The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has unveiled the lineup for its Points North Documentary Forum. Now in its fifth year, Points North has quickly become the largest gathering in New England of filmmakers, key decision makers and thought leaders in the documentary field. The three-day conference program runs Friday through Sunday, Sept. 27 through 29, at the historic Camden Opera House on Elm Street/Route 1; and in Rockport’s Union Hall.

This year’s program will feature a wide range of panel discussions, workshops, case studies, networking events and two public pitch sessions. Points North is dedicated to providing independent documentary filmmakers with unique opportunities for both professional development and creative inspiration, helping build a vibrant regional filmmaking community while sustaining a conversation about new directions in nonfiction storytelling.

Points North Pitch

Some of the documentary industry’s leading broadcasters, distributors, funding organizations and executive producers will convene at the Points North Pitch, a public pitch session held Sept. 28, during the forum. Seven filmmakers will be given an opportunity to pitch their works-in-progress and receive critical feedback from industry delegates before a live audience. The event, which will be free and open to the public, is a rare opportunity for filmmakers to secure vital support for their projects and audience members to see how documentaries are developed in their early stages. This year’s panel will include representatives from PBS, Sundance Institute, “POV,” Al Jazeera America, Cinereach, LEF Foundation, DirecTV, Naked Edge Films, LEF Foundation, Fledgling Fund and Documentary Educational Resources.

One project will receive the Points North Pitch Award and Modulus Finishing Fund, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize from Documentary Educational Resources; a $10,000 post-production package from Boston-based Modulus Studios; a $3,000 tuition scholarship to Maine Media Workshops; and three consultations with the Tribeca Film Institute. Last year’s winner, “In Country,” has gone on to receive the Garret Scott grant and has been selected by the Hot Docs Forum and IFP Labs, while being recognized by indieWIRE as one of the “50 indie films to look out for in 2013.”

Filmmakers, students and other Points North attendees will have numerous opportunities to connect with industry delegates throughout the festival weekend, both formally during panels, workshops and one-on-one sessions, and informally during CIFF parties and receptions. This year’s Points North Reception, Sept. 27 at the opera house, will be sponsored by the LEF Foundation, also one of the founding sponsors of the Points North Documentary Forum.

Engagement Summit: Aging in Maine

One of the themes running through this year’s program will be the ways that documentary storytelling can be used to strengthen communities and promote public dialogue around important issues, leading to real social impact. On Sept. 28, the forum will host the inaugural Points North Engagement Summit: Aging in Maine, in which approximately 15 Maine-based nonprofit leaders and healthcare professionals in the field of aging will converge in Camden for a daylong closed-door strategic summit meeting with documentary filmmakers focused on aging issues. The purpose of the meeting is to explore how their work can be supported and enhanced through the use of powerful documentary films focused on the experiences of older adults, their loved ones and caretakers. The summit agenda will be designed and facilitated by Working Films, an organization that specializes in connecting storytelling with community engagement and action.

During the festival, there will also be an Aging in Maine sidebar of film screenings including a highlighted screening of Banker White and Anna Fitch’s “The Genius of Marian.” Following the festival, CIFF will work with participating organizations to implement the ideas developed at the summit and spearhead a screening tour of selected films in eight to 10 communities across Maine. The Aging in Maine program is made possible by support from The Fledgling Fund, Camden National Bank, Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation and The Bingham Program, as well as partnerships with the University of Maine Center on Aging, the Portland Press Herald and The Conversation Project.

Op-Docs Pitch

Another new addition to the 2013 Forum program will be The New York Times Op-Docs Pitch. Six filmmakers will pitch their ideas for opinionated documentary shorts (running three to 10 minutes) that fit the editorial and creative scope of the Op-Docs series. The filmmaker with the winning pitch will have an opportunity to produce an Op-Doc video for The New York Times with a budget of $2,000. Subject to The New York Times’ approval, the documentary will premiere on NYTimes.com.

The panel of judges will include Jason Spingarn-Koff, The New York Times’ Commissioning Editor for Opinion Video; Kathleen Lingo, The New York Times’ Op-Docs Coordinating Producer; and Lindsay Crouse, The New York Times’ Op-Docs Series Researcher, as well as veteran Op-Docs filmmakers Rebecca Richman Cohen (“Code of the West”) and Penny Lane (“Our Nixon”). The pitch will take place on the morning of Sept. 29, in the beautifully-restored Union Hall overlooking Rockport Harbor.

Doc/Tech speaker series

Since 2011, the Points North Documentary Forum has been highlighting experiments in documentary storytelling that take advantage of new media technologies. This year, Points North will debut a speaker series called Doc/Tech featuring innovators and thought leaders working at the intersections between storytelling, technology and social activism. Confirmed speakers include Alexander Reben, creator of the BlabDroid documentary filmmaking robots; Elaine McMillion, director of the groundbreaking interactive documentary “Hollow”;, Sasha Costanza-Chock, MIT Professor and transmedia activist; and Nonny de la Pena, creator of “Gone Gitmo” and “Hunger in Los Angeles” virtual reality journalism projects. The session is made possible by support from the Maine Technology Institute and will be hosted by the MIT Open Documentary Lab’s William Uricchio.

Social Media Audit

The opportunity to meet one-on-one with visiting industry delegates is another important part of the Points North experience. The 2013 program includes a session called Social Media Audit, in which filmmakers have a chance to spend 20 minutes receiving tailored feedback on their film’s online presence from social media and audience engagement gurus Kristin McCracken (former VP of Digital Media at Tribeca Enterprises) and Christie Marchese (Founder/Executive Director of Picture Motion).

Masterclasses 2013

For filmmakers interested in strengthening their storytelling craft, Points North will feature an editing masterclass led by Jonathan Oppenheim, editor of “Paris is Burning,” “The Oath” and 2013 CIFF selection “William and The Windmill.” For those who want to delve into the history of documentary film, filmmaker and Harvard professor Robb Moss (“The Same River Twice,” “Secrecy”) will lead a masterclass on the evolution of nonfiction storytelling techniques and the ethical and aesthetic issues that have shaped documentary filmmaking since the 1950s.

"We’re really honored to be bringing in such a diverse, talented and inspiring group of participants to Camden for this year’s Forum," said Points North Director Sean Flynn.

Ben Fowlie, Founder and Executive Director of the Camden International Film Festival, agreed, saying “We're honored and excited to have the opportunity to continue to develop a platform for filmmakers to introduce their projects to some of the most influential decision-makers in the documentary industry."

Access to the full conference program is open to all CIFF passholders, and passes are on sale on the Camden International Film Festival website. For more information, visit camdenfilmfest.org/pointsnorth.

The Points North Documentary Forum is made possible by the generous support of the LEF Foundation, Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, The Fledgling Fund, Camden National Bank, the Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation, The Bingham Program, Maine Technology Institute, Modulus Studios, Documentary Educational Resources, Maine Media Workshops and the Tribeca Film Institute.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.