The Masters Series


Now in its eighth 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

In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, director Charles Officer dove into the creative journey that he took with composer Kevin Lau to collaborate on the original score for “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince”, a documentary that embodies this beloved, universal story. Moderated by composer, Suad Bushnaq, this creative discussion takes a close look at the inspirations and unique challenges of bringing together Kevin’s orchestral sound and Charles’ cinematic approach, to define the film’s musical personality.

Held on March 12, 2019.

In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, composer Kevin Lau dove into the creative journey that he took with director Charles Officer to collaborate on the original score for “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince”, a documentary that embodies this beloved, universal story. Moderated by composer, Suad Bushnaq, this creative discussion takes a close look at the inspirations and unique challenges of bringing together Kevin’s orchestral sound and Charles’ cinematic approach, to define the film’s musical personality.

Held on March 12, 2019.

Roderick Deogrades

In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, master storyteller and genre-hopping editor Roderick Deogrades, whose credits include The Ghosts in Our Machine, Still Mine, and The Expanse TV series, discuss his theory of shaping performances in documentary, his inventive techniques for improvising story, and how to think “outside the script” in drama. Sharing anecdotes, creative insights, and clips from new work, he explored the edit as an investigative process: How do you find the best version of a story?

Held on April 5, 2018.


In her DOC Institute Masters Series Class, acclaimed cinematographer Iris Ng, whose body of work include modern classics like Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell and contributions to Moira Demos & Laura Ricciardi’s Making A Murderer, offered a fascinating conversation on her theory of “method cinematography” and how she brings nuance and sensitivity to all of her work, particularly depictions of complex characters and difficult subjects.

Held on November 21, 2017.


In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, award-winning producer/editor Nick Hector, a frequent collaborator of preeminent documentarians such as Allan King, Yvan Patry, and Sturla Gunnarsson, offered an essential, behind-the-scenes view into his working notes, journals, and anecdote. He took participants through the beats of a film’s life cycle, including putting on the director’s glasses, playing the role of “first audience” and revealing the story’s spine through a careful reduction process.

Held on November 23, 2016.


In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Thomas Wallner (Late Fragment, The Guantanamo Trap, Regenesis) explored the challenges and opportunities of using VR in a cinema context.

In a medium that breaks the fourth wall, where traditional film language seems to no longer apply, Wallner discussed the unique attributes of VR, how they fundamentally differ from conventional film and how this affects the storytelling process.

Held on October 13, 2016.

In this DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Ann Shin (My Enemy My Brother, The Defector: Escape from North Korea) shared her unique approach to adaptability in storytelling – including working across multiple mediums, conquering new technologies and platforms, and creatively tackling challenges unique to each format.

Held on August 4, 2016.

In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Mark Monroe (The Cove, Fed Up, Racing Extinction, The Tillman Story) outlined his process for documentary writing, which includes: determining the intention of a film and ensuring that the execution of the film is not only effective, but entertaining, guaranteeing it reaches as wide an audience as possible.

Held on November 6, 2015.

In this DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Ric Esther Bienstock discussed her impressive filmography with special attention paid to her process for creating cinematic works out of journalistic topics. The discussion also touched on Bienstock’s tips for access and the blurred ‘line’ between docs and journalism. Read our Q&A with Bienstock.

Held on October 6, 2015.

In his DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Nicholas de Pencier discussed how his philosophical approach to cinematography has informed technical and creative decisions over his twenty-year career, with examples ranging from the most unassuming small cameras for discrete work, to the most sophisticated RC and full-sized helicopter rigs. He also shared survival stories from his work in factual series and other mercenary pursuits that have rounded out his documentary practice. Read our Q&A with de Pencier.

Held on June 25, 2015.

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In this DOC Institute Masters Series Class, Cizek used her critically acclaimed National Film Board of Canada Project HIGHRISE as a case study to discuss web documentaries and interactive storytelling, and offered concrete advice on how to take digital docs from conceptualization to online. Read our Q&A with Cizek.

Held on February 17, 2015.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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


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. 


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. 

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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.

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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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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