Doc News: Federal Judge Labels Documentary Filmmaking a Hobby; Freetown Christiania; YouTube

– Here’s the most ludicrous thing you’ll read all day: federal tax court judge Diane Kroupa has decidedly stated that due to documentary film’s purpose to “educate and expose,” non-fiction filmmakers may not be allowed to make a profit on their “work,” which the IRS will therefore instead consider a “hobby.” There is no ruling yet, but according to International Documentary Association executive director Michael Lumpkin (via the IDA’s magazine and website), Kroapa raised the question in an Arizona court back in March whether or not Lee Storey (“Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up with People Story”), or any other documentary filmmaker, should be allowed to deduct business expenses accrued during production.

This is surely the scariest thing to happen to the doc community since the recent federal order for Joe Berlinger to hand over raw footage tapes from his film “Crude.” Both cases broadly kill documentary’s qualifications as journalism (the IRS allows print investigative journalists to make a profit), but this news confuses me more. If documentaries can’t be profitable, then can’t they at least have the tax benefits of a non-profit organization? And also, if they’re not allowed to make a profit, will major studios and distributors lose what minor interest they have in the form? So many questions to think about, but the only answer I keep coming up with is that Kroupa apparently needs to watch more documentaries. While it still hurts the greater consideration of docs as journalism, we need her to know docs aren’t all and only about information and awareness. [via Kartemquin Films]

– While Jody Shapiro’s new doc “How to Start Your Own Country” (see my review here) is a pretty fascinating introduction to the subject of micronations, one very significant free state was not addressed: Freetown Christiania, the controversial 40-year-old anarchist “commune” in Copenhagen, which the government just recently tried to close down. Fortunately, What (Not) to Doc brings news that a feature about Christiania is in the works from directors Robert Lawson and Richard Jackman. The film, titled “You Cannot Kill Us, We Are Part of You,” is now in post-production and seeking funding through Kickstarter. Click on that link for more info and a promo trailer.


– Google is being a little kinder, legal-wise, to its video contributors. As of today, YouTube has made available 10,000 Creative Commons videos from content providers like Al Jazeera and C-SPAN for anyone using the site’s video editor. Also, you can now upload your own work under the CC license and therefore add to this library of content. [via Basil Tsiokos]



About Christopher Campbell
I am a blogger for Documentary Channel and, where I write the Doc Talk column. I prefer real stories to fake ones. I tweet here: @thefilmcynic

2 Responses to Doc News: Federal Judge Labels Documentary Filmmaking a Hobby; Freetown Christiania; YouTube

  1. Thanks for the mention! Looking forward to seeing “How to Start Your Own Country.”

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