Sheffield Doc/Fest

Posted by Charlotte on November 6, 2009 at 2:17 am.


This year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest kicked off on Wednesday with the DFG’s DocDay, which is a great event for aspiring 16-19 year old filmmakers. I was asked to go along and mentor a group for the second half of the day. It was a really great session and the quality of their film ideas was incredibly high. We had to talk them through their pitch proposals and then select the best to be pitched to a panel. Our group settled on a really fun idea for a mockumentary but alas didn’t win.

After the 4 hour drive and the hectic afternoon of doc ideas bouncing everywhere we decided to have an early night in preparation for the full programme beginning the next day.

We woke up early, incredibly excited as we were heading off to interview Chris Hedegus and D.A. Pennebaker first thing. The interview went well and it was incredibly inspiring to hear them talk about their career and the ways in which they approach filmmaking. I decided to ask them towards the end the obvious question of whether there was anyone they wish they’d made a film about but hadn’t and I was given the unexpected, but superb, answer of Richard Nixon at Thanksgiving dinner. We filmed the interview and hopefully I should be able to get it up here soon.

The rest of the day saw a fantastic line-up of screenings and panels. The first we went to was Working Your Film, a session run by BritDoc’s Jess Search and joining her on the panel were Robert West, David Bond, and James Franklin. It was a really great session looking into how to approach the campaign/NGO side of documentaries and James Franklin’s masterclass in online marketing was particularly interesting. Afterwards Jess did a call for all organisations in the room that aim to support docs to stand up and I had a sudden out of character burst of bravery and talked about the different things we are trying to do at the Frontline Club. Whilst talking my nerves overcame me and I honestly have no idea what I said but I’m told it was good and lots of people came to talk about possible collaborations afterwards. We also got a shout out from Jess Search who said how much she loved the club which is a fantastic endorsement.

Our second panel of the day was Co-Producing with the Brits – Heaven or Hell? with Nick Fraser, Simon Dickson, Tom Koch, Hans Robert Eisenhauer and chaired by First Hand Films’ Esther van Messel


Left to Right – Tom Koch, Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Esther van Messel, Nick Fraser and Simon Dickson

The session was a really in-depth look into the world of international co-production and the behind-the-scenes deals and negotiations that go on in the hope that films can find the funding to get made. There were a few disagreements about the difficulties involved in the way co-productions are now arranged but ultimately you were left feeling that these people truly would fight to find funding for films they believed in. There was an ever present cloud of doom hovering over the panel when the decline of available slots was mentioned but you did realise that there was a big battle going on to preserve the importance of documentary and the players involved in co-productions were at the forefront of it.

The rest of my day was spent in meetings with some really great filmmakers and also with people who had great ideas about projects they wanted the club to be involved with. We bowed out early and headed back to the hotel room but the rest of the festival made a beeline for the annual roller disco which also included AJ Schnack’s announcement of the 2010 Cinema Eye Nominees.

Tomorrow is possibly our businest day event-wise. I am going to try and take more photos and will hopefully get more time tomorrow to do another re-cap.

Aside from all of this I am covering the films at the festival for The Documentary Blog. Click the logo below to follow….


And if by any chance you’re reading this and you’re at the festival please excuse my shameless plug and make sure you check out the panel I’m producing on Saturday – Filmmaking on the Frontline: In association with the Frontline Club

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