New York Times Op-Docs

The NYT offers a platform for independent filmmakers to share their short creations with us.

In 2011, the New York Times’ editorial department began inviting established and emerging filmmakers to submit new, short opinionated documentaries. There are no restrictions on subject matter except that it be nonfiction, and any film style is acceptable. The newspaper hopes to make a wide range of topics available, to include current affairs, historical subjects and contemporary life issues. I’m catching up on this new platform which is gaining popularity at a rapid clip.

Op-Docs is giving documentary filmmakers a new platform to share their original works. It has helped launch the careers of many new documentarians. One, Daphne Matziaraki, won a 2016 Peabody Award and her film was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award in the short documentary film category.

While Op-Docs is part of the Times’ editorial department, and many films are developed in conjunction with the Op-Docs team, the films express opinions the way the filmmakers want to, not the way the writers for the Times might. The filmmakers express their opinions in the first-person, either through their subjects, or through a more artistic approach. Each Op-Doc has a director’s statement with it.

Every film must meet the Times’ rigorous accuracy policy before it gets included in the line-up. Each Op-Doc, around 250 to date, is thoroughly fact-checked. The team has been able to create a breaking news film within 24 hours, as they did with the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

Op-Docs are divided into several series: Scenes are very short works that are clips of street life, interviews or observations. Some are short clips from experimental work. Verbatim are those films that, as the Times describes it, “transform legal transcripts into dramatic performances”.  Animated Life films document important scientific discoveries, and Interactive includes the films which allow the viewer to be interactive, and multimedia special projects.

Op-Docs has won two News and Documentary Emmys, a Peabody Award and the World Press Photo Multimedia Award for Interactive Documentary. The films vary in length. Browse the film list and you will see films about a 10-year-old girl already in the boxing ring, a day in one of the world’s busiest maternity wards, a plus-size woman who pole dances, the police department in Flint, MI, a Greek Island coast guard captain saving the lives of thousands of refugees, and much, much more.

There is a newsletter with the latest documentaries, discussions with filmmakers and news for upcoming events that can be signed up for on the Op-Docs page at The New York Times.

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