An Announcement From Jess Search:
No Time Like The Present.
I have found myself leaning hard into the word Comrade recently.
It slips easily from my lips as I talk with our unshakeable team, unyielding filmmakers and a wider community of stubborn social justice colleagues.
So, with a wide grin, I recently learned that ‘Comrade’ has the same Latin root as the word ‘Camera’. They both derive from ‘in the same room’ — those that are in it together —and indeed, we are all on the same beautiful, fragile planet.
And so let me begin again.
The community who receives these emails hardly need a heightened sense of urgency. These days we are all circling hard discussions about the collapse of climate systems, the retreat of democracy, and misinformation out of control. But speaking for myself, I have news which has made me more aware than ever that There. Is. No. Time. Like. The. Present.
What follows is both an announcement and an invitation.
The announcement: Today I am sharing that I’m currently under the care of a neurosurgeon because like 300,000 others every year around the world, I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumour. I’m stepping back from Doc Society — after 18 years of nonstop creative collaboration, dedicated craft, joyous partying and fierce camaraderie. You may know that for years 6 women directors - Beadie, Maxyne, Megha, Sandra, Shanida, and myself - have been leading the organisation in a flat power-sharing model. So I can do this, knowing that someone else will step in to be unfeasibly late for meetings and break the printer constantly.
Whether you know me from a distance or up close and personal, I want to acknowledge that as a newsletter announcement, this is pretty heavy stuff. But know that I am extremely calm and have literally everything I need around me. My poetry and philosophy texts are an important part of that and I’ve found myself returning to Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who wrote these words almost 2000 years ago:
"In the end, what would you gain from everlasting remembrance? Absolutely nothing. So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes.""
Take a deep sigh if you need one but what I really want you to do is read on…
The invitation: The leadership at Doc Society has never been more certain of the way forward for us as a team: As one committed part of a rising and ever more interconnected global documentary community.
Together we and our international partners are ready to triple down, right now, to deliver vital system-shifting narrative change work.
Doc Society Mission:
We bring people together to unleash the transformational power of documentary film.
We stand in solidarity with filmmakers and work to unite them with new friends and allies, building new models globally.
We aim to innovate, share and innovate again.
A commitment to anti-racism, economic & climate justice is embedded in and informs all we do.
Last week we announced the launch of a global Democracy Story Unit to sit alongside our Climate Story Unit. To deal with the climate crisis and realise a just transition, the world needs more democracy; the negotiation of a new social contract between people and the state. Doc Society is centering all we have learnt in narrative strategy over the past two decades to help address these two critical and intertwined issues.
This year, in collaboration with the incredible D.I.S.C.O network (Decentralised Independent Story + Culture Organisers) we are also deep into the Independence Project – a co-created global research project that will, for the first time, fully articulate the unique and vital contribution to society, culture and democracy of independent film. To create a manifesto and directly demand the support we need from distributors, funders and commissioners to help us build a new, equitable, and politically protected indie media distribution system.
Comrades, we know that your work is as vital and urgent as our own. How about we triple down and build rocket boosters for our shared work together right now?
We — the team, our boards and our partners — are ready to hear from you and have our emails below ready and waiting.
I’m signing off with music and poetry. This playlist is a slice of the crazy good tracks that Doc Society has spun at our events, labs and parties over our first 18 years starting with “Work” by Honey Dijon. And anyone who has ever been to a Good Pitch or any of our other convenings knows that poetry runs through our work like spring water. This is from “For the Children” by the Beat poet and ecologist Gary Snyder:
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers
With Love & Rockets
Co-founder Doc Society
Statement from the Doc Society Directors
In the course of the last few weeks as dear friends, co-conspirators and forever dance partners, we had to absorb the personal calamity of Jess’s diagnosis. But the knowledge that it is not a calamity for the organisation is a source of strength and pride. It’s in these moments that the work is our guiding light. Doc Society’s mission to support independent filmmakers and cultural organisers stands as true now as it did the day we penned it.
Over the past four years we have intentionally evolved from a patriarchal structure into a power sharing model which has made us more flexible, more resilient and given us the capacity to deliver at the scale with which we now operate around the world. Our distributed leadership model has been designed to survive shocks and adapt to changing contexts; financial, legal, security challenges and of course changes to the team. It was literally designed for these human moments.
We are approaching the coming months with great clarity about the organisation's strategy. Grounded in the support and love of our team and Boards, enabling us to move forward with resolve, ambition and joy. The Doc Society way.
United in Mission.
Megha Sood, Shanida Scotland, Sandra Whipham, Beadie Finzi, Maxyne Franklin
Statement from the Doc Society Non Executive Board Members
We currently have the immense privilege and the joyful responsibility of being the non-executive board members of Doc Society across our international entities as the organisation adapts to the stepping back of one of its co-founders. This moment also calls for the public championing and elevation of an organisation that we joined because we truly deeply and passionately believe in its mission and its unique ability to deliver on that mission at the highest level.
Jess has set out above a determination to embrace this opportunity to leave not only the organisation but the wider field, united by a common vision in a stronger place - we agree.
As board members, we have been very close to the leadership of the organisation, some of us for many years. We have experienced first hand the sophistication of the strategic processes which constantly question, iterate and improve the organisation's priorities and methodology. We have experienced first hand the emergence of a truly leaderful model. Today, the Leadership of the organisation is shared by six extraordinary women, of which Jess has been one. Around them are more than 20 additional team members, all highly aligned, committed and at the top of their game.
We are in no doubt that Doc Society’s future is assured. True to the adaptive, agile culture that Jess has played a key part in forging, Doc Society will continue to devise bold initiatives and evolve with the field needs. The strategy that we had on the table before the news of Jess’ ill health is compelling. This organisation is ready - we advise those funders and partners for whom the statement above strikes a deep chord to be in touch to join us to accelerate this work.
Individually and together, we have total faith that this organisation is ready to receive and to deploy resources with immediate effect.
United in Justice,
Anurima Bhargava - Founder and Director, Anthem of Us
Anu Henriques - Founder and Co-Director, Skin Deep
Dilhani Wijeyesekera - Co-Founder, Freedom Rising
Fatima Ibrahim - Co-Executive Director, The Green New Deal UK
Heather Grady - Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Jade Begay, Director of Policy and Advocacy. NDN Collective
Kat Craig - CEO, Athlead
Katharine Wilkinson, Co-Founder and ED, The All We Can Save Project
Keri Putnam - Co-Founder, ReFrame, Former Sundance CEO
Mandy Chang - Head of Global Documentaries, Fremantle
Mathieu Ajan - Founder & Artistic Director, Bounce Cinema
Oliver Rivers - COO, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
Paul van Zyl - Co-Founder, The Conduit Club
Peter Noorlander - Consultant, Co-Founder, MediaDefence.org
Rob Berkeley - Founder, BlkOutUK.com
Ruby Chen - Co-Founder and CEO of CNEX
Sameer Padania - Macroscope London
Stephen Dunbar-Johnson - President, International of The New York Times
Twiggy Pucci Garçon - Activist, Advocate, Producer. Program Director, True Colors Fund
Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights
Yvette Alberdingk Thijm - Human Rights leader, former WITNESS ED