Low attendance lead participants to question MIPDOC's future, but buyer numbers were up and the market's pitch session had commissioning editors excited about projects.
April 5, 2001

MIPDOC 2001 started slow but gathered steam by the second day of the two-day event that leads up to MIPTV. Slow traffic on the floor of the Martinez generated lukewarm reactions to the fourth instalment of MIPDOC (held on March 31 and April 1), leading to speculations of whether the event will continue in the future. Official stats reveal 186 buying companies participated in the screenings – an increase of 8.75% from last year – and confirms that the number of selling companies dipped to 177. Richard Propper of Los Angeles-based Solid Entertainment was among the attendees disappointed in the turn out. He plans to return next year, however, and hopes the event will continue, pointing out that even one sale makes the market a worthwhile investment of both time and money.

Unlike MIPDOC 2000, where reality formats surfaced as the ‘it’ genre, several program categories shared this year’s spotlight. Current affairs, history and science resonate internationally and were, therefore, on everyone’s wish list – a trend that continued at MIPTV. Arts and lifestyle were also prominent.

Pat Ferns of the Banff TV Festival was in attendance as moderator of the Market Simulation pitch that took place on day two. In a rare free moment, he confirmed with RealScreen that an arts conference was in the works. The event will follow the lead established by the science and history congresses, and could debut as early as 2002, although Ferns believes 2003 is more probable.

Panellists for the MIPDOC pitch session included Patricia Boutinard-Rouelle of France 3, Chris Haws from Discovery International, and Wolfgang Homering of German pubcaster ZDF. Six projects were featured: Only Butterflies Get Across the Barbed Wire by Palindromes/Little Bear of France; Miles Davis: Making Blue from the Mill Valley Film Group in the U.S.; The Man Who Wants to Save the World: Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela by Les Films du Village in France; The Secret Life of Geisha and Bar Hostesses from Germany-based Leykauf Film; Iceberg Highway by Theophraste in France; and Yona Brothers by Israel’s G.N. Communication.

Boutinard-Rouelle remarked that although there were many films on Japan’s geisha, none were satisfactory, so she is interested in the US$350,000 single. The film will look at modern geisha and their counterparts as well as interview the wives of the geisha’s customers. Ya’akov Yona, one of the key subjects of Yona Brothers, attended the pitch session and is billed as the Israeli version of Toni Soprano (From the HBO hit The Sopranos). Haws believes the 52-minute film has lots of potential, but Homering doesn’t think German viewers will understand the humor, stating The Sopranos took two seasons to captivate German viewers. Miles Davis, a 60-minute film budgeted at around US$500,000, received the most interest from the panel. The film will look at the making of the album Kind of Blue, a jazz recording that features Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday and John Coltrane and is regarded as a mile stone of modern music. Haws believes Ken Burns’ Jazz revealed an appetite for jazz as a subject and was impressed with the footage. Homering also liked the project, but admitted the budget was out of his range. Marie Nathanson of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was in the audience and urged the filmmakers to get in touch with her. However, she warned the prodco that CBC wouldn’t be able to participate if PBS in the U.S. was involved, as its signal reaches Canada. Pat Ferns followed the comment by advising the filmmakers to carefully navigate the rights issues between cable, terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

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.