The Next Great Competition Documentary Will Be About: Baristas?

By  · Published on March 22nd, 2014

Drip / Kickstarter

Competition documentaries are best when they’re about very difficult challenges, contests that you might like to enter but never would win. Examples may include spelling bees and hardcore crossword puzzle championships or particularly skill-based events for dancers, pastry chefs and teen magicians. They shouldn’t be about people who like to put jigsaw puzzles together or play Monopoly, especially if there’s no drama involved. But you never know what’s going to be worthy of an exciting film, and the next riveting comp-doc could very well be about guys who make coffee drinks. Or, to call them by their fancy professional name: baristas.

Is there really that much of an art to using an espresso machine? After all, millions of people of all ages and intelligence levels can work behind the counter at a Starbucks. Well, it turns out there’s an event called the World Barista Championships. And to get there, you have to advance through regional and national levels. It’s that big a deal. Yet it’s not even well known enough to have been the initial focus for a new documentary titled Drip, which began life as a look at L.A.’s coffee scene and then fell into a chronicle of 2013’s competition circuit. That sounds like a good way for it to have happened. Comp-docs are best when focused on interesting characters, and it sounds like this one had its subjects in place before it had its premise. I can only imagine the best baristas in the land are fascinating oddballs.

Like most documentaries with a certain niche audience appeal, Drip is currently on Kickstarter trying to raise post-production costs (goal: $50K). I guess if you’re one of those people who can afford to spend extra on a good cup of coffee, you ought to have a few extra bucks for a movie about that drink you love. As for me, I’m just a doc lover who barely knows the difference between an expresso and a cup of chino, so I’m on board just as a matter of learning something. Plus, I couldn’t make a latte any more than I could pull a rabbit out of a hat (though I was pretty good at spelling bees in my time), so the potential for a thrill of talents also has me intrigued.

Drip is directed by Rock Baijnauth (HBO’s The Pirate Tapes) and produced by Jimmy Nguyen, who also has that doc on showrunners titled Showrunners on the way, and maybe you if you put in enough money into their tip jar. Will they deliver a well-brewed movie, one that will give a new jolt of energy to the comp-doc genre? Hopefully its title won’t be relevant to the definition meaning a boring person, because if it’s any good it’d make for a nice impulse buy item on the counter next to the Paul McCartney and Postal Service CDs.

Check out the Kickstarter trailer for Drip here:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.