On the floor of the RealScreen Summit

While delegates attending the third annual RealScreen Summit finish off the last of the bubbly at the closing cocktail party, the RS staff is sequestered in a hotel room to take stock of the three-day event.
February 14, 2001

From international coproductions to interactive content, delegates at the RS Summit (February 12 to 14 in McLean, Virginia) challenged an array of speakers to answer the hard questions about non-fiction production, distribution and broadcast. But, not all the action was in front of the mic. Even as the sessions were taking place, mingling and deal making continued in the halls. What follows are just a few of the highlights.

In the master classes, Carol Fleisher of Fleisherfilm Inc taught a room full of early attendees the art of effective interviewing. Fleisher put producers on the spot, making them step into the role of their subjects by interviewing one another. Her advice: keep it simple – listen, don’t interrupt, know your subject, and go out of your way to make them comfortable. An interview is more than what you say, it’s how you say it.

During the Directing Recreations class, Robert Gardner of Gardner Films used recent productions (such as Islam: Empire of Faith) to demonstrate the difference between a well-staged recreation and ‘people in funny clothes.’ Gardner stressed doc-makers remember that entertainment is as important as accuracy when attempting recreations, and suggested that they employ foreground distractions to lend their recreations the veneer of reality.

The award for the highest attended master class went to Scott Blue of Conners Communications for his advice on marketing and promotions. Blue’s main message to producers was to have a cohesive plan of attack, whether going after viewers or financers. He noted that for every doc there are several angles to exploit, so don’t pitch your project, pitch your angle.

During the Thrive and Prosper or Crash and Burn pitch session, Maile Roundtree of Frangipani Films wowed the crowd with her pitch for World Weddings, a 13 x 30-minute series about courtship and weddings around the world. This US$162,000 per episode series won across-the-board praise from the panel, with Discovery Networks U.S. VP of programming Dan Salerno describing it as the best prepared pitch he had ever heard.

In the Please Release Me: The Ins and Outs of Release Forms session, Devillier Donegan’s VP of legal and business affairs Joan Lanigan took an important but potentially dry subject and generated a dynamic discussion. Although there is consensus that release forms are tricky (especially in a verite environment), the panel offered potential solutions for the unexpected situations most producers will deal with at one time or another. One piece of advice from the panel was that a release should specify that you plan to use the footage for both promotional and editorial content. (Need a cover for that home video?)

For more on the Summit, see the March 2001 issue of RealScreen.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.