While the Banff Television Festival is the primary event for the Canadian TV community, this year’s edition (June 10 to 15), which included a special focus on France, drew representatives from 28 countries. Total attendance topped 1,800. Notable participants from the international doc scene included Mick Csaky from Antelope, Hans-Robert Eisenhauer from ARTE, Adam Kemp from the BBC, Andre Singer from Café Productions, Polly Bide from Carlton TV, Peter Grimsdale from C4, Ann Julienne from La Cinquième and Alex Graham from Wall to Wall.
The U.S. market was examined throughout the event in a conference strand called ‘Understanding America’. In the session on factual, the consensus was that available work and matching license fees are headed downward as the U.S. advertising market moves towards serious retrenchment. Panelists agreed this year is tougher, specifically in terms of upfront sales, and that retrenchment was far deeper than a simply refutation of the widely discredited ‘dot.com hype’. Bill Harris of A&E Networks said his network was being ‘more judicious, has slowed down on its commissioning process’ and is being ‘tougher on rights.’
The popular ‘Two In A Room’ exercise returned to Banff this year, though it proved surprisingly difficult this time around. Doug DePriest of The Travel Channel and Jim Erikson of Life Network and HGTV Canada tried to issue a program tender both would be interested in. While the two channels have much in common, a dialogue in front of producers illustrated profound differences in approach. For example, while Travel wants ‘no exotic travel, no personal journeys,’ they are key for Life. Gavin McGarry of Toronto’s Awkward Films picked up CDN$5,000 in development cash for finding an idea both could share, a project called Family Road Trip.
The CTV Canadian Documart, billed as ‘The World’s Richest Pitch’, doled out CDN$100,000 (US$65,000), to three projects in a contest judged by 28 commissioning editors. Dugald Maudsley of Toronto’s Infield Fly Productions took home CDN$50,000 for Demon in the Freezer, Tom Perlmutter of Toronto’s Primitive Entertainment was awarded $30,000 for Teen Invasion and Anne Pick of Toronto’s Reel to Reel Productions scored $20,000 for SPAM: The Shelf Life and Times of the World’s Most Popular Luncheon Meat.
In terms of prestige, the top program of the festival was La terre des mes errantes (The Land of the Wandering Souls), produced by La Sept ARTE / INA in France.