Beyond Story
Study Group

Wednesday May 4 2022

Study Group 1


11am EST / 4pm BTS


What’s Wrong with Story?

What’s Wrong with Story?

Featuring Brett Story & Sam Green


How Does It End? Story and the Property Form

Brett Story

Prompt 1

“I understood the critique and the context from which it emerges. Documentary has from its very origins yielded to some of the worst impulses of racism and classism, cultural appropriation and exploitation of the marginalized, and it continues to do so with unacceptable frequency. A preference for social victims that dates back decades and continues to be a staple of the realist documentary today has underwritten, systematically, the pernicious exploitation of less powerful communities under the guise of a documentary’s social good. People make incomes and careers producing films about communities they are not a part of, do not understand well, and are not accountable to. The stakes and vulnerabilities attendant to documentary’s real world subjects tend then to be unevenly distributed, with the risks borne by those on screen and any benefits accrued mostly to the filmmakers or their distributors.”

Prompt 2

“Holding story up against the property form and scrutinizing their likeness reminds us that just like property, story is neither natural nor inherently valuable. Its reification as such, however, might just tell us something about the current state of the documentary field, the aesthetic and cultural consequences of documentary’s growing share of the entertainment marketplace, and the political costs of issuing documentary critique through the circumscribed frame of individuated property rights.”


Extraction, property, story, the documentary marketplace, personal experience.


Re: Beyond Story

Sam Green

Prompt 3

Prompt 3: “A few years ago I did a talk on live cinema. It felt like a good way for me to do some research on the history of performance and cinema and a kind of survey of who is doing what in live cinema today. As part of the research I spoke w/ Ed Halter, whose sensibility and knowledge about film I’ve always admired. Ed mentioned something that really stuck w/ me: he said that during the 1920s, Fox Studio had a slogan that they would put above the door to their movie palaces, “the film starts when you walk in the front door.” I loved that. The idea being that the context in which a film is screened is huge in shaping the experience. The theater itself, the sound system, the size and age and density of the audience—all of this is part of the film in a way.”


Audience, cinematic impact, documentary form, live cinema.

Suggested Reading

Introduction: Beyond Story

Alexandra Juhasz & Alisa Lebow

Prompt 4

“Impact”; a reduced and simplistic set of required components (strong individuated characters, narrative resolution, and so on) that will give films the chance to reach a wide audiences and compel them to socially engage in demonstrable ways. Impact is measured by funders, commissioning editors, and broadcasters in terms of numbers of viewers, and by nonprofits in terms of dollars raised. And yet, these indicators are as much about perpetuating the existing system as changing it.”


Impact, audiences.


Brett Story

Brett Story is a filmmaker and writer based out of Toronto. She is the director of the films The Prison in Twelve Landscapes and The Hottest August, and author of the book Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America. She is Assistant Professor of Image Arts at Ryerson University and her work has received support from the Sundance Institute and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Sam Green

Sam Green is a documentary filmmaker. He’s made many movies including most recently A Thousand Thoughts, a live cinematic collaboration with the Kronos Quartet. Previous “live documentaries” include The Measure of All Things and The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, featuring the indie rock band Yo La Tengo. Sam’s documentary The Weather Underground was nominated for an Academy Award and included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial.

Join Via Zoom

Study Groups are 90 minutes, joined through Zoom, and will be recorded.

For those registering to join, attendance at all three sessions is encouraged though not required.


Beyond Story

When and why has story become today’s pre-eminent mode for documentary and what gets lost when storied structures prevail?

Born out of their joint manifesto, initially published in 2018, writers Alexandra Juhasz and Alisa Lebow, extend their call to action to move “Beyond Story” in documentary with a special volume of World Records. Celebrate its launch at Sheffield DocFest and be the first to respond. To invite readers into the volume, we are hosting three UNDO Study Group sessions, to deeply engage and feedback on the writing, ideas, and contributor’s perspectives together in community.


Alexandra Juhasz

Alexandra Juhasz is Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies at CUNY Brooklyn College. She is the author of AIDS TV (1995), Women of Vision (2001), F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, co-edited with Jesse Lerner (2005), and Learning from YouTube (2011). Dr. Juhasz is also the producer of the fake documentary feature films The Watermelon Woman (1997) and The Owls (2010), as well as many real documentaries.

Alisa Lebow

Alisa Lebow is a Reader in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. Her publications include First Person Jewish (2008) and The Cinema of Me (2012) and numerous articles on aspects of documentary ranging from art and documentary to questions of the political in documentary. Lebow has also made several documentaries including Outlaw (1994), Treyf (1998), and For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (2006).

Jason Fox

Jason Fox is a filmmaker and documentary scholar. He has taught in the Graduate School of Cinema Studies at New York University, Vassar College, and Princeton University. His award-winning work as a director, cinematographer, and editor has screened internationally in film festivals including Sundance, AFI Fest, and Venice, on broadcast television, and in gallery installation settings. He has worked as a film programmer in conjunction with The American Museum of Natural History, The Flaherty Seminar, and the Museum of Modern Art, among other venues. He is a recipient of a Union Square Award for social justice, and he is also the founding editor of World Records.

What’s a Study Session?

You’ll receive writing from the “Beyond Story” Volume ahead of its official launch, have the chance to pose questions, break out into small groups to discuss and define your ideas, and contribute back into a larger public dialogue to take place at the Volume Launch event that will trace the central issues raised in these texts.


Study Groups are 90 minutes, joined through Zoom, and will be recorded.

For those registering to join, attendance at all three sessions is encouraged though not required.

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