The Top Ten TDL Podcast Episodes Of Season One

As we get ever closer to the Launch of Season 2 of the TDL podcast (only one day to go, woohoo!), we thought it’d be a good time to look back and share with you the top ten most downloaded episodes of season one.

It’s really intriguing and (at times) somewhat surprising to see which episodes made it on to the list, and also interestingly, which ones did not.

So here they are.. the most downloaded episodes of the TDL podcast season one!


#10. Episode 62 – Career Doc Filmmaker & 2018 Academy Award Nominee, Steve James

What exactly does one say to one of the most respected documentary filmmakers of our time? What does one say to the man who literally inspired countless future doc filmmakers when his film Hoop Dreams took the world by storm in 1994?  What do you say to the man who has made a career out of telling some of the most human, humane, and heart wrenching stories about some of the neglected and forgotten and misunderstood amongst us?  And what do you say to the man who was just nominated for a 2018 Best Documentary Oscar for his film Abacus: Small Enough to Jail?

This very special episode of The Documentary Life, was one where we sat down for a heart-to-heart, one doc filmmaker to another, and had a  conversation with documentary legend, Steve James.

Topics included: 

  • keys to longevity as a doc filmmaker
  • the filmmaker’s responsibilities after being nominated for an Academy Award
  • how Steve started out working as a Production Assistant, and how he nearly quit
  • importance of being paid for your time in your grant proposal budgets
  • whether or not it’s necessary to build your story around a conflict


#9. Episode 46 – 5 Ways to Edit More Efficiently & Conversation with Doc FIlmmaker, C. Fitz

To edit a documentary can be a tricky, sometimes frustrating business, even for the more seasoned veterans.  But for the less experienced, the edit can just be a downright intimidating, or worse, even project-ending phase.  We, of course, do not want this to happen to any of you.  So we put together a list of suggestions that will not only help ease your editing pain, but it should get you to be able to edit in a more efficient manner!

In this episode we also spoke with television & marketing vet, commercial and documentary filmmaker, C. Fitz, who while finishing up on her first doc (ShowGirls, Provincetown, MA), came across instant inspiration for her latest documentary, Jewel’s Catch One, in the form of her awe-inspiring and charismatic subject, Jewel Thais-Williams.

Topics included:

  • can documentary films truly create change?
  • how can our documentary subjects sometimes inspire us as people?
  • how her reality tv experience informed her documentary work
  • how social media is now critical to a documentary filmmaker


#8. Episode 100 – Happy Thanksgiving Finale From The Documentary Life

It was the week of giving thanks, as we celebrated Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and coincidentally, posted episode #100, our last episode of Season One of the podcast.  A conversation and reflection with the host and the producer, Chris and Stephanie.  We had a lot of gratitude for what we had achieved with The Documentary Life.  We also had so much to be thankful for with you, #doclifers, who have most certainly helped us achieve this fairly monumental moment, and may even have been with us throughout all episodes of this journey!

Topics included:

  • a look back at 2.5 years and 99 episodes of the podcast
  • a discussion about our hiatus and what we’ll be doing during that time to serve you
  • how in 2019, Cambodia will play a significant part in our and your #doclives
  • what’s on the horizon for The Documentary Life, which has become much more than simply a podcast
  • a discussion about our online course and our intention with it


#7. Episode 68 – Wild Wild Documentary Life with Maclain and Chapman Way

Maclain and Chapman Way have recently directed, edited, produced one of the most talked about Netflix docuseries of the year, Wild Wild Country.  They have become one of the hottest, most sought after doc filmmaking duos around.

Of course, their success didn’t happen overnight.  From taking some calculated, but brazen risks with their first doc, The Battered Bastards of Baseball to taking two separate trips to Switzerland to woo the critical character of Ma Anand Sheela for Wild Wild Country, to convincing the people over to Netflix that they had a great new idea for a docuseries, the Way brothers will inspire you to live and lead your doc lives in ways you probably haven’t yet thought of.  But also, after hearing our conversation with Mac & Chap, many #doclifers were left feeling that this duo are just like you and I.

Topics included:

  • the importance of taking risks, of investing in yourself
  • how their sizzle reel landed them a Netflix deal for Wild Wild Country
  • tips for approaching a major digital distribution platform like Netflix
  • how working with Netflix editorially was a positive and beneficial experience
  • the importance of making your doc an immersive, instead of simply informational experience


#6. Episode 73 – Making Great Sound for Your Documentary with Jean Umansky

Jean Umansky is one of the most respected sound persons in the field of filmmaking. He is a French sound engineer who has worked on over 50+ narrative and documentary films, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound on Amelie.  Jean, guided us through some best practices for not only achieving optimal sound, but also for creating sound in a way that shapes the very story of your documentary film and we also give our own top 5 tips for getting good sound on your doc.

Topics included:

  • how sound can shape the story just as much as the visual
  • learning and using the language of sound with the director
  • importance of mic placement, shock mount, windscreen
  • tips for achieving great sound as a documentary filmmaker


#5. Episode 69 – The Art of Film Funding with Carole Lee Dean

There is a good chance that Carole Lee Dean is a name that either you know or you at least recognize.  And for good reason.  She has been embodying the independent film spirit and helping indie filmmakers – especially the doc makers who she has a particular affinity for – ever since she began running her non-profit organization, From the Heart Productions.

For years, From the Heart Productions has been helping documentary filmmakers get film funding through their Roy W. Dean GrantFiscal Sponsorship Program and the Intentional Filmmaking Class.

Carole is also the author of one of our fave books on film funding out there, The Art of Film Funding as well as the host of The Art of Film Funding podcast!

So you can imagine how excited we were to sit down with her and have a one-on-one about all-things funding for the documentary filmmaker!

Topics included:

  • the pretty cool story behind her father being the impetus behind the Roy W. Dean Grant
  • some best practices for approaching grant funding organizations, like the RWD Grant
  • various film funding techniques discussed in the book
  • how and why someone should apply for a fiscal sponsorship through FTH Productions


#4. Episode 67 – Making the Personal Documentary with Michael Wiese

In this episode we were joined by someone who is well-acquainted with making personal documentaries, or as he refers to them, spiritual documentaries.  Michael Wiese has been making documentary films for 40+ years and is also the founder/owner of the world’s biggest publisher of filmmaking books, Michael Wiese Productions.  He joins us to discuss the inspiring ways in which he has been living his #doclife, his memoir Onward & Updward: Reflections of a Joyful Life, how Parkinson’s has positively affected his approach to filmmaking and living his #doclife, and his own experiences as a filmmaker learning about the world and his connection to it, through his films and books.  This is a conversation that will resonate deeply with any doc filmmaker who has made the craft of filmmaking & storytelling a deep priority in their life.

We also offered 5 Tips for Making the Personal Documentary:

  • Have way to film yourself
  • Decide how personal you’re willing to be
  • Choose a topic you’re passionate about
  • Can you be comfortable in front of the camera?
  • Don’t over-explain


And now for the top 3


The 3rd most downloaded episode from Season One was…


#3. Episode 82 – Maximizing Your Doc Life with Pedram Shojai, OMD

Pedram Shojai has been embodying the doc life now for years. In fact, one might argue that he was doing so even before he was making documentaries, building his life to his passions of Taoism, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and practicing Oriental medicine.  A few years ago, Pedram combined these passions and formed  Not long after this, he made his first documentary film, Vitality.  A number of documentary films have since followed.

This is one of the most frank and open conversations about living one’s doc life that we had on season one of the podcast.

Topics included:

  • how and why you might consider using your doc films as freemium
  • how Pedram believes that filmmakers need to get over their issues with making money from their projects
  • how there is a need for docos to be making films that bring more light instead of darkness into the world
  • how electing not to distribute with the Netflixs and Amazons allows you to be more intimately connected with your audiences, which increases the success of your next films


The 2nd most downloaded episode from Season One was…


#2. Episode 60 – ‘Directing the Documentary’ with Michael Rabiger

If there ever was a Bible for documentary filmmaking, for our money, it would have to be Michael Rabiger‘s Directing the Documentary.  The shear volume of books, online courses, podcasts, and How-to Youtube videos that are out there for the indie filmmaker who producers narrative film is probably in the cajillions.  However, the amount of material available for the indie filmmaker who is producing documentary work, pales in comparison. Which is what makes Rabiger’s Directing the Documentary all the more important and impressive.

This book literally has everything you could ever want in a book about documentary filmmaking: all phases of documentary filmmaking, the history of the documentary cinema, vocations associated with documentary, the various ways of storytelling, fundraising… you name it, it’s there.  And it’s all delivered in a fun, practical, at-times philosophical approach that is quite unique to Rabiger’s vision. We were honoured to have Michael Rabiger on the show.

Topics included:

  • his early career in documentary with the BBC
  • how he ended up relocating to America in order to continue working in the industry
  • tips and suggestions for documentary filmmakers on story ideas
  • what’s new in the 6th edition of Directing the Documentary


And last, but certainly not least, the most downloaded episode from Season One was…


#1. Episode 71 – Making a Netflix Docuseries with Flint Town Producer, Gary Kout

These are pretty amazing times for documentary filmmakers. Not only have the popularity of documentary films increased exponentially, not only are there far more resources available these days to doc filmmakers, but the distribution platforms that are out there are plentiful, not the least of which are the Netflixs, Hulus, and Amazons of the world. And now, these distribution platforms have opened the documentary playing field to the long form, the docuseries.

In this episode we spoke with Gary Kout, producer of Netflix series, Flint Town, about the journey that Flint Town took from a short film to a full-fledged Netflix-budgeted documentary series.

Topics included:

  • how a short film became a full-fledged Netflix docuseries
  • how a distro platform like Netflix can best be approached
  • how a company like Netflix decides to fund a docuseries project
  • how Netflix makes editorial decisions with a filmmaker
  • tips on selling your docuseries to Netflix


Your Thoughts:

Are there any surprises for you in this list? Which episode was your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments below, we’re really interested to hear your thoughts.


Full Podcast Archive and Season 2!

We’ve given you the top 10 episodes of season one, but there are many other awesome episodes for you to discover, enjoy and dive into. We will also be launching season 2 tomorrow – Friday 26th April, 2019 – so don’t forget to come back then and check out the first episode of the new season! We’ll see you there.



Producer and Content Creator, Stephanie Vincenti

Stephanie has worked in the narrative and documentary feature film industry for over 12 years. She is also a producer and content creator for The Documentary Life.

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