The documentary community has been paying tribute to producer and Doc Society founder, Jess Search, following news of her death, aged 54, on Sunday.

Before founding the Doc Society, she was a Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 and a founder of Shooting People, the online filmmakers network. Alongside being a true champion of the documentary form, she was also a mentor and supporter of many filmmakers as they built their careers.

Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson at Eleven sent this message: “We owe our careers to Jess, who bought the first film we made, in the year 2001. She then commissioned our next three programmes, all experimental and un-commercial, but Jess backed them to the hilt. She helped us buy our first camera equipment. She funded our first feature doc. She taught us to be courageous, and instilled in us the belief that we could change the world.

“She was utterly fearless, fiercely intelligent, and incredibly compassionate and empathetic. She improved the lives of many, many people. Without her we would never have had the confidence to set up a company, or to believe so strongly in the power of narrative as a force for good. She was our mentor and our hero. We are heartbroken that she is gone; but in awe of the style with which she left. Full of wisdom, humility and inspiration. Modern legend.”

Emmy winning filmmaker Lucy Walker said about Search: “Everyone says you’re the coolest woman alive, but they met you in documentary world, and I think yes but how lucky does that make me, because you showed up in my life when I was 18.”

Olly Lambert, the Emmy and Bafta winning director of films including Syria: Across the Liones and One Day in Gaza, said: “Oh Jess Search, what a loss to us all. A nuclear powerhouse of a woman, simply incomparable for her strength, passion, fearlessness and wicked sense of humour. Hard to overstate what she brought to the world of documentaries and the lives of us she changed.”

James Rogan, whose credits include Uprising and Stephen: The Murder That Changed a Nation, said: “So sad to hear about Jess. She was pretty amazing. And I think I am one of the many who owe her a debt of gratitude for her encouragement and kindness.”

Tim Wardle, director of Three Identical Strangers, said: “Very sad to hear about the death of Jess Search. In my early 20s I was tasked with developing a C4 project for her about rape trials. As a young male researcher to say I was intimidated would be an understatement. But she was incredibly encouraging, smart, open and inspiring. RIP.”

Women in Film and TV posted a message saying: “Jess was a true advocate for documentary filmmaking and unwavering champion of independent artists. Our condolences go out to Jess’s family and The Doc Society team.”

The Sundance Institute messaged: “We mourn the passing of Jess Search along with the global documentary community. Jess was a visionary and champion of nonfiction storytellers. We lost a bright light, passionate advocate and friend.”

The Grierson Trust called Jess Search “an inspiring force, constantly empowering filmmakers to make positive change through documentary. Sending our condolences to Jess’s family, friends and everyone at Doc Society.”

Jon Creamer

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