When UT alumnus and documentarian John Fitch saw his first amateur film on the TV, he fell in love with filmmaking. Recently, Fitch’s films have taken a backseat, as he shifted his focus toward helping other documentarians foster their love of filmmaking as well.
Fitch, along with three friends, hopes to accomplish this with Dox — a documentary filmmaking company that will launch at South by Southwest this year.
Dox co-founders Fitch, Alex Milan, Andrew Miller and Brett Bowlin met when they were radio-television-film students at UT.
Although they separated after college, the four kept in touch and reunited last year to start Dox. The company intends promote and fund documentarians to make their films a reality and a success.
Familiar with the struggles that come with making a documentary, the founders wanted Dox to be a tool for filmmakers to overcome those problems, from finding funding to finding an audience.
Fitch said he believes that when filmmakers don’t have to worry about those things, documentary-making can become their career — not their hobby.
“When you’re in a creative field, you’re often told that you won’t be able to make a living,” Fitch said. “We don’t see it that way. We want the stories they film to be valuable. We don’t want to provide them with a formula; we want to give them the means to make something authentic.”
The co-founders each believe today’s networks doesn’t give enough control to filmmakers, forcing them to approach nonfiction in the same repetitive way. Fitch said networks, whether it’s Fox News or reality TV, play up controversies in order to keep their viewers watching.
“The news, for example, has become all about scare tactics,” Fitch said. “We don’t want our filmmakers to feel like they have to do that. The films that we want to promote should be genuine, whether they’re about music or sports or politics.”
The co-founders said they intend to change more than the way films are produced. They also want to change the way the public consumes them as well.
The company will host the documentaries on its website and ask their viewers what kind of content they would like to see next.
“We will allow our viewers to participate in our future programming,” Fitch said. “Our audience should be active and participate in the programming they watch. They’ll help us decide what to make next or what to focus on.”
The co-founders, who started college when YouTube first came out, said they saw the digital era grow before their eyes — a change one of their professors told them to embrace.
“We’ve entered a renaissance period for documentary filmmaking,” Milan said. “With the advent of high-quality video recording, nonfiction filmmaking has never had so much momentum. Dox is here to direct that energy in the best way possible and create a new reality for the talented filmmakers around the world.”
Although UT students may hear the University’s mantra on a daily basis, Dox’s founders said they strongly believe in the phrase, “What starts here changes the world.”
“If I was talking to my 20-year-old self about what I’m doing now, there’s no way I would’ve believed it,” Fitch said. “When you’re in college, you need to fail and experiment and zone in on what you love. That’s what we did, and that’s how we got here.”