Penny Lane is My Real Name: An Online Branding Analysis of Documentary Filmmakers

Penny Lane is My Real Name: An Online Branding Analysis of Documentary Filmmakers

Originally published at

Documentary filmmakers constantly search for stories and ideas that will connect with their intended audiences. When creating a personal brand, filmmakers have another challenge facing them: connect with not only their audiences, but also prospective clients, subjects, funding sources, distribution houses, and other entities in the documentary industry.  Here is the story of two documentary filmmakers, Penny Lane and Nick Broomfield, who have established their identity to communicate their brand of storytelling online.

Filmmaker Penny Lane has that name. She is so aware of her connection to the Beatles’ hit song that she devotes an entire section of her website to it. “Is ‘Penny Lane’ some sort of stage name, or nom de plume?” reads the first line of herFrequently Asked Questions section on her website. Her succinct answer: no. 

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Creativity & The Pitch: An Essay

Creativity & The Pitch: An Essay

In François Truffaut’s legendary conversation with Alfred Hitchcock, the latter described the relationship between a director and their film. “In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life,” Hitchcock famously said.

Creation is at the heart of any film, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Creativity is a beast, and with it anyone who has ever created anything ultimately struggles. But where and when is this creativity shaped? A film goes through much tweaking from start to finish, and some filmmakers allow myriad voices to shape their ideas. Others might put up a wall and remain stoic when other creative minds offer their opinions. Thus, from story conception to film completion, when are the most important evolutions in creativity evident during the film process? This essay will examine one part of that creative process: the pitch.

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The Big "O" - Finding Fairness in Documentaries

The Big "O" - Finding Fairness in Documentaries

Originally published at

There are two terms often discussed in the journalism world when any controversial story comes to a head: objectivity and fairness. The news media wrestled with these two terms when global warming became a hot topic during the past couple of decades. Eventually, the issue was treated as science, and simply allowing two sides to the debate was no longer an option for some media outlets. Many sided with science and detractors were presented as a fringe element. The same type of debate erupted over a link between autism and vaccines, a link the vast majority of scientists and studies say does not exist. Many journalists are increasingly moving beyond the idea of objectivity and into the realm of fairness. Their idea is to fairly represented the information, opinions and observations of the world around us.

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Writing with Light: Styles and Influences of Gordon Parks & Walker Evans

Writing with Light: Styles and Influences of Gordon Parks & Walker Evans

Why did two influential documentary photographers also use writing as a tool to tell stories and convey their life experiences? 

Photographers Gordon Parks and Walker Evans produced popular and important documentary work during the 20th Century. But they also were prolific writers. They penned essays and books that stemmed from both literary aspirations, and as an outlet for storytelling separate from their photographs. This paper seeks to understand why these two award-winning photographers also took to writing, what they wrote about, whether their writing informed their photography, and vice versa.

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Bring Me The Head Of Tim Horton

Bring Me The Head Of Tim Horton

It is a rare thing, said filmmaker Keith Fulton, for documentary filmmakers to come out of their closet in L.A., and walk the streets of Columbia. “To have people come up and say, "Hey we saw [Fulton’s film] The Bad Kids. … Back home, people would say, what is The Bad Kids?”  Whether it’s the filmmakers themselves geeking out with fellow masters of their craft, or simply a four-day tripping through good movies, the True/False Film Festival has created a safe haven for members the close-knit documentary film universe.

It is, perhaps, even more rare for such fanfare to be thrust upon a shorts filmmaker. That is where director Galen Johnson found himself, when he attended True/False for the first time while screening his short, Bring Me the Head of Tim HortonJohnson, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, made his first appearance at the 2016 festival. Peruse his Tumblr blog, and you’ll find scores of production art for films, a smattering of architectural images, dreamish (or sometimes nightmarish) title sequences, and plenty of material related to Canadian filmmaker and artist Guy Maddin. The festival, for Johnson — who co-directed Tim Horton with Maddin and Evan Johnson — was only the latest branch of a web of people in the documentary world that Johnson said he is continuously-weaving.

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Kodak Duaflex Portraits

Kodak Duaflex Portraits

For the 2012 Kentucky basketball season I decided to do something a little different for the preview coverage. 

The popularity of gritty, vintage-camera inspired Instagram images, I lit the players much as I would normally do on a sports portrait session, and photographed the Wildcats basketball team by shooting through the viewfinder of an 1950s-era Kodak Duaflex box camera.

The scratches, dirt and grime from the old camera reproduced well in my Canon 5D Mark II. 

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The Way Is Blocked

Shannon Dale Engagement: Lexington, Ky. - Images by Derek Poore

Thirty minutes after the engagement shoot began, thunder rumbled. 

Pretty soon only half the shoot was complete and a severe thunderstorm, packing 60 mph winds, chewed through the Lexington, Ky., countryside and downed numerous trees. Lexington photographer Jonathan Palmer and I forged ahead and our subjects were happy to oblige.

After manuevering around several downed trees that obstructed many roads in Fayette and Woodford counties, we spotted the first rainbow but we weren't in a good place to make a picture. We kept driving. But the rainbow was not going to hang around forever.

After darting into a field, umbrella in hand, the couple stood for a few shots. Rain was still falling, but the sky, light and colors were too good to pass up.

All of the shortcuts we took were well worth it -- the four of us toasted afterward with bourbon and beer at dinner.

Wedding: Jennifer and Keith

Wedding - Louisville, Ky. 

 Location shooting is full of surprises. That's one of the main reasons I love documentary photography. "How can we turn this into a visually appealing situation?"

When shooting weddings, churches and venues all start to look the same, so one of the first things I do is wander around the neighborhood to look for something different, something that doesn't scream wedding. Jennifer and Keith were married July 16, 2011, in Louisville, Ky.

I scoped out a few streets around the church for some after-ceremony photos. This side street had depth, character and even though the light was still hard (about 6 p.m.) the quick stop and kiss worked.

Hands where I can see 'em!


Kyle Kurlick | Hands Up Visuals

Say hello to Hands Up Visuals.

Friend and colleague Brad Luttrell has launched Hands Up Visuals, a wedding media agency with services in Louisville, Nashville and Memphis. The agency piqued my interested because it offers one production house for several services, including still photography, video and design. 

I'm now booking all of my weddings through Hands Up, and you can check out their pricing and services at the website. Brad has recruited myself, Kyle Kurlick and Emily Spence into the agency. Kyle's a badass photographer and Emily is a badass designer.

The agency also has a Facebook page. We're going to have a lot of fun.

Mountain Workshops 2010: Behind the scenes

In October I had the pleasure of attending the Mountain Workshops for the second straight year. Held in Elizabethtown, Ky., about 45 miles south of Louisville, the workshops welcomed more than 70 photojournalists who scoured Hardin County for picture and video stories.

In its 35th year, it was one of the largest workshops ever, if not the biggest, said James Kenney, director of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University, host of the workshops. Check out the video — it was produced by the enormously talented staff that in many cases uses vacation time from their day jobs to support the workshops.

Mountain Workshops 2010: Glendale Geppetto

For 15 years, Hardin "Sonny" Hatfield has made toys by hand. His favorite subjects are characters from Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons. - By Derek PooreOf the two picture stories I produced this year at Mountain Workshops, my favorite was about a gentle toymaker in Glendale, Ky. Hardin "Sonny" Hatfield talked my ear off -- and I loved it.

He told me about the Army during World War II. He told me about his extensive vintage toy collection -- he had a story for each piece. He told me about the restaurant he used to run, and the toy museum he used to operate and the antique store he still owns.

And he let me into his life, only for a few days, but I was grateful.

For 15 years, he has made toys by hand. His favorite subjects are characters from Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons.

View the full picture story

Mountain Workshops 2010: Farming a Legacy

Steve Rogers is the second in three generations of farmers in Glendale, Ky. His dog, Scruffy, was abandoned at his 1,800-acre farm about three years ago. “We spoil him pretty good,” Rogers said. - By Derek Poore

Originally published as part of the Mountain Workshops, a weeklong photojournalism workshop produced
by Western Kentucky University. The 2010 workshops were held in Elizabethtown, Ky. >> View the full picture story.

The oil was all over the place, but Steve Rogers smiled.

His fire-apple red tractor was on the fritz. The problem was in a hard-to-reach spot. But after some finagling, he had it working again.

Steve runs his family’s 1,800-acre farm now that his father, Bud, and mother, Martha, are retired.

Steve has a daughter, Sarah, and two sons, Adam and Phillip, that are studying agronomy at Western Kentucky University. His boys grew up riding with him in combines and tractors. They recently bought their own farm not far away.

Farming is like gambling, Bud said. The summer of 2010 was especially dry, and Bud harvested his soybean crop about a month early.

“Timing and weather are everything in this farming,” Bud said.

Steve’s house is about 200 yards from his parents. It’s convenient, because his mom will often fix lunch, and his dad will drive it out to him while Steve’s working the farm.

Steve is handing down lessons of farming to his sons — a rite of passage once common for all Americans that has given way to urban expansion and sprawling mega farms. Steve used to take his sons with him from chore to chore, but now they plan the day’s work in the morning and split up.

“They go their way and I go mine,” Steve said, “and they’re on on their own.”

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