The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 26 to May 5) in Toronto, Canada, launched with Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold’s Blue Vinyl and ended with Nisha Pahuja’s Bollywood Bound. In between there were plenty of films, along with a heap of industry-related events directed to over 1,500 delegates.
At the producer seminar ‘Sizing it Up: Success Stories on the International Market’, talk focused on how to achieve both critical and market success for docs. Fiona Murch, editor for the BBC, spoke about the film Killers Don’t Cry, which was developed for the BBC’s ‘Correspondent’ strand. She noted that the doc, about a prison in South Africa, was a tough sell at first, but garnered a lot of interest once it started winning awards. ‘If you get critical success, people buy it,’ Murch said.
The day-long Kickstart sessions provided delegates with advice about how to get ahead in the world of docs. The Dream Team panel, led by Christine Yankou of Toronto-based Christine Yankou Communications and New York-based film publicist Susan Norget, sought to shed light on the marketing and distribution of films. Panelist Debra Zimmerman, executive director of U.S.-based Women Make Movies, suggested that filmmakers talk to distributors before filmmaking begins. She also suggested producers consider whether a film would have an educational market. Peter Broderick of Next Wave Films in the U.S. emphasized making contacts and quipped, ‘If you don’t like networking, you should get into another line of work.’
At the ‘Pitcher Perfect’ session, Jan Miller of Nova Scotia-based Lowenbe Holdings outlined how filmmakers could better communicate their ideas. Miller noted it’s important to position the film right off the top and to let broadcasters know the pitchers’ relation to the film – whether producer, writer or director. By giving information about their past film experience and credentials, producers explain why they are capable of making the film. Miller also emphasized researching a potential broadcaster before pitching a project.
An international sampling of films won awards at the Hot Docs closing night ceremony on May 5, including All About My Father, by Norwegian director Even Benestad, which won the gold award for best international doc, and It Should Have Been Nice After That, by German director Karin Jurschick, which won best first doc.