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DC/DOX Film Festival 2024

Reality Check Panel: Behind the Scenes

Saturday, June 15
1:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Planet Word, Friedman Family Auditorium

925 13th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Reality Check Panel: Behind the Scenes

AJ Schnack, Emcee; Founding Director of Cinema Eye Honors

Stephen Maing & Martin DiCicco, Directing/Cinematography: Union

Paula DuPré Pesmen & Aniela Sidorska, Producing: Porcelain War

Toby Shimin, Editing: The Quilters & One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

Dawn Porter, Archival: Luther: Never Too Much

William Jenkins, Cinematography: To Be Invisible

Maya Tippett, Generative AI: Eno


Join DC/DOX film practitioners from this year’s lineup (and beyond) in a series of micro-masterclasses where they break down a scene from their film through the lens of their specific craft: producing, cinematography, editing, as well as filmmakers working with archival and generative AI. They’ll dissect the decision-making process, craftsmanship, artistry, inspiration, and perhaps even the struggle and compromises encountered during the project that contributed to its creation. AJ Schnack, filmmaker and founding director of Cinema Eye Honors, will serve as emcee.

Director, Majority Rules

AJ Schnack is an award-winning nonfiction filmmaker and visual artist based in Los Angeles. His feature films include the ESPN 30 for 30: Long Gone Summer, Kurt Cobain: About a Son, and Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). While his films cover a wide range of topics (including music, baseball, and journalism), he is especially known for his nonpartisan documentaries that delve into American electoral politics, including Convention, Caucus, and the short form series for Vanity Fair, NomiNation. Schnack’s work in political vérité has been hailed by the NY Times as “a testament to the power of observational documentary,” by the Washington Post as “not just delightful watching, but required viewing,” and by the Daily Beast as providing “a riveting glimpse into the American political process.”

Co-director, Union

Stephen Maing is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker based in New York. His feature documentary Crime + Punishment, which he directed, filmed and edited, won a Special Jury Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, an Emmy Award for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary and was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. His previous films, High Tech, Low Life, which he directed, filmed and edited over five years, and The Surrender, have screened internationally and were released on P.O.V. and Field of Vision, respectively. Maing is a 2021 United States Artists Fellow, Sundance Institute Fellow, NBC Original Voices Fellow, John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Reporting Fellow and a recipient of the IDA’s prestigious Courage Under Fire Award shared with the whistleblowers of the NYPD12. He is a frequent visiting artist and educator based in Ridgewood, Queens.

Cinematographer, Union

Martin DiCicco is a cinematographer and director whose work includes All That Passes By Through a Window That Doesn’t Open, Here There is No Earth, Girls Got Game, Searchers, The Hottest August, Landfall, and forthcoming films by Angelo Madsen Minax, Timothy George Kelly, and Jem Cohen.

Producer, Porcelain War

Paula Dupré Pesmen is an Emmy Award®-and Grammy Award®-winning producer who produced the Oscar-winning feature documentary The Cove and produced the 2024 Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary for Porcelain War. In 2010, she was named Producer of the Year by the PGA. Pesmen launched her film career on the producing teams of such narrative features as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rent, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 2, and Stepmom. She produced the renowned documentary features Chasing Ice (Emmy winner, Sundance Cinematography Award, SXSW Audience Award), Keep on Keepin’ On (Audience Award winner at Tribeca and Palm Springs film festivals), and Quincy (Grammy winner). Pesmen was named a “Local Hero” by Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for her philanthropic work.

Producer, Porcelain War

Aniela Sidorska is a Polish-born refugee whose love of film began when she first experienced Western cinema in her early childhood. After studying art in San Francisco, she went on to be a visual effects compositor on Captain America: The First Avenger, a compositing supervisor on the 2012 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner and Oscar nominee for Best Picture Beasts of the Southern Wild, and a visual effects producer on such films as Lee Daniels’ The Butler and The Expendables 3. Her small-screen credits include the series Boardwalk Empire, The Blacklist, The Americans and Elementary. Most recently, she was involved in creature development for the Netflix Original Chupa and was a co-writer on the feature film Extra Ordinary, now in development. Upon discovering porcelain artists in Ukraine, Sidorska developed and produced Porcelain War, which won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. She is a voting member of the Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Editor, The Quilters and One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit

Editor Toby Shimin began her film career as a sound editor and switched to picture editing when she cut The Children’s Storefront, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Since then, she has edited numerous films that have premiered at Sundance, including Peabody Award-winning How to Dance in Ohio, A Leap of Faith, Martha & Ethel, Miss America, and Everything’s Cool. Her Sundance Audience Award-winning films include Out of the Past, This Is Home, which was also nominated for an Emmy award, and Buck, which was short-listed for an Academy Award. In 2020, Toby received an Emmy Award for Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops. The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile won the 2022 Audience Award at its SXSW premiere, and Pay or Die received the 2023 Cinema for Peace Dove Award in Berlin. Toby is thrilled to have two films premiering at the 2024 DC/DOX Festival – The Quilters and One South: Portrait of a Psych Unit. She has served as a mentor for the Edit and Story Labs at the Sundance Institute and Chicken & Egg and is on the advisory boards of the Full Frame Film Festival and The Jacob Burns Film Center.

Director, Luther: Never Too Much

Dawn Porter is an American documentary filmmaker and the founder of the production company Trilogy Films. Her award-winning films include Gideon’s Army, about three black public defenders working in the southern United States; Trapped, about the impact of anti-abortion laws on abortion providers in the South; and Bobby Kennedy for President, which debuted on Netflix. As a two-time Sundance film festival director, Porter’s work has been featured on HBO, Netflix, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, MTV Films, and other platforms. Porter’s latest documentary, The Lady Bird Diaries, an all-archival documentary about Lady Bird Johnson debuted at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Lone Star Prize. After a successful festival run, the film made its broadcast debut on Hulu in November and was nominated for two Critics Choice Awards. Nominated for a 2024 Spirit Award, Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court, is a four-part docuseries that explores the history of the Supreme Court, the justices, decisions, and confirmation battles that have shaped the United States. Additional credits include The Me You Can’t See (Apple TV+), Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer (National Geographic), The Way I See It (Focus Features), John Lewis: Good Trouble (CNN, Magnolia Pictures), 37 Words (ESPN), Un(re)solved (Frontline PBS), and Gideon’s Army (HBO).


William Jenkins is a bilingual visual storyteller from Nashville, Tennessee. He found his calling in filmmaking driven by an inherent need to shed light on social injustices. With a passion for serving underrepresented people among Black and Brown communities, he has dedicated his career to challenging stereotypical narratives, fostering empathy, and working to improve the lives in his local community. He seeks to encourage an appreciation of different cultures and enrich shared experiences. His work has appeared in Mission Local as a video producer, Oaklandside, and Oakland North. He was also the cinematographer for The New Yorker film To Be Invisible, which premiered at the 40th Sundance Film Festival in 2024.

Editor, Eno

Maya Tippett is a filmmaker and an Emmy-nominated editor currently living in upstate New York. Her work has screened at Sundance, SXSW, DOC NYC, and Hot Docs and has been featured on HBO, The Wall Street Journal, Paul Kasmin Gallery, and Artsy, amongst others. Her directorial debut, The Magnitudinous Illuminous, screened at DOC NYC and closed the Rooftop Films Festival series in 2019.