The Masters Series


Now in its seventh year, the Masters Series invites celebrated documentary filmmakers and acclaimed professionals–including editors, cinematographers and sound designers–to share their in-the-field experiences and expertise during a Masters Series Class with members of Toronto’s professional documentary filmmaking community. The Masters Series Lab is a forum to constructively workshop and improve projects, guided by guest Masters in a structured, supportive space.

Previously Featured Masters


Internationally renowned filmmaker Peter Mettler gave a Master Class on the art of improvisation in documentary filmmaking, discussing his strategies for preparing for the unexpected and how he’s developed his instincts in the editing suite. Read our Q&A with Mettler.

Held on November 20, 2014.


Drawing on his eclectic filmography (VinylWhen Jews Were Funny), Alan Zweig’s Master Class focused on how he has used his personal perspective as an entry point for telling collective stories.

Held on November 21, 2013.


One of the country’s most celebrated editors, Michèle Hozer (Shake Hands with the DevilFight Like Soldiers Die Like Children) talked about the role of picture and sound in the narrative and dramatic arc of her films; the art of the cut down/versioning; and her recent transition into directing (Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould).

Held on November 17, 2012

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In his Master Class “Hold the Pepperoni,” the multiple award-winning filmmaker Ron Mann (Comic Book ConfidentialKnow Your Mushrooms) discussed making a career out of capturing the history of alternative and dissent culture.

Held on February 21, 2011.

Peter Raymont

The most important shot in almost every film–documentary or drama–is the first. Veteran documentary filmmaker, drama producer, and former film editor, Peter Raymont, explored how to seduce and capture your audience, using examples from several of his award-winning films, such as Shake Hands with the Devil.

Held on April 20, 2010.


Manfred Becker and Barry Stevens are two filmmakers who walked through the valley of personal documentary making. They reported on what happened along the way, how they achieved what they did and where the pitfalls were.

Held on November 10, 2008.


During his Master Class, Kevin McMahon talked about how he goes about crafting documentaries and offered tips on how to navigate the film and television business.

Held on June 3, 2008.


Roland Schlimme’s work in the edit room spans 15 years and can be recognized in the films of Peter Mettler (Gambling, Gods, and LSDPetropolisThe End of Time), Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured LandscapesWatermark) and Liz Marshall (The Ghosts In Our Machine). During his Master Class, Schlimme spoke to how he approaches the unique challenges of editing unscripted films and the importance of the assembly stage as an essential tool to explore structure.

Held on June 19, 2014.

Kirsten Johnson Moderating

During Hot Docs, Kirsten Johnson (cinematographer, The Invisible War; director, Deadline) offered insights into approaching the creative process.

Held on May 2, 2013.


At the Female Eye Film Festival, legendary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of ResistanceThe People of the Kattawapiskak River) spoke about her body of work and filmmaking as activism.

Held on June 22, 2012. 

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The UK’s acclaimed auteur of observational documentary spoke about working closely with oppressed and at-risk subjects.

Held on September 16, 2010.


In his Master Class “Dramatic Documentary or Documenting the Dramatic?,” Larry Weinstein revealed how he keeps the pace going, his characters fascinating and the story riveting.

Held on November 16, 2009.


Director Jennifer Baichwal and cinematographer Nick de Pencier gave invaluable insights into the fine art of collaborating while remaining true to your vision in documentary filmmaking.

Held on June 11, 2008.


In her Master Class “Filming Under Fire,” Shelley Saywell (Rape: A Crime of WarIn the Name of the Family) spoke on access and safety in volatile places.

Held on May 28, 2008.


Steve James (Hoop DreamsThe War TapesLife Itself) discussed his approach to the craft of storytelling, from aesthetic decisions to the role of the filmmaker in the story. James also shared his insight on the subject of access in documentary film, a theme that runs throughout all of his credits.

Held on March 22, 2014.


In his Master Class during Hot Docs, award-winning editor Per K. Kirkegaard (ArmadilloTPB-AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard) spoke about approaching story and structure.

Held on April 30, 2013. 


Anand Patwardhan (Bombay: Our City; Father, Son and Holy War) discussed his activism through social action documentaries, addressing topics that are at the crux of social and political life in India, including corruption, slum dwellers, nuclear arms, citizen activism and communalism.

Held on March 4, 2013. 


Groundbreaking documentarian Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, La Danse, Crazy Horse) discussed his process, philosophy and the challenges he has faced over the course of his accomplished career.

Held on September 11, 2011. 


The multiple Emmy Award-winning director of Life With MurderMonster in the Family, and Rage Against the Darkness lectured on how he uses the interview to get deep into his characters’ lives.

Held on July 12, 2010.


In advance of his Master Class, Dr. Allan King said: “As examples, I will use selections from my own work Rickshaw, Skidrow, A Matter of Pride, Come on Children, Who’s in Charge? and Field Day. Ask any questions you want. This Seminar is for you to explore what you want, not for me to preach. The aim of all my work is to be useful in helping people find authority for their own lives; that is the only way to become free.”

Held on May 24, 2008

“Exactly what Toronto filmmakers need to keep inspired,

informed, connected.”

- Richard Meech, Filmmaker