Frequently Asked Questions:

How will this study be conducted?

This unprecedented, large-scale study uses surveys and focus groups to explore the experiences of documentary filmmakers and participants. We are hoping for hundreds of filmmakers to take the filmmaker survey by September 29, 2023. 

The participant survey will open in January 2024. Documentary participants can sign up to take the survey by December 31, 2023. 

People who take the surveys will be able to volunteer for focus group discussions about the findings from the surveys. We will host approximately 12 discussions, with up to 40 filmmakers and 40 film participants. Focus groups will take place 1-2 months following each survey. 

How long will the survey take? 

The surveys are designed to take an average of 15 minutes to complete. You can stop and return to the survey at any time. 

Which organizations are funding this study? 

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation are funding this research. The study is being led by ITVS.

What organizations is ITVS working with for this study?

ITVS has partnered with researchers from Columbia University and American University. We’ve also worked with a team of filmmaking organizations, a clinical psychologist, and a film participant consultant to inform the design of the study, and to ensure the findings are useful for the documentary filmmaking field.

Will my information and responses be kept confidential? 

We take confidentiality seriously. The survey data that documentary filmmakers and film participants provide will be analyzed by researchers at American University via the secure platform Qualtrics. Survey responses will not be tied to any personally identifiable information, including name, email address, or the name of the film. 

How will responses and information from this study be used?

We will share general findings from this survey with documentary filmmakers, filmmaking organizations, funders, and the public. The findings have the potential to change how we support documentary filmmakers and participants. Individual responses will never be shared publicly. 

Will the survey be accessible?

Yes. Accessibility is a top priority. The online surveys are compatible with most third-party screen readers. Survey takers who require additional assistance can complete the survey via telephone or an ASL-supported video call. 

Are people being paid to participate in the study?

There is no payment for completing the filmmaker survey. We initially planned to offer an incentive payment, and some communication may have gone out to filmmakers indicating that they would receive a $20 gift card for completing the survey. However, to protect against security breach and fraud, we can no longer offer a gift card for the survey.

Are there any downsides to participating? 

The survey will be about your experiences working on a documentary film. Some people may find that reflecting on these experiences could lead to a range of emotions, ranging from excitement to distress. Participating in this study is completely voluntary. Participants can stop at any time and do not need to answer all questions. The survey is anonymous and responses will not be tied directly to your name, email address, or the name of your film. If you have questions or concerns regarding the study, please reach out to Grace Anglin at research@itvs.org

Documentary Participants:

I’m not a documentary maker but have appeared in a documentary film, how can I get involved? 

Sign up to participate! You are eligible if you are 18 years of age or older and have been filmed in a documentary in the last 10 years. The film participant survey will open in January 2024. Participants who sign up by  December 31, 2023, will be emailed a link to the survey when it opens. 

Can you further define “film participant”?

Documentary film participants are individuals who share their own stories, experiences, or expertise for a film about real people and real events. Participants range from everyday citizens, to subject matter experts, to celebrities and politicians. Documentary film participants are sometimes referred to as “subjects,” “protagonists,” or “characters.”  We prefer the use of “participants” because individuals who tell their stories on screen are active contributors to the film.

I signed up as a documentary participant, what is next?

You should receive an email confirming that you’ve signed up for the study from research@itvs.org. We will send you a link to the survey in January 2024, and you will have 3 weeks to complete it. 

Documentary Filmmakers:

I’m a documentary maker, how can I get involved in this study?

Take the survey by September 29! You can participate if you live or work in the United States and have produced or directed a documentary film that meets all of the following eligibility criteria: 

  • The film is completed.

  • The film has been seen by an audience. 

  • You worked directly with individuals in the film, whose stories you told on screen.

Can I recommend film participants for this study?

Absolutely! Please feel free to share the link to this website with others.

Any other questions? 

For any additional questions, please contact Grace Anglin at research@itvs.org