On Mentorship

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THE FIRST TIME I MET PETER was at the 2010 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival. I had put a lot of hope into the festival, but after participating in the domestic pitches, I was told I hadn’t made it into the international open pitches. When Peter came to find me, I was very down.

He told me that he saw my pitch and was moved. To be honest, I was a little bit suspicious at first—I didn’t really understand the role of a producer. He went to work charming me and explained his cooperation with other filmmakers as well as his other work. I soon realized he was the great filmmaker I read about in Michael Rabiger’s book Directing the Documentary.

After my difficult afternoon, Peter put sunshine and hope into my day. I can’t tell you what we talked about that night, but I know we were the last two people to leave the dinner party.

After that, I learned what it meant to, in his phrase, be “adopted” by Peter. Together, we attended iDOCS in Beijing, Asian Side of the Doc in Seoul, and, finally, IDFA in Amsterdam. During this time together, I learned that Peter was not only a great mentor who made sure to help young filmmakers, but also a funny, creative and great person.

Just after my son’s birth, we were selected by IDFA, which requested the attendance of the director at the festival. Peter’s advice was that my health was most important. When I decided to go, he helped make my trip as comfortable as possible. He even wheeled a baby carriage to the rental car office to make it easier when my seven-week-old and I got off the plane. Peter arranged a special little festival accreditation pass for my son, Zachary, which he will have forever. That trip is just one of my wonderful memories of him—and the special “accreditation” for Zachary will ensure that I will always have a way to explain to him who my mentor, Peter Wintonick, was.

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