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The Carrier Bag Theory of Nonfiction Filmmaking: What Documentarians Can Learn from Ursula K. Le Guin

A woman in a blue floral house dress sits at a wooden dining table with a pen and paper, surrounded by curated clutter in wood-paneled room.For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum, courtesy of the filmmakers

I teach documentary studies and production at the Skidmore College MDOCS program and run the MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute. When non-tenure track faculty recently organized to form a union, MDOCS curated a series of labor-related films to add to the conversation around labor organizing on campus. What should have been a fun project became increasingly frustrating because all the documentaries we found centered strikes—the most conflict-oriented, high-stakes and visible side of unionization. What we wanted to feature were the less-visible processes of labor organizing: meetings, conversations, collaborations and negotiations. We ended up screening two excellent films about striking workers, and although the screening generated […]

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