Monday November 10th, 2014

Talking With the Amazon at American University

WASHINGTON, DC, 7 November 2014 — Professor Tod Swanson of Arizona State University addresses participants of a workshop organized by the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University. The workshop was titled, “Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America: Rights and Justice Claims around the Environment and Gender/Sexuality.”

Dr. Swanson spoke to the group about how his work on Amazonian religion seeks to understand how heightened empathy with plant and animal species is believed to mediate emotional relations to family and community.

I hope to work again with the CLALS on the current round of research. My first collaboration with the Center included a trip to Guatemala where I produced three videos on God and gangs in that Central American nation. You can see them:


(Photo by Bill Gentile.)




Thursday October 30th, 2014

Veteran Backpack Journalist Visits the New

WASHINGTON, DC, 29 October 2014 — Former student Bill Delano took time from his busy freelance schedule to Skype with students in my Backpack Documentary class — 10 years after he, himself, was a member of the same class. Delano has gone on to build an extraordinarily successful career for himself, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level. After his visit, students used these words to describe him: dedicated, search, unique, genuine, captivating, passionate, thoughtful, imaginative. The list goes on.

Take a look at Delano’s production reel and see why my students were so impressed. Click HERE to see it.
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)

Wednesday October 15th, 2014

Decade of Docs in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC, 14 October 2014 — I showed the progression of my work from black and white still photos to high definition documentaries at a function at American University’s School of Communication (SOC). My presentation was part of the panel discussion, “A Decade of Documentary Filmmaking in DC.”

The event was presented by Docs In Progress and Our City Film Festival in collaboration with Women in Film and Video-DC, and the SOC.

The discussion was moderated by Sam Meddis, adjunct professor at American University and George Mason University. In addition to myself, panelists included Erica Ginsberg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Docs in Progress; Kiley Kraskouskas, Co-Founder and President of Thinking Forward Media; and Jeff Krulik, documentary filmmaker in the DC area since the mid-1980s.

(Photo by Esther Gentile.)


Tuesday October 14th, 2014

Final Steps for “To Catch a Dream”

WASHINGTON, DC, 12 October 2014 — Ella Patel (center) reviews narration she is recording for our upcoming documentary, “To Catch a Dream.” The film follows four Afghan girls as they journey from their war-torn home country to Hong Kong, where they compete in an international competition of commercial law.

From the far left are Audio Tech Manny Cooper, the film’s Executive Producer Laila Rossi, Narrator Ella Patel, and Editor Esther Gentile.

We taped the narration at American University’s Kreeger Building, a state-of-the-art facility.

(Photo by Bill Gentile.)


Tuesday October 7th, 2014

“Through Their Eyes” Screens at Catholic University

WASHINGTON, DC, 29 September 2014 — Students, faculty and administrators at Catholic University in our nation’s capital screened our documentary, “Through Their Eyes,” about six AU Abroad students in Cuba during Fall Semester 2011. We were invited to show the film to students interested in studying abroad. After the screening, I made the point about how unique our time in Cuba was, especially in relation to other abroad excursions.

This film was a long-term project, with my wife, Esther Gentile, editing the piece over a stretch of many months. Just as importantly, it was Esther who pushed me not to drop the project, in the face of a busy schedule in Cuba and the pressures of teaching my “Photojournalism and Social Documentary” class, conducting numerous Video Workshops on the island and a executing a substantial amount of freelance work.
(Photo by Bill Gentile)

Friday August 29th, 2014

From “Born From Blood:” How to Pan

KIGALI, Rwanda, 26 July 2014 — I traveled really light on this trip to Rwanda, carrying only my iPhone and no other gear. No tripod. So it was nice to know how to make a fairly steady pan when I saw the opportunity.

I visited a community project in the Rwandan capital, shooting my central character as she showed me around a city that I hadn’t visited since 1996. And a pan shot of the work, the people and the location, seemed appropriate.

So to make a pan with no tripod I suggest: Find something on which to stabilize yourself. A wall. A pole. A car bumper. Anything that will help keep you and the camera stable. Take position at the point where you want to END the pan. Then twist your body to where you want to BEGIN the pan. In this case, I twisted my body to the right. Hit the “Record” button and allow your body to relax and just flow from right to left. As your muscles relax, your body will move smoothly to the end point of the pan.

Pushing your way INTO the pan is counter-productive, in that your muscles are straining (as opposed to relaxing) and this results in unsteadiness. Check out this shot to see what I mean. Click HERE.

These are some of the lessons that I’ve picked up during nearly 40 years in the field, and that I teach both at American University and in my Video Workshops. For more information see

For my ONLINE course, see

Thursday July 24th, 2014

“Through Their Eyes” to COMMFFEST Film Festival

WASHINGTON, DC, 23 July 2014 — My wife, Esther, and I are pleased to announce that our film, “Through Their Eyes,” has been accepted to compete in the 8th Annual COMMFFEST Global Community Film Festival. Our one-hour documentary follows six American University students in the AU Abroad program studying in Cuba in Fall 2011.


According to, the COMMFFEST Global Community Film Festival leverages “the power of great films and filmmaking to promote exciting dialogues about global social issues. As a unique platform for filmmakers of all ages and experience levels, COMMFFEST brings together medical professionals and government representatives with visionary filmmakers and engages them with local and global communities to motivate positive change. More than simply a film festival, COMMFFEST is a mechanism through which art and stories truly can make a difference.?Each year, COMMFFEST’s prestigious Making a Difference Awards (MADA) are bestowed upon those filmmakers who best demonstrate a capacity for positively altering the social status quo.”


Thursday April 17th, 2014

McClatchy Foreign Correspondent and State of the Craft

WASHINGTON, DC, 16 April 2014 — McClatchy Newspapers foreign correspondent Hannah Allam addresses my Foreign Correspondence class. Allam is the foreign affairs correspondent for McClatchy, covering the State Department and international diplomacy from Washington. She was bureau chief in Baghdad from 2003-2006 and was Middle East bureau chief, based in Cairo, from 2006-20012. Her war coverage has won several national awards; she was part of teams that won an Overseas Press Club Hal Boyle Award for Iraq coverage and a 2013 George Polk Award for coverage of the Syrian conflict. She was a 2008 Nieman fellow at Harvard. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1999. My students and I were deeply impressed by her professionalism, her sincerity and her humanity.

(Photo by Zach C. Cohen.)


Wednesday April 16th, 2014

“Through Their Eyes” at Toronto Film Festival

WASHINGTON, DC, 16 April 2014 — My wife, Esther, and I are pleased to announce that our documentary, “Through Their Eyes,” has been nominated to compete in the Documentary Feature category at the Toronto International Film and Video Awards festival. The documentary follows a diverse group of six American University students discovering the forbidden island of Cuba during the twilight years of the Castro government. In search of answers regarding race, religion and revolution, they spend four months criss-crossing the communist country — under an economic blockade by the United States since the administration of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. “Through Their Eyes” reveals not only the secrets of Cuba but, perhaps more importantly, the transformation of six young Americans on their journey of discovery.

Sunday February 16th, 2014

Reporting “Lone Survivor” Trailer

WASHINGTON, DC, 16 February 2014 — In the summer of 2005 a four-man team of US Navy SEALs dispatched to a mountainous region of northern Afghanistan in search of a renowned Taliban leader. Surrounded by enemy fighters, the SEALs called for backup. But when 16 Special Forces soldiers arrived on the scene in a Chinook helicopter, the Taliban shot it down, killing all 16 men aboard in what was the largest single loss of American life in the history of that war.

Of the four SEALs on the ground, three were killed in the fighting and only Marcus Luttrell survived. In his book, “Lone Survivor,” Luttrell recounts the events of that fateful day.

The “Lone Survivor” story has been recounted by Luttrell in his best-selling book, on a segment of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and in countless television and personal appearances. And Mark Wahlberg plays the role of Luttrell in an action-packed Hollywood film nominated for two Oscars.

But only now can you see the actual story as it unfolds in real time through the eyes of the men and women who covered the story in Afghanistan.

In “Reporting ‘Lone Survivor,’” I document on the ground how the international press corps based in Kabul scrambled to follow the days-long drama as the world awaited information about the men’s fate.

To see the trailer for the upcoming film, click HERE.