MEET THE PRESS FILM FESTIVAL AT AFI FEST RETURNS FOR ITS FIFTH YEAR ON NOV. 11

The power of the short form documentary has become more evident in recent years. The ability to digest more than a quick bite, but without the risk losing 90 minute with a feature length film is a viable solution for many journalists, filmmakers and viewers.

The Meet the Press Film Festival celebrates five years of showcasing the best issue-based documentary shorts that shed light on the most consequential issues of our time. This unique platform connects filmmakers, subjects, audiences and NBC News through film and documentary storytelling.

The Meet the Press Film Festival  will be convening in LA on November 11 with in-person screenings, along with virtual screenings online. I had a chance to chat with Chuck Todd, who will be one of the moderators of the Festival. He comes to the role with impressive credentials. 

Todd is NBC News’ political director and the moderator of the #1 rated Sunday public affairs program, Meet the Press.

I asked why the short form documentary? Todd explained “I’m a fan in general of documentary when it comes to the short form, it is more inviting. It is easier than committing to a 90 minute documentary. Short form documentaries are actually hard to pull off, when they are good they are great.”

Todd went on to describe how the shorter length of 20-40 minutes is an ideal length for exploring a topic, rather than just the clickbait headlines that seem to draw people in.

“These are deeper dives, akin to long form magazine articles. They tend to also appeal to the younger, growing audience. More intense topics can be accessed.”

We chatted about how the barriers to entry have collapsed; not only is the technology available to make a film, but distribution is freely available via YouTube and other platforms. But events such as Meet the Press Film Festival afford an opportunity to leverage the curatorial eye of Todd and others. He cited one such film in this year’s Festival, called “The Facility.” It was made by Seth Freed Wessler, a former magazine journalist, who pivoted and used an iPhone and FaceTime to make his film. 

The result of all this technology, Todd pointed out is “a better diversity of creators.” Todd is no stranger to technology, as moderator of Meet the Press, he brought the longest-running show in television history into the modern age by expanding to streaming, digital and podcasting. 

He pointed out that “in a way, it is sometimes harder to go short, there is more discipline required.” 

We chuckled over the perhaps apocryphal but astute story of Abraham Lincoln, who as a young lawyer was berated by the judge for the length of his legal brief. “Your Honor,” replied the pre-Presidential attorney, “If I had more time it would have been shorter.” 

Todd and I shifted to the broader pressures on journalism, and he quickly pointed out that “the loss of local media partners is a huge loss. We all once had a shared sense of community when we read the same local newspaper. I have a Pollyannaish hope that we will have billionaire owners who will buy local newspapers as opposed to sports teams. The Washington Post and LA Times are big city examples, but what about in smaller cities? It is clearly hard to figure out a viable financial model for local news, but a vanity owner could give back to the community.”

Revitalizing local newspapers is a goal we should all embrace.

More details about Meet the Press Film Festival available here.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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