The Doc Funders Network

This safety initiative has been brought to you by a wide group of independent documentary funders, who came together to address field-wide security issues and try to better serve the filmmakers we believe in.

That group is A&E, Bertha Foundation, Catapult Fund, Chicken & Egg, Chicago Media Project, Compton Foundation, Doc Society, Field of Vision, Filmmaker Fund, First Look, Fledgling Fund, Ford Foundation, Hartley Film Fund, HBO, IDA, Impact Partners, ITVS, Media Impact Funders, Perspective Fund, POV, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Institute, Wyncote Foundation.

The initiative has been supported by The Ford Foundation and the Perspective Fund.

The Safe and Secure team at Doc Society are Jess Search, Jessica Edwards, Marjon Javadi, Oliver Rivers, Sandra Whipham and Sara Rafsky.

But we relied on the expertise of others..

Bring on the Experts

We were inspired by the seminal 2015 report, "Dangerous Documentaries - Reducing Risk When Telling Truth To Power" by the Center for Media & Social Impact at the American University in Washington D.C.. The report found that the risks of telling stories that powerful people or institutions don't want made public are not as well-established in the documentary film community as they are in the investigative journalism community. Professor Pat Aufderheide was the principal investigator of that report and was the first consultant to join this project.

The second expert to join our team was security and journalism expert Professor Judith Matloff from the Columbia School of Journalism. Judith Matloff has pioneered safety training for media workers around the world. She has taught workshops in Europe, Africa, Latin America and the United States.

Journalist, documentary filmmaker and security expert James Brabazon provided essential input to the second version of the Safe + Secure Handbook and Checklist and compiled the Hostile Filming Protocol.

Big thanks for the input and field-experience of inspiring filmmakers: Marilyn Ness, Kirsten Johnson, Callum Macrae, Havana Marking, Liz Mermin, Orlando Von Eisendel, Matt Heineman, Brenda Coughlin, Lyric Cabral, Hollie Fifer, Sabaah Folayan, Nanfu Wang, Victoria Solano and Marco Cartolano.

Thanks to the brilliant lawyers who came on board as advisors, particularly Thomas Burke from Davis Wright Tremaine, Kayvan Saghedi at Morrison Foerster who stepped up to offer his support to independent filmmakers, Peter Noorlander, who was the founding legal director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, and Prash Naik who brings 23 years of experience as media lawyer at Channel 4 in the UK to the project.

And respect to the many brilliant organisations who have taken a lead in protecting journalists and finding solutions to new threats. We put this protocol together by combining the best work out there, predominantly from The Rory Peck Trust, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Videre, Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, International Documentary Association, Center for Media and Social Impact, Committee to Protect Journalists, Columbia Journalism Review, Tactical Technology Collective, Channel 4 and the BBC. Links to their forms and checklists are also throughout the accompanying handbook. Thanks to all those organisations for their fine work.

Thanks also to Peter Dale, our long-time muse and mentor, who delivered his brilliant hypothetical documentary disaster scenario SHIT CREEK at the IDA Getting Real conference and again at Sheffield Doc Fest to launch this initiative.

And last but not least, our thinking has, in part, been inspired by acclaimed surgeon and best-selling author, Atul Gawande's book, The Checklist Manifesto. The book is inspiring and persuasive account of the striking improvements a humble checklist brings to getting things right. The book makes a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don't know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don't make proper use of what we know).

There will always be much that is unknown about a documentary production. Independent filmmakers have our deepest admiration because they are able to shoulder huge uncertainties and take creative, financial and other kinds of personal risks to bring back the stories they believe should be told. On that journey many unavoidable errors of ignorance will be made. Such is life. But let us work together, share our learnings and help reduce each other's errors of ineptitude.


  1. The so-called 'common law' system is a body of law derived from the decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The common law (which was so called because it was the law common to all the courts) originated in England after the Norman conquest in 1066 and spread to colonies of the UK, many of which have retained it when they gained independence.