The Documentary Participant: At What Cost?

Business Subjects, Collaborators, Participants. How much do we understand about those whose lives become documentaries? A panel of filmmakers, experts and participants discuss ethics, integrity, and duty of care in doc-making.

Subjects, Collaborators, Participants, Protagonists … how much do we understand about those whose lives become stories in a documentary?

While many documentary makers follow an unwritten code of ethics whereby participants are not given editorial control or paid to ensure impartiality, where does this leave the documentary participant, whose life has been extracted to serve a story? What of their time and contribution and where does our duty of care lie in ensuring they have agency over their own story? As we move into a new era where major sports and music celebrities are being paid for their participation and given editorial input, what does this mean for the integrity of our craft and participants who don’t have the power to negotiate such terms?

Join this incredible panel of filmmakers and participants including Jennifer Tiexiera the co-director of Subject (Tribeca 2022), Margaret Ratliff who was a participant in The Staircase and features in Subject, as well as Tiriki Onus, director and participant of Ablaze and Maya Newell (The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone) as they discuss important questions about ethics, integrity, duty of care, profit share, non-extractive processes and the many impacts our work has on the lives of onscreen participants who share their stories.


Image Credit: Subject, 2022