Editorial: The MIPDOC Challenge – make some money

Let us hope that money is made at mipdoc this year by someone other than the event organizers....
March 1, 1998

Let us hope that money is made at mipdoc this year by someone other than the event organizers.

Despite the glory days the doc genre is said to be enjoying, not everyone is greeting mipdoc with a smile. By adding two costly days to the already lengthy sojourn, the only way it will endure is if exhibitors make some serious sales (or at the least, lucrative connections).

While the market is a likely screen-and-green opportunity for a diversified distributor looking to sell off a certain sector of its catalogue, or to quaff cappuccino with the appropriate who’s who, there has been grumbling among smaller companies, especially the non-fiction genre-focused specialists. They may be going – but with a grudge.

Cannes is not for the franc-challenged. Just as the kids tv companies resented the extra days and dollars anted up for mipcom Junior, small doc companies will feel the pinch – and exponentially. At least on the kids front, merger mania has vertically integrated many prodcos and distribs into the deeper pockets of parent companies, and there’s the added incentive of all that lovely ancillary-revenue-stream potential.

With less to gain, but feeling obliged to go, particularly because the producers they represent expect it, non-fiction distribs are skeptical as to whether it’s worth the extra expense and second registration fee. They also wonder whether the buyers they want to hit will duck out of the main market earlier now, leaving them with no one to pitch by week’s end.

Also on the less-than-delighted list is Sunny Side of the Doc. The Marseilles market, which usually runs with the Vue sur les Docs festival in June, bumped into calendar conflict with the World Cup of Soccer and rescheduled for September. Reed Midem availed itself of the opening to launch its own non-fiction, France-based event in that spring/summer slot.

Not that Sunny Side and the Reed Midem event are matched competitors anyway. Despite the word ‘doc’ in the title, the material up for grabs in Cannes will be more commercial and abundant than the Sunny Side fare. With an unambiguous loyalty to independent producers, and heavy on French-language traditional docs, Sunny Side’s mission is to help indies ensure quality and content in their productions via consolidation with like-minded companies. It’s a commendable and useful objective, but if small companies can only afford one trip to France at that time of year, the lure of the Palais is likely to win out.

If mipdoc is interested in being a must for small to mid-size companies in the long run, it’ll have to pay close attention this year. Few companies in the non-fiction biz can afford to take a loss just to show their faces.

Mary Ellen Armstrong,

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.