Loper Lecture, 2009

David Fanning, the founding executive producer of PBS’s Frontline series, gave this talk in 2009 as the annual James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting sponsored by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Thank you, Geoff Cowan and Dean Wilson, for your kind words, and especially for your invitation to come here to the Annenberg School to give the annual Loper Lecture. This also gives me a chance publicly to thank Jim Loper, for the years of work he gave not just to KCET but as a leader in public broadcasting. It’s an honor to be invited in his name. I would also like to thank Mr. Russell Smith for his sponsorship of this lecture.

Student hugging principal at graduation

Why fund a whole doc?

Few docs as substantial as The Principal Story, which airs on P.O.V. Sept. 15, are funded in full by a single angel, but this one was. The Wallace Foundation didn’t choose to cover the whole cost to make independent producers’ lives easier, though the grant did that.

Prenups: precautions for prudent producers

Too many couples were splitting up before the offspring came along. Or they lived together grumpily, keenly aware they shouldn’t have had that second date. Ellen Schneider and her crew saw it was time for an intervention. Schneider’s San Francisco company, Active Voice, has published a 25-page booklet to turn things around: “The Prenups: What Filmmakers and Funders Should Talk About Before Tying the Knot.”

Real-life characters in PBS documentary series

Rich and rare: docs that unfold over decades

If you stand quite rightly in awe at Michael Apted’s 49 Up, which aired on P.O.V. [in October 2007], you’re likely to be cheered by the news that a Frontline producer is now in postproduction to start similar series of periodic interviews with nine diverse people in China….