2020 Ebert Symposium to explore changing times in film, media

The third annual Ebert Symposium, exploring film and the media industry, will be online this year on three different dates, starting Oct. 8.

The third annual Ebert Symposium, exploring film and the media industry, will be online this year on three different dates, starting Oct. 8. Filmmakers, media professionals and academics will be part of the discussion.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, or “Ebertfest,” was rescheduled to next September, but current topics in film and media will be the focus of the third annual Chaz & Roger Ebert Symposium, starting Oct. 8.

In three virtual events over five weeks, filmmakers, media professionals and academics will explore the media industry in a time of change, the role and practice of documentary filmmaking, and media bias and representation. Shaping all three will be the effects of the global pandemic and the racial justice movement.

The online series, free and open to the public, premieres Oct. 8 at 5 p.m. CDT with “The Movie Industry in a Time of Change.” Panel participants will examine filmmaking production challenges, the closure of cinemas, how movies get made and who gets to make them, how they’re exhibited, and the drive for a more equitable and representative film industry.

Panelists will include directors Melissa Haizlip, Malcolm Lee, Mary Mazzio and Christine Swanson; film industry executives Michael Barker, with Sony Pictures Classics, and Neal Block, with Magnolia Pictures; Darrien Michele Gipson, the executive director of SAGindie, which connects actors with independent filmmakers; and entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw. (Full bios on the symposium webpage.)

The moderators will be Ebertfest co-founder Chaz Ebert and Ebertfest director Nate Kohn.

The second discussion, “Documentary Film and Social Change,” Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. CDT, will examine documentary feature films, community-engaged projects, documentary as a means to examine and engage public life, and the use of cellphone footage in influencing social change.

Panelists will include University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members Angela Aguayo and Jay Rosenstein, professors of media and cinema studies; and Alison Davis, a lecturer in journalism. Other panelists will be added.

The third discussion, “Representation in Media,” Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. CST, will examine how television, film and other media represent and portray certain types of people or communities, the importance of balanced representation, the need to challenge stereotypes and industry efforts to eliminate bias.

Panelists will include Illinois professors Jason Chambers, advertising; and Angharad Valdivia, media and cinema studies; with other panelists to be added.

All three events will be streamed on both the Ebertfest YouTube channel and Facebook page on their respective dates. Additional details will be announced on the symposium webpage. Questions for the panelists can be submitted prior to each event here.

The Ebert Symposium is a collaboration between the College of Media and the Roger Ebert Center at Illinois. Roger Ebert, who died in 2013, was an Urbana native, Illinois journalism alumnus, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, co-founder of Ebertfest and founder of RogerEbert.com. Chaz Ebert was Roger’s wife.

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