Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shoe On the Other Foot

From Docs In Progress co-founder Erica Ginsberg who has been attending the SILVERDOCS Film Festival and Conference all week (and promises a full dispatch will be posted soon)...

I attended an early morning panel session today focused on building an online presence. The panelists were John Bell, the Managing Director/Executive Creative Director of the Creative Studio at the Ogilvy Public Relations firm and two professors from American University (Amy Eisman who is the School of Communication's Director of Writing Programs, and David Johnson who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication.

After sharing some excellent ideas (which I will detail more in my full dispatch later this week), the panelists asked the audience to shout out any film-related websites that they visit regularly. Much to my surprise, someone shouted out Docs In Progress (and though it was someone known to me, she definitely wasn't a ringer). Well, lo and behold, the panelists brought up the website on the screen and proceeded to offer some constructive criticism, buoyed by additional comments from the audience. So useful!

This got me to thinking: Here we are, a film organization whose most visible program is putting on work in progress film screenings, encouraging documentary filmmakers to look outside themselves and their inner circle for a reality check on their almost-completed films. And yet we are about to revamp our website and we have been brainstorming new ideas without any input from the outside. So maybe it is time for the shoe to go on the other foot and us to look to you -- our audience, in all its incarnations -- to let us know what you would like to see on our website.

What do you like about it?

What do you think could be improved?

What comments do you have in terms of content? Design? Navigatability (if that's a word)?

How did you find out about the site in the first place?

What do you go to it for?

What would drive you to return to it or recommend it to your friends?

I suppose I should start this discussion with the two questions we always ask of our filmmakers, slightly altered for our website:

Why do we have this website? To raise awareness of our public programs, be a calling card for all our services (the public workshops, private consultations, etc.), and to be an information resource. Since the website houses our newsletter and a link to this blog, we see it as a program in and of itself and something which we would like folks to visit on a regular basis.

Who do we see as our core audience?
We have several audiences who use the Docs In Progress website. They include emerging documentary filmmakers, film students, more experienced documentary filmmakers, and documentary film aficionados. We also know that our site is perused by distributors, film festivals, academics, and NGOs in search of relevant content because we will get e-mails from them, asking to be put in touch with our alumni filmmakers.

We have lots of thoughts in mind for the "new and improved" Docs In Progress website, but I'll stop right here because I want to know if we are on the right track or if there may be some other ideas out there that we hadn't even considered.

Please check out our website at and feel free to post your thoughts publicly in the comments section here or send an e-mail directly to with any constructive thoughts you have on the website. It will be much appreciated.

No comments: