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The Art of Documentary /// The Documentary of Art

In 2010, FilmCAN created a new kind of art project to mark the centennial of Canada’s national parks service: to commission and document the creation of 13 short films and soundtracks inspired by and recorded in Canada’s storied national parks by the country’s best filmmakers and musicians. And with it came the notion of Participatory Documentary, in which a project’s end product and process are linked to form a unified documentary experience on the arts. For the above-described National Parks Project (SXSW Film, 2011), the project engaged over 50 artists, was documented in a 13-part series for Discovery Channel, and offered online in an immersive journey through the parks. In 2012, we did it all again with 5 of Canada’s leading authors and created another holistic Participatory Documentary experience, Northwords. This session will examine FilmCAN’s innovative method for creating these groundbreaking projects, discussing the funding, process, curation, content integration, and results.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. Funding: How we were able to finance Northwords and The National Parks Project and commission new artistic works that were free of creative restrictions.
  2. Process: How we engaged the artists to create and be a part of the documentary process and the greater project as a whole. What kind of crews and equipment we used to shoot and record music in rugged environments throughout Canada’s national parks. How we shot stunning aerials of each park on a tight budget and traversed gear across Kluane’s icefields, Nahanni’s white water rapids, and Wapusk’s polar bear infested tundra.
  3. Artists: How we selected the artists to participate in the projects and what decisions went into choosing who would collaborate with whom. How we managed artist contracts and negotiated a soundtrack release involving 39 musicians with different management.
  4. Launch and Integration: How we integrated and rolled out the various project elements. In the case of the National Parks Project, the release of the short films, soundtrack, interactive and documentary series, and for Northwords, the TV documentary, radio program, original stories and interactive.
  5. Interactive: How we built the online worlds of Northwords and The National Parks Project. How we collaborated with our design partners and co-producers and created free and accessible sites for both projects.



Geoff Morrison, Producer/Director, FilmCAN

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