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Narratives In Real Life: Writing the Documentary

  • The Writers Guild Foundation 7000 West 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90048 United States (map)

Documentaries may deal with following real-life subjects and stories, but writing is still involved in the process. On this special evening, we sit down with a panel of documentary writers and filmmakers to learn how they structure their narratives, how they approach documentary scripts for features and series, and how the writing process informs the directing and editing processes.

Panelists include:

  • Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi (Making a Murderer)

  • Jeff Feuerzeig (Author: The JT Leroy Story, The Devil and Daniel Johnston)

  • Ozzy Inguanzo & Dava Whisenant (Bathtubs Over Broadway)

  • Barbara Schroeder (Evil Genius)

Moderated by writer/producer Jan Oxenberg

Doors open at 7PM. Event starts at 7:30PM.

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About the Panelists

Jeff Feuerzeig

Jeff Feuerzeig is an award winning director and non-fiction filmmaker whose feature film The Devil and Daniel Johnston won top documentary directing honors at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and was distributed theatrically by Sony Pictures Classics. Combining techniques drawn from the documentary canon (Feuerzeig has worked with Albert Maysles) and the New Journalism of the 1970s (the creation of first-person POV through audio cassette letters, journal entries, home movies, etc.), the film presents one of the finest portraits available of what writer and clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison has labeled the artist “touched with fire,” and the connective tissue that links genius to madness.

In 2011 Feuerzeig directed The Real Rocky for ESPN Films acclaimed “30 for 30” series, about boxer Chuck Wepner, who in 1975 went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and inspired the Sylvester Stallone film Rocky. He also directed The Dude for USA Network, an 18-minute documentary short about Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, a legendary producer’s rep who became the basis for the Coen Brothers’ cult film The Big Lebowski.

Continuing to push the boundaries of non-fiction, Feuerzeig has written the screenplays God Bless Tiny Tim (with Julien Nitzberg), a feature biopic about the legendary crooner of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” fame and Chuck aka The Bleeder (with Jerry Stahl), a feature biopic based on his documentary The Real Rocky.  Chuck aka The Bleeder starring Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, was released theatrically in 2017.

Feuerzeig recently completed the feature length AUTHOR: The JT LeRoy Story for A&E Indiefilms, Ratpac and VICE, which goes deep inside the curious case of the onetime literary “It” boy sensation who was outed by the New York Times as Laura Albert, a 40 year old former punk rocker and mom from Brooklyn. The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, was acquired by Amazon Films and released theatrically in 2017. Feuerzeig was also a writer and consulting producer on the animated Johnny Paycheck pilot episode and two George Jones & Tammy Wynette episodes of Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus for Cinemax. 

Ozzy Inguanzo

Ozzy Inguanzo is a Cuban-American writer and filmmaker. He received the 2019 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay for Focus Features’ Bathtubs Over Broadway, executive produced by Blumhouse, Impact Partners, and David Letterman. As a research consultant and frequent collaborator with writer/director James Mangold, Ozzy contributed to the feature film Logan and its Academy Award-nominated screenplay, as well as the upcoming Ford v. Ferrari starring Christian Bale. Past experience also includes the original Spider-Man trilogy where he worked and trained under filmmaker Sam Raimi and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent. Other credits include The WolverineGreen Lantern, and The Patriot. He is the published author of ”Zombies on Film: The Definitive Story of Undead Cinema" and "Constructing Green Lantern: From Page to Screen".

Barbara Schroeder.png

BARBARA SCHROEDER, a journalist, most recently wrote and directed the Netflix true crime series, “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist,” about an unsolved FBI major case in Erie PA. This is her second feature doc.

Her first film was “Talhotblond.” This documentary tells the story of a mother who posed as her beautiful daughter online to lure men into virtual relationships, one of which resulted in murder.  

Schroeder is also the co-author of the book, “Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murder.” 

Her career began in the newsroom at the ABC affiliate in Flint, Michigan. She then spent several years at KTTV in Los Angeles as an anchor/reporter. She was awarded 3 News Emmys, a national Gracie awarded for a documentary on preventing child abuse, and several local awards. 

Barbara was born and raised in the Columbus, Ohio area. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. 

Dava Whisenant

DAVA WHISENANT is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and Sundance Fellow making her directorial debut with Focus Features’ BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY. After the film's world premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Dava won the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. She’s worked in both narrative & nonfiction film for over 20 years, with an emphasis on music and comedy. Dava’s other music docs include the Grammy®-nominated blues & civil rights film TWO TRAINS RUNNIN’ which she produced and edited for director Sam Pollard, the 3D rave documentary UNDER THE ELECTRIC SKY (Sundance 2014) and an AMERICAN MASTERS film about Merle Haggard. Whether documentary or narrative, Dava’s style is defined primarily by a responsibility to serve the story, and it's been said that she has a gift for finding “the relatable human imperfections” that connect characters with viewers. Her diverse experience includes serving as Supervising Producer for BBC Worldwide, an editing assistant to Steven Soderbergh, and several years as an editor at THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. 


About the Moderator


JAN OXENBERG is an independent filmmaker and TV Writer/Producer. Her feature mixed-genre part fiction, part documentary Thank You And Good Night, premiered at Sundance, was released theatrically, and is being re-released this year by Janusz/Criterion and becoming part of the Criterion Collection. Jan made three lesbian-themed shorts that have been shown worldwide.  After meeting Jason Katims at the Sundance Writer's Lab, Jan was invited to write for TV. She has been a Writer/Producer on the staff of 10 one-hour dramas including Relativity, Nothing Sacred, Cold Case, Once and Again, Chicago Hope, Parenthood, Pretty Little Liars. She has written pilots for ABC, Lifetime, FX, and AMC. She has written a number of as-yet unproduced feature scripts including an adaptation of My Dark Places, James Ellroy’s memoir about his mother’s unsolved murder. She is one of two civillians to get into a shootout on an LAPD ride-along while working on Michael Mann’s show Robbery Homicide. She produced videos for the Hillary Clinton campaign which did not overcome the influence of Vladmir Putin. Jan Oxenberg is on the Board of Directors of the Writer’s Guild Foundation.