An Interview with FC Founder Michal Goldman

April 28, 2017

As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Filmmakers Collaborate, we could think of no better person to chat with about this august occasion than Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and FC founder, Michal Goldman.

Back in 1986, Michal was in need of non-profit fiscal sponsorship as she sought to raise money for her first film. And because most independent filmmakers are also creative entrepreneurs, Michal saw an opportunity to create an organization that could help her—and other filmmakers—obtain non-profit fiscal sponsorship. She recalls, “Doing all the legal work and paper work to establish a non-profit turned out to be more work than I’d expected. And it seemed stupid to do all that just for myself when I knew other independent filmmakers who had the same needs. So I got a small group of filmmakers together who agreed that a non-profit fiscal sponsor that was basically owned and run by the filmmakers themselves was worth doing, and by 1987 we managed to do it.”

And with that, FC was born. “Filmmakers Collaborative gave me a community of filmmakers, people who were doing independent projects they were fully committed to. We became resources for each other, reviewing each other’s proposals and rough cuts, sharing technical information and sometimes even suggestions for funding. Some of us have worked together on our projects. For me this has been tremendously useful and…inspiring,” Michal shared.

Thirty years is a long time in any field, and the documentary film world is no exception. While changes in production techniques and distribution methods have evolved considerably, the ever-present challenges of financing and engaging storytelling remain. Michal observes, “During the first two decades, the organization grew to include filmmakers whose funding and distribution was closely tied to public television. Some of us were doing fairly large-budget documentaries funded by big foundations like Ford and the National Endowment for the Humanities – myself included. This wasn’t what I had originally envisioned and though it provided us with semi-solvency for a good couple of decades, on some level I believe we allowed ourselves to become safer and more conventional – myself included! – than I’d originally intended, and that has made it harder to remain near the cutting edge of truly independent, innovative, socially relevant filmmaking that has continued to evolve along with continuously evolving technologies for production and dissemination of the work.”

Moving forward, Michal sees a committed and visionary coalition of members and supporters as being key to FC’s continued success and ever-expanding value to filmmakers, especially in the current political environment. “Most obviously – and generally – the current administration in Washington isn’t friendly to non-profits supporting the arts. This is just another reminder that we retreat from engagement with the political world at our peril. As for FC itself, I started it because I saw it could help me and my filmmaker-friends do our work.” She emphasizes that FC’s filmmaker members are its life blood. The organization, she believes, has to be “…important to the filmmakers who are part of it. So the challenge for FC is to invite genuinely creative filmmakers who are responding to the world around them into the very heart of the organization. Give them real responsibility and power, believe in the value of their work, keep learning what they need, and figure out how to provide it.” Those sound like inspiring marching orders for the decades to come!