Doug Block, the New York-based documentary filmmaker best known for his autobiographical film, 51 Birch Street, answered questions and enjoyed pizza with students and staff members in the Center for Learning Innovations, Thursday, October 30. The Q&A with Block followed an evening of back-to-back screenings of both 51 Birch Street and 112 Weddings at Denver’s SIE FilmCenter.
Between bites of pizza, Block discussed the film industry’s changing landscape with the onset of digital viewership and how filmmakers can adapt to less glamorized and even lesser funded means to making a production. Fundraising for a film’s production costs proved to be the biggest challenge for Block. “It’s very hard to show a private investor how they’ll make their money back…they have to have a personal interest in the story too.”
Block’s unique production style incorporates his surrounding life and work. His personal involvement in each of his films’ material allows his personality to contribute, narrate and guide the viewer through the plot—defining characters and villains along the way. “It’s exciting to come up with an idea and think: I’m the only one in the world that can do this.” Where technical shots and visual effects may lack, content prevails in Block’s films.
The funding Block has received for projects from private entertainment sectors, such as HBO, comes at a staggered rate—an inhibiting and straining process for filmmakers. To this point, Block contends that even when someone is established and renowned as a filmmaker, challenges still abound. Even with a great story and remarkable execution, Block admits “[i]t’s a small percentage of people who have managed to carve a career somehow. I consider myself very lucky.”