This year’s Sunny Side of the Doc in Marseilles, France, confirmed once again that a discussion promising insight into the Internet and its relationship to documentaries can still pack a room. ‘The Internet and Documentaries: What Convergence?’ reiterated the need to market material appearing on the Net, and had panelists admitting that film requires broadband service to truly flourish in the medium. Carl Hall, managing director of London’s HIT Wildlife, is commissioning spin-off programs made specifically for the Web, but cautioned against cyber theft (each film is a maximum of three minutes in length). Nick Witkowsky, chief executive of Istv.com in London, U.K. is distributing on the Internet at a 10% to 15% commissioning rate – compared to the standard 25% to 35% rate – and predicts that as the number of channels grow, broadcasters will turn to the Web in search of programs.
A session addressing the Japanese market also lured attendees (who came from over 35 countries) out of the sun. Readying itself to go digital, broadcaster NHK sent out the call for innovative HD programs for Hi-Vision, a 24-hour HD channel launching December 1. (NHK currently broadcasts 12 hours of HD programs per day.) However, the pubcaster warned of lower budgets due to the increased number of outlets.
Paul Hamann, head of documentaries and history at the BBC, proved the most popular of three ’30 seconds to understand’ spotlights, which included Mark Atkin of Australia’s SBS and Julie Anderson of HBO in the U.S. Hamann indicated that pairing with U.K. independents who have a good relationship with the pubcaster was one way for European producers to break into the Beeb. He is currently looking for serious topics from the continent including poverty, murder and the plight of the elderly. According to Hamann, recent changes implemented by BBC director general Greg Dyke have bbc1 becoming more focused on entertainment with fewer docusoaps and more 90-minute to feature-length docs. bbc2 will increase its docs. BBC Choice/BBC3 is looking for a minimum of 200 hours of well-crafted, inexpensive docs and BBC Knowledge/BBC4 will be youth oriented. Although, until a vision for the new channels is secure, no films will be commissioned for them.