Reflecting upon this year’s Australian International Documentary Conference, held in Perth from March 6 to 9, attendee and Aussie filmmaker Lilliana Gibbs says, ‘It was an excellent turnout for the most isolated city in the world.’ AIDC director Richard Sowada agrees.
The delegates numbered more than 500 and brought an attitude that was ‘very positive, very vibey,’ he says. According to Sowada, some of the excitement came from a surprising source. Michael Renov, a professor from the University of Southern California, gave an academic keynote address on the history of the doc form. ‘It made the doc-makers step back and see that they had a moment in history, that they were part of a unified movement. It really invigorated them,’ he says. Sowada was also impressed with the enthusiasm of the commissioning editors in attendance.
But, not everyone looked favorably on the large turnout. Dione Gilmour, executive producer of ABC’s NHU, says, ‘There were hundreds of people there. With a population of 18 million and the number of outlets we have, we just can’t afford to support that population.’ She adds, ‘We’ve got to get government regulation so all outlets are required to make room for home-grown product.’ Still, Gilmour concedes there is educational value in filmmakers getting together. As a result of her meetings at the AIDC, she is working on a newsletter that will demystify the process of selling programs to her station.
Other commissioning editors are reluctant to comment yet on the deals that may come out of the AIDC. The next few weeks will determine the success of the conference as a venue for deal-making as well as professional education and exposure.