Why You Should Have a Works In Progress Screening

SeaDoc has been hosting Work In Progress (WIP) screenings for several years.  When we first started, we bounced around from basements to lofts to studios to bars around town.  Now, our WIP events have found a home at the NW Film Forum, allowing us to screen our work in a comfortable, theatrical setting—and with beer & wine to boot!

And Thank the Maker for that Happy Hour too because, for filmmakers, showing our work before it’s ready to be seen can feel so vulnerable.  But after working on a documentary for years, many of us emerge from our editing suites bleary-eyed, not sure how our films will play for an audience.  And we find ourselves wondering:

Are the characters compelling?

Is the story easy to follow?

Is the imagery/music evocative and appropriate for the story?

How’s the pacing?

Is there enough conflict to propel the story forward?

You get the idea…

For audiences, not only do WIPs offer access to the inner workings of a filmmaker’s creative process, but you also bring to the screening the one resource that the filmmaking team does not have — Fresh Eyes and Perspective.  You cannot underestimate, or overstate, how valuable this is!

And the insight and feedback audiences bring to our post-screening discussions have often been watershed moments for our WIP filmmakers, providing some much-needed clarity about the best way forward.

If you’re curious about what signing up for a SeaDoc WIP screening would entail, here’s a quick rundown of the process.


We screen films at all stages of production.

  • Trailers
  • Videos for fundraising campaigns (e.g. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo…)
  • Clips & select scenes (for grants, funders, etc.)
  • Rough cuts (up to 1.5 hrs)
  • Fine cuts (up to 1.5 hrs)
  • Video featurettes/Webisodes for transmedia projects

Depending on the length/stage of your cut, we can either pair your doc with another film, or do a solo WIP screening event.


We work closely with each filmmaking team to get them ready for their WIP screening.  Some key points we cover:

1)  You must be a current member of SeaDoc, and listed in our membership directory.  If you haven’t already, you can sign up here to become a member.

2) You’ll need to deliver your video file to Brenan Chambers (brenan@nwfilmforum.org) at least one week in advance so he can make sure that there’s no technical issues with projection.
– you can email/wetransfer/yousendit/dropbox/drop it off in person.
– let him know it’s for the SeaDoc Work In Progress screening
*QuickTime files work well.  (Pro Res HQ does not.)

3)  We ask each team to identify 3 questions about their WIP clip that they most want answered in our feedback session.  If this proves challenging, I’m happy to schedule a call to help you/your team hone in on the feedback that feels most relevant in getting you to the next step.  These questions anchor our post-screening discussion, and keep the audience dialed in to feedback that is most relevant for your film.

Some people feel more comfortable offering written feedback, so I’ll bring your 3 questions printed on handouts.  With our limited time, we might not be able to hear from everyone.  But at least this way, you get to leave with a tangible product.

4)  We ask each team to send publicity material we can post on our Facebook Event page to peak audience interest (i.e., movie/production stills, trailers, website links, synopses, etc.).


Filmmakers have a few minutes to introduce WIP clip(s).  This is your chance to offer any/all disclaimers about what the audience will (or will not) be seeing.

After the screening, we spend 5 minutes quietly answering your questions and writing down additional thoughts/feedback on your handout..

Then the facilitated discussion begins.  Having someone else facilitate the feedback session allows the film team to really focus on what’s being shared, to see what’s resonating with the audience and/or where they might be feeling lost. Please know:  This listening can be really hard to do…because it can be tempting to jump in and answer questions or defend your point of view.   But don’t worry!  It’s the facilitator’s job to make sure the conversation is productive, and that filmmakers leave with constructive feedback.

Note:  Many filmmakers have found it useful to record the post-screening feedback session.  So you might want to bring an audio recording device and/or record it on your phone!

SO…when you’re feeling ready for outside eyes and audience feedback on your film, please fill out this WIP form on our website:  http://seattledocumentary.org/works-in-progress/